Posted by: normanlgreen | October 23, 2011

Dream, October 23, 2011 impossible instrument and hot air nobles


Dream, home, 7;20 am

A man demonstrates an amplified musical instrument that is a combination of a lap steel guitar and an autoharp. We stand in a corner of the second floor of the old Spring High School in Houston TX – the are where psychology was taught as a pre-college class.

There is a small crowd to observe him: myself, the woman who is the host teacher, two young men and one young woman. He shows us the instrument, a nine inch wide plank with eighteen strings stretched an half inch above a fret board marked in quarter tones. As he point out its features, he discusses a wide variety of topics including the early history of lighter than air transportation, the prison sentences of certain nobles after the revolution as well as the development of the instrument. He then brings out a steel bar, slightly wider than the fretboard of the instrument. The bar is a half inch square, with two of its four edges rounded. He sets the bar at the low end of the scale, then moves it up and down the scale, sometimes sliding and sometimes rolling the bar. As there are eighteen strings, I expect and overly thick chord, but without striking the strings, they are set to vibrating and the man is able to selectively deaden some of the notes. So as it moves, a complex piece is performed with tones between those of a pedal steel guitar and those of a mechanical musical box. The bar has rounded screw heads protruding from its surface – spaced to fall in the distance between each of the strings. There is room for some variance as to the angle of bar to strings, as his last chord has the bar at a diagonal across the fretboard.

The demonstrator then positions the instrument so that we can see the underside where bars with dampers are manipulated by his legs. The young woman cranes her neck to see. I step back so she can get a view. I marvel as his ease and mastery of this complex instrument.

He announces that now we will be given our test over the material. He hands out green sheets of paper on which are printed the questions in tightly arranged paragraphs – there is no space in which to write the answers. We are expected to write our answers on top of the printed questions. He speaks aloud a summary of the first question: “Tell us about two of the three Frenchmen.” I start to scribble something about August Montgolfier then change topics and scribble about the harsh prison term of the other Frenchman. I am frustrated at writing over top of the printed questions.

I march away from the are to the opposite corner where I have my own paper stashed. I cannot find one that is blank, but at last come up with one with some space for writing. I return to the demonstration are and look for my test paper. The others have completed their test and have left. I half-explain to the man what my dilemma was and how I have dealt with it. He has thrown away my test paper and casually pokes through two trash bins. I feel the skin of my face grow hot and tight. I hold my fists to my eyes and say as calmly as I can “I am trying not to freak-out about this.” But I am mired in an obsessive fit, no matter how closely I try to contain it. The man answers with sympathy: “I’m sorry, I’m only coming to understand our situation.”

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