A bum note

Most people would be able to detect a bum note. The bum note is just another note, but In a Western musical scale only certain notes are ‘allowed’ to be played alongside each other. It is like a game, with its own rules. Anything outside the ‘allowed’ scale of notes is considered a bum note.

Over the centuries we have followed and understood this game so that we now find it difficult to imagine any other game.

So when we hear a Chinese musical scale we are at a loss. The scale is incomprehensible to our ears and we puzzle over the idea that anyone can enjoy this ‘music’ which seems to be full of bum notes. To the Chinese however, it is beautiful music (I will have to enquire if the Chinese find our music equally incomprehensible when they first encounter it. Logic dictates that they should).

Music is only sounds which exhibit a pattern. How we interpret these patterns is culturally conditioned. What else is culturally conditioned? How can we identify them? Does it take an outsider to point them out or can we figure it out for ourselves? Does the music/art/philosophy of any culture limit itself to what it considers to be harmonious notes?

But it is the bum notes which give meaning to the other notes.

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