(Robert Fludd's Celestial Monochord, 1618)
Who writes this stuff?
Kurt Gegenhuber. I live in Minneapolis and work as a technical editor and support peer-review and do web production for a co-op of associations of scientists.
For two years, I edited, fact-checked, and produced archaeological and historical survey reports for a "cultural resource management" firm.
I'm an amateur historian, and have degrees in astronomy (basically, a bachelor's in physics) and English (a master's). I can sort of play banjo, clawhammer style.
What is this blog about?
The Celestial Monochord tries to provide "think pieces" about history and music and science.
The original concept — which I still play with sometimes — was to write about music and science, especially astronomy and so-called "roots music." The hydrodynamics of jug bands. Cosmic sea chanties.
Since early 2006, this blog has mostly become an "author blog" because I'm writing a book about The Moonshiners Dance, recorded in 1927 by Frank Cloutier and The Victoria Cafe Orchestra, a Minnesota dance band. The results of my research will mostly be published in the book, but I also kind of do writing/thinking exercises here at the blog.
What is "The Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues"?
The IAHB is a spurious think tank founded in March 2005. The Institute has one scholar on staff (me). The IAHB consistently loses an annual operating budget of several hundred dollars.
How often is this updated?
Good writing, clear thinking, and rigorous research (well anyway, those are my goals) in a blog format is like fitting several round peds into one square hole. Even more so, if you have a job. I'd love to post every day, but it's usually about once or twice a month.
How do I know when something new is posted?
The Celestial Monochord now has a mailing list to alert subscribers when new content appears.
Of course, everybody has their own way of following blogs -- RSS feeds, Google Reader, checking back the old fashioned way, etc.
If an email from me works best for you, let me know and I'll add you to the list. All the usual goodies apply -- I'll try to keep your address hidden from other subscribers, I'll never share your info with anybody for any reason, you can unsubscribe at any time, etc.
Typically, I'll send the alert about 24 hours after an entry appears, since I often pick at new entries until I'm satisfied with them. After about a day, they're aged to perfection.
Whatever your method, thanks for reading The Celestial Monochord.
How do I cite this stuff?
The Celestial Monochord has been sited in a few published works, which I like. Check with the publisher (or professor) to see if they have their own format preferences. Otherwise, I prefer something like:
Gegenhuber, Kurt. 2006. Scientists say so. The Celestial Monochord: Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues. January 23, 2006. http://www.celestialmonochord.org/2006/01/scientists_say_.html
What does "celestial monochord" mean?
A monochord is any one-stringed instrument.
The "celestial" part ultimately goes back to Pythagoras (580-500 BC), who studied the mathematical patterns in a single, stretched, vibrating string, and saw evidence of the existence of a basic plan or method of the Universe. Ever since, some people have believed the Universe is somehow rooted in music and that figuring out its harmonies mathematically is like reading the mind of God.
For the cover of his influential 1952 "Anthology of American Folk Music," eccentric record collector and mystic Harry Smith used a 1618 drawing by English mystic Robert Fludd. It shows the hand of God tuning the Celestial Monochord (see above, or go look at your own copy of The Anthology).
To me, the Celestial Monochord symbolizes deep, idiosyncratic exploration of music and cosmology.
Who pays for this?
I do. The Celestial Monochord uses Typepad, which costs some money and I pay it out-of-pocket. In other words, at the moment, this site runs at a total loss as a matter of policy. My research into The Moonshiners Dance is getting extremely expensive, however, and I'm thinking about adding a way to support it via PayPal. What to you think?
I have a suggestion for a Celestial Monochord entry. Do you want it?
Absolutely! I've written several posts in response to user suggestions, and I'd be happy to credit you. I have more ideas than I can get to, but it's stimulating to get suggestions, and I wanna know what people want to read about. So please send me your suggestion and I'll think it over carefully. Maybe include a link and why you think it fits The Celestial Monochord.
I want to write a Celestial Monochord entry. Would you post it?
Yes, I hope so. It would be great to have another voice here (the Monochord can be a little too "mono").
I think of The Celestial Monochord as a magazine editor would. We're hungry for material, but we don't publish "just anything." The world is full of interesting things, but The Monochord has a certain subject matter (a "beat"). If you want, feel free to check with me to see if your idea is a good fit before spending your time on it.
I try to keep things short and clear, informative, contemplative (as opposed to heated diatribes), and as little about me and my problems as possible. Basically, I want the reader to say, "Huh. Interesting."
Some blogs have multiple writers, and if I found another writer who really fit the Monochord, I'd very happily increase the editorial staff from its current one. Some blogs have temporary "guest editors."
Where'd you get the design? Why isn't it better (or worse)?
I plan to work on the look of the Monochord slowly, as time permits. My priority is always content, content, content. The current design is intended to faintly evoke the Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith.
Is The Celestial Monochord copyrighted? Can I quote it? Can I link to it?
Please quote it and please link to it often, but please also credit The Celestial Monochord for the words and ideas you get from it. The illustrations at The Celestial Monochord are almost always from somebody else. Whether they're public domain, or used by permission, or even used in a way I consider legal, varies. (I really try very hard to be legal, scrupulous, or just, and usually some combination thereof.) Check with me if you want to use them and I'll help you figure out what's the right thing to do.
I think of each Celestial Monochord entry as an idea for another, larger, more lucrative project — a documentary, an article, a book, a CD. If you wish to create a commercial work based on something from The Celestial Monochord, please secure my prior permission.
To be more specific,
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.