Basso Molto Profundo

I’m a big fan of ambient knowledge.

In the course of my various pursuits, both musical and non-, I occasionally find it necessary to re-look-up terms and concepts that I learned a long time ago — things I’m sure I know, but which are momentarily beyond my mental grasp, due, I believe, to a combination of The Law of Accelerating Returns as it applies to what I need to know, and the socio-ecogenic ADHD with which I am afflicted.

(And if the sentence above weren’t a description of my real life, I would enter it in The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest!)

Case in point: while writing my previous post, I needed to refresh my memory of how to refer to specific musical pitches using a letter name and a number, such that it’s clear exactly which octave you’re talking about. For example, middle C on the piano is labeled ‘C4’, not to be confused with ‘C3’, which is an octave lower. It’s called scientific pitch notation, evidently — I’d never heard the official name of the system before. But it’s more concise and precise than saying, “the G an octave-and-a-half below middle C,” when you can just say, “G2,” and know that you’ll be understood (by other music nerds, at least ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

The Wikipedia article linked above also contained the following juicy little tidbit:

Scientific pitch notation is a logarithmic frequency scale. Although pitch notation is intended to describe audible sounds, it can also be used to specify the frequency of non-audible phenomena. For example, when the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed pressure fronts propagating away from a black hole, the frequency of the waves was reported in the press as the Bโ™ญ 57 octaves below middle C, or Bโ™ญโˆ’53, corresponding to one oscillation every 10 million years.”

Whoa, talk about your nerdy examples! That’s some far-out cosmic instrument, btw — I thought I had spent some long hours in the practice room, but 10 million years?!?

Now, I know that you can’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia, so I searched around for other sources for that wacky little factoid. I found one that has a title I envy immensely: I Know Why the Black Hole Sings.

Turns out, the universe is one vast Mighty Wurlitzer! Awesome! ๐Ÿ˜€

If You Can’t Be With the Piano You Love… Love the Piano You’re With!

Pianists are so misunderstood!

As an itinerant accompanist and sometime starving-pianist-without-my-own-instrument, I’ve played a lot of different pianos. A few have been very nice; most have had various issues while still being adequate; and some can only be charitably described as piano-shaped objects.

My piano encounters last weekend at Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh fell into that middle category. Now that I think about it, the “various issues” descriptor encompasses a hilariously broad range of surprises and challenges I’ve gotten to deal with over the years. And now I have two more to add to my scrapbook!

Piano lock, shown on a white piano so you can actually see it, but -- white pianos, ew!

Piano lock, shown on a white piano so you can actually see it, but -- white pianos, ew!

The first obstacle your heroine was tasked to overcome was the dreaded Piano Lock. I mentioned in my previous post that I successfully deployed my charm and wily persuasion on the hotel staff so that I could gain access to a rehearsal piano. (Actually, the hotel staff were very nice and helpful with all aspects of our conference. They even let us turn the lobby into a full-on DFH hootenanny, into the wee hours of both Friday and Saturday nights!)

The sight of a locked piano always makes my heart sink. Oh, I completely get why they’re necessary, mind you. Overenthusiastic children, drunken louts, greasy fingers, overfull drinks — I understand the dangers. But pianos are made to be played, dammit! It’s such a shame to see them sitting there like large, expensive, useless furniture so much of the time.

I think it should be possible to get certified as a Bona Fide Pianistยฎ by some international piano organization, and the certification should entitle one to a universal master piano lock key. I would vow to use it wisely — honest! ๐Ÿ˜€

Our nice shiny rehearsal piano

Our nice shiny rehearsal piano

Anyway, the rehearsal piano was a grand, and it looked pretty nice. It was okay, but there was one key that stuck and only played if you pounded it like the devil. And it just happened to be the G an octave-and-a-half below middle C (G2 in scientific pitch notation), which was very inconvenient since all but one of the songs we were rehearsing were in the key of G! Figures! ๐Ÿ˜ก

There was even more fun in store for me on Sunday morning, though. Click Mr. Readmore to see the secret toy surprise! Continue reading

Miss Music Nerd Turns Orange!


I’ve just returned from Netroots Nation, the annual progressive bloggers’ conference. And I don’t know if I need to adjust the settings on my camera, or what, because in most of the pictures I took, people’s skin has a distinctly red or orange cast. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that my lighting designer, hairstylist and make-up artist are all FIRED! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The conference T-shirt I’m wearing here actually looks nice in person — I don’t usually wear orange, but this is an okay shade. Well, you’ll just have to take my word for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

As you know, my profession is music, not politics, but I attend this event each year for two main reasons:

  • To hang out in person with my online friends
  • To participate in the music-making for an Interfaith Worship Service, which we hold every year — even though most of the attendees are still sleeping it off after the wild partying of the 3 previous evenings. (Not that we refrain from participating in that, as I chronicled last year!)

As a side benefit, I get to attend panel discussions on the hot topics of the day, and hear speeches by some big names in politics. This year’s headliners included Bill Clinton, Howard Dean and Valerie Jarrett.

I don’t usually brave the crowds to get a handshake or photo with the various VIP’s in attendance, but I did go to Dr. Dean’s book signing, because I thought a signed book would make a nice present for McDoc. It was fun to chat with him a bit; I asked him what advice he’d give McDoc about getting through residency with his sanity intact. His answer in a nutshell: “Don’t hang out with other doctors during your off hours!” ๐Ÿ˜€ (And no, he didn’t scream, not even once. He’s quite personable and, as they say ’round here, wicked smaht. I’d love to have him as a dinner party guest.)

Back story to the picture above: I was able to sweet-talk the hotel staff into unlocking this piano so that I could rehearse for the interfaith service with the Prophecy Street Singers, as I’ve dubbed us. (Photo credit for the non-orange-y pics: snorfbat, who also plays a mean banjo!) The service itself took place in a conference room with a rented keyboard; more about that little adventure later — stay tuned! ๐Ÿ™‚

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