When 16 is Plenty

Day 202 Week 29 Q3 Saturday, July 22, 2023

Have you ever played just five single notes on a polyphonic instrument in a specific register and not wanted to let them go? And not want to harmonically accompany them or vary the rhythm or change anything at all because you felt there was something core in this not quite scaler-descending line? And not wonder where this came from or if it was original as it simply transcended all of the questions that previously came about?

And for whatever reason, this sequence of notes sounded awful if they were not in that specific key and register. And there was an aspect of perfect pitch to this. No other pitches would do, and they slid me into a forty-five-minute long semi-sleeping altered state and no, there were no substances or food or water involved by a sense of bliss and neither finality nor a starting point that would come later.

I normally start with complete polyphonic, harmonically and rhythmically supported ideas. Still, for whatever reason, these five notes held sway over me so strongly that I had to put down the instrument, which was a semi-hollow body natural electric guitar set up for jazz with flatwound heavier gauge strings. Something simultaneously tactile and sonic was going on that simply would not let go.

So it was time to fire up a notion program to capture these few notes as quickly as I could because clearly more were on the way and I did not want to have to rely solely on memory as my memory has always been leaky when it came to specific tones as opposed to rhythmic harmonic structures which tend to be exceeding mutable. No, this was different. I did not want any variation. I wanted to capture this free-floating feeling that just showed up by some sort of osmosis.

We are speaking of less than two measures of music, just a wisp of a feeling that just might possibly become a melody fragment. And somehow, a few minutes later, which might have been as many as an hour, there were sixteen measures of melody on the screen. And there is no awareness of what key this is in, what key signature, or what rhythmic style. None of that, but the specific notes and register seemed sacrosanct, which is rarely true for me.

Also, it was enharmonically inconsistent with sharps and flats at first, but somehow and somewhere became enharmonically consistent during the process. Now what do I do with these sixteen measures? I have no strong idea except that this was clearly not meant to be played on the instrument I discovered. It needs to sit a bit and possibly ferment or expand or maybe nothing at all has to change right now, and somehow it felt like sixteen measures were and still are plenty, so I needed to capture this.