Werckmeister III

The other day while working on my current piece I decided try out some different tunings as things didn’t quite sound right with the ji_12.scl Scala file I was using. At first, I tried just listening to the piece with regular 12TET to find that it felt really colorless (strange, how I’ve read that before about 12TET, but not until I spent time working otherwise and coming back did I really hear that in the sound). Then switching over to a few other non-12 scale degrees per octave tunings of Wendy Carlos’s, the piece sounded very foreign, but the piece was worked in with 12 tones per octave in mind, so that was more for curiosity than interest.

However, I had for some time had a note to myself to try out Werckmeister III, and so I set the tuning for my blue project to use that scale, and truly, the sound of the tones and harmonies really settled in together and were very rich and brilliant. Lovely! In some ways I find that I still don’t know the quirks of this tuning and it’s still not quite yet in my ear, but I’ve found it very satisfying thus far. I’m looking very forward to further work on the piece and getting to know this sound.

^_^

Dalai Lama and the Flow State

Last week, I finished reading The Art of Happiness at Work, a book by the Dalai Lama and psychologist Howard C. Cutler. I found a great deal many ideas in the book valuable in keeping things in perspective. Many of the ideas weren’t new to me, but reading them again and getting the ideas fresh were well worthwhile.

One of the sections that most grabbed my attention was the section discussing the pyschological state of flow, or being in a flow state. The description involved being in a state so focused that the person is unaware of the passage of time, that they were completely absorbed in what they were doing. Further reading through the chapter, I found it remarkably describing many of the very things which I am looking for in music (whether it be my own or other’s). A topic which I will certainly investigate further.

Altogether, a fantastic read. A friend of mine from work loaned me The Art of Happiness, the first book of this series. After reading the introduction, I am looking forward to spending time with this book as well.

Without Bar Lines

The San Francisco Public Library is a fantastic resource for music, be it scores, texts, or recordings. Yesterday I stopped by to return some scores and pick up some books I had looked for online, picking a number of Lou Harrison CD’s as well as Gustave Frederic Soderlund’s “Direct Approache to Counterpoint in the 16th Century”. Reading the book today, I came across a passage that really struck me: one of the things he discusses doing as part of the recommended exercises is to notate the exercise both with and without barlines. I had looked at early scores before, both with and without barlines, but for some reason when looking at it today that there was something more there when looking at examples shown both with and without barlines. In the music without barlines, the line’s contour and structure seemed so much clearer than that with the barlines. In reading and humming along, I really did feel as if the line was more free, that somehow reading it without the imposition of a larger metrical structure gave the experience of performing it a sense of freedom and cohesion of the line as a whole.

I always did find the issue of notating musical ideas particularly tricky, in how to represent the idea as it is and balancing that with notating the idea in a way that would best make sense to a performer. Back in college, I remember spending quite some time before finally settling on a method of using unmetereed music that contained bars only when necessary for helping synchronize music between performers (largely inspired my Messiaen’s Piano writing). I had found that this made the music the most performable for the ideas, but it was always tedious to notate and I was never satisfied with how foreign the written form was compared to the sonic one. For example, taking a motive that was originally straight eighth notes, then repeating but using two quintuplet quarter-notes for every eight note, so starting on the upbeat would then require notating in quintuplet eight notes to get the idea into something somewhat performable, but how daunting that appeared, when really it was just a motive slightly augmented and translated in time…

One of the primary reasons I created blue was so that I could do these types of freely breathing transformations of motives and have them so that the visual representation could maintain the essence of the musical structure and display them in a way that would make the form of the music transparent. In some ways, after all this time, certain aspects of blue’s visual feedback still do not do enough, but on the whole, that goal has been achieved. The musical ideas are written as if without bar lines, the sounds freely moving, the idea transparent, all together in the same space, breathing in time…

Three Day Workshop with Lenzie

Today ended a Tai Chi workshop my teacher Lenzie gave, a very rewarding three days of form corrections, posturing, discussion of principles and ideas, and a lot of push-hands. I felt that this workshop was really incredible, to be able to to really go in depth into ideas which we normally don’t have enough time to cover in classes, to visit ideas that don’t come up very often, as well as just a lot of experiences in a short amount of time. Very rich material and altogether very inspiring.

One of the biggest ideas that stuck with me from the workshop was that our daily Tai Chi practice should have elements of:

  • Form as a Flow
  • Posturing
  • Standing Meditation

Now, these ideas are things we go over and go through in all of Lenzie’s classes, but somehow, by stating these three things together, it really stuck in my mind this time. I’m looking forward to incorporating into my daily practice posturing in the mini-form exercise as we practiced with Lenzie in the workshop. I’ve always been on and off with doing posturing in my daily practice, but something about the mini-form and posturing(perhaps the proportion of it?) seems very inviting to do and something that I can do every day.

(I think that posturing somehow never got into my daily practice sheerly out of habit, as when I had studied with Sy, posturing was something we didn’t focus on much, and my daily practice consisted of mainly going through the form and working on individual sections of the form as a flow. Hopefully, with the mini-form exercise, it will be a start to getting posturing incorporated into a regular part of my training.)

One of the other big points that Lenzie made was in regards to Tai Chi as a way of working on our virtues, on working on the higher aspects of ourselves. That was something I think I’ve always thought about but never could so clearly label in my mind what it was that drew me so much to Tai Chi.

Besides the many ideas from workshop, I think one of the most important things I realized was how much I appreciate having such a great teacher and such a great group of people I get to study with. Being able to be around such a wise group of people who really commit to bettering themselves and being positive is truly an amazing thing to experience. I’m really grateful to have that in my life, and appreciate it more and more each day.