All You Ever Really Need to Know About Modes (Hopefully the Final Word on a Distressing Subject)
Ed. Note: This came via an e-mail list, and was attributed to Bill Black. The five original modes were the Androgynous, Bubonic, Carthusian, Derranian, and Eucalyptic. All except the Derranian were quickly abandoned when it was discovered that they required a nine-9 scale (although you could get away with 8-1/2 in the Eucalyptic if you had to).
The reason for this anomaly was never made clear, but after an initial flurry of curiosity during the first few months of 43 BC, no one really seemed too interested in pursuing the matter further. The Greek philosopher Ctesiphon (or "the big C", as his friends used to call him) reportedly wrote a lengthy treatise explaining the whole mess, but most of the scrolls comprising the only extant copy of this work were erased and re-used for a collection of dirty Corinthian limericks. (E.g., "A daring young girl from Mycenae / Wore naught but a bright purple beanie," etc. etc.--the translation work continues).
The Derranian mode survives today, but it is used primarily by box players blessed (cursed?) with 7 fingers on each hand, for which reason it is also referred to as the Polydactylic. (Cats also experience this condition, but it does not seem to enhance their accordion-playing abilities.)
Other relatively fascinating mode facts:
· Efforts by Pythagorean mystics to unite the properties of the mathematical relationship between a circle's radius and its circumference with the arrangement of musical tones led to history's first known example of pi a la mode.
· Playing tunes in the Euthanasian (also known as the Kevorkian) mode is not permitted within the city limits of Columbus, Ohio (but is encouraged in Michigan!!)
· Bodhrans are usually played in the "duh" mode (also called the Jurassic mode), which consists of 2 notes (duh and DUH) and a rimshot. This is believed to be the most ancient mode, according to some experts predating even the Amoebic, which makes it pretty doggone old.
· Princess Di, Edgar Allan Poe, Mickey Mantle, and Leonid Brezhnev were all born to women whose first names rhymed with edible fungi and whose initials comprise the first 4 notes of the Cetacean mode!! Coincidence??
· Newsweek recently reported that secret Chinese slave labor camps were heavily involved in reproducing counterfeit modes in violation of all cultural treaties. "We know nothing of this," said spokesperson Wei Lin Chung, "and we accept no responsibility for interference in your decadent Western music. Long live Socialist pentatonic-ness!"
· Biologists recently discovered that removing the 2 hind legs from a certain species of Amazonian frog resulted in a noticeable change in its mating call. Musicologists who should have known better have christened the new note series the "Slowed Toad Mode."
By Sarah Pirtle
Excerpted from an article in Pass It On.
I [met] a second-grader during a songwriting residency who brought in new songs she'd written each evening. As I responded enthusiastically, she said, "My dad says I don't sound as good as the people on the radio." Put-downs for our voices, our songs, and our musical taste are rampant. What makes our singing voices and our creation of songs such an open target? [The exploration of our personal voices] is an experience of taking a risk in the unknown.
One day I met a six-year-old girl named Katie Ellison who was writing songs about all that she saw around her. She sat quietly on the grass for many minutes. Then, when she was ready, the song tumbled out, one line and then a halt, then more, then silence, then the rest of the song. Her lovely melody rose and fell as she focused upon capturing exactly what she wanted to express: "In the hills at night / The deer is chewing up the grass /And the owls are making their home / The sun settles down in her new foundation / Getting all her things done / Getting ready for the things to come up / The hawks are everywhere / Going hawk, hawk, hawk."
Her mother, Tracy, said "Katie entertains herself for hours writing songs about the earth." As we talked, I learned about the ways that Tracy supports Katie. She doesn't tell her that her creations have to rhyme to be songs, or evaluate them. She makes space for them. She knows Katie wants to concentrate and create songs, so she doesn't turn on the car radio. She also treats Katie's songs as her own She doesn't parade Katie forward and urge her to perform. "I'll tell you the trick of writing songs," said Katie. "The trick is you have to be happy to do it."
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