Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Perfect Pitch

You've heard the terrible old joke that asks what you get when you drop a piano down a mineshaft? The answer is, of course, A-flat minor.

Well, this isn't about A-flat minor. (Or even a flat miner.) This is about B-flat. On NPR last week we learned that B-flat is a very mysterious bit of resonance. You can find the piece here. And do listen to the programme clip; it's not the same as the printed text on that page.

And why, I hear you asking, am I interested in B-flat? I'm so glad you asked. Music for the Highland Bagpipe, as you may know, is written as if the pipe were an A major instrument. But the pitch of the instrument itself has been going up these past thirty years or so. These days most Highland Bagpipes are playing so that that tonic A is pretty close to. . . .B-flat. Hah!

I shall be off tomorrow to see what mysterious forces of nature I can stir up with the old pipe.


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