12.20.2009

What's in a Name? Part 1

I've been hounded by my numerous readers to please explain the meaning of my blog's title. Is it a disease? A body part? Some sort of wizard swear? While I'm sure you could legitimately use the word for any of these things and get away with it, I was going for something more specifically nerdy. Behold the inner workings!

Contrapunctus is a Latin word. I love Latin. It sounds pure and articulate and ancient, and while I haven't studied it as I'd like, its use in liturgy and music have whetted my appetite and appreciation. A major digression about my love of Latin is brewing, so I shall leave it at that. The term Contrapunctus (Counterpoint in English) signifies an especial musical development in western music that takes us back to the monks of Europe and mathematicians of ancient Hellas! (Yeehaw!)
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Čiurlionis
Monody, or music using one melodic line, was the milieu of ancient music. The sophistication of these melodies boggles the mind, especially when considering that the nuances of these nimble neumes occupied the imagination and creative resources of ancient and medieval musicians well up to the 1000's. Aided by the increasing accuracy of written notation (which began around the 800's) composers began exploring the possibilities of harmony, playing or singing more than one melody simultaneously. In the light of their eternally glorified grand-sires, the Gromans (Greeks and Romans, duh), European monks developed rules of harmony based on the mathematical distance between specific notes. Certain intervals were considered consonant and others dissonant, imparting mathematical and therefore emotional and even ethical influence upon the listeners. The intervals are very important. Thusly to compose, one must measure, note by note, point by point, one voice against the other: Counterpoint - Contrapunctus. Ta Daaaaaaa!

I chose this title for its obvious long-winded obscurity. More importantly it describes the way in which my brain and personality work and what I hope to explore and celebrate in this little blog. Start with a Latin word, a German Christmas carol, quiche Lorraine, Celtic mythology, or John Milton, anything that catches your fancy and follow the melodic line on the path it carves through the arts, through the sciences, and through all other expressions of humanity and creation. Life should be enjoyed and explored and cultivated and refreshed in its richness and depth and sometimes that takes patience, like learning a new language or playing the piano or coming to love your wife. And not just once, but many times we may paddle our little coracle across the different oceans of our lives and of our passions, only to come back to the beginning like mighty Jormungand, a little richer for the the effort.

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