Tune the Damned Thing

While I have been trying to rest my eyes, one of the things I’ve noticed is that trying not to look at anything too long, or in a way that strains your eyes, leads to you noticing more about your aural surroundings — the sounds that surround you. This morning, I woke to what I think were magpies — black birds with blue and white patterns on them. Someone upstairs hollered out his window at them, in English: “Hey birds! I can’t concentrate!” I can see why. They were really dreadfully loud, and their “call” sounded a lot like electric drills being turned on and off very quickly, many times in rapid succession: a really ugly, grating noise, it was. As for me, I opened my window and when they decided to stop in the tree just opposite me, I hissed at them once, and they took off.

Problem solved. But there’s a much bigger annoyance around than these birds, and one I can’t solve by hissing out my window…

There’s a piano somewhere outside my window that hasn’t been tuned in ages. Since I don’t know when. It has to have been a long time, but I never noticed just how badly out of tune it is. I’ve heard it before, but I have never noticed that it is absolutely ridiculously out of tune. Certain notes — the ones I imagine must be most often-used — are almost a full semitone out of tune, meaning that a C and a B-natural are almost the same note. There’s a slight upward move in the sound when the note moves from a B to a C, so I know it’s supposed to be a C, but it’s not a C. It’s some other note in between a B and a C, and while I love this kind of microtuning when one hears it in musics that use it creatively — like in Indian classical music, or Korean traditional songs, or any number of other musical traditions — it sounds like a horror when this quarter-tone-flat C ends up at the top of a C chord. It doesn’t sound musical, the way quarter-tones sound in other musical traditions. Instead, it just sounds nasty. Yuck!

If you own a piano and play it for hours on end, with the window open, tune the damned thing, for the sake of your neighbours, if not for the sake of your own ear. Practicing with something as out of tune as that will only train you to expect the wrong note and when you finally end up playing on a properly-maintained piano, it will sound weird to you. It’s a bad, bad form of unconscious ear-training.

Eye update: it’s doing better. The lighting in my home is a lot better for my eyes now, though too much time on the PC is still causing me some visual distress. I will see the opthamologist again in a couple of weeks, just before I leave for Seattle. Till then, I’m thinking of getting an external keyboard to help me place this computer at a better distance from my eyes. Sadly, I cannot up the refresh rate: 60 Mhz or whatever that unit is, is the maximum. I may have to sell this to get something with a better refresh rate, if the problem persists.

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