Monday, August 18, 2008

m o u t h o r g a n

One of the things I got on my birthday - thank you rosebud for the monarch! - was an old mouth organ. After a bit of research this turned out to be a tremolo harmonica tuned in the East Asian style. The 24 pitches (each double-reeded to produce the tremolo effect) are tuned:

Blow: G C E G C E G C E G C E
Draw: D F A B D F A B D F A B

This is quite a logical arrangement in some ways. For most of the range it contains all the white notes without missing any out, so is very good for picking out simple modal melodies, especially in the Ionian ("major") in C, or the Dorian ("minor" with major 6th) in D.

A slight problem with the arrangement is that each octave span is covered by only 3 notes (C-E-G) on the blow side, but 4 notes (D-F-A-B) on the draw side. Therefore the blow-notes, beginning on the left some way below the adjacent draw-notes, gradually catch them up and, at the other end of the harmonica, get ahead of them. It's only in the middle stretch that the notes are arranged sequentially (more modern designs interpose a periodic spacer on the blow side so that the equivalent positions of notes remain constant throughout the range, making it very easy to play the same melody an octave higher or lower).

It's impossible to play the blues on this kind of harmonica; it would require - in this case - a root G low down on the draw side, as is normal in western harmonicas, enabling blues in G to be played cross-harp (i.e. with the tonic on the draw).

The only trick I've learnt so far is that if you use your lip to suppress one of the ranks of reeds you get a very sweet tone quite unlike the usual tremolo tone (which is achieved by having each pair of reeds slightly out of tune with each other). I can't seem to bend or squeeze notes to much effect, not yet anyway. My modest aim is to remind myself of Magic Dick, harpist for the J. Geils Band in their glory days of Full House, Bloodshot, Blow Your Face Out, etc.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

no other print

My plaid, says Edith instinctively to Jenny. Isn't young Milnewood's head covered too? Hoodie up, hoodie over. Shame, intrigue, cycling in the rain. Dignity in orange silk, black pennons, name of your own choice, product withholding production: art.

a herring gull went up in the breeze, something carelessly flipflopped from its beak onto the shingle, go and pick it up, don't drop it this time! and up flapping awkwardly on the breeze, NO. You've dropped it again. What's the matter with you. Back down pick it up this isn't rocket science. Oh. It's smashing a mussel. Out comes the chewing gum meat.

I couldn't help remembering the poor slug I trod on, carrying the chest of drawers. One moment long and elegant steaming forth with his strong brown horns and little black tail-shell; then down comes clumsy oaf and all his skin flies off him like an exploding banana and only a trail of glistening innards is left for the others to maunder over.

A gesture becomes art when a certain accumulation of skill or labour distinguishes it. When you observe the product but do not altogether comprehend some feature of the production, the artefact now conceals something. That is why a child hides the execution of her drawing until it is finished. The concealment has a potency. The maker controls the point of view, places limits on it. The maker cannot experience the artefact's concealment, so doesn't know directly what value it may have for its observers. The observer tries to penetrate the concealment, though this cannot be done. So from both sides of the concealing object the hands reach out for each other. In their effort to touch, because it fails, art is liberated. (Rolf Hansson)

Sea rocket (Cakile maritima) and saltwort (Salsola kali) - the limit of plant-life along the drift-line.

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