Commission Music

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Tuesday, 13 May 2003

Musically Inclined

Well, yesterday was mother's day, a day I had been actively dreading since October. It wasn't actually that bad. I guess I worked it all out in the pre-dread. Unlike my birthday, where I didn't expect to feel miserable around at all, and yet I did. It was horrible, despite cool people and cool events. Anyway, the next date on the dread calendar is June 21st, when my mom would turn 66, but will not. Christi is playing that night at the Chapel of the chimes concert. Yes, the one you've heard of. Yes, the huge, big deal. Yes, it's in a mausoleum. I'm estatic for Christi, but still full of dread.

Perhaps keeping busy is what made Mother's Day ok. I had band practice for about five hours with Tennis Roberts. Our songs are now ending ok. Chand has taken to mixing his electronic drum sounds (he plays an electronic kit) with a vocoder to other source sounds. It sounds very industrial and awesome with pink noise. With other source files, I'm not so sure about it. We're a sort of a tonal band and it's hard to play along with a tape where you don't know the tones, especially if the tones are from a random sample and hold thing, so they're not in any particular temperment. Which would be the tones on the mp3s that I made that Chand is using. Anyway, it doesn't matter that much, since I don't play in any particular temperment anyway. The open notes are in tune, but the rest is not.

I'm sort of getting into tuning right now. Ellen Fullman has a piece called "Harmonic Cross Sweep" on her album Change of Direction. The piece blows my mind. Go listen to the mp3. It's just intoned microtonal coolness. So I started reading Harry Partch, since he wrote about Just Intonation and influenced everyone just intoned these days. But he can't stop ranting. In his book Genesis of a Music, he complains about how cello players are so anal they won't even let you take an awl to their finger board. It takes him a long time to explain the tuning thing, so I joined the Just Intonation Network and I'm reading their primer text on tunings. It's a much easier read than Partch and is very informative. But really, the biggest influence on my thoughts about tuning was Kendon.

The last time I played bass guitar in a band before this one, it was called Trap Door Spirder Woman or the Kraft Ebbings or somehting. We never played outside of Kendon's basement, except to play in my basement. Kendon had this guitar where the nech was cracked. It was nearly broken in two. He was always tuning it in between ever song. I kind of got into the sound of him tuning. It was very cool. It should have been a song. And he always had to tune because after the first three chords, everything was different, since the guitar neck wasn't rigid. The situation made Kendon unhappy. He was saving up for a new guitar. But it was awesome. It was so completely out of tune screwed up bad that it was great. Really, equal temperment is all out of tune. This broken guitar was just the next step on a broken tuning. But it was beautifully broken.

So with Tennis Roberts, I started playing Tammy's fretless bass with the thought that I could be out of tune all the time. I could put notes in between the notes. I could put four steps where three belong. I could be always completely, sharply off. It's awesome.

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