Thursday, March 30, 2017

Music and Language Musings

Yesterday I had both band and choir practice, and it occurs to me that I spend a lot of time around other musicians so sometimes I forget that my knowledge of musical terms can be bewildering to laypeople. It is amusing to watch people’s eyes glaze over when I accidentally drop a term like Phrygian mode, theorbo, or hemiola, but when you know a lot of people whose knowledge of music theory is on a doctoral level, it’s easy to forget you might have a master’s degree level of knowledge. One bit of musical knowledge I do not yet possess is how to play the bouzouki Travalon gave me a couple of years ago. We are going to take it to a guy who fixes guitars and ukuleles to see if he can do something about the high action on it (the strings are so far above the fingerboard that it is painful to play), and then I will find a video online and try to learn at least one song. Sometimes the university has classes on how to play interesting instruments, and in the past they have had classes on playing the mountain dulcimer, but I haven’t seen those lately so I still don’t exactly know how to play ol’ Bubba Sue either. Maybe my Lenten resolution should be to actually learn to play all these instruments I have acquired over the years. Maybe it’s for the best that I never bought that balalaika years ago!

We have a new person in our Irish class, a college student who just started studying the language but already has a way better accent than we middle-aged people who have been studying it for three years now. It’s funny, when I was in Ireland, I bought anything that had Irish written on it because it seemed so cool and mysterious. Today I came across a T-shirt from the Guinness factory, and not only could I read the message on it and realize it was just something about how you shouldn’t drink anything else, I was also all like, “Hmm, they’re eclipsing the B there, and aspirating that S.” Now when I see written Irish, my first reaction isn’t, “Whoa, that’s so cool!” but “Oh man, another thing to translate!” Familiarity really does breed contempt, or at least fatigue. 

Famous Hat

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