Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Small Fish

There is another world. I know there is. Once a guy in AA said, “This is not God’s World. This is the world God Permits.” So there is this world and at least one other. I am used to it.

We play music these days in Equal Tempered tuning. At least that’s the tuning we use most commonly, and only use the other tunings as specialties here in the West. I took a music course a while back and learned that in Bach’s time tuning was more various, but a common tuning was called Well Tempered. Bach wrote music entitled The Well Tempered Clavier. What happened in this tuning was that different scales had different temperaments due to the various ways that the tuning was handled note to note. In Equal Tempered tuning the notes are similarly flatted high and sharped low in order to make as far as possible all the note values the same, octave to octave, no matter what. In Well Tempered tuning there are different values based on other esthetics. When a composer in Well Tempered tuning wanted to evoke lighter and darker moods, he could compose in certain keys which actually did that, were more sharp (bright) or flat (dark). I don’t now remember which keys were which, but I know this is true.

What basically happened over time, musicians wanted to maximize the ability to change keys in the same piece of music without ending with cacophony doing it. That is not so easy in the other tunings. That is what the Equal Tempered tuning did. We have learned to hear past the slightly sharp bass and slightly flat treble. When I listen to my keyboard however, especially in certain voices, I can hear the flatness in the treble.

I think the different worlds are something like that. They are music in different well tempered keys. Perhaps there are worlds in even more difficult tunings, that can only be played in one key. Played together the worlds would be cacophony.

A Small Fish

I am the small fish
in between the stones below
the silver surface
all dappled nearer
the bank, the north bank of you.
You are the far world
in the open air
way beyond my darting life.
I hardly know of it
at all, just stories
the elders tell when they die.
I want to believe.

February 28, 2009 11:09 PM


  1. so do I...
    I like how the image of the fish and stones give me a feeling of pattern beneath the larger bigness of it all.

  2. I just love running into like minds. Actually that is the saying but it really means more a likeness in hearts, doesn't it. :)

  3. Me too.....

    when I was walking in the ocean the other day with the sand under my feet and the water moving around me and the sky stretching forever overhead I got a real sense of the smallness of me, and also, the hugeness. If that makes any sense :)


  4. Michelle, sweetie, why would you wonder if you were making sense? That's perfect, how small, and how huge - at the same time.

  5. Here's a little agit for the never-believer.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Here's a little ghost for the offering.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Here's a truck stop instead of Saint Peter's.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Mister Andy Kaufman's gone wrestling (wrestling bears).
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

    If you believe they put a man on the moon -- man on the moon
    If you believe there's nothing up their sleeve
    Then nothing is cool

    From Man on the Moon
    REM Lyrics

  6. From one fish to another; beautiful poem! At times I wish i was a more accomplished musician, but i am just darting on the edge of the pool, hearing beautiful tunes from a different world.

  7. I always liked that name 'the well-tempered klavier' but didn't fully understand what it meant. Thanks for explaining, and for what you drew from it. And the fish is lovely; for all its smallness and its limits, such a bright, lively thing.

  8. Perhaps, Jozien, if you worked very hard and practiced long, then music would become so ordinary that you would fall asleep trying to play. This happens to me sometimes :)

    There are of course the other times...

    Lucy, yes, the well tempered tuning was developed it seems to me precisely for instruments like the clavier and guitar which can play chords. This was the other problem. When music is mainly melodic and linear, you handle the in-between notes, the seconds and sixths and sevenths in a different way. I think the thirds, fourths and fifths are easy to derive, though they remain complicated when you jumble key signatures together. There have been (and remain actually) differences of opinion as to how to distort the tuning from the ascending sharpness of the cycle of fifths.

    I am fairly sure that some rock music has capitalized on distortions of tuning on purpose to achieve certain stunning effects. There is no question that a feature of live performance that lifts it out of the studio arises out of the guitars falling away from perfect tuning in difficult to repeat mixes.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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