Monday, October 20, 2014

Strings and Arrows

Going a month or more without a blog post always seems to result in a kind of self-perpetuating blogjam - the longer I wait, the more pressure I feel to return with something great - or, at least, substantial. Well, I don't know much about true logjams, but presumably they arise where there are too many logs (blog posts?) trying to get through, so maybe if I mix my metaphors and kick the fire here, something will start burning. In other words, I'll post something insubstantial to fan the flames. Le voilĂ .

It's not like I don't often do silly, quasi-creative (?) things with words that might find their way into this blogstream, but they too often get scattered in the margins of Twitter and Facebook; so here's some stream-of-consciousness stuff that I'm moving from the ephemerality of social media to the relative permanence of a blog.

A former student who plays both violin and viola is now studying in London and wrote a Facebook post complaining about the absurd names the British give to note values. After getting some confusing instructions about crotchets and quavers and the like, her lighthearted comment was:
"I'll just pick these notes and start playing here."
To which I reflexively replied (because it's hard-wired in me):
"'I'll just pick these notes and start playing here' - spoken like a true violist."
Truth is, she wasn't even playing viola, but I learned that too late for me to keep from thinking about the intersections of quavers and quivering violists, so I found myself constructing the following bit of verse:
The violist's bow quivers when faced with a quaver,
Any less than a crotchet brings sure misbehavior.
The composer who hopes for such bows to deliver
had best leave those quavers unused in his quiver.
I now found myself in a mental maze of viola/archery connections, and soon took to Twitter with the following set of couplets:
Archers use bows to deliver their arrows,
Violists use bows to deliver their errors. 
Archers keep arrows for later in quivers.
Violists make errors whene’er they see quavers. 
The archer depends on a string that is taut.
Violists are best when they’re taught to play naught. 
The archer’s string sings when an arrow’s dispatched.
The viola sings best when there’s no strings attached.
So there you go. The blog is back.


Sandi said...

Wow, I had no idea that the British had their own names for note values. Is "crotchet" pronounced to rhyme with "day" or with "pet," I wonder? Either way, I'm glad that a spark has rekindled your blog. (Not being much of a violist, I enjoyed your couplets.)


Rhymes with "watch it" (though I looked it up to be sure since I've read the word "crotchet" countless times but perhaps heard it spoken only a few at most).

But that's just the beginning. A 16th note is a semiquaver (not too bad), a 64th note a demisemiquaver (hmm), and if you want to extend out to a 128th note (admittedly, a rare 5-flagged animal), it's called a: semihemidemisemiquaver, which would almost be worth writing just to say.

Tanya Thomas said...

My senior year of high school I studied piano with someone from England and she used all the British terms for note values. I swear it took me all year to figure out what she was talking about - but I was never confident in it. I wonder what the history is behind the differences in naming convention?