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Modally bemusing

Today is Tuesday - just barely. It's Mars' day - Phrygian mode, using only white keys, and starting on E. Fiery. Alexandrian. Alchemical. Barbarian.

Play it on the keyboard and it sounds like a somewhat solemn, relentless and purposeful march. Grab the E tonic bass and its fifth and octave in your left hand and lay down a walking rhythm that rolls through time like an old Joni Mitchell tune. Go anywhere in the white keys, droning on the tonic, and you're now playing in Phrygian Mode.

Move your tonic to the F, and you're in Lydian Mode, the Mode of Venus. This is one of Libra's home keys, for they're quite ruled by Venus, especially in her aural forms. Egyptian, receptive, telepathic - Tonic and the 5th, C, and all white keys, and you're playing Friday's Mode.

The tonic of A is for the Sun's day, Aeolian, the Natural Minor. It's the mode of the Heart's connecting. D tonic leads you into Dorian, the Thursday mode - Gregorian, the mode of sacred architecture, the Music of the Physicians - ruled by Jupiter.

I now call these the D,E,A,F - DEAF - modes, after tonight's very fun visit with Mage Extraordinaire, Christine Payne-Towler, another dear friend and mentor who pondered around in the notes of it all and played around with me and those selves of me preoccupied, like a musical bag lady sorting her notes on the bench in the post office lobby, with the numerical relationships of all things.

These are the modes that are shaking out when I compare what's emphasized in sacred harmonic singing and what's emphasized in jazz. I'm now pulling tunes from my repertoire that are either in these modes, or have aspects of these modes emphasized in significant passages, in order to see what lines up with what. The resulting set-list should be interesting.

Christine thinks I'm actually going to break through to the occidental sense of it all, bridging the expanse between my quantum physik, the sacred intervals of consciousness, and bar-room jazz, in an oddly accidental way.

I've been extracting and overlaying partial musical maps of several very interesting people, none of whom know each other, each of whom holds an interesting piece of the musical world - the mage with her sacred numerology; the monks with sounds that fill cathedrals and caverns, reminiscent of the time when they may have actually moved the stones instead of just ringing between them, and the theorist/scribes with their chordal language that can tell people with instruments where to go. The overlays are a thrill a minute, and every few days I add a song to The List that has options I didn't see before.

Did you know that once, not too long ago, it was illegal to sing or play a major 3rd because it invoked the Devil? I have a whole new appreciation for the freedoms I have, simply to sing. Christine says that the third was actually an important part of the arcane arsenal of power through musical correspondences, and was really a foundation tone for important healing and spiritual work, something that the churches were keenly interested in maintaining control over.

All the modes above - the DEAF modes (I think they speak to our subtler bodies, under our hearing, perhaps weaving our concensus reality fabric, or at least perhaps being a warp of it) - lack major thirds, except for the Lydian, who still falls short of the sacred Tritone, two adjacent thirds.

In fact, it was the Mixolydian Mode, called the Peoples' Mode, Folk Music, beginning on G, that gave the first major tritone - the 1,3,and 5. If you play it, especially after playing the DEAF mode, you can hear an amazing lift and feedom in the opening of the interval as it stretches out from the minor third and into the reverberating potential of the major 3rd.

Kind of like the idea of rights for women, or an end to time slavery, or repeatedly and unceasingly choosing peace as a preferred option - there's an opening feeling to the major third, invisible from the minor, that shifts the burden a just half step and makes completely new chords possible.

Buckminster Fuller once defined synergy as the behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately. I'm sure being a musical bag lady has some part to play in a synergetic unfolding, and I take comfort in knowing that not knowing is a perfectly acceptable place to be.


More grist for the mill.

Have you ever heard of a group called the Afro Celts? We were talking tonight about the connection between the polyrhythmic similarities between the tribes of Africa and the British Isles, and how that particular group of Eastern Atlantic Seaboard peoples shared a large amount of information (celestial, mathematical, spiritual) that the Mediterranean Inner Circle wasn't party to. I'm anxious to hear this music, for she says that the group has fused the rhythms of both cultures and the music is extraordinary, and that your body just has to move.

Tomorrow I'm going to try singing with another pianist. He came by to hear me at my last gig and is a theory professor over at the University. He's interested in playing "out" again, and I'm *really* interested in singing with somebody who will know what to do with all my analysis energy.

I was talking to my piano teacher about where to play, and how I was feeling a little guilty because I don't play for money, and I'm now surrounded by people who do. There's the constant tension between the professionals and the amateurs that arises because amateurs are seen as bringing the pay-scale down by playing for less than what pros need to make a living.

I'm pretty sympathetic to this argument, really, because it's like selling something for less than it costs to produce it. When there are hobby/wealthy farmers around, I really prefer it when they give their food away, or put it into markets where they're not competing with the Guild, as such - if they need the currency from the food, then they should hang in the market properly; if not, then they need to do something different with the food other than sell it.

I read of a market model that takes place in many old style African marketplaces. Apparently, one person (or a small group) sets the prices of all things on that market day - all chickens, all potatoes, all fish. The hand of the marketplace operates by rewarding one with time - if you produce the best, you're sold out the quickest, and you can go home. If you produce poorly, you may not sell what you bring til the end of the day, if at all. Quality in production is rewarded, just not through an inflated margin.

I'm not taking up too many paying gig slots in town, but this rationale does give me more reason to try and find musicians who don't need to make money from their playing, and would be willing to do benefits and play for hospice or shut ins - that kind of thing would be very fine with me.

My current pianist doesn't do this, because she doesn't play for free anymore, and Steve's professoring might just give him that kind of economic latitude. There's nothing at all like singing this music for that generation of people who heard these tunes when they were 20, but will never make it down to the basement of Jo Fed's Jazz Club, and so we may play sometime in the lobby of the Eugene Hotel's retirement complex - I'd like that.

A small and simple aspiration. It would be nice.


Well, I want to post this while we're still in the Phrygian mode. It will be Mixolydian soon - pushing out into a wider, fuller third.

Say, does bandwidth involve harmony?

Musingly yours,


PLUR. Remember PLUR



-- Anonymous, December 19, 2001

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