I don't count sheep when I can't sleep. Instead, I try to visualize Dobro licks and how I would notate them on a treble staff. I had a couple of aha! moments the other night:
- The middle three lines on a staff are the same as the G tuning on the dobro: GBD. This is important because I am a reaaaallllyy sloooooooowww reader of music. I usually have to start at the bottom and say Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge or spell FACE. I also have a hard time remembering what order the letters of the alphabet are in, so if I'm looking up a word in the dictionary, I have to sing the ABC song to figure out where in the dictionary to go. Fortunately, I can start with elemenopee if I know the letter is in the second half of the alphabet and that saves some time. Now, I can read the middle lines of the staff without having to start at the bottom. That's handy in much the same way as being able to start the ABC song at elemenopee.
- I've been trying to decide in a certain song (Shenandoah) how many frets down to start a slide at "A-a-way you rolling river." I was doing it starting a half-step below the G and also a full step below the G. As I tried to notate the variants in my head, I realized that the choice was between going to the 7 note (F#, one half-step below the 8 note, G) or the flatted 7 note (F, one full step below). As I did the notation in my head, I realized that the full step, taking it to the flatted 7 note, was really establishing the dominant chord (G7) and setting up a nice transition from the I to the IV chord (G to C in this case). I would not have noticed that had I not been notating the phrase instead of just playing it by ear.
Then that led to thoughts about the dominant chord and its role in establishing transitions and the various ways we deal with transitions in written language. Joseph Williams in Style: Toward Clarity and Grace talks about using the given-new rhetoric. Make the thing or concept that is already known to the user (the given) the subject of a sentence and then make the new thing or concept the predicate or object. Then in the next sentence, you can take the concept that was the object in the first (the new) and make it the subject (the given) in the second.
For example, "The traditional newsletter is giving way to the blog. A blog (web log) allows readers to comment openly. These comments can validate or challenge the writer or even other readers."
This technique leads to an often overlooked use and justification for the passive voice: It allows us to make something the subject of a sentence (so it can occupy the "given" slot) that would normally be the object of the sentence in an active voice construction. Example, "The computer generates a configuration file. This configuration file is saved to the local disk drive at the end of the session."
One more observation about transitions. We often signal transitions with "metadiscourse," that is, discourse about discourse. For example, in the examples above (as well as in this sentence--gawd this is so surreal) I have used the phrase "for example" to signal the user what the role of the sentence is. Other metadiscourses are "On the other hand" (signalling that a contrast is coming) or "Consequently" (signalling that a conclusion is coming). I have become a firm believer that since these are signals for a shift in meaning, they should always come at the beginning of the sentence. Look at the following.
Different roles will expect different information. Engineers, for example, want to see....
Different roles will expect different information. For example, engineers want to see...
I like the latter, the metadiscourse is at the beginning of the second sentence and does not separate the subject from the verb. Not true in the first case. It seems a little less stylistic and dramatic, but technical communication is about clarity.
I'm thinking Ambien, large doses of Ambien.