THE NATURAL SUN

Announcements about our sun and its natural conditions

- Chapter 64 -
Ball instrument, musical art and composition Optics, mechanics and the (art of) writing upon Miron.


 
T
he ball instrument is made up entirely of wound pipes, rather flat on the outside but completely round inside. At its widest, the ball has a diameter of six metres; beneath this widest part of the sphere, the thickest pipes are wound. Towards the sphere's poles however, which are open in a funnel fashion, smaller graduated pipes are attached.
 
2
This sphere rests upon an open tripod, beneath which there is a powerful wind mechanism, through which the wind is conveyed into the sphere through the tripod legs. Besides the aforementioned main tone pipes, there run smaller windpipes whose openings are aligned with above holes that emerge from the sphere with a slight prominence. At the point of wind distribution into the diverse pipes there is a valve and shutter-flap, opening and closing by its own mechanism. On opening, the wind is brought to the sound-producing pipe opening, or alternatively the shut-off, ending the tone somewhat like your organs.
 
3
So much for the instrument structure. How is it played? Like your organ, it is played on a type of keyboard, which however is differently shaped, the half tones divided differently to your piano. Because the scale, which you call diatonic, is not a basic scale here, the basic scale consisting of whole tones, between which half tones are placed. This correspondingly is the keyboard, consisting of two rows of elongated half-spheres of about a foot in width. This keyboard is called the lower. Between this lower key, somewhat higher and shorter, there is also a half-sphere, a mere half foot wide. You will say: would flat keys not be preferable to these round ones? For your fingers indeed, flat keys would be better than round ones; but for the strong fingers of our Mironians, these keys are better, for if they were flat, they would have to be twice as wide for depressing individually, because a Mironian's finger is usually two feet in diameter. Through the higher positioning of the keys however, the player can, without trouble to the two adjacent keys, depress each individual key whose drop is small, which shows you their advantage to these inhabitants.
 
4
Therewith we now know what this instrument is like; what kind of sound does it make? The tone resembles that of your flute, except with incomparably greater power, but through a shutter system near the instrument poles, the tone can be modulated in volume from fortissimo to pianissimo.
 
5
Upon this instrument, our Miron dwellers are great artists and would astonish your greatest artist with their ball instrument. Thus it is not absent in any household, being so popular that anyone who does not possess at least a modicum of ability upon it, is regarded as extremely dull, which however is rare.
 
6
You would indeed want to know what sort of pieces are played and whether they have compositions like yourselves on Miron? You can take it from Me that there is no lack of such productions, for there is a resident composer in nearly every house, who writes down his ideas in colours upon three lines representing three octaves, on either metal or stone tablets and occasionally on smooth, thinly planed wooden ones.
 
7
These signs are much simpler than yours, because through six colours they represent six tones, with round points like yours. The half-tones however are drawn in equally sized hills, in the colour of the preceding basic note. Therewith the composer can write an entire scale within an octave. If a harmonic scale is desired, he makes points of different colours above each other, as you do, keeping clear of the second line, for this reason there is ample space left between the lines.
 
8
You will say: that's easy enough, but what about rhythmic divisions? That's easy! He draws a line over the notes within the same time-measure, placing either a cipher or dots under it. For sustaining a note longer, it is placed by itself, with a cipher for its length underneath the single note. And there is a time signature before every section, as with yourselves, for a subsequent section, the rhythm being indicated with vertical lines, as you do.
 
9
This in substance is how the Miron composers write down their ideas. Since their instruments are restricted to three octaves, the three lines suffice, with just one key signature. Although the disk instrument reaches an octave higher, this causes no problem, for it then depends only on the instrument itself, which will read the notes like an instrument of a lower octave. The same goes for singers, who rarely reach the range of their instruments.
 
10
A full orchestra therefore, except for singers, consists of only three persons; and with the ball-instrument, with the addition of a bellows-operator. These three people together with the bellows-operator however bring forth such volume that you could hear it from three hours (walk) away. Firstly, these instruments have extraordinary (carrying) power on account of the immense air-elasticity of this planet; and secondly, the singers here have such immense voices; for the full volume of a Miron singer would make a fairly lively canon-barrage all but inaudible upon your earth.
 
11
At close range, this concert would indeed be a little too powerful for your ears; but at a substantial distance it would reduce you to rapture. For these compositions are of an exalted nature, rarely moving within a major scale but mostly a minor one, which they call half-tone scales.
 
12
In their musicology they recognise three kinds of tone: the completely hard, which is the foundation of the rest; then one composed of whole tones similar to your minor scale; and then a half-tone scale, corresponding to your major scale, which major scale they recognise as the only pleasing fruit of their tone-tree; the whole-tone scale (minor) they call the inedible tree stem; whilst the hard-tone variety is the root of this tree which, like the stem, is declared inedible. And therewith we have the substance of the musical art of the inhabitants of this planet.
 
13
It only needs mentioning that these people have the same skill in optics as they have in acoustics. And from this you can in turn gather that they are also conversant with the subjects of mathematics and astronomy.
 
14
It hardly needs mentioning that in view of their instrumental production, they have to be competent also in the subject of technology. You would be surprised to find everywhere the most efficient mechanical clocks, much more precise than yours (approximately the year 1840 - the trans.), measuring much more minute time-units. These technicians are found in every village, like other professionals, with, relevant factories, besides their private dwellings.
 
15
Similarly, this planet's inhabitants also have writing to record their words, upon the same material used for musical composition. From this surely you can conclude that the people of this planet are in every sense literate.
 
16
Regarding their religious education of the spirit, we will thoroughly discuss this next time. Hence we will leave it for today.