Sunday, November 03, 2002

Twelve little notes

I’ve been thinking about things musical lately, and I’ve been feeling a little amazed.

As a part of that amazement, I stopped in a record store in a mall last night. Not a big one, either. I asked the tune dude behind the counter about how many different CD’s he thought they might have in the store. He said, “Well, we’re a small store, so we’d have about 45,000. A bigger one might have 70,000.”

Now, that seemed to be a bit high to me, but let’s take his word for it. Then let’s pretend that, on the average, there’s 12 songs on each CD. That means that in the store (which covers the major labels, with maybe a few bigger indies), there were about 540,000 songs.

Now, I’m not going to debate, in this article, the fact that most of these 540,000 songs sound alike. I’ll take that one up another day.

Then I thought I’d explore the independent music industry. These are often people like myself that are creating music in their homes and sharing it in the world without the approval of SONY or David Geffen. And for that I took a quick look at I found this: “, Inc. is home to one of the largest collections of digital music on the Internet. A favorite of music fans and emerging Artists alike, features streaming and downloadable music from more than 250,000 Artists and over 1.6 million songs.”


1.6 million! That’s a lot of songs!

And that’s what’s currently available! Add to that the masses of songs and music that have been written over the years and vanished into well- or not- deserved obscurity. I’m talking all the way back to the monks where recorded western music started. And I’m not talking about CD’s, there, I’m talking about writing words and notes on paper.

Here’s the amazing part:

All this musical variety and creativity is essentially based on twelve little notes. Twelve little notes that repeat over and over in different orders, in different rhythms, in different tone colors. Some you play alone, others you stack up in chords and clusters.

But no matter how you stack it, there are twelve notes.

Yes, I know that there are those that are writing using quarter-tone scales, and others doing exciting things with musica concrete, but that doesn’t diminish the vastness of what’s being (and has been) done with…

Twelve little notes.

Now, I know you’re sitting there waiting for the point. You’re thinking, “Maybe he’s going to draw some gospel message out of all this, or quote me a scripture”.

Since I hate to disappoint you:

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass;” –Alma 37:6

Mark Hansen

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