What's In A Name?
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Robert Fludd's Celestial Monochord
(Robert Fludd's Celestial Monochord, 1618)

 


Who writes this stuff?
Kurt Gegenhuber. I live in Minneapolis and make my living as, essentially, the one-man Editorial Office for several science journals: tech editor, image editor, peer-review shepherd, advisor, marketing copywriter, webmaster. Before that, I edited 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, music, and science. The original concept — which I still play with sometimes — was to write about astronomy and so-called "roots music." My best pieces are usually frank contemplations on what listening and thinking is like for me.

By early 2006, this blog became nearly impossible to write. I started doing history scholarship and preservation activism related to "Moonshiners Dance," recorded in St. Paul in 1927 by Frank Cloutier and The Victoria Cafe Orchestra, a Minnesota dance band. Suddenly, seeming authoritative and legitimate felt very important and I was no longer free to make a fool of myself. That freedom was essential to the blog's very premise; I've been trying to recover that in recent years.

 

What is "The Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues"?
The IAHB was a spurious think tank I founded in March 2005. Back then, a fake scientific research institute seemed funny. These days, they are calling all the shots and the joke has slipped through my hands for now.

 

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 suggest something like: Gegenhuber, Kurt. 2006. Scientists say so. The Celestial Monochord. (online blog.) 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 is said to have studied the mathematical patterns in a single, stretched, vibrating string, and saw evidence of underlying mathematical ideas in the Universe's functioning. 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. It 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 Moonshiners Dance is getting extremely expensive, however, and I'm thinking about adding a way to support it via PayPal. What to you think? (Someone once offered to give me a donation, but I turned them down.)

 

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.

 

Where'd you get the design? Why isn't it better (or worse)?
The current design is intended to faintly evoke the Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith. A blog inspired by an LP boxed set of 78 RPM records is not supposed to be cool, people. I mess with the look of the Monochord now and then, casually, as time permits. My priority is always content, content, content. 

 

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, Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.