Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Application

Currently Grunge and BRASH are working with two systems. The first is the pentatonic (represented by the letters above the words), which just as its name suggests, has only five tones, which correspond more or less well with the five vowels (AEIOU = DEGAB) (Please. Don’t ask why “A” does not correspond with the note “A.” Please don’t go there. Please.). Amazing Grace is in the most common pentatonic pattern, which you can easily play on a piano’s black keys with the notes as assigned to your poem, assuming each note is flat (i.e., D = Dflat). The other system (using numbers) is based on the seven-tone modal system which traces back to ancient Greece, all of which consists of notes using predictable intervals of half and whole steps, and which can be expressed using only the white keys on a piano, and. (The plus and minus signs indicate sharps or flats, which would mean using the black keys as well; in using only the white keys you can tell if you’ve gone up a whole step if there is an intervening black key, which is a half tone between the adjacent white keys — if there isn’t, you’ve only gone up a half step). Did we mention we wanted to keep this super simple?

In keeping it simple, we originally were only going to consider three of the Greek modes, Ionian, which corresponds to the Major scale in Western music, the aeolian, which corresponds to a basic minor scale, and the Dorian, which we incorrectly were assuming was the basic scale playable on a fife, which was going to be the means by which we tested the melodies as they were written. (Pause for much giddy laughter at such an absurd idea.) In the fateful moment (really, someone should put up a plaque) of researching the mood created by music in the Dorian mode (we thought for some reason it would be happy), we came across the concept of the Gypsy scale which blew us out of the water (BRASH is 7/36th full-blooded Gypsy), in part because it is so familiar, so haunting and beautiful, and presented the idea of intervals which were not limited to steps and half-steps. (We know of other music, both culturally indigenous and computer-generated, that uses other tonal intervals than the Western scales and modes allow, but we were deliberately avoiding those because neither of us have any instruments that can play any of those scales.) So we decided we had to allow for all the modes, so that at least the rudiments of a fitting melody could arise for each poem (at least theoretically and hopefully).

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