Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Lovely B (or H)

I know I'm putting out a lot all of a sudden, out of nowhere, in such a short space of time. I guess I've just been re-infected with the blogging bug or something.

This is something that emerged about a year ago, or a year and a half ago, and it was an awareness of the B chord or note in songs and what I connected it with.

In writing this post, I decided to look up 'B' in Wikipedia, to see what kind of background stuff I could find - for instance, one time I looked up D major and in the prose I found phrases like 'especially brilliant' (when played on violins) and read that D major was referred to as the 'key of glory' in the Baroque period. Highly-known and visible composures almost always used D major in violin concertos in their famous works. A Russian composer named Scriabin, at the bottom of the article, described the key to be 'golden in colour' and when I looked him up, he had a colour system for the keys of music; while it seems that he had synesthesia and the article mentions that about him, it's suggested that he actually didn't and only used colours as a reference guide.

I didn't find nearly as much information or little trivia on B major; for B minor, I saw this:
"In Baroque time, B minor was regarded as the key of utter despair." Otherwise it was also known as a 'black key' and 'not suitable for music in good taste.' Funny, because B minor is one of the two main chords used by Mike Barson in the Madness song 'Not Home Today,' a song I love for the use of that chord as well as E minor. Those two chords are especially obvious in the keyboard lead-out after the first chorus. E minor.....B minor....E again... Sound sombre? You can hear it exactly at 58 seconds into the song. Ironically Barson - from what I've read, the most pessimistic member of the group - is not credited with either the music or the words. Instead it's Suggs and bassist Mark Bedford that's credited. Interesting.

Getting back to B, it seems regarded as both an easy chord to play as well as a dark or negative or even distasteful chord in certain music. I love it - both the individual note and the major/minor chords.

I did also find in the article that in certain European regions it's not actually referred to as B but as H instead - so you could call it 'H' or 'B,' whichever you want. I'm going to stick with B to avoid confusion, and I think not using them together going forward is a good idea as well since one might read this and think I'm referring to pencil lead or someone's initials.

As I've mentioned in the past, whenever I get to know someone over a short period of time, I start relating them to musical riffs or instruments synesthetically because the music somehow translates into an aspect of them, such as their personality. This exact process happened five years ago when I started listening to 'In the City' and the organ translated into a girl's smiling, grinning face and positive exuberance. Hers and Zooey Deschanel's, and a few other similar-looking faces. But with the B note, or chord, in a song, it started a different thing for me particularly last year; I'd been slowly coming to terms with the fact that I actually harboured deeper feelings for someone in every kind of way - not just physical but in style, essence and personality, as well as other things I couldn't explain (the lyric 'It Wasn't Her Looks' I wrote earlier is about that). And when I'd hear songs at Wal-Mart, particularly, songs that had an obvious musical sequence that was obviously in B, I'd see that person. Her, well, background and just personal way. The essence of her. I guess what that means is what a person is like towards you - their personality and interest and behaviour towards you. And that signified a different feeling from me. I didn't just see a way about themselves, because it was much deeper, and I saw a lot more, as well as an emotional response to it, so the note seemed to signify more to me.

Can you fall in love via Synesthesia? I don't know. What I do know is that it has helped trigger certain realizations or feelings I've developed towards people in the past. Made me see things in a different way, through a different lens perhaps, that's way more colourful and vivid and meaningful. Normal people see feelings and facial ticks or emotions right away and read them face to face directly, immediately, and develop feelings that way. I hear an instrument, or an instrument playing a certain chord or note or riff, and it suddenly translates into a part of a person I find attractive, which I wouldn't see as vividly or immediately otherwise. I know the organ in 'In the City' did that.

Despite what I just said, though, synesthetic translation via music is not the source of this stuff. How could I see that in a person if I didn't see it first in person? No, Synesthesia just enhances and makes it a lot more obvious and beautiful for me. I saw the optimistic ebullience in that wonderful girl back in high school before I saw it in the song - Mike Barson's organ-playing just threw it point-blank in my face as obvious and beautiful as possible. Which made my interest sky-rocket.

I guess the final answer here is that for me, Synesthesia rather enhances and colours up the attractive qualities I see in a person - friend or crush - which leads me into realizing and coming to terms with what kind of feelings I have in result. Can you imagine that a rather random song like 'In the City' or 'Rasputin' or 'Wouldn't it be Good' can enhance what a person or girl seems like to me? Believe me, none of those songs' lyrics have anything - absolutely anything - to do with it, nor their tone. It all comes down to one little riff, or a couple of off-beat, random organ key notes (C# - A!) or a mixture of synths in a one-second span of the song.

As a result for the note of B, I've determined that that's the note of emotion and love for me, because I heard that, thought of this person, and felt all of those feelings because the chord or note made me see all of the qualities I loved in - that person. Which makes the B note the (person) note, because it makes me see all of that. I don't think it's a black note or a distasteful one but rather a kind of forlorn but endearing note/chord. Also kind of cool and funky, even. The only thing left to wonder is if that note is only tied to that one person. Which it might, in which case it's not a love note to me but a...'that person' note.

That's one thing I worry about, because then it loses its depth unless I'm thinking about '...that person' as I put it, which is counter-productive to my current circumstances. I can't listen to songs or music that have an obvious B note or key and wind up only thinking about '...that person' all the time. When I was in that 'relationship' long-distance two years ago, the D major chord was the big thing for my relating a musical note to a girl I liked or loved, but in retrospect I think it was only such a deal because I referred to it that way and talked to her about it in that kind of vein without really feeling it because it briefly felt that way for me at one very brief point earlier. The same thing as people floating a rumour around to a point where so many people believe in it, the very belief is what makes it true. That was false.

In conclusion, though, I don't think the B note or chord is only attributed to my feelings towards one girl, because I have this lasting proof, which saves it: 'Not Home Today.' It all comes back to that. 

When I first started listening to it around early 2007, there was something I noticed in the song that's not obvious at all to the common listener, unless you wanted to learn the piano to it and therefore consciously listened very closely. I heard it because when I like something I'll listen to every musical part possible to see how it works. There's a neat trick you can do - not sure you can do it anymore with today's music players though - where if you pull the earplug slightly out of the socket on the side of the player, particularly a CD player, you can eliminate the vocals, bass, and most dominant instruments. It's called removing the centre channel in music recording, which includes certain tracks that those instruments/voice were recorded in. You can do the exact same thing in Audacity or Audition (usually an option called 'Remove Vocals' or 'Centre Channel Extractor'). 

Back in 2007, I discovered this trick the ear-plug way, and discovered this sound in the song: A very quiet but obvious B note played in the first verse. Low on the piano. Not a chord, just one piano key, B, hit seemingly randomly. In saying that I sound obvious - okay, I found a B note, when I already stated the chords are B minor and E minor - but here's the thing. You wouldn't hear it at all if you didn't know it was there (or at which point in the song it's played) and when you are conscious of it and know when it comes, it's very subtle, very quiet, kind of blended in and, to me anyway, very deep and endearing.

Exactly what I wrote nine paragraphs ago. "When I heard songs in Wal-Mart that had an obvious B in them...I saw a depth and an emotion...and this girl..." That extremely blended-in, quiet B note from 'Not Home Today' is something I noticed and saw over six years ago. Way before '...that person' and everything now. It's not only tied to that. It's something I've been aware of, at least consciously, for some time. The way it's in the background. That quiet depth and endearing feeling. That whatever it is, it's meaningful.

This basically answers that question. H/B is lovely to me. In synesthesia, when I hear it, I see those very over-used words - depth, emotion and endearment, unconditional love. I've seen it that way consciously since that awesome Madness track from 1980's Absolutely album. It wasn't always foremost in my mind but it was definitely there...and when I didn't notice it, it appeared elsewhere in other music and caused me to match those feelings with '...that person' because I saw those exact styles and depths in her.

Now I've clarified they'll just work for someone new in the future, which means I can move on. Most people think of connecting love with religion or astrology...I connect and enhance it beautifully with synesthesia.

Just in case anyone's interested, I'll embed the song below.

The single B note I'm referring to occurs at the end of the 37 second mark, right as Suggs sings "...he wished,' precisely during the word 'wished.' Can you spot it/notice it?

Justin C.

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