This morning Keith and I crouched next to the motor of the fridge for some time, trying to clarify the note of its hum. We think it hums at F flat, but it's hard to be sure.*
I listened to a musicologist on This American Life yesterday describe the harmonics that surround us in modern life, with appliances in every room humming at us constantly. He mapped the music of his office appliances and found that the chord they sang was in a minor key, traditionally a sad key. Was this why working in an office made him sad, he wondered? Was this why everybody working in his office was sad?
In the sixteenth century a monk mapped the notes of the scale to find which chords and harmonics had the power to stimulate different states in the listener. Which were the satanic and evil chords? Which the lustful notes? Which the safe, god-fearing ones?
I tried and failed to Google what this old-timey god-botherer thought F flat signified, because I spend great chunks of my day in the kitchen with F flat humming along in the background. I am hoping that F flat connotes curiosity this year.
It is the season to dream about the year ahead, and there are so many ways I would like to improve. But the last 12 months have seen me throw many of my fancy plans and notions out the window, as the random unpredictability of life with three small children and a unruly spine has brought me to the basics, time and again.
When I am feeling well, I can do the things I love to do: paint furniture, decorate rooms, make things, sew. Sing and joke and dance. Work and play. Explore interpretive taxidermy. But when my busy life is washed over with pain (a humming, nasty atonal harmonic), I struggle to keep my good humour. The niceties of domestic life, the tweaks and touches that make it beautiful - a favourite meal, fresh flowers, a baking session; these are sacrificed. Life seems to spiral smaller and smaller until I feel like I am a nothing more than a bleached-out, creaky hausfrau with a bad attitude.
The always-inspiring Pip wrote something this week that struck a chord with me. Rather than rail against my limitations, I am going to try this year to ignore them, to shift my focus away from the ongoing mechanical niggles coming from this creaky carapace that I haul around. I will keep searching for wisdom, and I have many creative dreams for this year. But mainly, I am looking to keep my brain engaged and interested in the world, so that even if my body is fighting me, I can keep my mind above the fray. I aim to tune myself in to the fascinating, the freaky, and the fabulous.
Curiosity, I am taking you into the New Year. What interesting corners of the world can I read about, and listen to and watch and ponder on? I am curious about what this year will bring. I look forward to exploring it.
*Reader Lindy pointed out that F flat is actually E. I asked Keith about the fridge key and he said that it was humming F Sharp! Egads, wrrrrrrrong again. But I looked up F sharp and found that it was the favourite tonality of composer Oiver Meissiean, who 'used it repeatedly throughout his work to express his most exciting or transcendent moods,' An excellent beginning to the year!