imagesThe super-string theorists tell us that everything is  just vibrating strings. We are all just vibrations, everything is a frequency, a melody in the grand symphony of the universe.  Get your head around that one Pilgrim!  I do love it when sober-headed physicists talk like besotted mystics. If you play music, you know all about vibrations. If you play a stringed instrument, you spend lots of time tuning those strings.  Tuning is a subject that expands and gets more complicated the more you look at it.

That note you’re tuning to is not a particle, it’s a wave and it’s not something you can put in a box. The closer you listen, the more you hear, the less you know. Some notes are pleasing, some notes go well together, some notes are displeasing, and don’t go together. But it all depends. Western music, Eastern music, modern dissonance.  What is music? What is noise? It’s all in the ear and the brain of the hearer!

And what’s pleasing and displeasing may hold for other species too.  We live with two Cockatiels and a Parakeet and Puccini, U2, The Beatles even The Rolling Stones seem to agree with them.  But late John Coltrane, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, and  The Who, well, not so much.

It seems like tuning should be simple.  But it’s not. There are all kinds of methods to get you to “standard tuning,” but there’s lots of disagreement on how standard, standard really is, and there’s many ideas about how to make your instrument sound pleasing to the ear.  You can tune up, and one chord sounds great, and another sounds off. Or you move up the fret-board and some notes are sharp or flat. If you have perfect pitch, like my friend, Mr. Mo Ukulele Raconteur, well a flat or sharp note, a poorly-tuned instrument, a badly-sung note can drive you to distraction!

So  famous guitar players like James Taylor have come up with their own tuning tricks.  Or Buzz Feiten  has designed a unique system that builds in “off-sets” that provide “tempered tuning,” across the fret-board. Then there is open-tuning (see Keith Richards), or alternate tunings (check out Jimmy Page), or down-tuning (think Jimi Hendrix or Death Metal)

And if you’ve tuned a guitar, you realize that you are trying to catch something not exactly catchable. If you own a strobe-tuner  you can actually visualize how elusive and slippery that note can be.  There is no exact point where you have arrived, there is only a continuum, a frequency, a vibration.  It’s like trying to catch a sunbeam. You can get close. You think you have it in your hand, it’s there, it lights you up, but it’s not yours to hold. There’s a lesson there… – Jammer

Postsrcipt: “The note is eternal.” Pete Townshend, like some of the  romantic poets, was actually ahead of the string-theorists on the mystical nature of the universal vibe. Here’s Pete from his song, “Pure & Easy:”

There once was a note pure and easy
Playing so free like a breathe rippling by
The note is eternal
I hear it, it sees me
Forever we blend as forever we die

I listened and I heard music in a word
And words when you played your guitar
The noise that I was hearing was a million people cheering
And a child flew past me riding in a star

Pete Towshend

“Bill Fay is one of the greats — this is a beautiful album.” – Nick Cave

The powers of persuasion + I love Nick Cave = I will love “Life is People.”

The CD arrives in time for a long drive out to visit my mother. I am aligned with the universe or at least the universe of Amazon.com.

Side A
Once, some time ago, Jammer and I were walking and this older women says to us “you’re not regular citizens, are you?” we laughed, what a funny thing to say, but there is some truth there, because we have both always kinda felt like mis-fits, painted birds, or broken-winged beasts.

I would say I am a spiritual person, both Jammer and I are really, and we have always aproached the creative process from this perspective. A journey. Collective energy moving outward. Little dialogues with a thing that is both “inside” and “outside”of us. Bill Fay’s CD got me to thinking about the spiritual world and about how you can hear or see things new again. Fresh again. You can actually shake up a sleeping dead thing, and have a new experience, a new dance, in a new way.

Side B
There’s this bucking bronco swirling round inside me, it’s a whirling dervish, it questions authority, ideaology and all these human-made belief systems. This universe, this planet is a confusing and mysterious place, (ESPECIALLY when I am driving out to visit my mother,) why, with the fractals and superstring theories, black holes, red giants, blue giants, darkness and light, not to mention all the wild things going on here on “big blue”, well it’s hard to believe we could possibly have answers to any thing, it’s hard to believe we can get the shoes laced and put one foot in front of the other, unless maybe, yes, the answers just keep moving toward new questions and new answers and it’s all way, way faster now that we have discovered dark matter, and for the love of Mary!! How does this help ease up the reins on that crazy wild mare inside me…

I’m driving along with the human struggle, through the monotonous grey tone of the suburban streets, navigating the sad barren landscape of boarded strip malls, and the tears start flowing. ……then…. just when you least expect it, something simple appears, it rises up and claims you like the brilliant red orange colors of a sunset. Like the continuous motion of a caressing shore line or like a little flower bloom in an over-grown garden. A beautiful little piece of poetry. As I drive along I discover I am singing, singing along to this CD that I have never heard before…… “Don’t cry, you can rely on me honey, you can come by any time you want, I’ll be around, your were right about the stars, each one is a setting sun,” and then……. one line bursts out, with such power, such force…… “Our love is all of God’s money.”

Wait! What was that? What a glorious line! How do I know this song? At the stoplight I scramble for the credits. Woah, it’s a Wilco song (Jeff Tweedy & Jay Bennett) Ahhhh, there it is! One line to re-thread the needle of grace. A new way in. Then it’s….. rest a bit now honey….. ease your mind and soul sweetie…… hands to the wheel now baby……. ten o’clock, two o’clock….. pay attention to the ride. The songs on this cd are wonderful, it is a lovely, beautiful piece of work. Many thanks to both Nick Cave & Bill Fay. – Carla