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…A is A…


I am fascinated by this – as much as I am about the way a roux cooks down and the way a buerre manie can thicken hot pan juices without clumping. I am fascinated with this, quite possibly even more so.

It’s not a provable thing, you see, whether A is A. Or what A is at all, for that matter. It’s not a state of anything – not like water boiling, where even though the temperature may vary due to elevation – it’s a distinct point of water changing from a liquid into a gas. Maybe even better to imagine, since elevation and atmospheric pressure doesn’t matter, is when water freezes and becomes ice. The measure, in cooking, is after the idea, after the reality – and often the measure is simply to see where, on the scale of reality you are.

As a former semi-student of philosophy and a one time reader and fan of Ayn Rand, the notion of A being A has special connotations, of course. If you haven’t ever wandered that path, by all means do so. It’s a worthy diversion in cultivating your own brand of spirituality, I am certain. Of course for her, in the terms she refers, A is a concrete fact. A is always A – it’s irrefutable and it’s the basis for logic and reasoning; i.e. there is a system of building blocks from which you work and do not question. It’s the never-ending game of philosophers. Wondering at which point you accept things as fact and move on, or whether you spend the entire game simply questioning all of the premises and facts. Both avenues, I have found are healthy. Life as we know it and live it is always an approximation of reality. We can spend forever realizing that even at the quantum level, the more we parse things, the more we realize we don’t know with any accuracy, anything. Yet, we know enough. Simple Euclidean geometry and slide rules and Napier’s logarithms can put rocket ships on the moon, split atoms and make horrific bombs. Modern day GPS, with satellites in orbit around the earth (relying on Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, and I might add we still don’t know what, exactly, gravity is) use simple geometry to triangulate where one is on an elliptical spheroid. The concept, really, is simple; it’s the pythagorean theorem performed over and over with very delicately tuned instruments, overlaid onto maps…

So what about A..? The A I am talking about is the A – the fourth octave A – in music. I should qualify all of this by admitting I have long since realized that I will never be a musician. It doesn’t run in my blood or pulse in my soul the way it does with others. I am fairly certain I am tone deaf. I don’t mind this; in fact it is a bit amusing when in the company of people who aren’t, who actually do play and can pick out exact frequencies with amazing accuracy. I am visually gifted and they are not, so everyone has a purpose and mission unique to them. The fact that I will never be a musician doesn’t keep me from procuring musical instruments, however, or playing them. I own 2 guitars, an electric bass, at least 4 or 5 harmonicas, a piano, and a trumpet. I can play all of them with similar degrees of ineptitude. It is an important sort of endeavor to have, a calm solace to play them, to replicate music that someone else has composed centuries ago… It is a part of being….

It is human nature to make noise – it is all of nature to make noise. Life is noise. A life well lived is music. Harmony. A divine order that elevates a burbling stomach, or flatulence into rhythm and chords and syncopation. To sing! Who can’t in the confines of a shower and sound wondrous? That we need things like horns and odd shaped boxes with tightly tensed strings or reeds to make anything is sort of strange. We’ve been robbed of the very thing that simple chickadees do so well on a spring morning, and cannot replicate very well without tools and training…

Music is beautiful, because it is noise that is ordered and gathered. There is, like any art form, a sense of structure, a plot, a climax, a conclusion. It is a tale of things woven into a cohesive form…
And yet suddenly, all of music has been thrown an enormous curve ball, in my world. Because suddenly I do not know what A is…

Is A 440 Hz? or is A 432 Hz? It is, I am realizing an arbitrary measure of things – because the measuring system of Hertz has only been a standard since 1930… A ‘hertz’ is the number of times a cycle repeats in a second; ergo is A the sound of something repeating a cycle 440 times a second, or 432 times per second? No one knows what Bach, or Beethoven or Mozart tuned their instruments to, perhaps they all had slightly different versions of A… Of course, chords and musical notes are relative – they are relative in tone, and correspond to the Fibonacci sequence, to Phi, to the golden mean; 1:1.618…

But it isn’t quite so arbitrary. All things vibrate at natural frequencies and resonance. And apparently A 432, is a much more harmonious frequency with our own biology, with much of the natural world, and A 440, is slightly off. Yet, A 440 was adopted in the 1950’s by the US as the standard and quickly became the worldwide standard of tuning for all music… There’s an underground of people who are trying to change it, who are retuning their instruments to a slightly lower pitch … Is A actually A? What is A, and what should A be know as?

Maybe – likely – it’s why I’ll never be much of a musician, and find myself a bit more grounded watching water freeze into ice cubes…


2 thoughts on “…A is A…

  1. …loving the dobro! Miss you hope you are doing well.

    Here is another YouTube for you:

    Have you ever read the book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”?

    All the Best!


    Posted by Angela Linder | February 20, 2014, 8:25 am

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