Suspending Time: Meditations for accessing alternate space/time in music #02 w/ Lou Drago
9 June 2018
This is the second Speculation from the 19 part series, Suspending Time: Meditations for accessing alternate space/time in music by Lou Drago. All episodes were recorded live at Gropius Bau, Berlin and broadcast on Cashmere Radio.
“Time exists for us because we experience tensions and their resolutions.” Philosopher Susanne Langer, claims that the particular building-up of tensions, and “their ways of breaking or diminishing or merging into longer and greater tensions, make for a vast variety of temporal forms.” In most Western music, we generally listen within a linear framework, recalling what has already been heard and anticipating what will come next. Often without ever having heard a piece of music before it is possible to anticipate the next phrase because of how it was suggested earlier in the piece. Professor David Huron argues that there is an evolutionary benefit of accurate prediction that makes us “predisposed to be pleased when our expectations are fulfilled.” This instant gratification traps the listener into a linear temporality, however, when repetition occurs to the point that memory is no longer required, a different listening mode is possible.
Johnathan Kramer introduced the concept of vertical time in music after experiencing a performance of Erik Satie’s Vexations. Kramer encountered a feeling of having exhausted the information content of the work and experienced “getting bored, becoming imprisoned by a hopelessly repetitious piece.” The experience of time became slower and slower, threatening to stop. But through this boredom, Kramer discovered a different mode of listening. By being liberated from considering the music’s past and future, the present expanded; suddenly it was possible to enter the “vertical time of the piece.”
A vector can be drawn between this alternate mode of listening to music and numerous meditation and mindfulness practices that similarly emphasise the importance of focusing on the present. As Transience host Lou Drago sees it, meditation can be used to obviate thought in order to alleviate oneself temporarily from the weight of self-consciousness and other anxieties.
For the exhibition Welt ohne Außen at Gropius Bau, Isabel Lewis has invited Drago to speculate on various types of music which potentiate the experiencing of non-linear time. One-hour listening sessions will begin the day’s programme. The audience is invited to interact with the music with the objective of attempting to experience a suspension of time. This work hypothesises that these two factors, meditation and non-linear listening, are interdependent. The experience of vertical time can have a meditative effect, yet effectively one must be meditating – be alleviated from conscious thought – to be able to experience time non-linearly.
These pieces will simultaneously be broadcast on Cashmere Radio, enabling listeners to interact with the work inside and out of the museum.
As the nature of this work is speculative, it is encouraged and appreciated for the audience to give feedback on their experiences.
Terry Riley - Keyboard Study 1
Terry Riley - Keyboard Study 2
Tom Johnson - An hour for piano