Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On arbitrary designations

Matt pointed out that 8 little notes is a... I'm not sure what to call it. Misnomer? Misapprehension? That we have broken the wavelength of sound into these arbitrary divisions, and that some (like the pentatonic scale) break it in other ways that sound strange and alien to us.

Likewise I was thinking of the women who used to come into the fabric stores where I worked and be angry that we did not have the exact color of thread, or zipper to match their store-bought item. I remember saying to one woman that there is such an enormous range of colors, how could we possibly carry everything. And she said, "Well, how did the manufacturer?" I said, "I would imagine that they were dyed together." Of course, what I wanted to say was, "Lady, if you're sewing so that your thread shows that badly, then you don't know how to sew." I've been known to sew seams with whatever color is in the machine and only change when I needed to topstitch and then it was usually decorative. But I digress.

All classifications are arbitrary. I am thinking too of T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone (later a Disney movie and the other books in the series were adapted into Camelot, the musical). In White's version, Merlin teaches the young Arthur by turning him into animals, like a Hawk, and soaring above the world he sees that there are no borders, no lines drawn on the land. I would go further--no time zones.

Time passes, but how we measure it is simply man's attempt to find some order, some way of coping and communicating. There is the concrete thing--the frequency of the note, the color
, the moment in time--that we call F#; R-158, G-42, B-42, or hexadecimal number 9e2a2a, or 10:48pm (or 22:48). Likewise there is a coastline which encircles what we call England and Scotland, (but there is no real line between them).

Likewise, we cannot be sure that the sound you hear as F# or the color you see above, is the same as what I hear or see. The color you see can seem to be altered by the colors around it (although it isn't really). But you will come to understand that this is what you call burgundy and it corresponds to what I call burgundy and thus we communicate.

And Matt, do you mean "prosciutto?" And thank you. m(_ _)m

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