On a piano, the simplest key is the C major key. The C major scale starts from the middle C key, then the seven white keys to the right are pressed in order. The notes are named as follows: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. This is known as the diatonic order of the piano. There are various other keys, but every one involves the black keys as sharp and flat notes are used.
Why does the diatonic order – the simplest scale – start at C instead of A?
When the modern system of written music came to be, the lowest available note was named “A” for simplicity, then each note above it was named alphabetically. However, at the time the notes were not matched to any specific scales. Furthermore, they started by only using seven letters, but later agreed on a 12-note octave. To make room for the extra five notes, they invented accidentals – the flats (b) and sharps (#). When the piano keyboard was invented, they made the white keys play natural notes and black keys play accidentals (flats and sharps).
As Western music developed, people became fonder and fonder of major keys (the “happier” sounding keys, to simplify things). This created a problem, as the simplest major key to only use natural notes was the C major key, which starts at C. The notes return to alphabetical order in the natural minor key, as the A minor scale plays as A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.
“Listen to the sound of silence.” ~ Buddhist saying
The anechoic chamber at Orfield Labs in Minneapolis is the quietest room in the world. It records a staggering sound level of -9.4 decibels (humans can only detect sound levels above 0dB), thanks to its special walls, floor and ceiling design that absorbs all sound instead of echoing it. The room is so quiet that the only sound you will hear inside is the sound of your own organs: the sound of air drifting in and out of your lungs, the blood being thumped out of your heart, the digested food gurgling in your stomach… Even your ears generate a tiny amount of noise from the tiny blood vessels in its walls. The absolute silence is so disturbing that the longest anyone has ever spent alone in the room is merely 45 minutes.
The disturbing power of silence is also demonstrated in the infamous musical piece 4’33” (4 minutes 33 seconds) by John Cage. When it was first premiered in 1952, the audience watched in anticipation as the pianist David Tudor entered the stage. Tudor calmly approached the piano and sat down with a graceful demeanour. Then, he closed the piano lid. For 4 minutes and 33 seconds, the pianist did not play a single note. His only actions were opening and closing the lid to mark the end of one movement and the start of the next one. After the 4 minutes and 33 seconds, he stood up, bowed to the (stunned) audience and exited.
The audience was confused, bewildered and angry. How dare they be mocked with such an outrageous performance? By definition, silence is the absence of music, meaning that the audience were not given the musical performance they expected. However, the audience simply did not understand the “sound of silence”. Outside of the anechoic chamber mentioned above, there is no such thing as absolute silence on Earth. For example, that concert room would have been filled with the noise of the unsettled audience shifting in their seats, the raindrops pattering on the roof and the sound of the footsteps of those who walked out in rage.
Consider this theory. People feel happy when they experience an upturn in life. A hungry person is happy when he receives food, a poor person is happy when she earns money, and a person seeking love is happy when they find love. But as people are highly adaptable creatures, they become used to such upturns very quickly. Even the happiness brought on by great food and luxurious lifestyles tend to fade over time, and the love between a couple who act like they cannot live without each other will eventually die away. To remedy this, people always seek excitement that will create an upturn in life, giving them happiness. This causes them to adventure, seek new experiences and sometimes make dangerous, risky decisions.
Everyone has a point in their lives that could be called the “peak”. But no matter how tall the peak is, as people will adapt to it soon, the height itself does not matter. What matters is the path to the peak. For example, if someone experiences their peak in life too early, every moment from then on will seem worse than the past. The person will continuously face disappointment and reminiscence the good times. The reason being, no upturn can beat the peak that they experienced, meaning they cannot feel the happiness of an upturn in life. According to this theory, the key to a happy life is delaying this peak as much as possible. When life is starting to get boring and dull, add just a little sprinkle of greatness in your life to continuously infuse it with happiness.
However, life is not as predictable and controllable as we want it to be, making this theory highly implausible. But the theory is not completely wrong. Although it is near impossible to artificially add little upturns throughout life, it is extremely easy to “feel” an upturn. All you need to do is change your perspective. The difference between a happy person and a miserable person is that the former finds joy in the smallest things. A miserable person will feel bored unless something exciting is happening, but a happy person leads what appears to be a boring life while enjoying every minute of it. Enjoying a warm cup of coffee on a rainy day, being astounded by the beautiful sky, smelling the roses on the path, singing and dancing when no one is looking… Finding and enjoying the simple pleasures of life is the most important skill one can have in life.
Who would you rather be: a miserable person who always seeks excitement and thrills or a happy person who enjoys a “boring” life?