When I was learning to play violin, I remember my teacher Anita Wright pointing out to me how some notes have a special “ring” to them. The acoustics of this phenomenon are pretty cool (though we didn’t talk about them when I was six). Start with a bow drawn across a string, which sets up a vibration. As the vibration of the string is translated through the bridge into the hollow body of the instrument, the vibration is amplified, and the entire body vibrates. The other strings in turn pick up these vibrations, especially if the note you are playing is an octave of an open string. This phenomenon is known as sympathetic resonance. If you really get it going, you can actually both see and hear the other string vibrating. Certain notes on the violin create this ringing effect. It feels like not just the string is vibrating, not just the whole instrument, but the air around it, the room, the body of the player.
There are more complexities, like overtones and undertones, that make other notes ring as well, though not as brightly. Some notes never ring, because there isn’t another string that will pick up their resonance. These notes have their own beauty, though in kind of an understated way. F and B, for example, don’t ring. Wind players love these keys, probably because of some acoustic phenomena deriving from the design of their own instruments, but they aren’t the best for strings. String players like to play in A, D, maybe G. Maybe this is why it sometimes feels as if wind players just don’t really appreciate strings. They don’t hear us at our best.
If you haven’t played or been in proximity to string instruments, a good comparison between the notes that ring and the ones that don’t might be the difference between singing alone versus singing in a large group of people.
If I’m in a conversation with you about new age or healing or some other esoterica, I might say of an idea, “That resonates with me.” I would like you to know that if I say that, I am using a metaphor that has a very specific and real meaning to me. It’s kind of a higher state of consciousness, of being, when it feels like my body and spirit are picking up and joining in a vibration, singing along with yours, the air and everything around us all vibrating together.
These days everybody is wearing masks and distancing and everyone hates everyone else, but let’s see if we can find those frequencies that are so resonant that we can’t help but pick up the vibrations and get our whole world ringing together, wherever we are, wherever we come from.