Is There a Draft in Here? (Part 2)

More posts which have been hanging around in 'draft' form for several years, never to be completed.

From almost exactly seven years ago, musings on music theory:

The university library sent me an invoice a week ago, for two books that I borrowed while in their employ. After being dumped for inconveniently succeeding when I was set up to fail, I wasn't in the mood to return them, so put them to one side to read later...and completely forgot about them.

Well, six months later, they noticed the loan on their records, and politely asked if I could either return the books or pay replacement costs - £15 each for volumes 1 and 2 of Introduction to Music Theory by Eric Taylor.

Seeing as it's an out-of-print standard work, and they have 5 or more other copies, and these remain unborrowed by other students - possibly because the university doesn't have a music department - and because I think they're very interesting...I've paid the 'replacement' costs. First books I've bought in years.

Leafing through them, I was set thinking by how there are two kinds of approach to teaching music theory - top down and bottom up.

The top down approach starts with the most general terms - composition and work, harmony and rhythm - and subdivides these into more specific areas. Harmony devides into counterpoint and chord theory. Chord theory into triads, 7ths and 9ths, modes and keys. Keys gets us into the mathematics of frequency, which gets into the physics of sound and psychoacoustics, which in turn (if you want to go that far) links to the physiology of hearing and even neurology.

The bottom up approach does the opposite, trying to start with the most basic physical properties of sound, and building up a series of more and more abstract levels, each supported by the more concrete one below.

The trouble is, neither the highly general notion of composition, nor the very specific subject of cochleal chamber structure - which is in it's way just as abstract and forbidding - is a good starting point. Both are unfamilliar to the music novice.

The novice has to start with what they already know, which is in the mundane middle ground of pitch, simple harmony, rhythm and volume. Never mind that these terms are not at this stage actually defined. If someone 'knows' pitch, it makes more sense to define frequency as an underlying property of pitch, than to define frequency mathematically, the climb from maths back up to pitch.

Skipping over some slightly fraught notes on my dysfunctional friendship definitely not relationship with C, there's this oddity, typed at 4 or 5 in the morning on someone else's computer:

What if I were to be told tomorrow that I had five years to live? Give or take six months or a year. How would I want to spend the time, and what would my priorities be?

I think the short answer is: Be the person I intended to be at 23. That is, musician, writer and slut. Record an album, write a book, and have large amounts of guiltless sex.

At 24 I stopped making music, stopped writing, and walked into a disasterous relationship - the former two largely because of the latter. I took a wrong turn, and the right road now seems distant.

Of course, there are other things I want to do - various subjects to study...

There's a stunningly patronising essay on the marxist line on climate change, which I'll spare you. It's just that it doesn't read like me, I've absolutely no recollection of writing it, and no idea why I'd try.

Oh well. The final item is the start of a short story:

"Britain's largest nuclear reactor", the newspapers proudly called it. Although it was in the Republic of Ireland and there were two larger.

Commissioned in 2010, the Dankhill plant had promised local jobs for all and limitless cheap energy. Finished five years late and three times overbudget, most of the staff had been flown in from England, and electricity prices were still rising because the plant was still only working to half capacity.

The government minister who'd championed the plant was in jail for perjury following his trial for indecent exposure, the third manager in four years had just been installed, and the press was full of stories about rising cancer rates in nearby villages. And there was a bomb in reactor 4.

It was quite a large bomb, and no one was sure how it got there. But it was definitely a bomb.

All my drafts...have now been excluded.

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