A flat is not g sharp, but f is f

13–. Translated from the original Interlingua by the author.


This! Click on it! What do we hear? We hear a prolonged violin note (from 0m22s in the fragment), which the orchestra gradually puts in a new context, so that the note is no longer equal, although it is the same.

How is this possible? What is happening? After a slow and dramatic passage, from measure number 231, the violin in measure 238 plays a note ‘e’, the orchestra in measure 238 creates for this note ‘e’ the context of an ‘a minor’ chord (Am), which is modulated to a chord Fm in measure 242. In this chord, the note ‘a flat’ serves as a minor third: first, second, third note: f, g, a flat, first with a big interval distance, then a small one.

The violin plays this note, ‘a flat’, slow and long, but meanwhile, the context changes: the orchestra returns gradually to the previous chord, Am, by playing the notes g, f, e, c, A, E, A, E, A. The violin continues its note, but now it can no longer be an ‘a flat’ because the note letters in a chords must be all different. To an Am chord (containing a, c, e) you cannot add an ‘a flat’ (was Pauli a music theorist? 😃), but you can add a ‘g sharp’: the major seventh. The result is an AmMaj7 chord. In Dutch we call this a klein-groot akkoord, a small big chord. English has a similar terminology: a minor major seventh chord.

Thus the same note, played by the violin, has taken on a new role, with a different name. I like that. For me, music must contain such tricks to be interesting. Composers that I am a fan of, do this from time to time. Others never.

And another one

Another example of the same phenomenon, or similar, is in a piece in quite a different musical style, not classical, but pop or rock or whatever you would like to call it: the end of “Mijn held zijn” by the Dutch group “Van Dik Hout”. This song has a false ending.

At 3m42s in the Youtube video, the song seems to have reached its end. But then there is a reprise, which begins in Gm, and, being incomplete, ends in the other prominent chord of the piece, Dm. This is played slowly, prolonged, with a conspicuous presence of the minor third component of the chord, the note f. From there, from 4m14s in a crescendo the initial chord returns, Gm, forming a new definitive ending. But the note f remains, now as a minor seventh instead of a minor third.

As in the previous example, pertaining to classical music, the harmonic context changes: what used to be third becomes a seventh. The details however are different, as regards the distance between the chords: Fm to Am, a major third higher; Dm to Gm, a fifth lower. And also the seventh is different: major versus minor. These factors together cause that in the second example, the note f does not get a different name, but just remains f.


A master of such tricks was Carlos Jobim, and in general they can often be heard in MPB, música popular brasileira, Popular Brazilian Music. In One note samba (the English title, the Portuguese original is called: Samba de uma nota só, Samba of one note only), much of the melody consists of the same repeated note, but the melodic and chordal context changes all the time.

Enjoy. The choir is the Quarteto em Cy, a group of four singers, and (originally) sisters, whose names all start with Cy-. The name of the group is a play of words with the music note b, which in Portuguese, as ‘si’, sounds the same as ‘Cy’.


An introduction at the start is so boring, that I decided to put it halfway. Already many years ago I wanted to write this article, but I didn’t find the time and the concentration. It is certain that on 29 June 2011 a page existed, which perhaps, according to a note in my to do file, I might have written on 25 and 28 December 2007. The page start as an article in English, degenerates into notes without sentences, contains an error (“Uit het donker” is track 9, which follows the correct track 8, “Mijn held zijn”), and continues in Dutch, also not phrases but just vague notes, and calculations that may be incorrect. (No, now, 23 September 2020, I know: correct. Already then.)

I leave this page unchanged, as historical proof, as I do with the Dutch translation that never was and never will be. I only added links there, to this article (in Interlingua, then) I am now writing and expect to complete soon.

What piece, by whom?

I didn’t mention the composer yet: Aram Khachaturian, in Russian: Арам Хачатурян, in Armenian: Արամ Խաչատրյան, Aram Xačatryan. I have always stressed the letter ‘u’ of his name, but now I learn (23 September 2020) that this letter is actually missing in the Armenian version of it, and that in that language and in Russian, the stress is on the last syllable.

This reminds me of Srebrenica, which in Dutch some people stress on the ‘i’, although in the local pronunciation, that vowel is very weak, even almost absent.

A curious fact about Aram Khachaturian, that I wasn’t aware of: he was born and raised not in Armenia, but in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. His father arrived there at the age of 13.

The composer’s name in Georgian is არამ ხაჩატურიანი, Aram Xačaturiani. Was he trilingual?

The composition is the 1940 Violin concerto. The movements are Allegro con fermezza, Andante sostenuto, e Allegro vivace.

Which movement?

I believe having always believed, although the raw file contradicts that, that the phenomenon that this article is about, was at the end of the concerto. But it is at the end of the Andante sostenuto, the second, not the third movement. The cause of my misunderstanding may be that the Leonid Kogan, The Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Monteux vinyl record that Leonid Kogan, Boston Symphony, Monteux, B side of record sleeve I possess (click on the pictures to enlarge them), has the third movement on the backside, combined with the Havanaise Opus 83 by Camille Saint-Saëns. So although the phenomenon is not at the end of the concerto, it is at the end of the Leonid Kogan, Boston Symphony, Monteux, A side of record sleeve first side of the record, as can be seen in in this video.

(The video was poorly filmed with a Casio Exilim EX-Z85, which is primarily a still camera, although you can film with it as well. The Apple QuickTime film with the file name extension .mov, not well supported by browsers and platforms, 15.9 MiB in size, I have converted using the program ffmpeg, which turned it into an .mp4 file of only 2.6 MiB.)


The recording of the concerto dates from 12 January 1958, the soloist was Leonid Kogan (Russian: Леонид Борисович Коган), accompanied by The Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pierre Monteux. The record was originally published in 1965.

I bought the record in the 1970s, perhaps 1980s or 1990s, in the large Dutch department store ‘de Bijenkorf’ (Dutch for ‘the Beehive’), probably in Arnhem, at the price not of 12.90, but of Leonid Kogan, Boston Symphony, Monteux, label merely 5 guilders! At the 1999–2002 exchange rate that would be only 2.27 euros! But without taking inflation into account.

In my recording from the record, only a short fragment, the pitch isn’t right: somewhat too high. Was it really played like that in 1958, maybe as a result of temperature changes and tuning problems of the instruments? Or was it caused by shortcomings in the recording equipment, or during the manufacturing of the records? This recording in Youtube, from the same record that I have, also deviates from the exact 440 Hz diapason, but a lot less than my registration. Is the cause that my record player doesn’t properly spin at 33⅓ rpm? I used a Philips ‘FP146 Mark II linear tracking turntable’. I didn’t find a way to adjust the rotation speed.

Be that as it may, I decided to correct the pitch using the program audacity: after many attempts the optimal correction seemed to be lowering the speed (to minimise distortion not just the tempo or the pitch) by exactly 3.18%, which corresponds to a musical interval of 55.95 cents!

Van Dik Hout

The name of the group “Van Dik Hout” comes from the Dutch expression ‘Van dik hout zaagt men planken’, which in a literal translation is: 'From thick wood they saw planks’. From this I cannot derive a figurative meaning. I have made several attempts to find it, but every time I forget the result. Something like a beating up? But why, and in what way?

In this explication they mention so many meanings that after reading it, I still don’t know what to think. I won’t translate it. Perhaps DeepL or Google Translate can help you. Perhaps the group’s members don’t even know it themselves.

The track title “Mijn held zijn”, appears in the lyrics in the context (0m58s): “Zou het uit de hoogte klinken / je het onbescheiden vinden / als ik je vraag: / ‘Wil je mijn held zijn?’”. Translated into English: Would it sound arrogant / would you find it immodest / if I asked you: ‘Would you be my hero?’.

The piece contains other chord sequences that I like, for example a transition from G to Gm. Almost all of the music made by this group I find interesting in this respect, even though I am familiar with only two CDs: the one that contains “Mijn held zijn”, “Vier weken” (Four weeks) published in 1995, and the 1997 “Kopstoot van een vlinder” (Headbutt by a butterfly). Of that CD I make a special mention of the title of the last track, “Zenderruis en asfalt” (Radio noise and asphalt). A fascinating title, I like it.

But on checking it: the actual title is “Zenderruis & Testbeeld” (Radio noise & Test pattern). The lyrics, written and sung by Martin Buitenhuis (to music by Sandro Assorgia) starts “Het bloeit op teer en asfalt, het komt en het gebeurt” (It blooms on tar and asphalt, it comes and it occurs). In this song too, again, there are enthralling chord changes: 1m15s e 1m18s.

The group still exists, already since 1985, 1990 or 1994, e has made many more than those two CDs that I know, of course.

Higher or lower? Or equal?

A pianist cannot differentiate an ‘a flat’ and a ‘g sharp’, but a violinist can. But how? What is higher, the ‘a flat’ or the ‘g sharp’? And how much higher? And why?

That depends. The music theory and mathematical details follow in a separate article. For now, a trailer question: what sounds better, this, that, or this?

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