Yes, I’m still here.

And still having fun, although not blogging about the flute.

However, I did wonder if I wouldn’t like to try recorder for the third time. So I made a very poor decision although a cheap one (thankfully), and tried an alto.

I hated the soprano in school. (Who doesn’t?) I bought a tenor some years back and … hated it. But I still like the idea of chromatic instruments that have no moving parts, so I just couldn’t give up on it and bought an alto that arrived today.

And yet again, one night into my attempts with the alto and — I hate to admit this, I really do — it ended up broken over my knee and thrown into the trash. That old tenor, which I had saved thinking I could sell it again or give it to someone who wanted one, followed it right into the can.

I think it’s safe to say that fipple instruments just do not speak to my soul no matter how appealingly low-tech they seem. From now on, I will gladly cede those irritating little demon shitwhistles to people like Michala Petri who can actually make them sound wonderful.

So anyhow, apparently I really do just hate recorders. Back to the flute and the harp. šŸ™‚


OMG I actually hit a high E!

But I’m irked that the one of the two alternatives that sounds more clearly is the one that’s sharp.

Anyhow yes, I’m still here and still playing. šŸ™‚

I shouldn’t be surprised.

It appears to be crap, but I couldn’t hit a low D on my normal flute when I first got it, either. I’ll poke around and see what happens.

Also, I think the key doesn’t work only because the spring was put in backwards. I’m pretty sure I have a small enough screwdriver to fix that when I get home.

For only $40, it’s worth it.

Just bought a cheapie piccolo in D — a 1-key second with a leaky pad from Lark in the Morning. They are open about it being relatively low-quality, but I can probably work out how to semi-fix one bad keypad/seat. I’m interested in the 4-key, but while I’m sure I can manage a righty 1-key, a righty 4-key isn’t doable. A shame, since I’d like the thing but there you go.

And if the pad/seat can’t be fixed, I’ll just plug the hole with some bee’s wax or rubber-cement the key shut and use it as a keyless. If it still sounds like poo, then I’m only out $40. šŸ™‚

(Hell, if I can fix one bad key and the resulting device seems decent, I might buy a couple of the 4-keys, fix them myself, and sell them. It might be fun to see if I could even convert them to lefty. I think the only key that would pose a real problem for me is the Bb key. The others are sort of symmetrically lined up along the top of the flute body.)

Neumes == syllabary

I’m unsurprisingly also in love with languages and mathematics as many musicians are, and I’ve been having fun working out on my own how neumes work — when to use what shapes, etc. I’ve realized that individual neumes are simply syllabary symbols, much like Japanese hiragana and katakana, as opposed to alphabets.

Syllabaries use individual symbols to record common groups of sounds, like how Japanese kana* have one symbol for “ni” and one for “ru,” etc. Each symbol very basically explained “contains” a consonant and a vowel. There are three other symbols that geminate the consonant of the following syllable, that lengthen a vowel, and that stand in for a nasal the point of articulation for which is specified by the following initial consonant as well (and which surface as a sort of vague nasalization when at the end of a word or sentence).

And of course since each vowel can stand on its own as a syllable, each vowel also have its own symbol as well. Crucially, the symbol for “ni” does not look like the symbol for “i” with an n-like thing stuck on the front. The syllable for “ni” and that for “chi” do not have much in common. (There are some trends in the orthography, like distinctions between voiced and unvoiced initial consonants, etc. “Ta” and “da” do look very much alike, but neither of them look like they contain an “a” symbol.)

By contrast, in alphabetic orthographies, each individual sound is written down, not groups of sounds (again, this is a rough thing, and in some cases they blur around the edges). Modern Western notation is more like this — one symbol per note. The scribble we use for “ba” is indeed the symbol for “b” and that for “a,” and the composite scribbles for “ta” and “ba” both have the “a” symbol in them. “Ba” and “bo” of course both start with the “b” symbol.”

In neumes/syllabaries, there is usually one symbol to denote a commonly used group of notes. In Western notation/alphabets, each individual sound has its own symbol.

It becomes even clearer that this is a musical equivalent of a syllabary when you realize that the neumes are used to attach groups of notes to particular syllables. (When attaching a group of more than the common two-to-four notes to a syllable, the composer starts using the little dots or diamonds, depending on which neume system they were employing.)

Even the liquid consonants like “n,” “r,” and “l” often have what are called liquescent neumes attached to them somewhat like that roving unspecified nasal in Japanese kana that’s less than a syllable, but more than nothing.

It makes it a lot easier to write and read the things once you realize that. It also means that, in order to do this music correctly, you really need to know the lyrics since the whole notation system is tied to them, syllable by syllable. The exact same cluster of notes, in the same general “rhythm,” would change notation completely it it were attached to a different group of lyrics with different syllable boundaries.

I don’t know why I’ve never seen this explained in any neume discussion online; the whole notation system depends on it.

  1. One neume per spoken syllable.
  2. If you must break this rule, use the small dots/diamonds on the way down.
  3. There are no neumes independent of text.

I’ve got to start doing this with Gregorio. This is just way too much fun — music, plus a new orthography? Untrammeled bliss.

* Kana, not kanji.


Just moved “O virga ac diadema” up a minor third to put it in D and my face hurts. I can get through it with no effort (or at least no embouchure soreness) in B, but just that little bump up and I’m hurting.

This may be something I have to work up to.

Yes, still here. :-)

And still working on the Hildegard stuff. I just realized I should have mentioned that. I’ve gotten the first page down completely in memory, and am moving along nicely.

Hildegard of Bingen: Songs to Mary

I’m up to “Deus in prima die creature sue previderat,” and have moved to the next line. As before, I’m still learning it in B, but will move it to D eventually because it just sounds nice there.

Right now, I’m working from versions of her work in something closer to modern notation, but when I finish with “O virga ac diadema,” I want to just get it down entirely by ear, and then start switching myself to the hufnagelschrift. Then, the next one I try, I’ll see if I can work entirely from the old notation from the ground up. (Probably “O ignis spiritus” or “O frondens virga,” I’m not sure.) Eventually, I’ll have to start working on ornament — probably starting with the Irish ornament exercises in Larsen and then maybe adding in some Eastern European/kaval ornament.

And of course, I’m also pondering getting a 4-key lefty piccolo as well — a regular 4-key but with a long F instead of a short F since I’ve never once found the short F worth having. (I can’t even remember one instance where I’ve used it.) I’ve asked Dave Copley if he might be interested in doing a Delrin piccolo for me, and I’ll see what he says. I’m certainly not interested in getting one in wood. For me, living where I do and wanting something more easily maintained, it’s Delrin or nothing. Really though, that’s just GAS.

In the meantime, I’ve begun formal harp lessons after the acquisition of a relatively inexpensive used Salvi Daphne 40, so my time on the flute is more limited then it used to be, but there is still a great deal of pleasure to be had in it, and I find it comforting somehow to play very, very old music during uncertain times. Here is this music, written by a woman — creatures who normally have their achievements thrown into the ground right after them when they die — nine centuries ago, and we still know the music, still know her, and still have some versions of her music written under what appears to be her direct supervision. And the world was in much worse shape then — plagues, grotesquely unjust governments, starvation, the usual horsemen. It reminds me that even as bad as things are now, they’ve been worse, and something of beauty still managed to survive those times. That — beauty surviving great trial — is probably part of the appeal of klezmer as well.