We’re a Matched Set

My wife Olga and I have matching tattoos on the back of our necks. She designed it after I explained to her one of the ways I generate motivic material: musical cryptograms.

UPDATE: I recommended that one of my composer groups use these pitches as part of a melody challenge: these pitches, in any order, any accompaniment or style. Listen to all the entrants on Soundcloud:

The basic idea is that data goes in one end, music comes out the other, like so:

Drink … more … Ovaltine?

There are a lot of methods, some more famous than others. My favorite is to start at “A” in the alphabet and “A” on the piano then go up one half step for each letter, so that the letter B is A#/Bb, the letter C is the note B, and so on. You can see the chart I generally use above.

(I used this same method, but with the Hebrew alphabet, to generate the “let there be light” main theme for my Creation orchestral suite. Learn more about that.)

The first time I told her about musical cryptograms, Olga thought it was a neat idea. She was a math minor, but more importantly, I think she thought I was a neat idea. (Go figure.)

So she took her name, interleaved the letters of my name, and run that through the matrix to get notes. The time signature in her version isn’t 4/4, it’s cross-over-cross, that is “in God’s time”; and the barline repeats — over and over for as long as we’re alive. (This is in her handwriting, and she puts the sharps and flats after the noteheads, which is endearing as far as I am concerned, and yes, those are 8th notes, the tattooist forgot to color in the beams and … you know what? Shut up, it’s perfect!)

Anyway, the tattoo was a surprise, and … well, I was definitely surprised. I wasn’t sure about it at first (it’s my upbringing) but nevertheless, not long after we got married, I got a matching one of my own, in the same place. Mine is a little lower so I can wear a collared shirt and hide it. My day job is still corporate, after all.

It’s not exactly a melody that you’d put together on your own, but it’s ours, and that makes it beautiful to me.

Love you, dear! With all my heart.

UPDATE: My piece Oellgia: Fantasy for Oboe and Piano is now available on Soundcloud and as downloadable sheet music.

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