Front fencing 1: psalms

Front fence, Villefranche sur merDo you have any of those silly little shorthand sayings specific to family usage? Maintained against all linguistic logic by constant use, amused reference or stories at the dinner table, these apparently inappropriate phrases or words have a very specific and useful meaning that is quite obscure to those outside the immediate family.

One of ours was ‘front fencing‘. Nothing to do with fences, actually, but a reference to selective vision. If you decide you need to build a new front fence, all of a sudden as you walk the dog or drive to the shops you start noticing palings, bricks, ironwork and gates in the front of a property that hitherto were nigh on invisible. Once the fence is built — or not built and forgotten — the eye automatically and expertly seeks other fascinating features of the environment upon which to dwell.

The phrase is even sillier in Canberra of course where there’s hardly a front fence to be seen, but that’s not the point. You can front fence on Chinese calligraphy or pruning roses or engagement rings according to the current all-consuming interest.

Psalm sightings

Positive organNeedless to say, when traveling in Europe visiting family, Hon. Webmaster is stopped in his tracks by the merest glimpse of a psalm. Sometimes I go on a mission in search of them, say at the fascinating baroque St Gallen abbey library (see the Library page >) but that doesn’t count as FF.

However, in the Berlin Musical Instrument library attending a delightful  early music concert the other day (baroque violin, lute or theorbo and viola da gamba) I did notice a positive organ with nice decorations including illustrated quotes. Positive in this context is not the opposite of negative, but means moveable but largely static, you can position it: cf. ‘portative’ which was a smaller mobile organ usually with a dozen or so pipes and a lovely woody sound.Panel Psalm 150

The little painted panel in the upper right corner leapt out at me since, despite strange language and script, it clearly included the word ‘psalm’. Not surprisingly it turned out to be quoting Psalm 150, which is the one that blows trumpets and bangs ‘loud clashing cymbals’  and praises with lute and harp.

Catalogue of music Strong stuff and just right on such an instrument.

Finally, the snap at left is a page of a large catalogue of music manuscripts held in the Berlin Staatsbibliotek on the Unter den Linden. It lists the opening bars of hundreds of compositions, not all psalms of course but they are sprinkled through the pages. Note the pseudo-square notation; this list is 17th century music, quite late to be still using square notes. But these notes have duration! (as usual, click this image to enlarge).

More on this subject in later posts.


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