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February 14, 2013

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Tonal scales -- the function of tonal scales -- is predicated on the relationships of the intervals. 2^ wants ("tends" - hence "tendency tones) to go to ^1. 7^ wants to go to 8^. 4^ to 3^. Fixed Do completely ignores the functionality of the relationships of the scale steps. The rationale IIRC has something to do with teaching perfect pitch, which IMHO is an unrelated matter.

Each scale step has a function; it's not just a placeholder. The intervals are crucial to functional tonality.

Moveable Do is the only system that makes any sense to me (and I've had to teach them both, but not so much the fixed).

(I also think moveable do works just fine for post-tonal music, although chromatic solfege is better, but that's not really the point.)

The real controversy -- and, boy, let me tell you -- is do-based vs. la-based minor. Get a room full of college freshmen three of whom are well-trained but in la-based systems (e.g. Orff) and try to do some do-based minor sight singing. That right there is what we in the business call "good times."

Also:

for extra-anachronistic bonus points, I like to call them fixed- and movable-ut.

While I don't doubt the accuracy of Feynman's method, I think his explanation leaves something to be desired. At least as far as I'm concerned.

I've learned both moveable and fixed do here in the US. They are a little confusing to switch between for a singer. Fixed do is useful in that you learn the exact pitches, movable do is really great for intervals, it's probably easier to switch from movable to fixed (like I did) than the other way around. I used solfege in my gradeschool/highschool extra curricular choir and it was incredibly useful for learning to sight sing music. There were also hand signals, which I still find myself using to this day.

Though I never used it for piano or any other instrument. I can see how movable do would be much more useful there, as far as teaching younger kids that the relationship between the notes in a given key remains the same, even though the notes themselves are different. Fixed Do is just giving nick names to notes that already have real names, and I'm not totally sure how much sense that makes when you are learning to play an instrument. (Do is much easier to sing than C though.)

Each scale step has a function; it's not just a placeholder

Right on. Yes-sir-ree. Game, set, and match.

I actually do a solfege ear training workout most days, on my way to work. In jazz pedagogy, ear training is inseparable from the functional use and meaning of pitches and intervals *in relation to a tonal center*. There's not a lot of point to it otherwise.

In jazz pedagogy and practice there is also a principle that anything you learn, you learn in all 12 keys, i.e., with all 12 chromatic pitches as the tonal center. In a fixed-do world, that would mean the name associated with the function ('flat 9 of the dominant 7', aka flat 6) is going to have a different name in every key.

That basically eliminates the utility of solfege as a mnemonic for the *function* of the pitch in the harmonic and scalar context.

Not to mention that we already have names for the absolute pitch value of notes - the alphabetic names, i.e., A - G along with their sharp or flat variants.

Last but not least, nearly all *human* music is tonal, i.e., is oriented to tonal centers.

I wonder if Japanese jazz players (of whom there are many) also employ fixed-do?

bob_is_boring, does the 'la is the root of minor' concept extend to all of the modes of the major scale? i.e., the root of dorian is then 're'?

byomotov, Feynman's explanation wasn't very clear but I think he's talking about exploiting the taylor polynomial for f(x)=x**(1/3) near x=12. Doing that suggests that f(x+epsilon) should be approximately f(x) + f'(x)*epsilon where f' will be (1/3)*(x**(-2/3)). If you do the math, you end up with the same numbers Feynman wrote about.

Basically, for small perturbations epsilon around x, I can approximate the result of f(x+epsilon) by taking the tangent of f(x) and projecting down that line by epsilon. No matter how complex f(x) is, for a small enough epsilon, the tangent will be a good fit.

This sounds like a lot of work but for some disciplines it is second nature. Electrical engineers do this for some kinds of circuit analysis. If you're designing an amplifier, the output function might be some terrifyingly complex non-linear function of the input, but you might treat it as if it was a simple linear function around the operating point. That operating point will be specified by your biasing and actually desinging/analyzing everything becomes much easier once you can presume that your output is a linear function of the input. The linear approximation will be the first derivative of the original output function evaluated at the operating point. Wikipedia explains it better.

he's talking about exploiting the taylor polynomial for f(x)=x**(1/3) near x=12.

Err, that should be near x=1728. f(x)=12 there.

In Romance languages, they don't even use the letter names for musical notes; fixed do solfège is the note-naming system, so it's fixed in the same way we think of the letter names as fixed.

What russell said. BTW, don't move to California anytime soon, russell. We're sure to have a no-solfeggio-while-driving law in place before long!

My ear shifted significantly through learning moveable do and sight singing. I'm sure fixed do has its uses, but for me moveable do allowed (made?) me to live in the intervals, so to speak.

I'll say this: Substituting x for sin(x) for small x's sure does simplify things. It would be nice if the increases in productivity realized by this approximation were more fully reflected in wages.

Turbulence,

Got it. Thanks.

Russell:

"bob_is_boring, does the 'la is the root of minor' concept extend to all of the modes of the major scale? i.e., the root of dorian is then 're'?"

I've never seen that, but that's definitely one way to think about it. Clearly not how the modes (neither Greek nor Church) were conceptualized during the times of their use; any mode could start on any pitch. By the 16th century (perhaps earlier though?) the mode-pitch combination began to be more solidified - things with a final of G are more and more likely (Bayesian-style) to be in Mixolydian, etc.

La-based minor is I think taught in some common early (that is: for the young, not 'ancient')pedagogical methods -- Suzuki? Orff? I don't recall, but every year I would have a handful of students that knew it already.

The idea is that la-based minor lets you preserve the relationships (for the natural minor scale only, really) you know from the pitches in [do-based] major. It just never made sense to me; if Do isn't [scale degree] ^1, what is it? As has been pointed out upthread, in English-speaking music pedagogy we already have a name for "C."

I came to solfege late; I had to teach it before I ever really studied it seriously (grad school for music after a lib-arts degree) but those undergrads at the conservatory (NEC) had to take 4 semesters; by the end they were sight-reading Beethoven symphonies while jumping around instruments and clefs on a transposing (full orchestral) score. The kids who rocked at it were pretty effing impressive.

Good skills to have; ear training while commuting is a great idea.

Now why did I ever get out of academic music in the first pla...oh, right--no jobs.

I'll say this: Substituting x for sin(x) for small x's sure does simplify things. It would be nice if the increases in productivity realized by this approximation were more fully reflected in wages.

I use that all the time. I would be very wealthy if I got paid every time I used that approximation. For rough analysis, the approximation x=sinx is good to an accuracy of 1% for angles smaller than 10 degrees or so. Also: x=tanx for that same range of angles.

I particularly like cosx=1, because multiplying things by unity is not too hard even for the uninitiated.

Oddity: I stumbled across some airborne code recently that used the first four or five terms of the Taylor series expansion of sin(x) instead of using the trig function. The original code for that was likely written decades ago, and in Fortran, possibly for a fixed-point application.

Fortran...blech! Mainframe terminals and dot-matrix printers, in basements no less, while I'm at it. That word makes my skin crawl.

First Tunguska, and now this:
http://www.nature.com/news/russian-meteor-largest-in-a-century-1.12438

The two biggest impact events in the last century plus. And both in Russia. Is there a message here? (Or is Siberia just the new Area 51?)

Fortran...blech!

I learned to program in Fortran, lo these many years ago. Forget terminals. This was a 1620 with a card reader and line printer.

It was like magic. I loved it.

wj, popular US televangelists have predicted meteor strikes on Boston and LA for years as divine punishment for toleration of the gay agenda. It seems G#d's aim and sense of timing is far off since the Russian parliament just recently passed (applauded by the church) new discriminatory laws against gays and their 'propaganda'. So this hit sends a completely wrong message as far as certain religious conservatives are concerned.

Hartmut, I guess what that says is that those televangelists don't have the direct line to God that they would like their congregations to believe they have.

A bit more South and it would have been just the already common confusion about the two Georgias ;-)

I came to solfege late; I had to teach it before I ever really studied it seriously (grad school for music after a lib-arts degree) but those undergrads at the conservatory (NEC) had to take 4 semesters; by the end they were sight-reading Beethoven symphonies while jumping around instruments and clefs on a transposing (full orchestral) score. The kids who rocked at it were pretty effing impressive.

Went halfway and a little more as an undergraduate in music, but we didn't do solfege (though I'm told that they started it up a few years after I left) This was a university in the Deep South at the end of the boomer years, so there were a lot of people with real talent, but without much formal training as such and it seems that when you have a situation like that, you tend to discount the value of formal training. I think an analogous situation is sports in the US in that it is only later in the process that they might get formal training, and the idea of initial formal training is dismissed.

Russell, when did your experience start? I've got a few friends and acquaintances who play jazz here in Japan, and for some reason, this relatively small Japanese town has at least 3 people who studied at Berklee which I see through google, has a full ear training program in solfege, so I will have to ask them what they thought about the course and if it linked up with things in their Japanese music education.

Is there a message here?

Two messages:

1. Siberia is very large, i.e., it's a big target
2. The rest of the world has been very lucky

Russell, when did your experience start?

My experience is kind of all over the map, but my most recent round of adventures in solfegio has been off and on over the last year, in conjunction with my study of the vibraphone.

I'm working with ear training materials developed by a NYC guitar player by the name of Bruce Arnold, which follow an ear training regime developed by the late Charlie Banacos, a long-time legendary Boston jazz teacher.

Charlie's thing was developing, through practice, a more or less intuitive sense of the particular flavor of each pitch in it's scalar context. So, each pitch has a distinct feeling or flavor, which is a function of its relation to the tonal center, and you train yourself to simply and more or less instantly recognize that, the same way you would learn to reflexively recognize purple vs. green, or cardamom vs. cinnamon.

So - a practice oriented to the function of a pitch in its relation to a tonal center, vs. its specific frequency.

Yes, at a global level folks who are interested in jazz often find their way to Berklee. They were more or less first on the block with secondary education in jazz, and have done the most of any jazz programs I'm aware of to reach out to the international community. The current president has been very aggressive in expanding that even further.

For some reason, Japan in particular has an extraordinarily high representation among jazz students at Berklee. Marimba also, for some reason a really unusual number of the best marimba players are Japanese, and many of them make their way to Boston due to the presence here of Nancy Zeltsman, who has done an amazing amount to elevate the visibility of that instrument.

Even above and beyond all of that, there just seems to be a strong Japan - Boston connection, for reasons that make sense to me intuitively, but I'm not sure I can articulate them.

This being an open thread, I'm posting for any of you who live in/near Boston. An amazing performer (storyteller) named Mike Daisey is doing AMERICAN UTOPIAS there this weekend. We saw it down here a few weeks ago and were blown away. (He recounts experiences at Burning Man, Disney World, and Occupy New York.)

Other new shows are premiering shortly - but I'm not sure in which city!?

His blurb follows:

Hello All,

Next month it will be six months since we began making a torrent of new work at the Public Theater; it has been in many ways the most fertile and happiest period of my life. Seven new shows, over fifteen hours of performance...all of which we are recording, with hopes that this is the year we make more of it available on the web and beyond.

Next month we have a doubleheader—topping ourselves with two monologues on forbidden behavior we all engage in from time to time.

On March 4th we bring you ON LYING AND THE NATURE OF MAGIC, and on March 11th we'll perform ON SWEARING AND THE POWER OF CURSES.

It is going to be fucking great...unless I am lying about that. ;)

Tickets go onsale to the public on Thursday, February 14th at 2pm sharp. Tickets have been selling out for these shows within the hour, so be aware that demand is high.

In other news, we'll be performing AMERICAN UTOPIAS, my monologue of Disney World, Burning Man, and the Occupy movement in Boston this weekend at the Paramount Theater—tickets are still available here: http://bit.ly/12gEKZG

Be seeing you,

md

ON LYING AND THE NATURE OF MAGIC

and

ON SWEARING AND THE POWER OF CURSES

Created and Performed by Mike Daisey
Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory

The latest piece in an explosion of new work by Mike Daisey, ON LYING AND THE NATURE OF MAGIC is the first of a two monologue doubleheader he’ll perform this March about forbidden things that everyone does all the time. On this night he’ll examine the social codes that govern lying, the uncomfortable truths of how lying interlaces with fiction and story, and what it means when we say we’re telling the truth. Picasso famously said, “art is a lie that tells the truth”...if he even ever really said that at all. For one night, we’ll put our cards on the table and try to work out the story beneath the story.

Following a week later, ON SWEARING AND THE POWER OF CURSES is the second half of the doubleheader. On this night we’ll examine cursing and swearing in all its forms, addressing the labeling of obscenity and blasphemy, the raw naked power of words to shake us, and what it means to be offended. In a single night we’ll talk about what we can and can’t talk about, and what that has to teach us about how we tell all our stories.

Interesting stuff Russell. Went to my daughter's solo and ensemble contest and some of the high school percussion groups were really hot, and level of 'keyed percussion' (just made that phrase up, is there a term for percussion that is melodic? Tuned percussion could include timpani I guess) was really amazing. However, all the jazzers I know here who went to Berklee are pianists, and they play gigs in these impossibly small venues where I cannot even imagine getting an extra glockenspiel in there.

Looking up Berklee, they have an online ear training course in their offerings, which is tempting until I looked at the price.

I should also note that there was an offlist suggestion about organizing an IRL get together in Boston, so both your post and dr ngo's are serendipitous, but the person wasn't volunteering, just wondering.

"It was like magic. I loved it."

No kidding, I learned Fortran back in the 1970's, during a summer science camp at a local university, during my freshman year in high school. Not so much taught it, as given a few pages copied out of a textbook, and access to a Honeywell mainframe, and being left to sink or swim.

They always told me that if times got tough, I could always fall back on my keypunch skills. That knowledge has been reassuring all these years. ;)

They always told me that if times got tough, I could always fall back on my keypunch skills.

An awful lot of the folks who got into computers early on got there just because they had learned to type back in junior high. Which got them into keypunching (not infrequently, in the military -- where typing was one less thing to have to train someone in). Which, in some cases, got them into programming, and eventually even senior executive positions.

Not bad for guys who went straight from high school to the army, because they weren't considered college material. Probably says something about how we decide who does and does not "have potential". And definitely suggests that you never know what odd skill you happen to acquire will turn into something extremely important a couple of decades down the road. You can never know too much!

Yeah, typing was the single most useful thing I learn in high school.

Learned THAT in elementary school. Or, rather, outside it. Mom was a secretary.

The only thing I can compare to learning, as a child, to type on an ancient cast iron manual typewriter, is that martial arts exercise where you plunge your hands into buckets of sand; I'd have bruised fingertips by the time I was done with my typing lessons.

I swear, Mom could have driven her fingers through an oak board without trouble, they were so tough.

I spent part of my military service writing assembly language code and punching it into cards at a major military supply depot. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Vietnam war started to wind down shortly thereafter.

I have a bucket of pea gravel in my garage that I use for toughening fingertips and knuckles, now that Brett brings that up.

I'm only in about my 2nd week of doing that, though, so no index-finger-through-plywood for me for the next few months at least.

I'll try to avoid any circumstances where you're inclined to give me the finger.

I was in highschool back in the dark ages. At that time all boys were required to take metal shop and all girls were required to take typing. When asked why the guidance counselor said that girls had to learn to type so we could be secrataries until we got married. I took typing but with a passive agressive refusal to learn which I now regret.

I guess that my school (even for the 50s) was enlightened. We all got encouraged to take typing.

Instead of shop in junior high, the girls got to take "home economics." Which, considering that the boys mostly didn't learning any kind of economics anywhere, was probably a net plus for the girls.

Back In The Day, I took typing in HS and earned a C, which grade was later to cost me the position of valedictorian.

OTOH, the ability to type allowed me to get office positions in the US Army (thus helping keep me out of Vietnam) and later was useful in my graduate work, up to and including my doctoral dissertation.

I also took "shop" (mechanical drawing, electric, and metal - but not wood, because of a scheduling conflict) which has been of no visible use to me at all. Go figure.

I took home economics in high school; I had most of my requirements out of the way, and genuinely wanted to improve my cooking and sewing skills. Alas, they put me in the guy's home ec class, which was populated by losers who thought they were taking an easy blow-off course.

I did improve my cooking a bit, but my spitwad dodging skills improved more.

Now, shop I did mostly coast through, (Ironic given my later career in mechanical engineering.) due to Fisher Body, (Where my dad worked.) getting rid of a bunch of old mahogany full scale body panel models. It's amazing how a shop teacher's attitude changes when you bring in hundred pound blocks of mahogany...

I am trying to strengthen and condition my fingertips to accomplish a spearfinger break, which basically puts the brunt of the impact on the stiffened first and third fingers. The second finger is held flexed so that its tip is in line with that of the fingers alongside it, but it doesn't really bear any of the impact.

The instructor of one of our sister schools has broken three cement slabs that way. It's something to behold. Here's a video of him doing one slab; that was a few years before I saw him doing three.

He's also done river rock with a descending ridgehand. I have used that breaking wood, but I'd want to do some more conditioning before trying it against concrete. Stone may be outside of what I could do, ever. These are guys who have spent most of their lives doing martial arts.

What is most shocking about being on the giving end of these is that it hurts. One of my favorite breaks is ball of the foot roundhouse kick, about head level. Three boards is the best I've been able to do, but my instructor says I could do four easily. It smarts like crazy, though, for several minutes after.

This is more about having goals than about anything useful, though. It'd be rare (in an actual fight) to execute a ball of foot roundhouse kick to the head, or to use a ridgehand blow or a spearfinger blow against hard tissue.

This is more about having goals than about anything useful, though. It'd be rare (in an actual fight) to execute a ball of foot roundhouse kick to the head, or to use a ridgehand blow or a spearfinger blow against hard tissue.

You mean all those movie fights are unrealistic? Huh.

Slart, you might appreciate this, a traditional technique for improving hand strength in Goju Ryu karate. Called nigiri game, they are basically these jars (and get a load of the calluses on the guy's right hand at the beginning). I guess that the ones this guy is using are about 10 kilos, but I've seen videos with ones that are supposed to be up to 25 kilos. The bucket of gravel (I think here, they start with rice and then move up) is called a jeri bako, another Goju Ryu training device, so I'm interested if it is something TKD adopted or you are just using it. There are a whole slew of training devices in Goju Ryu and as I understand it, they were brought from China.

You mean all those movie fights are unrealistic?

It's whatever looks good for the camera, I suppose. I was going to say something about what real fights look like, but I can't say that I would be speaking from experience.

I'm interested if it is something TKD adopted or you are just using it.

I'm doing it of my own volition, because there isn't any formal TKD training that I am doing that really works on hand and foot conditioning.

Thanks for the link; I will view some more of those. The weighted jar thing looks pretty cool, but will tend to do more to develop strength than to condition common striking surfaces of the body. As it happens, hand strength is something I also need to work on.

Slarti, what would be realistic, but look terrible for the camera, is someone starting out with a solid kick to the knee. Preferably to the side of the knee. At that point, your opponent is not on his feet any longer, and not a threat (absent a projectile weapon to fall back on). And it has the advantage that, knees being relatively fragile (especially from the side!), you don't really have to "toughen up" that much to do it.

Of course, you do have to cope with the wails from the guy, who is also looking at major surgery and months of rehab, at least. But hey, if you are in a real fight, that may not be a major concern.

The trick is to side-kick him in the side of the knee before he does the same to you, I think.

I hope you guys keep the garage door closed when you're practicing those finger thrusts into buckets of pea gravel.

All of this effort when I'm told via Congressional hearings that the wife is inside the house rummaging among the Bundt cake pans for her weapon of choice, the AR15, in case the perimeter must be sprayed with covering fire.

Every time I see Wayne LaPierre on the telly, his face reminds me of a bucket of pea gravel and the target I concentrate on is about six inches behind his head.

I took karate lessons years ago from a male friend who was 4" 11". He was basically a callous in a karategi and a nice guy.

This was a man whose hang time during his jump kicks matched some of the hovering moves in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".

I do things hard in sports, by which I mean in baseball that whaling away at the pitch with teeth-clenching bat speed, Clemente-style, is my way (typing: I type HARD with four fingers, like a pent-up man stabbing a bucket of pea gravel. The embossed letters on my keyboard are pretty much gone. My typing sounds like the teletype clattering that used to lead into newspaper room scenes in 1930s-era movies, especially during my rants. You tell em what you're going to tell em, you tell em, and then you tell em what you just told em. Every once in a long while, I'll catch myself returning an imaginary carriage with a swipe of one hand) .... now where was I, darnit ..

Yes, so we were asked to do some light sparring by our karate instructor and my partner was a woman and we took turns practicing our moves and, in my inimitable, wound-up Barney Fifeness (I'm wiry; my mother was wiry), my enthusiasm on a simple forward punch lacked, let us say, the proper precision and I popped her a good one right on the middle of the forehead and a bump immediately appeared that looked like the contusion Popeye would suffer when Brutus would lower an anchor full-speed on to his noggin.

Welp, down she went, and up she popped and she YELLED at me, I mean she read red-faced, sheepish me the Riot Act, and as George Carlin pointed out, if you've ever read the Riot Act, you'll find it to be wordy and poorly thought out (he goes on to suggest better reading, but ...) and pretty soon our karate instructor, who had been hovering 20 feet above in a corner of the ceiling, nailed a landing and came over and calmed her down and pointed out that these things happen, etc and then he looked at me beatifically and instructed me quietly to assume the stance, which I did, thinking all of the while about the preparatory positioning of my testicles, my Adam's Apple, my pride, and all other things I held dear, and ...

.... so, at 4'11" his twisting jump kicks were incredibly compact and he could get so tight inside an opponent's space and do his thing and make an otherwise competent opponent look like a man flailing for purchase in a sh*tstorm and so he asked me to just assume my stance and not react ..

... I wear glasses ...

... and he stood just before me and without the slightest sign of effort he levitated from the floor and as his entire body was level with my eyebrows he twisted and his foot came around I felt the breeze from the callous along the outside edge of that foot cool my chastened brow and then as his trailing hand came around on follow-through, it snatched the glasses from my face.

He landed, handed me my folded glasses, smiled, and splayed his hands as if to say "Understand?" and we exchanged bows.

And then the woman I had harmed hit me over the head with a bucket of pea gravel.

No, she didn't.

So much for karate.

Sometimes, long ago, in a baseball or softball game, stepping to the side as a big dumb guy was about to brain me and side-kicking him in the side of his knee would work, but then with those team sports you have the added encumbrance of the other dozen brutes on his team and so you end up keeping your sprinting skills in fine fettle as well.

I took home economics in high school; I had most of my requirements out of the way, and genuinely wanted to improve my cooking and sewing skills. Alas, they put me in the guy's home ec class,

Come on Brett. You can't kid us. Improve your cooking? Sure. You took home ec hoping to be in a classful of girls. 'Fess up and we'll forgive.

I took cooking in high school, and I think it was my only C (I took a zero rather than write a report on "corn."). I was required to have an elective, so chose first period cooking to have breakfast. But I loved the class, still use what I learned, and there were lots of girls. Basic competency/vocabulary in a kitchen is a remarkably useful skill as an an adult.

My father and I have the distinction of having both of our high school cooking teachers kill themselves, in the same way...involving an oven, but 30 years apart.

But I assume that is a simple conicidence, and not an episode of the X files in waiting.

Gas or electric?

microwave

If I can't nuke it, I don't cook it. :)

FWIW, I'd like to nominate the Count's 4:27PM comment for whatever best-of compilation is currently in the works.

My father and I have the distinction of having both of our high school cooking teachers kill themselves...

Huh? This is news to me. More info, please - privately, if you prefer.

Could be rumor. I have been mostly away for almost 30 years, but that is what I think is true. And I had that conversation with my dad, and others...and my web search before posting provided no clear evidence either way (being on ObWi taught me to never post without checking basic facts).

I would frankly be relieved to know it was not true, since I liked my HS cooking teacher (despite the C). She was a kind woman.

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