Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Temporary notes (1)

A pulse repeated. When the individual attacks are undifferentiated or uninflected, then the arbitrary action of a listener's attention jumping onto or stumbling into the stream of events forces the issue: one, two, three..., an automism stemming, perhaps, from a cognitive horror of that which is not ordered. Brouwer's twoity: counting originates in the perception of time passing, and when a second event separates itelf from a first, one becomes aware in the moment of that perception that, as far as time is concerned, repetition is all about similarity, not sameness.

A stream of pulses. Picture that stream picking up or loosing speed, volume, being broken into groups, articulated by flotsam, jetsam, outcroppings of rocks, islets, swimmers, boats, birds, waterplants, bridges, passing clouds creating slices of light and shadow. Regular divisions become gruppetti, metrical feet, metre proper, storms and seasons become sections, movements, the course of a year, a piece, the course of the river itself, a repertoire. But always, inexorably flowing forward. Jumping out of the stream and beginning anew upstream is Heracleitus and all that.

The division of the mainstream into currents and tributaries, going with or against the current, the individual streams in an ensemble moving in similar or parallel or contrary motion relative to one another. Counterpoint and all that.

Motoric, mechanical, monotonous or mono-rythmic, motion made so regular in repetition as to appear, paradoxically, like a spinning top viewed from above, static. (In both time-point and certain chance techniques, by assigning equal probablities to the occurence of any single pulse onto any pulse in the notated metre a heirarchy of accents is effectively eliminated, becoming so panmetrical that no metre is longer perceptable. (Just as pantonal became atonal, panrhythmic became a-rhythmic.))

A pulse train. Like jumping a freight train. It goes on, regardless of whether you've been able hoist yourself onto it or not. I remember my own horror of first playing in a gamelan: I was totally without orientation, unable to locate a handle on which to grab and begin to play along, but eventually I just played something, and gradually shifted my something into phase with everyone else.

It's sometimes been the fashion among musicians to do whatever is necessary to get away from, to disregard a regular pulse. (In Kagel's St. Bach Passion, a parody of a Bachian motor rhythm in the orchestra is heard behind the hoir singing the name Johann Sebastian..., but with each of the consonants deleted, it is heard as Onanie, masturbation, which seems a curiously uncharacteristic and prudish critique on Kagel's part). But a pulse, as background into which things may emerge and disappear is often a necessary condition for making those emergent and vanishing events effective and interesting. And isn't the very idea of a perpetual motion -- given the inescapable fact of our own inescapable termini -- interesting in itself, even, as in real, existing, musics, perpetuity is only suggested and impossible to actually realize? And an effortful disregard of the pulse simply ends up, dialectically, in reinforcing precisely that which one wishes to avoid. A dance in ragtime, however ragged, must remain danceably in time, after all.

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