29 October 2008

The mysterious mi between black and white keys

I gave a lecture on music of the Arab world yesterday, during which I pointed up one of the most important its musical characteristics to my students — the neutral third, i.e., the musical interval between a minor third and a major third. It's roughly a quarter tone flat from 12 equal temperament major thirds.

As the above explanation sounds like technobabble, for the benefit of those students who have no knowledge of Western music theory, I usually describe the neutral third as
the interval, or simply distance, between do and the mysterious tone which is located between the black mi and the white mi.
I also prepare on the PowerPoint slide a wee diagram of the piano keyboard and three sound clips so that students can 'see' and 'hear' clearly what I refer to.


This clip plays do-re-mi-fa-sol with mi on the white key.

This clip plays do-re-mi-fa-sol with mi on the black key.

This clip plays do-re-mi-fa-sol with mi, something between black and white keys that can't be produced on the Western piano.

The interval between do on the white key and this mysterious mi is the so-called neutral third. In music of the Arab world, one can also hear another similar tone between the black si and the white si, and thus the scale below.


This clip plays do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do with the mysterious mi and si.

So, dear readers, do you recognise the sound characteristic of the neutral third?

13 October 2008

Happy anniversary, Francesca and David

Fanne and I had already left Scotland when Francesca and David were married in the Church of the Holy Rude in October last year. We were thus unable to attend the wedding and certainly missed her shining moment.

Although nowadays people can google a person whom they have lost touch with for a while through millions of web pages to find out the person's updates or whereabouts, unfortunately there appears to be no online wedding album of, nor weblog by, nor feature story on Francesca and David. I gathered no information about the couple's wedding in the cyber world.

I didn't contact her through email, either. Since the IT personnel of the University of Stirling had probably not only cut red tape but also eradicated it completely, they worked in such an efficient way that my campus email account was terminated immediately after the graduation, probably no later than one hour. Never been warned to back up all the mails and data stored in the university server by the graduation day, I lost all the mails Francesca sent me and therefore her email address.

Nevertheless, I might have been halfhearted and just didn't keep my mind on it, otherwise I could have retrieved Francesca's contact details through our mutual friends in Stirling. Luckily, I saw her on MSN Messenger a week or so ago and are now in contact. Fanne and I missed their big day, but we're in time to convey our hearty congratulatory message and post off a belated gift.

Since Francesca has been studying Chinese, in the end she will be able to decipher what these four-character idiomatic phrases mean, as well as the analogies therein.
For other readers of Principal Wei's Weblog, below is the paraphrased English translation.
String sound on the zithers in harmony;
reeds voice towards jade bars* with euphony.
Nuptial bliss outlast hundreds of years;
steadfast couple amass silver in hairs.
*As I cannot find any Western equivalent of the ancient Chinese musical instrument qing (磬 or 罄 interchangeably), a series of chime stones or jade bars with definite pitches suspended from above to be struck, I simply use jade bars. Perhaps jade chimes would look more elegant, but I love the word bar.

11 October 2008

Guards and students KO'd by heat

Currently in different countries as they are, it can be assured that, if meeting together after reading my previous post, Prof Ricardo Canzio, Dr Inez Templeton and Miss Margaret Hendry would first shake their heads, probably at the same frequency, and then offer their comment in unison
Wei (or Chih-Wei as Canzio usually addresses), don't exaggerate!
Well, I didn't. It was true. It's baking, piping, scorching and whatever-ing hot yesterday. It was so hot that four honour guards and three girl students fainted at the three-hour long ceremony (Read this news article from The China Post for more details).

Although it was reported that they might not have got heatstroke, I do believe it was the heat that floored them. I didn't exaggerate.

10 October 2008

Double-Ten in tropical ambience

Today is the national day of the Republic of China, the so-called Double-Ten Day, commemorating the uprising in Wuchang on 10 October 1911, which led to the collapse of the corrupted Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China.

As this Chinese Republic nowadays has only its sovereignty over Taiwan, the Pescadores (澎湖 Penghu), Kinmen (金門) and Matsu (馬祖), and the People's Republic of China has long been recognised by most countries in the world as the sole legitimate government of China, the double-ten celebration is no longer passionately observed by everyone across Taiwan, although we still have a day off today and official commemoration, fireworks and a range of events will be hold.

According to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the autumnal equinox has already gone on 22 September and we've just passed the solar term hanlu (寒露, literally 'cold dew') on 8 October. It seems to be the time of year when falling leaves drift by the window and brisk winds knock on the door.

However, there isn't any cold dew. I can hardly feel any touch of autumn in the air, but instead the warm and relaxed tropical ambience. With its heat and brightness, the sun is still caressing the land, but, I'm afraid, not in a gentle way. It's 30 °C in Taipei at 2.00 p.m. While Inez is enjoying her favourite time of year in Berlin, most people in Taiwan are still having their dog days here.

Looking forward to the arrival of bleak winter and lukewarm about the national day of Republic of China as I am, I'm glad most tropical Homo sapiens in Taiwan will surely enjoy pyrotechnic displays on the warm land in the balmy zephyr at this double-ten night.