Phenomenology of Perception, by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. (Part III, 2, Temporality).

The chapter opens by stating that ‘…Kantian language…’ (Merleau-Ponty 2002 p.476) allows for a subjective understanding of time, in other words it is ‘…the form taken by our inner sense…’ (Merleau-Ponty 2002 p.476). It is important to consider that through this chapter Merleau-Ponty is attempting to highlight the way in which time links the cogito with freedom and as such he delineates freedom in terms of subjective perception.

Merleau-Ponty moves toward his argument by beginning with the acceptance of a subjective and objective understanding of time. He does this by referring to Heraclitus’ metaphor of time as a flowing river. He imagines different perspectives on time by contrasting a view from the riverbank with a view from a boat floating on the river. He suggests that while standing on the riverbank, the melting ice further upstream represents an aspect of the future from which the present derives. However, from within the boat moving with the flow of river water, the melting ice represents something from the past. Merleau-Ponty decides that these subjectivities indicate that time does not have succession that can be objectively defined. In this way his critique of succession shares some resonance with Henri Bergson’s writing in Time and Free Will (Bergson 1990). However, unlike Bergson, Merleau-Ponty seems more comfortable allowing a subjective spatialisation of time because this enables a discussion around the perception of what appears to be succession. The discussion emphasises a subjective handling of succession and begins with the suggestion that in the present we see the ‘…future sliding into the present and on into the past…’ (Merleau-Ponty 2002 p.483). He goes further into the argument against objectively thinking about time;

‘…Time as the immanent object of a consciousness is time brought down to one uniform level, in other words it is no longer time at all… …Constituted time, the series of possible relations in terms of before and after, is not time itself, but the ultimate recording of time, the result of its passage, which objective thinking always presupposes yet never manages to fasten on to.’
(Merleau-Ponty 2002 p. 481-482)

As he begins to outline his notion of subjectively perceived time, Merleau-Ponty refers to Husserl’s explanation that retentions of prior moments are present too, almost as if they are still accessible underneath the present moment. In Husserl’s diagram; a horizontal line represents the series of present moments where the past is on the left and the future is on the right. On this timeline, diagonal lines draw away from successive present moments representing moments seen from an ulterior perspective as shadows of moments. A vertical line represents a present moment within which shadows of other moments are layered. Merleau-Ponty explains that he does not simply ‘…pass through a series of instances of now…’ (Merleau-Ponty 2002 p.484), instead moments of the past change as new moments occur. Past moments are ‘…sinking away below the level of presents…’ (p.484), and they are being continually modified by this stratification. He explains that Husserl described the immediately past moment as if it were literally in his hand, which shows that Husserl used this diagrammatic expression of time to construct a comprehensive cross section of an instant with retentions in it’s past and protensions in it’s future. Merleau-Ponty considers that the layered protensions of a moment yet to come are positioned in the present adjacent to the retentions of a moment that has recently passed. In this way he argues that succession is evident and that Henri Bergson;

‘…was wrong in explaining the unity of time in terms of its continuity, since that amounts to confusing past, present and future on the excuse that we pass from one to the other by imperceptible transitions; in short, it amounts to denying time altogether.’
(Merleau-Ponty 2002 p.488)

Merleau-Ponty prefers to describe succession in the sense that every moment is the anticipation of the next moment in the same way as it supersedes the previous. In this way the subjective present is an aspect of the future and of the past. The past that is yet to come is in the future in the same way that the future of a moment that has just been is now in our past. This outlines what Merleau-Ponty calls an ‘…intuition of time’s permanence…’ that can be undone by objectifying time as he describes in the case of some scientific descriptions of time. He is saying here that an individual’s consciousness of time is subject to continual consciousness rather than a series of states of consciousness. The continual subjective experience of time is a rich and layered form that is characterised by the past and the future in the same way as the past or the future are by the presents, pasts and futures surrounding them.

This diagram described by Merleau-Ponty illustrates that there is a potentially endless depth to each moment, a depth that consists of strata of past and future, or presents gone and yet to come. In doing so the illustration shrugs off some of the earlier problems raised about the objectivity of a linear view of this problem. Merleau-Ponty draws back from the linearity of this diagram to look at the experience of being in the world and how this clashes with the objectivity of the world. There is a contrast between the different subjective views of individuals drawing on different subjectivities. He is saying that in awareness of these differences, individuals may objectify the world in an attempt to understand it and in doing so, prevent themselves comprehending another person’s subjective experiences, including those of time. This is the point at which Merleau-Ponty approaches the notion of freedom and it’s relationship to the subjectivity of being described in the final section of the book.

BERGSON, H. (1990). Time and free will: an essay on the immediate data of consciousness. Trans. Pogson, F. L., Montana, Kessinger Pub. Co.
MERLEAU-PONTY, M. (2002). Phenomenology of perception. London, Routledge.

Time and free will: an essay on the immediate data of consciousness, by Henri Bergson (trans. F. L. Pogson)

Henri Bergson’s thesis (Bergson 1910) was first published in 1889. The English translation by F. L. Pogson was published in 1910. Bergson’s overall argument is that ‘Inner duration is a qualitative multiplicity … In the external world we find not duration but simultaneity’ (Bergson 1990 p.226~227). The argument is presented to contradict determinist philosophers like Kant who evaluated duration spatially rather than as pure duration. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (Kant 1966) was first published just over one hundred years earlier in 1781. In it Kant argues against the free will of the human being with respect to the empirical character. He argues that human choice is traceable to conditions determined by the empirical character, the sense self rather than the intelligible character, the thinking self. Kant (1966 p.375) states that ‘…if we could investigate all the manifestations of … [human] will to the very bottom, there would be not a single human action which we could not predict with certainty’. Kant’s argument is an example of what Henri Bergson referred to as a determinist’s objection to free will. At the beginning of his essay Bergson indicates his intention to argue against objections raised against free will by determinist philosophy. The essay is arranged as three chapters, the first and second of which deal with intensity and duration respectively. In doing so they introduce the third chapter, which aims to dispel the ‘…confusion of duration with extensity, of succession with simultaneity, of quality with quantity…’ (Bergson 1990 p.xx).

While Bergson’s conclusions are profound and expressed with clarity, my interest in this work has been sparked by his insightful illustrations, particularly those regarding the nature of intensity and duration. His descriptions of pure duration encourage the reader to consider temporalities outside of a necessarily sequential framework. He disassociates duration from spatial definitions and in doing so inspires the reader to consider past and future events without experiencing an internal separation from the present. I find Bergson’s descriptions of consciousness and memory inspirational because they show me how to consider overlapping moments as heterogeneous. I will look at Bergson’s writing before reflecting on temporality in my work with consideration to pure duration.

Bergson begins chapter 1 by distinguishing quantitative differences between intensity and magnitude and asking ‘…why an intensity can be assimilated to a magnitude.’ (Bergson 1990 p.2). He recognises that magnitude is a quantitative measure of the difference between container and contained but he questions why we resolve to use the language of magnitude when talking about intensity when there is no longer a scale of physical containers. In short, Bergson seems to be looking into the question of why we describe psychic intensities or qualitative experiences in terms of quantifiable magnitude. In tackling the question he considers some ways in which sensory perception could be considered in terms of magnitude.

‘…every state of consciousness corresponds to a certain disturbance of the molecules and atoms of the cerebral substance, and that the intensity of a sensation measures the amplitude, the complication or the extent of these molecular movements.’ (Bergson 1990 p.6)

However, he suggests that this mechanical activity is the work our organism and that the magnitude of the work is measurable as if the intensity is located in our consciousness. His further examples of desire, hope, joy and sorrow are more readily understandable as intensities without the requirement to refer to quantities of spatial magnitude. The intensity of hope is an outstanding example as it concerns the potential for joy in the future. Bergson discusses the intensity of hope in this way as a vivid example that is described and associated with temporal intensities before spatial ones. The intensity of sorrow is also discussed in terms of time with reference to the past rather than the future.

Bergson starts to consider the intensity of aesthetic feelings by reflecting on the ‘…pleasure of mastering the flow of time and of holding the future in the present.’ (Bergson 1990 p.12) He doesn’t refer to a specific artistic medium at first but refers to movement in general and the fluidity of motion. He talks about graceful curves and suggests that they are pleasing because the turns comfortably indicate where they are going. He seems to be saying that the audience finds pleasure in being able to anticipate the turns of motion because this allows them to prioritise emotional intensity over reflective consciousness. To Bergson reflective consciousness ‘…delights in clean cut distinctions, which are easily expressed in words, and in things with well-defined outlines, like those which are perceived in space.’ (Bergson 1990 p.9). There is a description of the ‘invisible threads’ (Bergson 1990 p.12) that connect the dancer and the audience. Bergson is saying that the threads seem to be associated with the rhythm of a performance and that when the audience feels able to anticipate motion they partly sense a connection to the movement of the dancer. His use of the word thread implies the connection between puppeteer and puppet, but of course qualitative intensities are transmitted in this case rather than physical movement.

In the sections on muscular effort, emotions and affective sensations Bergson continues to find evidence that physical phenomena and states of consciousness have some magnitude in common. The writing suggests that psychic intensity is equivalent to physical sensation experienced during muscular effort or an emotional experience. He refers to the research of Charles Darwin, Hermann Helmholtz and William James to expand on his examples of physical intensities and their relation to psychic ones. He describes how our sensations of pleasure and pain become associated with past conditions as we remember them and we therefore orientate affect in the future. Bergson offers examples of representative sensations in intensities of sound, heat and weight. His example of pitch intensity is particularly interesting because he relates the experience of listening to sound to the experience of producing sound. He suggests that the ‘…suggestive power of music [can] be explained … by admitting that we repeat to ourselves the sounds heard, so as to carry ourselves back into the psychic state out of which they emerged’ (Bergson 1990 p.44). It would seem that as listeners we interpret the intensity of a musical sensation in relation to the magnitude of force required to produce such a sound. Bergson says that ‘…high notes seem to us to produce some sort of resonance in the head and the deep notes in the thorax…’ (Bergson 1990 p.45). He presents this as a possible reason for the way we think of pitch as if it is arranged vertically, in line with the human body. Bergson also says that when singing a range of pitches, as the effort changes from one part of the body to another, our perception of the difference between pitches becomes fragmented into ‘…successive notes as points in space, to be reached by a series of sudden jumps…’ (Bergson 1990 p.45). Bergson has illustrated the problem that arises from psychophysical analysis of this experience, that intensities are often described as magnitudes. The confusion often caused by spatial interpretations is applied to duration in chapter two of Bergson’s essay when he defines pure duration.

In chapter one Bergson isolates intensities from causes. He clearly describes the confusion of quality and quantity and how this confusion has introduced ‘…space into our perception of duration…’ (Bergson 1990 p.74). In short this happened because quantification entails spatialised explanations, whereas qualities are non-spatial. In chapter two he isolates duration from space to enquire into the multiplicity of perceived experiences as they unfold in pure duration.

‘…Pure duration is the form which the succession of our conscious states assumes when the ego lets itself live, when it refrains from separating its present state from its former states.’
(Bergson 1990 p.100)

Difficulty arises when we attempt to differentiate events within pure duration, are we required to abandon linearity? In chapter two Bergson approaches this area when he discusses the mathematics of infinity when describing the indivisibility of number. He recognises that a number can be said to be the sum of equally sized but distinct units. To imagine number we are required to arrange the units spatially, for example in a row. Bergson suggests that if we focus on a single unit within this row we will blur the surrounding individual units so that they appear to be an indivisible line. If we apply this notion to the recollection of an event in time, we can make a comparison with the human ability to remember details of a specific past event as if in slow motion replay. Bergson makes this comparison when he describes recalling a melody from memory.

‘…if we interrupt the rhythm by dwelling longer than is right on one note of the tune, it is not its exaggerated length, as length, which will warn us of our mistake, but the qualitative change thereby caused in the whole of the musical phrase. We can thus conceive of succession without distinction, and think of it as mutual penetration…’ (Bergson 1990 p.100~101)

Bergson has defined pure duration as a conception of time that is not spatialised by succession or quantity. This illustration reminds me of some thoughts I have had about drones. During some performances more than one note has been held continuously on the harmonium. This drone can be described as melody where the notes have a mutually penetrative character and as such the drone can be perceived as having a pure duration that can be understood as a singularity. The drone is non-linear and cannot be described in a spatial way.

BERGSON, H. (1990). Time and free will: an essay on the immediate data of consciousness. Trans. Pogson, F. L., Montana, Kessinger Pub. Co.
KANT, I. (1966). Critique of pure reason. Trans. Müller, F.M., Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday Anchor.

Improvisation it’s nature and practice in music, by Derek Bailey

Guitar player Derek Bailey began improvising in the early 1960s. In writing about its various forms he managed to describe improvisation and portray its ubiquity with respect to individual performers;

Improvisation enjoys the curious distinction of being both the most widely practiced of all musical activities and the least acknowledged and understood. While it is today present in almost every area of music, there is an almost total absence of information about it. Perhaps this is inevitable, even appropriate. Improvisation is always changing and adjusting, never fixed, too elusive for analysis and precise description… (Bailey 1992, p.ix)

In saying that improvisation is always changing Bailey focuses on its ability to be unpredictable and fresh. The opening chapters of this book offer a concise analysis of Indian music, Flamenco, Baroque, Organ music and Rock music. The chapters are enlivened by conversations and interviews with musicians working within these idioms. Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead offers his thoughts on group improvisation;

…the sense of individual control disappears and you are working at another level entirely. Sometimes this feels to me as though you don’t have to really think about what’s happening. Things just flow. It’s kind of hard to report on but it’s a real thing. I mean we’ve checked it out with each other and after twenty-five years of exploring some of these outer limits of musical weirdness this is stuff that we pretty much understand intuitively but we don’t have language to talk about it. (Bailey 1992 p.42)

Garcia represents an interesting case study for Bailey and for any reader on improvisation because of his experience of Alzheimers Disease and his recovery. He describes having to re-learn neural connections between his thoughts and actions. There are many implications of this experience on his improvised music. Foremost seems to be Garcia’s sense of a change of perspective. He states that he plays better than he used to because of the more present need to readdress his musical position. The discussion on how an improvising group remains fresh and unpredictable after years of playing together, sits comfortably with points raised in other chapters. Particularly those points regarding freshness and the immediacy of intuition. In the chapter on Baroque music Bailey talks to Harpsichordist and ensemble director, Lionel Salter. Again Bailey focuses on the intuition of the improviser(s) and publishes Salters comment on the composer / performers relationship with the score / improvisation;

When it came to slow movements particularly, of course, you find that the notes written down represent a very bare outline, and people who try to play … let’s say Handel sonatas, strictly according to the text, end up with something, at which Handel would probably have laughed uproariously, because he never expected it to be played cold-bloodedly, just like that. In those days composers expected to perform their own works and sometimes out of sheer lack of time they wouldn’t write everything down on paper, they’d just put a thing down to remind themselves that here they were going to do something rather special. (Salter in Bailey 1992 p.20~21)

Bailey’s book on improvisation was originally published in 1980 and revised in 1992. Bailey defines two main areas within improvisation. This helps classification of the improvisers he discusses.

I have used the terms ‘idiomatic’ and ‘non-idiomatic’ to describe the two main forms of improvisation. Idiomatic improvisation, much the most widely used, is mainly concerned with the expression of an idiom – such as jazz, flamenco or baroque – and takes its identity from that idiom. Non-idiomatic improvisation has other concerns and is most usually found in so-called ‘free’ improvisation and, while it can be highly stylised, is not usually tied to representing an idiomatic identity. (Bailey 1992, p.xi~xii)

So what are the other concerns
that Bailey is referring to? It seems that his musical output is essentially concerned with free improvisation and his writing leads toward a clearer comprehension that free improvisation can occur without the apparent clutter of stylistic categorisation usually attached to idiomatic improvisation. Bailey acknowledges that definitions of improvisation vary widely and he dissects his own definition of it by overcoming the classification of idiom. His book on improvisation leads the reader toward the view that only free (as opposed to idiomatic) improvisation has the ability to:

renew and change the known and so provoke an open-endedness which by definition is not possible in idiomatic improvisation (Bailey 1992 p.142)

During his life Bailey became increasingly uncomfortable with the use of musical systems for his own improvisations and I suspect that from John Zorn’s perspective Bailey is an artist much like Bill Frisell who disengages from the tussle of Zorn’s games but nonetheless plays intensively throughout. Derek Bailey’s participation in Cobra: Game Pieces, Vol. 2
(Zorn et al 2002) in 2002 should be understood in comparison to his collaboration with John Zorn and bassist William Parker on the three track improvised recording Harras (Bailey, Zorn & Parker, 1995).

The application of Bailey’s terminology is useful as a comprehensive exercise in classification, which simplifies data handling for the researcher. However, it is easy to meet complications once any such categorisations become applied outside the context of improvisation and it’s analysis. For example The Shape of Jazz to Come
(Coleman et al 1987) can be categorised alongside Spy Vs Spy (Zorn et al 1989) as idiomatic improvisation. On the other hand The Moat Recordings (Jospeph Holbrooke Trio 2006) by Bailey’s own Joseph Holbrooke Trio is very clearly free or non-idiomatic improvisation because although the musicians have come from a jazz background the music no longer fits within that idiom. Furthermore the musical output is not scored or prepared in advance of its performance. However, unless it is popular with the general public, non-idiomatic improvisation is frequently categorised by catalogues and libraries according to broader vague descriptions like alternative and contemporary, which reinforces the contradiction of classifying music with a term that implies that it is unclassifiable.

BAILEY, D. (1992). Improvisation: its nature and practice in music
. London, British Library National Sound Archive.

Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation, by Ben Watson

Ben Watson’s book about Derek Bailey is largely composed of interview transcripts with Bailey. The interviews are intimate and present Bailey as a sensitive and gentle person. The introduction to this book however, is very punchy and Watson gets straight to the subject of free improvisation. He talks about musical improvisation with heated immediacy and emphasises that his own abrupt mode of delivery is akin to his perception of the abruptness of musical improvisation itself. It lives in the moment. In particular he portrays Bailey the guitar pioneer as a strong-willed individual whose fiery output was partly ignited by the oppressive confines of working as a studio musician for over ten years during the 1950s. Improvisation, particularly Derek Bailey’s guitar work from 1963 onwards is described with an emphasis on the moment in which it is performed. This emphasis highlights the aims of the music industry to package and mass-produce recordings of artists work. So it comes as no surprise that Watson and Bailey’s shared concerns on capitalism and the mainstream music industry quickly come to the surface to counter these aims. It is worth considering that although Bailey had strong opinions on recording, he recorded and published many improvised works until his death in 2005. Watson describes Bailey’s attitude toward improvisation with an almost Marxist polemic.

Derek Bailey’s philosophy of Free Improvisation is fully in line with that of Heraclitus – you can’t step into the same river twice. The water changes, you change, everything changes. The first take is the best because it’s unique, and all imitations are ghastly. The real world is concrete, ever-changing and specific, irreducible to fixed concepts and laws For Bailey, music is a tissue of concrete utterances, irreducible to scores and systems: Free improvisation is thus militantly dialectical. It confounds bourgeois assumptions about music being a matter of scores and records, fixities derived from the world of property relations and promising profits to those with capital to invest. (Watson 2004 p.8~9)

Derek Bailey was born in 1930. In an interview with Henry Kaiser broadcast by KPFA in 1987, and also published on UbuWeb (Kaiser 1987) Bailey talks through his early career and the motivation to make improvised music. He began playing guitar for big bands, dance halls, nightclubs, theatres and studios as a commercial musician. By the late 1960s Bailey was growing tired of the restricted freedom he found in commercial music. As a studio musician he felt increasingly confined. In 1963 he met drummer Tony Oxley who also grew up in Sheffield, and Bassist Gavin Bryars. They started working together almost immediately as the Joseph Holbrooke Trio. Oxley acquired lots of drumming experience when he served in the British army as a military drummer and Oxley, Bryars and Bailey felt that they needed to take music in a new direction using their improvisation. The trio played together until 1966 during which time Bailey claims to have defined his personal style of playing. Within three years as a group they moved from playing new music compositions and some jazz to performing free improvisations.

KAISER, H. (1987). Derek Bailey Interview by Henry Kaiser, February 7, 1987 Berkeley, KPFA. Available at [Accessed 9th April 2009] Republication on UbuWeb edited by Kenneth Goldsmith 2004.
WATSON, B. (2004). Derek Bailey and the story of free improvisation. London, Verso.

Treatise & Treatise Handbook, by Cornelius Cardew

Treatise (Cardew 1967) is a graphic score by Cornelius Cardew. It was written in stages over a period of four years and completed in 1967. As with many graphic scores I feel that interpretation of the score is best carried out by performance rather than by written critical analysis. Nevertheless I will continue to describe the pages of the score as a means of introducing Cardew’s interpretation of his score. At the bottom of each page Cardew has included a double staff, which implies that this is a linear musical score to be read from left to right. The work appears to be a collection of abstract markings and shapes that evolve over its 193 pages. Most of Cardew’s hand-drawn markings are, to a greater or lesser extent, visibly inspired by the musical symbols of western standard notation. Abstracted minims and crotchets appear, as do ties, slurs, dots, points, lines and numbers. Other forms also share the score; for example there is a very large black disc on page 133 and similar smaller discs and partial discs on surrounding pages. Towards the end of the score many thin lines divide and sub-divide giving tree-like appearances. The composition should be improvised by any number of performers on their choice of instruments or non-instruments and the score should be used as a guide to the performance. In writing this score, Cardew has taken great care to not suggest ways in which it should be read or interpreted by performers of the work.

The Treatise Handbook (Cardew 1971) brings together several texts and two scored compositions by Cornelius Cardew. The title indicates that the book is intended to accompany the score and the introduction announces Cardew’s apprehension at the publication of the notes that follow. He states the implicit contradiction in attempting to describe a piece of work that has been constructed in order to remain open to interpretation. However, some justification is made by the fact that Cardew has the opportunity to publish two scores within this book and the lecture Towards an ethic of improvisation.

The chapter entitled Treatise: Working notes is a chronologically arranged collection of personal notes made by Cardew during the years he spent writing the score from 1963 to 67. His thoughts resonate with a raw earthiness appropriate to the score. On 11th March 65 for example, Cardew was obviously thinking about the score while reflecting on the central black line that runs throughout the piece with only the occasional break;

Treatise: What is it? Well, it’s a vertebrate… (Cardew 1971 p.vii)

This suggests that the work is a living organism with a spine. As such, performances of this work will naturally reflect the interpretation of its performer(s) more than necessarily the score as a traditional composition. Some of the symbols in the score clearly echo western notation. However, Cardew allows resemblances to occur only as a reminder of the works musicality.

Interpreter! Remember that no meaning is yet attached to the symbols. They are however to be interpreted in the context of their role in the whole. Distinguish symbols that enclose space (circle, etc.); those that have a characteristic feature. What symbols are for sounding and what for orientation. Example: The horizontal central bar is the main and most constant orientation; what happens where it ceases (or bends)? Do you go out of tune (eg)? (Cardew 1971 p.iii)

In Treatise: Résumé of pre-publication performances Cardew has included a quote from the program notes of a performance given at Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, 1966. The program notes succinctly describe the score and it’s use.

Treatise is a long continuous drawing – in form rather similar to a novel. But it is composed according to musical principles and is intended to serve as a score for musicians to play from. However, indications of sounds, noises, and musical relationships do not figure in the score, which is purely graphic… Each player interprets the score according to his own acumen and sensibility. (Cardew 1971 p.xii)

Cardew’s lecture Towards an Ethic of Improvisation delves into some of the philosophical content of the Treatise score. He opens with reference to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1918) and Philosophical Investigations (1945) because of the texts application to music. He goes on to describe improvisation as a relationship between performer, audience and music that is lodged within the time-span of its performance. He describes his experimentation as a member of the improvisatory group AMM. During 1966 the instrumentation of the group expanded far beyond saxophone, piano, violin and guitar. They began using many other instruments and non-instruments, resonant objects made from glass, metal and wood. This period of experimentation seems to have allowed Cardew to consider the role of the improviser as a kind of athlete.

This kind of thing happens in improvisation. Two things running concurrently in haphazard fashion suddenly synchronise autonomously and sling you forcibly into a new phase. Rather like in the 6-day cycle race when you sling your partner into the next lap with a forcible handclasp. Yes improvisation is a sport too, and a spectator sport, where the subtlest interplay on the physical level can throw into high relief some of the mystery of being alive.
Connected with this is the proposition that improvisation cannot be rehearsed. Training is substituted for rehearsal, and a certain moral discipline is an essential part of this training. (Cardew 1971 p.xvii)

This emphasises the temporal immediacy of the presence of the improvised performance and, as Cardew goes on to say, renders the recording of an improvisation somewhat hollow by comparison. He compares music with and without notation and outlines advantages of notation and it’s absence. He suggests that a sudden absence of notation might leave a performer feeling abandoned. Alternatively it could allow forms of improvisation. Cardew has noticed that well trained musicians that can over-interpret the work Treatise in the sense that they might attempt to literally read the score in a method as close as possible to a reading of standard western notation. However, he says that graphic artists and mathematicians may be more prepared to creatively interpret the score although they may have less capability controlling a musical instrument and producing their desired sound.

Cardew refers to Wittgenstein again and quotes him equating the logical structure of recorded music to the logical structure of a score. Cardew draws the conclusion that an improvisation cannot be scored or recorded within out some loss occurring because of the absence of this structure.

Who can be interested purely in sound, however high its ‘fidelity’? Improvisation is a language spontaneously developed amongst the players and between players and listeners. Who can say in what consists the mode of operation of this language? Is it likely that it is reducible to electrical impulses on tapes and the oscillation of a loudspeaker membrane? (Cardew 1971 p.xx)

Cardew concludes the lecture with a list of Virtues that a musician can develop.
Simplicity is highlighted as the most appealing virtue. However, a simplistic musical expression must also subtly express how it was achieved.
Integrity is the importance of a performer remaining true to the concerns of the music. Cardew exemplifies a professional musician as making the sound and the improvisers in AMM as being the sound.
Selflessness is included to highlight the performers required concern for the work rather than the documentation of it.
Forbearance is the permissive characteristic required of an improviser in order to allow the music to exist.
Preparedness is defined as a delicate balance. The performer should be the music throughout it’s performance while simultaneously being prepared for the music to change unexpectedly.
Identification with nature is similar to preparedness. Cardew says the performer with this virtue will live;

…like a yachtsman to utilise the interplay of natural forces and currents to steer a course. My attitude is that the musical and the real worlds are one. Musicality is a dimension of perfectly ordinary reality. (Cardew 1971 p.xx)

Acceptance of death is ultimately vital to performers of improvisational music from Cardew’s perspective as it broadly represents the acceptance of the impermanence of music.

CARDEW, C. (1967). Treatise. Buffalo, New York, Gallery Upstairs Press.
CARDEW, C. (1971). Treatise handbook, including Bun no. 2 and Volo solo. London, Edition Peters.

The Time of Music: New Meanings, New Temporalities, New Listening Strategies, by Jonathan D. Kramer

Composer and music theorist Jonathan Kramer proudly introduces his book The Time of Music (Kramer 1988) with the annunciation that musical time has been largely left out of musical study to date. He describes how this publication will take us through some necessary questions and musical analysis in order to arrive at some current notions of musical time. At the conclusion of the book it is clear to see that he lauds musical nonlinearity, in particular vertical music.

When Kramer discusses two particular opposing temporalities he tips his hat to philosopher Susanne Langer whose ideas stem from Basil de Sélincourt. Kramer wrestles with the difference between virtual time (the time in music) and clock time or absolute time. The reference to Aristotle’s Principle of Non-contradiction is strong throughout the book and is mentioned early on in the text to highlight the differences between virtual and absolute time. Kramer explains that the Principle of Non-contradiction is challenged in music because our experience of musical time may differ from the duration counted by a clock or any other mechanical temporal measuring device. Particular pieces of music make use of this contradiction both as a matter of consequence or as a main function. Some pieces of music might give a strong feeling that a short or long time has passed, but if you were to run a stopwatch during the music and measure it’s duration you might be surprised that the stopwatch contradicts your sense of time. This contradiction is generally accepted because people trust the clock and as a result the time of music is located as a property of the music. In Chapter One, Music and Time, Kramer tackles another dual aspect of time, that of being and becoming. These conditions are described with respect to the terms linear and non-linear. He refers to linearity recurring in the logic of western philosophy and to non-linearity especially found in Zen Buddhism. The terms are further described as Sacred and Profane with reference to anthropologist Edward T. Hall who Kramer quotes describing sacred or mythic time. Kramer also quotes psychologist Robert Ornstein in a description of linearity and non-linearity.

In chapter 2 Kramer begins to define linearity and non-linearity in music. He offers various examples of linearity of tonal progression and states that this progress within a piece of music can be characterised by change and motion. In defining non-linearity Kramer refers to stasis, the persistent absence of change. He also clearly sets out the circumstances under which composers of the late twentieth century were better equipped to embrace a wave of musical non-linearity due to the dawn of electronic technology and to an increased awareness of music from cultures in which linear progress is not always a foremost characteristic. Kramer introduces the term Vertical in reference to music that is non-linear in structure with particular focus on the musical phrase and it’s quality of suggesting progress within a piece of music.

Phrases have, until recently, pervaded all Western music, even multiply-directed and moment forms: phrases are the final remnant of linearity. But some new works show that phrase structure is not necessarily a component of music. The result is a single present stretched out into an enormous duration, a potentially infinite “now” that nonetheless feels like an instant. In music without phrases, without temporal articulation, with tonal consistency, whatever structure is in the music exists between simultaneous layers of sound, not between successive gestures. Thus, I call the time sense invoked by such music “vertical.” (Kramer 1988 p.55)

Kramer’s definition invites me to question verticality and how some vertical music can sound like it contains phrases that imply linear structure? Later in the same chapter, Kramer elaborates on his definition by analysing the phrase formations in works by Terry Riley. He explains that the rising and falling phrases that occur in this work may at first seem to resemble linear music. The phrases however do not take priority over each other and no particular phrase is dominant or takes the role of introducing or concluding the piece. The phrasing here is continuous and non-hierarchical. In the following pages Kramer discusses the difficulties of such temporal categorisation and by doing so accepts that although the examples he cites to illustrate various temporalities are specifically demonstrative, they are such because of their definitively unique temporal characteristics.

The impact of technology on time in music is discussed in chapter 3. Kramer describes some compositions from the early twentieth century that have almost no repetitive form or phrase and he implies that the dawn of recording technology coincided with a surge in this kind of music. By the time performances were being widely recorded and distributed, composers were beginning to respond to the simultaneous shift of compositional method and audience listening habits. He defines mobile form as a response to this shift. In mobile form, the sequence of sections within a piece, are permitted to differ from one performance to the next and as a result, recordings of individual performances are nothing more than a partial document of the overall work. Kramer quotes from a conversation between he and Stockhausen (Kramer 1988 p.69) in which Stockhausen states that a recording of open form is akin to a photograph of a bird in flight. The difference between the bird and its photograph is as vast as the difference between a performance in open form and its subsequent record.

Stockhausen once compared the recording of one version of an open form to a photograph of a bird in flight. We understand the picture as showing but one of a multitude of shapes the bird may take. But which is the artwork, the bird or the photograph? And which is the composition we are hearing, the abstract open form that we might intuit with the aid of score or program notes, or the realization on the fixed, carefully engineered recording? (Kramer 1988 p.69)

Musique concrète is described alongside other methods of tape splicing editing. The absence of a performance is discussed here, as is a composer’s experimentation with continuity. Kramer compares this method of making music to methods employed by filmmakers of the 1920s particularly the Russians, Kuleshov and Eisenstein. The concept of Absolute time is introduced by Kramer’s description of tape works by Terry Riley and Steve Reich. Kramer states that absolute time is determined by certain discrete durations that are specific to a piece of technology. Riley uses the method of tape head echo to generate repetitions of musical phrases. The recorded sound is passed through the record head directly from the play head of a machine so the sound is heard again less than a second after the first recording. This technique was used on the album A Rainbow in Curved Air (Riley 1969). Steve Reich’s method of making tape loops is also described as the use of an absolute duration within composition. Reich simultaneously played several loops of similar duration in order to generate phasing within his work. The chapter continues and includes Kramer’s comparisons of human performance and sequencer playback. He focuses on the rhythmical inaccuracy of human performance compared to a computer program and the chapter concludes with a brief description of the rapid turnaround time from composition to performance aided by modern computer software.

The chapter on meter and rhythm opens with an acknowledgment that many theorists have tried to describe meter and rhythm. Kramer’s definition of meter is concise and communicable. He describes meter as if it is a point on a graph where axes converge. In this sense meter doesn’t constitute sound. Kramer refers to the point of meter as a timepoint.

We hear events that start or stop at timepoints, but we cannot hear the timepoints themselves. A timepoint is thus analogous to a point in geometric space… Space itself is three-dimensional; a plane has two dimensions; a line has one, and a point has none… Musical events give us information about which timepoints are significant (accented), but we sense rather than literally hear the degree of metric accentuation at each timepoint. (Kramer 1988 p.83)

He goes on to describe types of accent and questions whether meter points are necessarily always evenly spaced within a piece of music. The chapter concludes with metric analysis of the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, op.13. He offers analysis of passages from the works of Schoenberg and Webern using an array of terms defined in different chapters of the book. As Fraser does in Time as Conflict (Fraser 1978), Kramer uses a list of temporalities that enable him to handle the material of his analysis. He updates his list of temporalities throughout the book. Here is my summary of the list;

Absolute time There is linear procession of moments.
Social time The system of time organisation reliant on timetables and plans.
Clock time The linear procession of moments as described by the reading of a clock.
Virtual time The subjective time felt by a person absorbed in listening to a piece of music.
Gestural time The significant gestures within a piece that determine the continuity.
Goal-directed time The musical events move toward foreseeable conclusions.
Nondirected time The musical events move toward unforeseeable conclusions.
Multiply-directed time The musical movements occur in multiple directions.
Vertical time There is no differentiation between past, present and future. There may be no separate events.

Kramer also defines linear and nonlinear time. Linear time refers to events that stem from earlier events in a piece. Nonlinear time refers to events that stem from a piece’s overall idea or theory. Kramer dedicates a chapter to Moment, Moment time and Moment form. He defines moments as,

…self-contained entities, capable of standing on their own yet in some nonlinear sense belonging to the context of the composition. (Kramer 1988 p.207)

Moment form allows priority for each item or article of time within a piece of music instead of giving prime concern to the time of the whole work. Kramer describes how Stockhausen and many other twentieth century composers sought to allow music to have a smooth overall texture by this means. He cites Stravinsky, Messiaen, Debussy and Bartók as generators of this mosaic form and compares moment form to some Japanese art. The composer Elliott Carter is mentioned as a critic of moment form simply for his personal desire to retain an underlying subtly linear structure within a piece of work. Kramer describes some of the paradoxes of moment time that are founded in its reliance on the audience’s memory. The main paradox is that moments can only be compared to one another by the audience once they have all been heard, which implies that the audience should perform the impossible and not experience linearity during a live performance.

The eleventh chapter on The Perception of Musical Time addresses the psychological question of how virtual time, as perceived by an audience, compares to clock time. Kramer indicates that this area of psychology is studied by some scientists but presents obstacles in that it is such a very subjective area to quantify. Memory is brought back into the fore as Kramer discusses the necessity to remember timepoints to be able to compare sections of a piece from memory and subsequently comprehend their duration. He describes the human mechanism of cumulative listening, which is the active storage of musical information while we are listening to a piece of music and after it has finished. Kramer refers to William James in his description of the specious present and describes notions of the duration of the present. He states that according to some psychologists the present can have a clock time duration of up to 10 seconds.

In the chapter on Time and Timelessness Kramer opens by stating that perceived timepoints are used to achieve chunking of durations within a piece. This information is then used in order to make decisions about the overall duration of the music. Vertical music often removes obvious timepoints and other auditory cues usually associated with chunking memory and determining duration. Kramer quotes psychologists that link certain conditions with the reduction of linear thinking. These conditions or activities include meditation, dreaming, hypnosis and some mental illnesses. It is Kramer’s implication too that vertical music possesses qualities that may distort a listener’s sense of duration. He posits Thomas Clifton’s argument against his own. Clifton is quoted describing the thoughts and consciousness of an audience member. The thoughts provide some form of linearity to the listening experience and therefore resist the claim of nonlinearity within the music. Kramer replies to this point with descriptions of his personal experiences of timelessness in music. The example he describes where he attended a performance of Erik Satie’s Pages mystiques (1893) in 1971 gives clear insight into Kramer’s transition from linear listening to vertical listening during the performance. As a section of the work was repeated for numerous hours Kramer found he quickly became frustrated and almost bored by the early repetitions, however this soon shifted into the pleasurable absence of expectation.

I had left behind my habits of teleological listening. I found myself fascinated with what I was hearing… I became incredibly sensitive to the smallest performance nuance, to an extent impossible when confronting the high information content of traditional music. (Kramer 1988 p.379)

Towards the end of the book, Kramer arrives at conclusions relating to his appreciation of vertical music. He reiterates a reference to Fraser’s temporal levels in Time as Conflict (Fraser 1978) and by hinting at world cultures he suggests that an awareness of the possibilities of temporal experimentation in art is good for you.

The nonlinear mode of thinking is present to some degree in everyone and in every culture. Our left-brain society has tried to suppress it. But, in reaction against the excessively linear values of our technological society, vertical music has become an important force in recent years. It is a holistic music that offers a timeless temporal continuum, in which the linear interrelationships between past, present and future are suspended. (Kramer 1988 p.387)

FRASER, J. T. (1978). Time as conflict: a scientific and humanistic study. Basel, Birkhäuser.
KRAMER, J. D. (1988). The Time of Music: new meanings, new temporalities, new listening strategies. New York, Schirmer.
RILEY, T. (1969). A Rainbow in Curved Air. New York, CBS Records.

Time as conflict: a scientific and humanistic study, by J. T. Fraser

The books introduction begins with an assertion that deductive reasoning is only useful in tandem with intuitive passions. This sensitive opening statement allows Fraser to tackle many aspects of the human experience of time. He addresses mathematical physics, behaviour and art. The conflict of time is immediately brought to the fore as Fraser pits the clockmaker against the cycle of nature illustrated by the annual opening of a pinecone.

Underneath our technical skills, as well as beneath our reflective modes of dealing with time we may suspect, therefore, the presence of the existential tension of man clockmaker and clockwatcher. (Fraser 1978 p.19)

Fraser establishes several levels of time that enable his handling of the topics in the book. He gives the label Temporalities to the levels of time and then goes on to define each one. He also states in what way each temporality is relevant to the purposes of his argument. For example, atemporality is encountered in physiological experiences and eotemporality is encountered in the organic functions of life. There is work in later chapters on measuring neurological timescales. Here is a basic breakdown and summary of Fraser’s Temporalities;

Atemporal There is no event, no before/during/after.
Prototemporal This is the first level, there is barely a difference between now and then. Prototemporal entities are countable but not orderable.
Eotemporal There is succession but not direction, “…Time may be said to flow, but past-present-future cannot be distinguished from future-present-past…” (Fraser 1978 p.23).
Biotemporal This is determined by living creatures. Maintaining autonomy of creatures, in the “creature present”. Futurity and pastness become polarised.
Nootemporal Nootemporal is of the mind. “…Beginnings and endings are well defined and form the bases of private cosmologies whose central theme is personal identity…” (Fraser 1978 p.24).
Sociotemporal Fraser states that his book hopes to point towards this temporality as it is the only one that has the potential to exist outside the individual and is related to the progress of human experience.

In chapter XI Freedom of the Beautiful, Fraser discusses temporality in the arts. The opening section entitled Timelessness, exemplifies sensations of timelessness through various states of ecstasy that are accompanied by Fraser’s temporalities. An example is the ecstasy of the dance, which is described as a

“…method of lessening the burden of individuation. The tension of selfhood lessens, the direction of time retreats from consciousness, and the Umwelt of the mind is again eotemporal…” (Fraser 1978 p.282).

Fraser lists the temporalities and relates each to works of art in a section called The Moods of Time. According to Fraser, Atemporality is demonstrated in the mood of a poem by Nishida Kitaro and prototemporality is hinted at in the second movement of Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite. Berg’s Suite has an unpredictable structure and the sounds are “…purposely incoherent…” (Fraser 1978 p.284). Fraser explains however that like Dada, Berg has not achieved prototemporality “…because a striving for meaninglessness remained meaningful…” (Fraser 1978 p.284). Eotemporality is most simply exemplified in art by cubist paintings. As Fraser puts it “…Cubist doctrine demands the combination on the canvas of various views which belong to the same structure, but are not perceivable at a single instant; cubism insists on an eotemporal mood.” (Fraser 1978 p.287). Fraser also cites Egyptian art for its ability to evoke a flow or progression of time within a single image. The biotemporal mood in art is described by the construction of temporal parameters. Fraser references Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and describes how the mood of the story evokes a sense of constructed time. He also quotes Marcel Proust in Remembrance of things past. Proust’s description implies that objects are fixed because our perception fixes them. In identifying the nootemporal mood in art Fraser gives examples from Hieronymous Bosch, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. He sets out with focus on the observations of Freudian psychoanalysis and goes on to explain that the nootemporal in art is often found in depictions of repressed feelings and the emergence of the sense that something is uncanny.

Fraser describes a difference between human and animal with particular reference to aesthetic ability. While butterflies are beautiful, their colouring is practical. Birds on the other hand do appear to utilise some sense of attractiveness. Fraser states that humans are different from animals in their experience of the moods of time, “…Animals could not share the biotemporal or eotemporal moods associated with sense experience, because these moods are the reactions of the mature mind to those respective Umwelts” (Fraser 1978 p.294). Fraser refers to animal behaviour again in the section on music’s related temporalities. He describes a Chimpanzee troop going on a carnival. They shout and beat tree trunks, Fraser describes the communication necessity of this action and others in the animal world. He mentions whale and bird song made for survival and for pleasure. He discusses rhythmic repetitions and states that they begin to hint at the marker of difference between emotive and intellectual utterance.

“Rhythmic repetitions determine par excellence an eotemporal world of pure succession; the unpredictable or only probabilistically predictable elements determine prototemporality. The spectrum of sound brings into play all the physiological and psychological faculties that we normally employ in time perception and in constructing our sense of time. In music we are called upon to use very short term and long term memories as well as expectations. Unlike the visual arts that modify, behold, and create an external reality that appears to be independent of the viewer, music and poetry enter directly into the audio loop that helps define the self. The tension and relaxation of musical metaphors and their multilevel play are paradigms of existential stress. For this reason, music can reflect emotive cosmologies, complementary to the cognitive cosmologies of science.” (Fraser 1978 p.297-298)

Fraser is talking about states of mind brought about by a feeling of timelessness. He lists musical sources in which moments of timelessness can be found; Zangetsu (Morning moon) by Kinto Minezaki, this piece evokes the timeless dawn. Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten has an introduction that has the same subject as above. Bolero by Maurice Ravel is repetitive and climactic. Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss uses musical representations of male and female orgasm. Fraser’s list includes examples of ecstasies in music that can be identified by his temporalities. His book concludes with a chapter of pages of questions that are in many ways informed by the books overarching enquiry into a temporality that characterises human experience.

FRASER, J. T. (1978). Time as conflict: a scientific and humanistic study. Basel, Birkhäuser.

Shamanism, by Mircea Eliade

Mircea Eliade’s book Shamanism carries the additional title; Archaic techniques of ecstasy. It gives an excellent global view of the mystical vocation of Shamanism. It describes in detail practices pertaining to Shamans from various parts of the world including; Australia, Siberia, and South America, Tibet, China and the Far East. The chapters are laid out according to Shamanic practices and comparisons are made between their geographical differences and similarities. The book has especially significant chapters offering details of; Initiation, Symbolism of costume and drum, Cosmology and powers, healing and sickness, myths symbols and rites.

ELIADE, M. (1989). Shamanism. London, Arkana

The way of the shaman, by Michael Harner

Michael Harner’s book opens with lengthy detailed accounts of his experiences with Jivaro American Indians during 1956 & ’57 and Conibo Indians in 1960 & ‘61. He is aware that an ethnocentric approach to anthropological study of the particular rituals he describes might have produced blinkered results. So the first chapter appropriately tackles his very strong learning experiences encouraged by consuming the sacred ayahuasca. He describes preparing for the supernatural journey for a day and consuming the drink at night under the strict guidance of a local Shaman. He describes many visions and related emotional responses that at first appear to be very personal. During the following chapters, Harner relates these experiences to his comprehension of the practices and philosophies of Shamanism. In Chapter three he describes two illustrative examples of the healing purpose of the journey made between realities by a shaman;

A shaman may be called upon to help someone who is dis-spirited, that is, who has lost his personal guardian spirit or even his soul. In such cases, the shaman undertakes a healing journey in nonordinary reality to recover the lost spirit or soul and return it to the patient. Or a shaman’s patient may be suffering from a localised pain or illness. In such a case, the shaman’s task is to extract the harmful power to help restore the patient to health. (Harner 1990 p.44)

In the following chapters Harner describes methods and rituals that can be undertaken by the inexperienced practitioner including making a journey to find a power animal or spirit guide. Rituals of healing are described and methods of drumming and dancing are illustrated in relation to inducing trance.

HARNER, M. J. (1990). The way of the shaman. San Francisco, Harper & Row.