[NetBehaviour] 3 qin songs and parable

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Mon Feb 8 22:40:01 CET 2010

3 qin songs


Years ago Nikuko was wandering near a crossroads where an inventor of
musical instruments plied his wares. That is to say, he operated a
combination laboratory and shop. He created qin with wires at cross-
purposes, slant like certain guitar harps with one course angled against
another. He created qin with wires fixed at one end, the other nothing but
air. He combined the two instruments into one, with traditional dragon
pond and celestial curve. He used seven strings, four and three. The three
were father, mother, earth. The four were elements, of which the fifth was
the body of the qin itself. The four strings were below, the three strings
were above. The four were angled against the three; the three were angled
against the four. The four were attached at one end, as were the three; of
the other of the four and the three, nothing but air. Now this was during
the period of Warring States. Now the strings were played, stopping with
the left, sounding with the right, harmonics with the left and stopping
with the right, but sometimes both with both and sometimes nothing with
nothing. The inventor of musical instruments would play this instrument
among all others, he loved this instrument above all others. And it would
hardly sound, and the strings, like the Warring States themselves, would
tangle. Their tangling and untangling is their song, he said to Nikuko,
and their song is my song as well. It is the song of the brane (crane?),
and ground-song of the universe. All I do, with skill and delicacy, he
said, is keep them safe, sound when I can and unsound when I can, and the
rest is in the doing of strings, what they ordinarily do, when they are
fairly long, tied at one end, lose in the wind at the other. It is a poor
qin to be sure, he said, but an excellent kite, and someone will always
play such an instrument. Later generations, however, fixed the strings at
both ends, and in their struggle to free themselves once more, music was
born. (But this doesn't make sense, Nikuko said, since he was an inventor
of musical instruments in the first place. I didn't say he was any good,
Jennifer replied, Yes, an inventor in the first place, but in the second,
none of them worked.)

( In the three songs, one and two are uncanny, three a healing across the
surface of a wound, one and two and three at angles. And in two and three,
the sounds of the silk and wood, creaking, adjusting, twisting; one hears
the qin in the qin. And in one as well. )

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