Getting lost in music

I’m not exactly a guy who looks like a lover of music…….I’m not even sure if I am.

As a kid who was apathetic toward music, it’s a bit weird to find myself here. With the exception of Church, I rarely, if ever, sang or listened to music until the my first year in High school. I was forced to  I joined the house choir as part of an Inter-house singing competition. I still remember the whole event….the selection, practice, walking down the aisle, the singing and all. I sang soprano. It was an enjoyable experience. I remember we did quite well.

Actually, while writing this post, I remembered there existed an image of me taken by an alumni during the event. I remember him walking up to me to take the picture and later finding it on a website years ago. With the original website down, it took about 10 minutes of Google-jutsu, and I finally found one of the rare pictures of me in my first year. As the close-up image is quite frankly embarrassing, here is another shot.

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That’s me in the center (with the white shorts). Nov. 2007

So that was the start of my interest in music. There were some false starts during high school, like when I tried to learn Für Elise , Da N’ase, and “I surrender all” on a keyboard that the church temporarily left at my home……or when I tried to code music while learning Q-basic and later Visual basic.

Fast forward to October 2015, I was walking past the UENR cafeteria when I met up with Israel Yeboah and saw a violin up close for the first time, taking the picture at the top of this post. After listening to Ludovico Einaudi‘s pieces for like all of 2015, stumbling upon Taylor Davis, and having the long suppressed urge to learn an instrument, I finally decided to get a violin. It’s small, cute, beautiful and the idea of slowly “pulling” sounds from the strings in long graceful motions was just…….beautiful. So I set out to get me a violin.

I was told I could get one at Zongo Lane, in Accra, from a shop called K FM at a cost of GHC 350 including a case. Thankfully, my account wasn’t as slim as I was, so I made a purchase in mid November while in Accra.

I was so excited to get started. So I took out the bow and tried playing only to hear nothing. I googled and read on applying rosin to the bow, which allows the hair on the bow to grip and rub on the strings to create sound. Soon sounds came out. Happy me!

So this is where it went downhill.

I tried tuning.

As someone who can’t tell the difference between a C note and an F note, and didn’t know which strings played what. This was a terrible terrible idea.

So I kept twisting the tuning pegs till….

Thwang!

I tore a string. It literally ripped through my heart. It was less than 24 hours old!

Another reminder that life isn’t like software, where you can just Ctrl+Z or at worst reinstall your IDE.

It became an actual heartbreak when I realized the shop was out of stock (I later bought strings from another shop – New “life” Music – up Zongo lane). Thankfully, I remembered seeing a video of a friend, Nii Osae, playing a violin on instagram. A few calls and a trip to Legon later, mine was as good as new.

With the fear that I’d abandon the violin after a few weeks of practice hanging over my head, I practiced as often as I could. I later learnt how to read sheet music, learning to play “Oh holy night” – the song my house choir learnt about 8 years earlier. I uploaded the ear-bleeding video on facebook – Seriously, don’t search for it. It sounded like a bunch of suffocating cats shrieking in a box, tied around the neck of a goat gasping for air. This literally massages your ear in comparison.

So as I learnt more about music, it was inevitable that I would consult Wikipedia at some point. I got curious as to what a key actually was……and this happened.

The key usually identifies the tonic note and/or chord: the note and/or major or minor triad that represents the final point of rest for a piece, or the focal point of a section.

Now there are 3 links in just that introductory sentence….all of which I know nothing about. I know well enough to realize following them will lead to me ending up in wikipedia’s blackhole of hyperlinks. To prove this, let’s say I followed the first link.

This would have been the first sentence.

Tonality is a musical system that arranges pitches or chords to induce a hierarchy of perceived relations, stabilities, and attractions. The pitch or triadic chord with the greatest stability is called the tonic.

Definitely a good idea to hang on to my ignorance for a little longer. …..then I go on to meet this.

Although the key of a piece may be named in the title (e.g., Symphony in C), or inferred from the key signature, the establishment of key is brought about via functional harmony, a sequence of chords leading to one or more cadences, and/or melodic motion (such as movement from the leading-tone to the tonic). A key may be major or minor. Music can be described as being in the Dorian mode, or Phrygian, etc., and is thus usually thought of as in a specific mode rather than a key.

 

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……and that was just the first explanatory paragraph.

Thankfully, there were lots of youtube channels with detailed tutorials. Three months in, it’s still looking good. With success stories like this motivating me, I look forward to the point where I would no longer need to be in fear of someone angrily banging on my door, knife in hand, as I practice.

Let’s end this with a Taylor Davis video.

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