Chapter 9 – Page 4

The instrument was beautiful in feel and sound. A few years ago there was a great storm and a giant branch fell from the great old sycamore tree at Hawkwood College in Stroud. Sections of the  branch were taken to Devon where it was made into the only sounding bowl made from a tree that is still living. When Jane played it she didn’t even ask the price (which turned out to be considerable), she knew it was meant for her. Jane teaches singing and uses music in therapy to help people free themselves.

For a few months I’ve been searching for the shared experiences. The things that link us together, to reach one another. But the truth repeated by Laura and now by Jane is that we all experience everything differently – there is no true shared experience. I don’t really want to accept that, but the idea takes root. A few days later I will already have changed my mind. It is not perhaps to the shared experience that I must look, but to the shared purpose. Many of the people I am most closely aligned with have had none of the same upbringing or experiences as me, yet have come to the same place and purpose. The same behaviours or purpose are enough. In deciding who to share the road with, where they are going and how they are getting there is more important than where they started from.

 

Alison offers me a bath with salts and oil. These are the things of paradise.

 

An interesting historical point which came up was that our western music as we hear it today is different in feel than it was before industrialisation. Historically musical instruments were tuned to a particular key, which was composed of the overtones within a note, but with modern instruments we compromise so that we don’t have to retune for songs in different keys. As a result, some of the notes are a little ‘out’ and don’t resonate nicely with each other. The other aspect which I had not realised, is that the note ‘A’ today is not the same as the ‘A’ from the 1800’s. Originally our instruments were tuned based on an A resonating at 432 Hz, but as musical audiences became bigger the instruments needed to be louder and so they were retuned to a higher tension at 440Hz.

Humans are very subtly yet strongly affected by resonance and frequencies, which is part of our love of music. Instruments tuned to only one key (like the sounding bowl) can be fully in harmony. Improvisation with other people is easier with instruments in the pentatonic old tuning and they have a more appealing resonance. I understand and feel the difference. It has a subtle but pervasive psychological effect.

There is an instrument called the Kalimba, or African thumb piano. It looks like a shallow wooden box that fits in your hands. Narrow at the far end and wider and curving close to you so that the metal levers spread out and are easier to play. As soon as I played it I felt concentration, pleasure and peace. Rhythmicly pinging the ends of the sprungs was almost meditative in its resonance. You can’t really hit a wrong note, just ones that aren’t as you wanted, so it’s easy to want to persist. I enjoyed it so much he lent it to me, and for two weeks I played it every day. I was pet sitting at the time, and I would go up to my room, the cat would sit on the bed with me and I’d lose sense of time.
In the other room I can hear Jane taking her first didgeridoo lesson.

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