Thursday, April 24, 2008

Love as a continuity error

Readers of these pages must know by now that I'm obsessed with the issue of continuity in music, an obsession probably originating in my Southern Californian youth (where the continuity specialist is a perfectly ordinary member of a film crew), but made rather more articulate by experiencing the "cuing" pieces of Christian Wolff, in which a score may often be, in essence, a series of instructions for arriving at a continuity through attention to successions and simultaneities.

More articulate, but not yet articulate enough.

And now, once again, filmmaker Erroll Morris arrives on the scene, or rather in his blog, Zoom, with some spectacularly articulate ideas about re-enactments (something profoundly interesting to musicians), continuity and our perception of continuity. The discussion of Buñuel's use of two actresses to play the same role in That Obscure Object of Desire is just great, culminating in Morris's bittersweet speculative sentence: "Perhaps Buñuel sees love as a series of continuity errors?"

(A map of the entrances and exits of the two actresses in Buñuel's film, and the time separating their entrances, could be usefully construed as something a series of late Cagian time brackets, but with the duration of the brackets and the intervals between them becoming evermore shorter, so that eventually one actress leaves and the second almost immediately re-enters. I've always wished that Cage had begun to apply time deformations* of this sort more systematically in his "number" pieces, as the richness of these pieces lay largely in their formal invention, and such tempo changes would have made this quality even more intense.)

* in this case, an accellerando, but it could have been just as interesting with a ritardando, or any of the other possible tempo-deforming shapes. Time deformation, by the way, is a term I steal, cheerfully, from Ron Kuivila and David Anderson's program, Formula ("FORth MUsic LAnguage"), one of the profoundly smart things to come out of 1980's electronic music.

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