Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Gardener In Moonlight

This is one of the simplest little tunes I’ve ever posted. But I’ve enjoyed playing this seemingly all out-of-proportion to its simplicity. To my ears the simple tune takes on different characters just by making slight changes to the steady rhythm, or the phrase that rises from C to A. And it is easy to add harmony using chords with the melody notes in the treble or just using a straight progression starting or ending on a melody note. And it’s easy, too, on keyboard to create a split and alternate the simple melody between two voices. I enjoyed most, I think, using a very synth sounding voice to start each little phrase and a flute to finish off the phrase.

I made up this little melody on guitar, then moved to keyboard. I noticed then when I went back to guitar it was even more fun, maybe because I was more familiar with the intervals and I can play so much more freely on guitar.

I’m a fan of arranger keyboards, as compared to synthesizers that are more focused on crafting particular sounds. It has always seemed to me—and it continues to seem to me—that what a musician does with sounds is much more important than the particular sounds themselves.

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #1

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #2

But I wonder.

I wonder if a particular melody might be like what a painter calls a “motif,” and although a painter may paint a particular motif in many different ways depending on, say, the light at a particular time of day or the painter’s mood, if the painter is at all realistic there always will be some discernible underlying similarity visible from variation to variation of the images of the same motif. It’s remarkable, for instance, comparing Cézanne’s paintings to photographs of his motifs—it’s almost always reasonably easy to see what Cézanne started from.

So I wonder if any given melody might have some particular sound or sounds which bring out and emphasize the very basic nature of the melody itself.

I’m a sucker for cool advertising and when I see images like this (speaking of “Motif” this image is from the anniversary brochure pdf}—

—when I see images like this I get to thinking that a sound-oriented synthesizer might be a great deal of fun for exploring that question: Does a melody have a particular defining nature that is separate from the mood or intention of the musician playing the melody? And, if so, it would be fun exploring the process of discovering the sounds that seem to “work best” for a given melody, the sounds which seem to emphasize the underlying nature of the melody, if a melody has such a thing as its own underlying nature separate from the musician arranging and playing it.

I like that particular image because there’s a guitar in the background and a computer on the desk, and there’s the synthesizer workstation as a tool that works well with those other tools.

It’s like a mad scientist’s laboratory and it only takes up one corner of a room.


I’ve always been uncomfortable with distance as a literal thing. I like staying in Chicago. I love Lake Michigan.

But I’ve always been interested in distance as a figurative thing. Traveling to the stars with binoculars or telescopes. Traveling into music with capable instruments and tools. Traveling into hearts and minds with reading and writing.

I strongly suspect that just as these “figurative” distances have a metaphoric relationship (or a metonymy relationship) to real distance, in a somehow comparable way there is a third reality that has a corresponding relationship to the figurative.

I strongly suspect there is something that is abstracted away from figurative distance in a similar way that figurative distance is abstracted away from real physical distance.

Mad scientist stuff. But for real. And something like the opposite of making monsters. Rather it’s something like discovering what human is.

Seems to me it’s stuff worth doing.


And, of course, it’s always fun, too, making up lyrics that go with melodies, turning them into songs. Scientists keep notebooks, I’m guessing even mad scientists do. Lyrics maybe are a mad scientist keeping track of his or her experiments in their notebook. These lyrics are what I wrote in my notebook after experimenting with the simple melody above:

Stars above
gardens and
gardeners in

enjoying the
evening because
soon enough
morning will