Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Signature Series

Today I came across a neat series on CBC. I don't listen or watch it, really (my father and paternal grandparents by contrast always listen to it) but it was mentioned in a Wikipedia article when I happened to look up C major.

It's a neat little radio series where each episode - each five minutes long, about - talks about a major or minor scale/chord using famous or notable symphonies and orchestra pieces meshed together throughout to help. It's not an informative series as it is a storytelling one. The narrator ascribes a personality and demeanor to the chord, as well as male or female pronouns, and basically tells a story about those quirks and resulting lifestyle.

It's like how astrology tells you the kind of person you are, to yourself, to other people, and your moods and feelings and quirks. This series takes all that based on the sound of that scale, using the appropriate music to help illustrate it. For example, D major is "bright and likable but constantly striving to do things at all times, business-like, and always successful, and glorious." On the page are random 'facts' about the scale, such as what clothes she'd wear, her strengths and weaknesses - and real-life people who are the same and embody that chord. G major is the "trusty sidekick." People it mentioned (real-life and fictional characters) included Ron Weasley from Harry Potter and Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings. The narrator explains all this in an illustrative voice; he's obviously telling a story with enthusiasm and corresponding his own inflections and character to both the music and what he's describing. Very few pop songs are used - the rest are all famous or notable symphonies, piano, violin, string, whatever.

I haven't finished all of it (I still have six episodes to go) but I've covered most of the general chords/scales. There are certain things I didn't expect him to say at all. The page asks "what's your musical sign?" I immediately tried out B minor and A major & minor, and got a mixture of expectation and surprise. B minor was partly what I expected - the narrator had it labelled as "The Dark Romantic." Fatalistic and pessimistic, but definitely a sensual romantic in "his" own right. I always saw B minor as feminine, as well as B major. I identified with quite a few of the characteristics he gave the scale, however he went a bit too extreme in my mind; I don't want to give up easily, and react by hiding under the covers, feeling like I don't want to exist. I've been pessimistic and wallowing in the past, but not to that extent, and definitely not nearly as much now. To my delight and interest, this was one of the very few episodes a pop song was played for a few seconds - the introduction to 'Hotel California' by The Eagles. I didn't realize it started on B - but when I heard it, it was extremely obvious. I just never paid attention before. The narrator used the intro to describe the romantic side of the chord, which fit perfectly. B major was also masculine, and described as a dreamy artist.

As for A, both major and minor were described as two opposing women. Major was the kind of girl who lived next door, the girl who could catch you and hold you with her eyes - but never be interested, because she's looking for something better. You want to mean something to her. She's always on the move with something, looking for things, etc. You want to care for her, but she's best on her own. Minor by huge contrast was the old counterpart whose life had passed her by, alone and sad and with no more opportunities to find anyone. Perhaps A minor is major in the future, having never found anything 'better' because her expectations always jumped higher and higher. The narrator might as well have described A minor as the kind of woman Gino Vanelli sings about in his hit 'Black Cars (Look Better in the Shade)' - a cougar-type. "The Faded Beauty" is the name for it.

My synesthetic interpretations are completely different, so I'm going to put them here in opposition.

For B minor (the chord), it's feminine to me. Yes, she's a bit dark and negative. Like she sees things with a glass half-empty rather than half-full. The fatalistic sense applies. But she's also deeply endearing, and loyal. She has a lot of love hidden inside and eager to give to the right person. It's just buried deep. She's timid and quiet, but knows what she wants and how to get it. I get a bit of a brownish colour when I hear her, a sound that is appealing and endearing to my ears. Fatalistic definitely matches. But she does have love and trust and a depth to share.

For A major - the chord that I best identify myself with - he's more on the quiet sidelines, but also trusting and endearing. Very green to me, lighter green on major and a much deeper, browner green on minor. The similarities between him and her are their depth and trust in each other. Private and quiet, but also in his own way somewhat adventurous, he is committed and ready to nurture who he cares about at all costs.

The difference between these two chords and their corresponding majors/minors is that for A, its minor is just a more negative version of its major, but still the same person (as if he were having a bad or negative day) whereas B major and minor aren't the same person to me.

It's an interesting application to match-making in my case, though unintentional. As I wrote in a blog post late last year about B, I have this automatic tendency to associate someone I really like or care about or see as a relatively good partner (in my own mind) with that chord, major or minor, or single note. The Cars' song 'You Are The Girl' really made me see myself in the obvious A note during the sections of song proceeding the choruses.

I could talk about all the other chords, but I'm going to leave it there because it's 20 after 1 in the morning and my eyes are sore. I also smashed my head into a fire extinguisher on a metal pillar at work while distracted, so the bridge of my nose is still slightly sore. I was distracted and walked right into it. It was pretty sad; thankfully the fire extinguisher, when it hit the floor, didn't discharge itself down an aisle.

Here's a link to the Signature Series on CBC.

Justin C.

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