The Parable of the Taoist Farmer

Again and again in my life, the lesson of this story applies. My only real problem is remembering that it applies at those times when I feel like I’m having nothing but bad luck.

I didn’t write this, so this feels like kind of a cheat of a blog post. But I did try to edit down a version of the story to be succinct. Enjoy.

The Parable

There was once a Taoist farmer. One day the farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors came to the farmer’s house and said, “Oh what bad luck!” The Taoist farmer replied, “Maybe.” (more…)

Music Theory 000.1 – Part 3: Pitches and Octaves

This is part of my series on Understanding How Music Works. If you haven’t yet, you may wish to start at the beginning. Here, I discuss a certain perceptual phenomenon that occurs, to the best of my knowledge, in all humans with normal hearing. This phenomenon has profound implications for how music works. But first, a definition…

We humans seem to perceive regular cycles of compressions of air, happening at a certain range of amplitudes and frequencies, as a “pitch” or a “note.” Translation: when something pushes the air molecules tight together, then apart, then together et cetera, not too much and not too little, at a regular pace that’s not too fast and not too slow (let’s say 200 times per second for an example), we hear that as a steady, even sound that doesn’t seem to “move” up or down; that’s what we’re calling a “pitch” or “note.” (more…)

Music Theory 000.1 – Part 2: What to Throw Out

This is part of my series on Understanding How Music Works. If you haven’t yet, you may wish to start at the beginning. Here, I discuss some concepts that you may have been taught that I think we need to forget about for a little while so we can take a fresh look at humans’ perception and understanding of music.

Did you know that the note that you think of as “A” was not always tuned to 440 vibrations per second? It used to be quite a bit lower. At some point, our culture decided to standardize the note that we label “A.” People made it up. It’s just a convention. Chuck it out (for now).

Did you know that “the same” intervals on a piano used to sound quite different? The open fifth between C and G used to be a little different than the open fifth between A and E, so that the major third between C and E could be tuned a particular way. (more…)

Music Theory 000.1 – Part 1

This started as a single post, but as I wrote it became apparent that this needs to be a series—perhaps a short one—of shorter, easier-to-read posts. So you’re only going to get incomplete chunks of what I have to say on this topic, until this series is done and can be read all the way through.

The topic of the series is “Understanding How Music Works: ways in which traditional Music Theory misses teaching key underlying things, and what they may be.”

Albert Einstein is quoted to have said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This is, in part, an attempt to understand certain musical truths well enough to explain them simply, and in a way that might be helpful to others, whether you’re a veteran or you’re venturing into music for the first time.

And for this first post, I’ll discuss… (more…)

My Typeface Design Fantasy – Cloister XL Superfamily

In the spirit of “you never get what you want if you never tell anyone you want it,” I’m just going to put this here so it stops rattling around in my head.

For background, check out how Emigre edited their low-x-height typeface Mrs Eaves Serif to make Mrs Eaves XL Serif. Then check out how they made Mr Eaves XL Sans as its companion sans.

Jenson Re-interpretations

Of all the re-interpretations of Nicolas Jenson’s original typeface, URW++’s cut of Cloister is my favorite. I like almost all of the lettershapes (only about the /P/ do I wonder whether a certain specific different choice would work). I really like the double-sided serifs on the top of the /M/. I really like the top-serifs on the /b/d/h/k/l/. I like an /e/ like that if the angle isn’t too ostentatious. I like the tops of the /W/. Perhaps the leg of the /R/ could be a little bit more like Monotype’s Italian Old Style. Overall, Cloister URW is not too light, not too heavy, not too quirky and unreadable, not too blah and boring. It hits my sweet spot.

Except for that x-height. It is way too short. (more…)