Notes From All Over

Friday’s court date went, for the most part, without incident. Of the three lawyers required for the process — one to represent me, one for Emily, and one for Emily’s biological father — one was apparently supposed to be selected from a list that the court maintains. Nobody was aware of the fact in advance, so we forged on ahead with the lawyers had handy, hoping that everything will go through anyway. (Though our judge was generally pretty no-nonsense, even she joked about “the right to be represented by an incompetent court-appointed attorney.”)

The most engaging part of the process was watching the lawyer who represented Emily. A 70 year old woman from Buda, she had the flamboyance and brassiness of a person who has been practicing her profession for decades, is retiring in a few months and doesn’t care much what anyone thinks of her. In addition, she had the largest jewelry I have ever seen on a human being. The combined effect of her attitude and aspect enlivened the proceedings immensely. All that now remains is to finish paying everyone, get the receipts, and file for reimbursement with my former employer.

The current round of illness around our home has mostly abated, though I’m still entertaining my coworkers with a variety of nasal and pulmonary sound effects. We finished up with our tax return on Monday night, and Liam and Kathy both seem to be settling in to their home school schedule without too much difficulty.

Even though our schedule is beginning to ease, my creative juices are still pretty much dry. So, in lieu of something interesting I made myself, I’ll point you today to a couple of giant musical instruments. The first of these is the “Symphonic House,” a collaboration between a musician and architect, wherein an entire home on the shores of Lake Michigan is turned into a resonating chamber for enormous stringed instruments built into the architecture itself, played by plucking or pinching between the fingers of a rosin-soaked cotton glove. The videos are interesting, and well worth watching.

The second is the “Long String Instrument“, built by Composer Ellen Fullman. (You can download one of her compositions for the LSI here.) The Large String Instrument is similar in scale and playing technique to the Symphonic House, but produces much different results, as Fullman’s compositions are languid, tonally complex and full of the rich overtones that the enormously long strings provide. (Most every sound has a wealth of overtones that are harmonics above the “fundamental”, or main pitch of the sound. The lower a fundamental, the more of the overtones are still in the range of human hearing; thus, big instruments with low fundamentals, like a pipe organ, a grand piano, or this Long String Instrument, can create rich and complex sounds. A pennywhistle or a mandolin, however, is perceived to have a simpler sound, because many of the higher overtones are above the frequencies that humans can discern.)

An interesting technical detail: both instruments are unusual not only in their scale, but also in the mode of vibration they use. A violin string vibrates from side to side, whereas when a finger is dragged along the LSI, the strings compress along their length, like the air in an organ’s pipe. As a result, the attached sounding boards, which amplify the vibrations in the string, have to be perpendicular to the strings, rather than parallel (as on a guitar or violin).