Monday, May 24, 2010

Swimming with the Tide in Hawaii

For those of you who do not remember their 9th grade General Science Class, like me, the ocean’s tides have always been sort of a mystery – e.g., why are there two of them each day?

A search of the literature reveals a complicated, and even somewhat controversial, explanation of why and how tides occur. And some parts of the world do not even have two tides per day! So I will keep it general about why tides occur, but be more specific about what happens.

First, a key definition: Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW): the average of the lowest tide recorded at a tide station each day during the recording period, usually nineteen years. It is the “0” in tide charts, but more about them later.

Simplifying, and ignoring inertia, tides are created because the Earth and the moon attract each other, like magnets. The moon tries to pull at anything on the Earth to bring it closer. However, the Earth is able to hold onto everything except the

The gravitational attraction is strongest on the side of Earth that happens to be facing the Moon, simply because it is closer. This attraction causes the water on this “near side” of Earth to be pulled toward the moon (see below).

On the opposite of Earth (the “far side”), the gravitational attraction of the Moon is less because it is farther away. Thus, the moon’s gravity creates two bulges of water. One forms where Earth and Moon are closest, and the other forms where they are farthest apart. That then means in most of the country, each day there are two high tides and two low tides. The ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, and then back to high tide.

A high tide is as high as the water will reach before it starts to fall again. It is highest when the Earth and Moon are closest, and the other daily high tide is somewhat less than the highest tide (shouldn’t these tides have different names (?)). A low tide is as low as the water goes before it starts to rise again. And the same with the two daily low tides; one is lower than the other.

A common misconception is the thought that since there are four tides daily they must be on a six hour schedule. It takes the Earth about 24 hours to rotate once, relative to the Sun. But, because the Moon is moving with respect to Earth and the Earth is spinning, it takes the Earth a little longer to complete a rotation relative to the Moon—24 hours and 50 minutes. Thus, two daily tides occur separated by 12 hours and 25 minutes.

The amount of rise of fall in the tide is directly related to the relative location of the earth, moon and sun, but we’ll address that next time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Music: Falsetto Singing in Hawaii

Hawaiian falsetto is a style of singing which is unique to the Hawaiian Islands.

In fact, the characteristic vocal vibrato prevalent in Hawaiian singing is partially what led to thpopularity of the steel guitar (as mentioned in my last posting) in Hawaii.

Falsetto singing is a vocal style that can occur when a normally natural tenor, baritone, or bass sings “falsetto” (Italian diminutive of falso, "false") in the alto range. Technically, the vocal chords vibrate at a shorter length than with their ordinary voice. When sung by men it is that top part of the voice which takes on a lighter, more feminine quality (think: BeeGees).

Ancient Hawaiian chanters were known to use a technique of a characteristic break for the transition from a normal voice to a falsetto voice. This was referred to as kauna, which may have been the Hawaiian word for counter, as in countertenor. A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or (less frequently) a soprano, usually through use of falsetto, or far more rarely the normal or modal voice.

In the 1830’s, the Mexican vaqueros were brought to the Island of Hawaii to teach Hawaii’s paniolo to become cowboys. As discussed in an earlier posting the tuning of their guitars became the origin of the Hawaiian Slack Key guitar style. Mexican singers were also known to use falsetto and yodeling, and it is common knowledge that a predominance of early Hawaiian falsetto singers came from the Big Island.

Additional influences such as missionary hymns, and the music of the Spanish, and Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii blended together for 100 years to produce this unique singing style, or as it is known in Hawaiian, leo ki'eki'e (high voice).

Some female singers use falsetto techniques, such as veteran Auntie Genoa Keawe and young stars Amy Hanaialii Gilliom and Raiatea Helm, but it is usually associated with male singers like Mahi Beamer, Dennis Pavao and the Hoopii Brothers.

Check out the Hoopii Brothers doing some beautiful Hawaiian falsetto singing here:

This posting then completes my summary of the essentials elements of Hawaiian music. That is, the slack key guitar, the ukulele, the steel guitar and lastly, falsetto singing. There are many more elements to the unique sound of Hawaiian music, so this is just a start. I’ll leave a more thorough discussion to the artists out there actually making this wonderful music.