Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Two Flies, a Businessman, and a Drum
The E string can also be “played” by pressing it with a finger of the left hand against a fret anywhere along the neck, or against the wood between frets. I achieved the best results while holding down the other strings with my right hand. Pressing the string against the third fret just above the sound hole, I can make it sound like the buzzing of an obnoxious fly. And pressing it against the same fret, but ever so slightly toward the sound hole, I can make it sound like two flies. The buzzing of the second fly is a little higher in pitch than the buzzing of the first. It also reminds me of bees buzzing in the distance on a warm spring day, when, although you might not see them, there are so many of the creatures active that the air itself seems to hum.
Do flies and bees buzz at different pitches because they are stronger and weaker, younger and older, and move their wings at different speeds? Do they hear themselves buzzing? What happens to the sound of a human voice when it enters a cloud of gnats? What happens to the gnats?
Meanwhile, I should have known: the E string speaks a different language when the other strings are held down. It’s more sensible, like a businessman in a dark-gray suit. It wants its shoes shined. It needs a glass of lemonade.
With the strings held in place, the back of the guitar makes a fairly expressive drum. As soon as I tried it, the fingers knew what to do. Popping, thumping, dragging, whisking — after twenty minutes, it was all I could do to get them to stop. With a little practice, I’ll be able to mimic a horse’s gallop, and the sound of a door being shut followed by footsteps dying away. Don’t leave, the guitar will say, grieving to the last beat of its heart.
In the Forum: the that that broke the camel’s back.