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  • Melissa Orquiza

Chillie’s Noodles, The Guidonian Hand, The Space Shuttle, A Horse’s Ass, Woody Shaw & Skelton

Chillie's Noodles. So easy, a recipe based on your hand!

Chillie's Noodles. So easy, you don't even have to think!

Chillie’s Noodles, The Guidonian Hand, The Space Shuttle, A Horse’s Ass, Woody Shaw & Skelton

When I was about eleven years old, I remember my mother and my father having this protracted argument about cooked rice. (I kid you not). I thought it would continue for just a few days, but it lasted about a week or even longer. We had just bought a new rice cooker and my dad had an issue about the way my mother was cooking the rice. Coming from the rice region of the Philippines, I remember him showing the proportions of rice to water based on your hand and how to achieve the perfect texture every time. My poor, bewildered mom, (she never learned how to cook) kept trying and trying until finally, my dad was satisfied with the results. (He was cooking the rice for a few days… apparently so exasperated with her efforts). I didn’t know (and still don’t know) what to make of this interaction… except that maybe it’s just another weird quirk of my hilarious family. (After school rice PTSD? I guess it does exist.)

Anyway, it got me thinking about how intrinsic measurements are often taken for granted or the genesis of standardized weights. In early music history (yes, the one I used to accidentally fall asleep to… no seeming context with all those Gregorian chants), I remember learning about the Guidonian Hand (that actually interested me.)

Using your own hand as a standardized mnemonic device to teach melody, harmony, and counterpoint before the mass production of written music was fascinating to me (not to mention the historical significance of generations of musicians and orphans that learned music this way). Much like how my father was teaching my mom how to cook rice using her hand (humanity’s universal standard), the Guidonian Hand method was integral to the advancement of music codification.

Here it is in actual practice. (If I was learning the Guidonian Hand in the 11th century, I think I would’ve busted out laughing and probably gotten kicked out of the choir for causing a medieval ruckus…. and making making my friends laugh.)

Here’s an in-depth description on the history and basis of its hexachordal system. This is actually quite fascinating. Seriously!

Solmization and the Guidonian hand in the 16th century

Ok. Now that we understand the transmutability of the Guidonian Hand within the hexachordal system, it becomes the mother root of all sorts of chords. In linear classical 12-tone theory, the hexachordal system becomes the root of combinatoriality and its aggregates. Here’s a throwback to 12-tone harmony and linear combinatoriality that in many ways, has its roots in the improvisatory counterpoint practices of the Guidonian Hand.

12-tone Combinatoriality

In jazz and examples of Stravinsky and Copland, the “hexachordal” classical system stands on it’s head… literally. Instead of functioning solely as linear aggregates, which eventually line up vertically to make a chord, it works the opposite way. Polychords (one chords stacked on top of another) and altered chords (with the shared common tones of a scale, bitonality in classical music) help outline the bones in improvisation (or not). Music theorists on both sides of the table can argue day and night about the semantics of chordal and scalar theory but I think of it akin to reading about love and actually experiencing it. You either do it or you don’t. Most of the great musicians don’t sit there and talk about what they just improvised based on scalar theory… they just do.

Here’s a basic refresher course on altered chords versus polychords. Again, we can argue about the the semantics of resolutions and shared linear scales for days…

Altered Chords (Yes! Altered resolutions galore!)

Polychords (Which I love by the way… Which came first? “Rite of Spring” or jazz polychords?)

How does this relate to a horse’s ass? Since the Guidonian Hand was a standardized method of teaching harmony and pitch, have you ever wondered why roads and railroads are the width they are? (I have). I loved and hated tunnels and bridges as a kid (Bay Area). I didn’t understand where the standardized measurement came from. Check this out.

4 feet 8.5 inches, The Space Shuttle and a Horse’s Ass

Hmmm. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would use hexachordal improvisation to be synonymous with maintaining the status quo versus a democratic voice but melodic equanimity is most definitely the life force of jazz (USA). In light of of the social and political upheaval that has been happening, please check this out to hopefully, help you think creatively about your own views.

What is Jazz?

Here’s the hexachordal, Guidonian Hand system dreamed in a uniquely digital space.

Richard Skelton ~ A Guidonian Hand

Finally, here’s jazz trumpeter, Woody Shaw outlining polytonality (based in part by the hexachordal polychords and bitonality originated by the Guidonian Hand) which is no easy feat since trumpet lines are linear.

Woody Shaw improvising on John Coltrane’s “Some Other Blues.” Play it in the background, go about your day and smile.

Thanks for reading! I hope this makes you laugh, think and approach the world in a more nuanced and positive light. I hope this made you laugh and hopefully, approach any problems you may have in a new way. Have a wonderful week! Xo, Melissa

Chillie's Noodles. When you don't want to be bothered with shopping list.

Chillie’s Noodles

Like Guido of Arezzo’s codification of teaching music based on your hand, here’s a noodle recipe that’s super easy when you don’t really want to bother getting a grocery list together for dish.

Ingredients (based on your hand)

1 package of chicken thighs, sliced (or mushrooms if you’re vegan)

2 packages of chow mein noodles

2 cloves of garlic

3 Three types of vegetables, all about a handful full, sliced. I used purple cabbage (I like how the color pops), carrots, and half of a sliced onion.

Whatever ratio of sesame oil, oyster sauce, and soy sauce you like. (Omit the oyster sauce if you’re vegan and just amp up with sesame oil.)


1. Cook the chow mein noodles based on the packages’ instructions.

2. In a large pan or wok, stir fry the garlic and onion until sizzling. Add chicken thighs or mushrooms and cook until ready. Add the three vegetables you’re using (cabbage, carrots, etc.). Add cooked noodles. Add your desired ratio of sesame oil, oyster sauce and soy sauce. Garnish with a bit of scallions or cilantro. Enjoy!

@guidonianhand, @earlymusicsources,#spaceshuttle, #railroads, #horsesass, #combinatoriality, #bitonality, #polychords, #alteredchords, @woodyshaw, @richardskelton

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