Thursday, January 7, 2010
Perhaps this becomes more comprehensible when viewed as an extension and distillation of the Nietzsche of “Gay Science,” or perhaps not.
To say that Schaeffer’s ‘sound object’ is a special case of what Tenney calls a ‘temporal gestalt unit’ is to bring the temporal aspect of its objectivity to the foreground.
A more subtle theme in Gormley’s work is oscillation and patterning in material processes and how spatial reorganization re-contextualizes them (consider his reorganized trees). When Gormley turns to working with the figure there is already a complex interplay of time, space, place, and affect.
The commonplace expression that architecture is frozen music needs to be re-examined from this point of view. Do we mean by this that a building is like a piece of music made immobile so we can investigate the details of its symmetries outside of time, or do we mean that a building is like a musical moment suspended in time, music put on pause so to speak. Or is it the intersection of these two temporalities, one transversal to the other that is significant. Perhaps it is the counterpoint of these two temporal unfoldings as a possible phenomenological experience of architecture that brings the musical to mind.
To say for instance that the iconic image of mickey mouse can be appropriated freely because after all mickey mouse was inspired by the existence of real mice, quite frankly deserves the quick drubbing it will receive by the protectors of capital’s copyrights.
Friday, January 1, 2010
The embodiment of musicians is also a good subject to examine the relationship between consciousness and bodily action. The bodily movements of classical musicians are among the most subtle, most complex known to man, and by definition they are not under conscious control. Another term of resonance, perhaps, between the modulation of emotional affect and what it is that your body is doing. What does it mean as a performer to say that you must “feel the music,” it means you must experience in an emotional way what your body is doing on its own. It is this moment of mediation that technology looks to enter into.
Even if we were to conceive of time as simply another spatial dimension, but one in which we were constrained to move in only one direction, we would be left to wonder how we move without something like time. And what would be the force constraining our movement, the “wind blowing from Paradise,” the flow from the broken vessel of Gnosticism?
Joplin’s ragtime represents the first encounter of ostensibly African-American sensibilities with the pop commodity form.
The “pop song” has so far for the most part shared these qualities but functions as a force of deterritorialization for capital.Interestingly, as a deterritorializing force, it has the potential to deterritorialize itself. This can already almost be seen in some of today’s DJ music.
Baroque music is pre-developmental in the sense of what development came to mean post-Mozart. The music of DJ culture is post-developmental, as was minimalism proper in Western classical music. The traditional popular song is simply non-developmental. Developmental music unfolds in a dialectical relationship to its form, where in general pre and post developmental musics are fixed in length by something external to them, like a pre-existing fixed form, or the capacity of a 45 single, and have the capacity to otherwise go on forever. This is cyclic, mythic time.
That “musical philosophy” or the philosophy of music has come to mean the thinking about predominantly western classical music within the analytic tradition from the past few decades shows just how low the status of music as an object of thought has fallen in the west. Perhaps a steady decline since the time of Pythagoras. Can we even say that Pythagoras is the initiator of the decline?
Involved in recognizing the steady pitches of Greek music’s relationship to simple integer ratios was a forgetting of the infinite sonic complexity of our world.
The idea that any sound can be resolved through analysis into constituent sine waves should be thought of in terms of Manuel Delanda’s concept of “virtual structure.” There are no little sine wave generators to be found scattered throughout the actual metric world, but there is perhaps sinusoidal potential in the realm of the virtual topological, to be found at the heart of the sonic process.
In Delanda’s reading of Deleuze, virtual structures drive intensive processes whose end result is material forms. This is the process of actualization. “End result” is of course poor choice of language as this process of actualization is without end. Also it must be remembered that this process works both ways, or as a cycle. Virtual structure is in a constant state of becoming constrained by the actual state of matter and the space of possibilities these material structures allow. Think of this in terms of (re)sonance for a moment: energy is applied to a sounding object. The virtual structures that have something to do with the voice of the object change in response to the object becoming set into motion. In one sense resonance is the name for this change in state. An example might be: one characteristic of a superior violin is that less energy is required to accomplish this change of state, for the violin to “speak” and so one can play with greater subtlety of tone.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Re-sonance: sounding again (sonic philosophy)
M: What interests you about those topics? What does it mean to you?
P: I want to use resonance as sort of a central figure to organize a lot of different thoughts about music as it’s unfolded as an art form in Western Culture but also about broader issues of time and space. Resonance is a good figure for this because it is a place where time and space come together in a material process. Resonance always involves space. There’s a resonant space and what is happening is the sounding object is bouncing off the boundaries of the space, returning to the sounding object, creating a kind of feedback situation in resonance.
M: Why does that necessarily have to involve time?
P: Because it takes time for a sound to travel space and travel back, and because it’s reiterative. Something’s vibrating but then the sound coming back to it from the past, from it’s past, reinforces the sound that it’s generating in the future. This is also why I want to use this as a model for looking at subjectivity, because its this process where you act in the world and the world has a reaction to your actions, which then reinforces the meaning of who you are.
M: Interesting. Um….so what kind of you know, what are some points that your going to be touching on in terms of the history of Western music unfolding in our culture and what sorts of theories and ideas are you going to use to support that or use to relate to that?
P: Well, this is something I should really be using my outline to refer to, but part of that, part of the idea is that I would look at certain moments in Western music history to show how music, music being a subset of the sonic, or music being the art form which has had, in the west, the potential to investigate the sonic (I don’t think it always does, I mean not all music is all that sound oriented really). Not all music is that concerned with investigating issues of time and space. In the current regime of music-making, the redefinition of music that’s going on is towards a music that in fact obscures time and space.
M: Do you see that redefinition happening in the realm of popular culture?
P: Yes, it’s happening within the realm of popular culture but also the relationship between popular culture and whatever you want to call non-popular culture, and generally within music the complete takeover of the whole realm of music making by popular culture. This is what I mean by the redefinition of music that’s happening now is simply that music is being redefined to only mean what music means within popular culture.
A good middle-brow example of that is Wynton Marsalis: I have that book that’s a companion to a PBS special on what music is. That’s very similar to in the 50’s and 60’s the analagous situation was Leonard Bernstein. He wrote a series of books and had some TV programs that taught children (always what these things are aimed at, right?) what music was all about. So Wynton Marsalis is now the Leonard Bernstein of our day. He’s that mainstream middle-brow figure and his redefinition of music is that music is like a sky scraper. Every floor is exactly the same size, and you put one on top of the other. Different things can happen on each of the floors, but they’re all the same size: 32 bars. That’s what music is. Music is an assortment of 32 bar units. Period.
M: Whaaaat? Is that true in pop music?
P: That traditionally is the song form.
M: What about classical forms?
P: Well this is why I keep talking about the disappearance of everything but one form. I mean the song form is a classical form, but only one. But it’s being redefined to be the only form that music is, and if isn’t in that form it’s not music. Then there’s the question of why, which is very complicated because it’s enormously over-determined. Like on one level the ascendancy of popular song form has to do with our society getting more into repetitive structures. But also I think it has something to do with binary logic. In song form everything happens in units of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, in other words exactly like our computers do. I mean we’d be in a very different culture if the first logic we thought of was 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21.
M: What’s that the Fibonacci Series?
M: Why do you think it is that the song form has become dominant, instead of, for example, Indian Raga as a form?
P: Well, this is something that has unfolded in Western Culture, and Indian Raga is not a part of that culture. When I say it’s over-determined it’s because there’s no one answer to that question. Part of it had to do with the synergy between the popular song form really becoming the commodity for Tin Pan alley at exactly the same time that there was a mechanical delivery mechanism of early record players. They go together: the 3 minute or less song was the capacity of one side of a record, anyway. So what a record was, as a commodity, was 3 minutes of music. Now there were tons of opera sets that were ridiculous, the box sets would be this long [ ] because they’s have to chop everything up into 3 minute chunks. Arias would fade out and fade back in, side after side after side.
M: What was the medium called?
P: Well they were 78rpm 12 inch discs. That was the first really successful medium, but even before that, going right back to wax cylinders, you always had at the most a couple minutes, and the popular song form was a couple minutes. And the popular song form as a commodity did predate the record player. The first commodity was the sheet music, and tin pan alley pianists would go around to public venues playing new songs and encourage people to buy them so that they could play them in their homes.
M: What does tin pan alley mean?
P: Tin pan alley was just what they called the area of Manhatten where the music business was. And in those days it literllay was an office building with lots of rooms with upright pianos in them with composers and lyricists going to the office every day, sitting down and trying to think up songs. Then they would try to sell the songs to a well known performer to try to popularize it, then they would try to sell the sheet music.
M: Why was it called tin pan?
P: Maybe because it was the part of Manhatten where they used to make tin pans?
M: I thought it was because they would put little tin pans outside their doors to beg for money.
RESONANCE take 2
M: How and why do you think that music now is not concerned with time and space? Isn’t music inherently concerned with time and space, or at least time?
P: Well, that’s the point of being constrained by one form. The song form, if you want to say it’s concerned with time, sure in that it unfolds in time. But if you got your definition of what time was about from the song form, you would get that time is a series of identical units strung together in a repetitive fashion, period. Which is in fact most people’s conception of time. Time is a linearity. Time is something that exists outside of us, outside of material processes as this kind of line. Now, the problem is that this is not really part of the universe. This is a big mis-conception. And that may in fact be the purpose of the song form: to prevent us from having any other experience of time; Any more liberatory experience of time. Any feeling that time is not something that exists before material processes but is an abstraction that our mind makes out of the material process that happen around us that unfold within their own times.
M: Wait, what? Can you elucidate on that last thing?
P: We have an imaginary belief that time is this thing that happens outside of matter and material processes, instead of understanding that that time line is an abstraction that our minds build from the observation of material processes that happen in their own times. It’s not that things happen in time, but that time is things happening. And that’s one of the things we’ve forgotten. This is very much like the Heideggerian forgetting of being: it’s the same way, you know? This is the forgetting of time.
M: What philosophers have written about that, specifically, that you know of?
P: Well, Heidegger. The book that made him famous was called Sein un Zeit, Being and Time. I haven’t read it, and obviously I have to for this. Even though I haven’t read it, I know that it’s going to be a little bit of a digression because Heidegger’s later work is to some degree a rejection of his earlier, but it’s still important. Then in Deleuze there’s a model of time that is more like, sort of nested loops. That’s one way to look at it, or rather that time is an unfolding. Time is something that happens when a material process unfolds. Material processes are nested. But to speak of time in an abstract as kind of like a medium, imagining time to be kind of a space in which things happen is a misconception. This might actually be part of what modernity is about is this losing track of time in terms of confusing it with space. This is why I want to talk about sound art, because in sound art they’re dealing with sound in a significant way which is no longer happening musically, you know, but they’ve given up on time, and it’s all about space.
We’re imagining time as a kind of space, and there may be some interest in doing that. I mean I’ve said before that there may be a model in which time is simply the last spatial dimension that we understand but it feels separate for us because we’re constrained to move in one direction. So in that way, there may be something to be said about time as space, but that’s not the way we’re misconceiving it: we’re misconceiving it as a space where temporal things happen. And another idea about a different possibility for time, as relates to resonance. One of the interesting side angles I could go on is I have a CD that’s called “The Resonance at the Core of a Bubble.” What this is about is that bubbles are perfectly spherical, and almost infinitely reflective inside. So in certain mediums, if bubbles are excited by sound at the right frequencies, they, because of the resonance that builds up of this perfectly spherical surface with infinite reflectivity the vibration, that they basically develop temperatures as hot as the sun, and give off light. And it’s a way to actually turn sound into light by using bubbles. And that’s a cool thing, I mean you got sound, light, and bubbles, you know, how more fun and trippy can that be?
For me this is also another model, a very trippy model, for time, causality, and possibilities. Imagine this mythical present as the exact middle of a sphere. Instead of there being one line, and the present being a dot on it, imagine all the lines that go through that dot that make a sphere. What the dot is, is the exact material situation. And what the lines are are all of the possible pasts that could have created that exact physical situation, and all of the possible future trajectories that could come from all of those possible pasts. So now you have almost an infinity of possibility in this enormous resonance that is the present. And it’s so much richer a model than the linear causality model, and basically returns you to a magical universe without giving up materiality and material causality in any way.
M: Is it somehow related to Nietsche’s archways theory?
P: I would think it is related to this. But I mean this is my own model. I haven’t found where anyone talks about this, but you could relate a lot to it. In a way you can see the sort of Deleuzian unfolding in this model. But also just this idea of being able to recapture magic. In the occult sense of the will, too, because what you could really will is just your orientation on that pivot. I mean, you’re totally constrained by what’s happened, you know?
M: But you can pivot to recognize different causalities. Like if you’re in any given situation, you can change your pivot point to witness different pasts, different versions of the past, different truths that have occurred to you to that moment. And then you can change your pivot to be going in different directions for your future
P: Yeah, the question is whether you can change your pivot and how that would work.
M: Well you just said that would be the will…
P: But the traditional model is that you’re constrained in this sense. And I think the occult model is that that what a magical working is for, is for changing that pivot. And maybe that’s also where the Nietschean will is. But then it’s a little more complicate w/ Nietsche because for him, and this is where it gets complicated for me, too: the will has to be accompanied with Amor Fati, which is the love of your fate. The only way to deal with these pivot points is total acceptance and affirmation of what happens. Because you can orient your future but you still can’t see what happens.
P: Continuing on with that thought, in that model what would be the bubble? If the present is a moment within the bubble, what it really is is infinite nested spheres. The physicist David Baume called it a world tube. So it’s circular, you see the circularity of it. But I think he was constrained to the idea of one axis of time that makes it a tube, whereas if you see it as infinite axes of time then you have a sphere. But the resonance is always about the reflection of things back. In the temporal model there is a certain temporal distance both behind you in time and front of you in time that most immediately affects your cognition, your choices, your causality. And to a certain degree, the traditional model is that time only works in one way, there is no possibility of precognition, etc. But I don’t see it that way: I think that part of what’s going on is the stuff that hasn’t happened yet moving back to affect us. We pay no attention to backwards causality of stuff that “hasn’t happened yet,” whereas I think that’s very significant. Our constrainedness is partially, it’s not that time only works in one way that way, it’s just that we’re not built to make sense of the information, at least not on a conscious level.
M: You talked a lot about time, but you really haven’t talked that much about space. Is that because space is easier to understand or that the way that you envision space is already in the mainstream?
P: Well this also brings up the question of, if time is actually a supplemental dimension, right, then, on some level, whatever you can uncover about the way that time functions is also something about the way space functions, and space, as we understand it is also an illusion in that sense. Because what we’ve done is separated out the temporal aspects from dimensionality and we’re talking about it in one possible realm, but space has to have those same temporal aspects. For Einstein, for instance, he was like, okay, we live in a four dimensional universe. Time being the fourth dimension. And that time as we think of it simply is an illusion. There is nothing really that happens…it’s a block universe, it’s fixed. This is something that was important to his own personal philosophy. I remember hearing that someone that was close to him died, and he wrote a letter to the daughter of the person that died or something like that and he wrote that as a physicist I know that time is really an illusion and nothing has really happened here. Dying, being dead, being born, not having yet to be born is all the same. The neuminal reality of us as organisms could be something…if you imagined the series of trails of your whole life: Tristan getting bigger and bigger, every little motion you make in this huge long kind of changing-person-shaped centipede. Now imagine that in one moment: that might be what we are. You know what I mean?
M: Yes, I do.
P: Okay. I mean, a lot of people are not going to be able to get that, and it’s hard to know how to explain it.
M: In the Lepecki book that I read he talks about this “packets” theory and how everywhere all over the world that you go, every place you shit or breathe, you leave traces of yourself and it is all you.
P: Well an extreme extension of that, to talk more in terms of physics. Is the idea that, let’s say there’s an atom and the atom has an electron, and you can only say with probability where they are at any given moment. But where they are makes up the structure. And some physicists have gone as far to say that there’s only one electron, in the world, in the universe, and it’s involved in the structure of every atom. Which is kind of far out, but it’s one way to model it that’s as interesting as any model. But the point of this is that every cell of your body is made up of all these atoms and all the atoms have electrons and the electrons at any given “moment in time” have a non-zero chance of being anywhere in the universe. So what we are as structures is already as wide as the universe. And I think that this also happens in time. Every part of us, every irreducibly small part of us, and of course there is no irreducibly small part of us, I also think that’s infinite, has a non-zero chance of being anywhere in time, so what we are as a structure and what everything material is as a structure, encompasses all of time and space. And that’s your block universe. Whether you want to see that as meaning there’s no time or not. You see what I mean?
M: I guess so, but to me that’s not block, that’s not everything being fixed. It’s everything being constantly in motion.
P: Yeah, but in a way it becomes the same thing. But yes, everything in motion, and this is where it all goes back to the pre-Socratics. Which is also, this was Nietshce’s move, and this was Heideggar’s move. (pausing for Tristan).
M: After you talk about Heideggar and Nietsche then we should get back to talking about resonance and music and sound and how this all relates.
P: Okay. What I was saying was, first Nietshce, who was interested in the pre-Socratics, and then Heideggar, who made it stronger and basically said that where western culture took a bad turn was 2500 years ago with Socrates. But for Heraclites everything is flux, and that’s important. And that’s the model that we’re trying to recover here, is this sort of primordial chaos, in a way. But what that is, that sort of structuring over all of time and space, on every level, is what I call, after Sheldrick, isomorphic resonance. So this is morphic, or formal resonance. So what we are as form is also a kind of resonance. In this sense it’s a spatio-temporal resonance. There is no spatial form without an inherent temporality. We always imagine that things exist: we can take a picture of something and there it is, that’s its form. But in reality form is changing all the time, it’s in flux so to speak to form with significance you can’t imagine that…pause
(picking up on morphology and form).
P: Why you have to go pre-Socratic: if you think about the Platonic idea: for Plato there was ideal forms, and everything else was a sub-set of ideal form. So the reason that all horses are horse-like, even though they are all different as individuals, is because there is an imaginary“ideal horse form” somewhere. And for him there was, in a way, a kind of device, and this is the chora, which is sort of what I was representing in the Vortex video, and I think that there is a device like this, we have this sense. But for Plato, I think he misinterpreted this as the place where the ideal forms are translated into their multiple possibilities. There is something like this, it has something to do with the moment between the virtual and the actual, the unfolding of possibility. We feel this as a numinous presence in our lives. But where Plato went wrong was with the idea of the place of ideal forms. There are no forms outside of the actualization and there is nothing that is not in flux. The ideal forms are outside of flux. So if you look at it in terms of time, then form always unfolds temporally. So then we have to accept that kind of constant creativity in the moment. We make the same misconception all the time, and Deleuze points this out, in science. Our science is still so skewed toward the Platonic, we don’t even realize it. We’re like, “oh, genetics, there’s code!” A code, you know, that is followed. Now this is reinscribing the chora in every cell of our body. It does not happen this way.
M: There isn’t an abstract code to crack, there’s just what appears in every individual?
P: There’s a code, but it isn’t instructions. I mean, it’s instructions for a material process, but it’s not blueprint for what happens. What happens is always nested material processes that are unfolding in the moment. So if there’s no form in the abstract, there’s only form in time. So that’s why, again there’s this resonance model, this isomorphic resonance. Resonance, you know? And for Sheldrick this was explicity separate from the temporal dimension. He believed, for instance, that when a new crystalline form, that had never existed on the planet, like a crystalline from of certain chemical combination, was synthesized in a lab, then it would start to appear spontaneously in other labs. So that’s a big spatial complication. He thought that in terms of behavior, if animals were taught a maze for a certain number of generations so that more and more individuals actually acquired that skill that future generations would be able to acquire the skill easier. So it’s the idea that everyone can learn to ride a bike easy now because so many people have ridden bikes. Now the causal model is really complicated there because you could say well, what is that mechanism?
-pause for Tristan-
P: Now, let’s talk about it structurally first instead of in terms of behavior because the behavior aspect confuses it because if we think of ourselves we think of consciousness, we think of will, all these things instead of just thinking of it mechanically. So let’s think of the crystals. The idea is that the new crystals are in some kind of vibratory relationship that spans space and time. Or, on a certain level, the wings of every insect have a resonant relationship with every kind of wing that’s ever been on a winged insect. And again it’s like, to get outside of time and space. In your block universe conception, something structural connects all those things. I mean it’s a little trippy and a little mystical. Ultimately this would be something that pervades all structures everywhere in the universe. For David Baume the physicist, he had the idea of the implicate and the explicate order. The explicate order is what we perceive around us, but this is only one unfolding of infinite unfoldings of the implicate order in which everything is connected in that every smallest part of the universe in some way contains the whole of the universe. In my model the reason that is is because every smallest part of the universe already pervades all of time and space in some structured way. You see what I mean?
M: Can we get back to sound and music now? Trying to relate this back?
P: Yes we can but you can also see how I’m using, how sound and music, for me, are partially a figure to look at these broader things. But this is very difficult because, and this is probably what happened in Greek culture, ya know? Thinkin these things, you got Heraclites flux, you got Plato talking about ideas, forms, there must be something there, there’s the chora, this all related thing, the vibrational nature of it. So Pythagorus comes along and relates this all to sound. He talks about the music of the spheres, he talks about the universe as kind of a harmony of vibration. There’s like an insight…and in non-western cultures you have the idea of the universe as a sound, the universal sound. So there’s an insight there that there’s a vibrational connective thing going on, where everything is a totality and everything meshes together perfectly. Which then gives people this idea of harmony. This becomes complicated because on the one hand we look around the world and see that it’s not all perfect, it sucks, look at all of this pain and suffering but then on the other hand you say no everything is exactly how it has to be.
M: Which is like the Ayn Rand thing.
P: on a very simplistic level, yes. I mean she’s so far removed from this level of thinking of things. I will make an Ayn Rand digression because she’s a perfect example of what needs to be superceded to be able to start thinking this way. Her ontology is things are exactly how they seem. She seriously promotes this thing called naieve realism. Like, how we perceive things: time is a linearity, objects are there if you can see them and not there if you can’t see them, that’s it. So all of this stuff that I’m talking about, this kind of other kinds of structuring, to her it’s just gobbledygook, meaningless bullshit crap.
M: What do you mean if you can’s see it it’s not there, like if I put this thing in the back seat and I can’t see it then it’s not there?
P: no, I mean structures that are unobservable are either imaginary or irrelevant because they’re unobservable. In other words, whatever science says is all you need, period. And not even that but only a subset of what science says, whatever science says that seems to jive with your common sense, which basically means science from a hundred years ago.
P: This is trying to connect the musical models with these temporo-spatial models. In answer to your question: Music in a number of cultures, when a classical tradition develops—and I have to make that distinction between music in a vernacular sense, which every culture has, which is mostly about reinforcing simple, repetitive cycles that join a community: so, everyone gets together, they sing in a loop, they stamp their feet, they dance around, they celebrate the normal cycles of life. The cycles that are really the only ones you need. The getting up, the working, going to sleep, birth, reproduction, death, which is all very profound. So music plays that role of kind of helping to temporalize life, and obviously that relates very nicely to ritual and markings of cycles and all of this. Now, when a classical tradition develops, it’s partially a desire, I think, to delve deeper into the relationship of these kind of ways of experiencing time through music to try to make sense of this insight into a broader universal harmony, everything fitting together, etc. For instance, in Indian culture, they’ve done this with the idea of nested rhythmic structures of different lengths that then come around, with rhythmic complexity. In Western culture, through the development of music notation and the possibility of polyphony, created a model where pitches were put together in this harmonic sense. So what are you really talking about: a pitch is a different frequency, it’s already cyclical. It’s still all wheels within wheels, but you’re then able to explore more complicated ways of putting things together. And you can do things in the abstract, because you’ve symbolized music into an abstract form. You can work with it in the abstract to do something other than just be constrained by pre-existing cycles. Case in point: polyphony starts in the church. The church has one music, it’s the chant. It’s a single line, and it’s the word of God, it’s the music of the church. The Notre Dame school of composers, Leonin and Perotin, take the chant and make iterations of it and change the temporal orientation. So they take the chant, stretch it in time, add the chant again at a different stretch in time. And in that way, this is the birth of polyphony, buts it’s also this enormously interesting insight into exploring time in a different way.
M: (Getting sleepy). You’re kind of loosing me on the polyphony thing, but I have a question that goes back to vernacular music. How do you define vernacular music for contemporary culture? Your definition of vernacular music was about getting together and stomping feet and using simple patterns to mark everyday celebratory events in life, and relating it easily to ritual, but those things don’t happen in our culture today.
P: Exactly. And this is actually the most disturbing thing about what’s happened with popular culture in music. It’s not so much that popular culture has displaced the elite art music, which it has, and that’s disappointing to elitist artists, but more significantly it’s displaced the place of vernacular music entirely. This is an example of how capitalism and the commodity form has colonized what would have been the space of sociality and the experience of temporality in a social sense through group creativity and ritual marking of life experience. Instead, the marking of time is by when the sitcoms come on, when the songs come on the radio, it’s like it’s taken over the space of structuring our time. Like that story that I want to put in my dissertation somewhere that when MTV first started, their first big hit was Michael Jackson’s thriller, which was a 16 minute video that, at the height of it’s play was being shown 3 times an hour. So it was essentially Michael Jackson’s Thriller all the time. And now what does that mean, what is that about? Okay, I also want to say something else now. I bought a used book for $5 from Germ books that was about the Beats. It had a picture in it. This is off the topic in a way but it also has to do with magic, causality, and isomorphic resonance. You know how in the film of Burroughs called “Towers Open Fire” the end shot is him as sort of an alien type character coming down and it’s in mirror image. So when the trade towers came down, in that complex there is a repertory film theater that plays art shit. The movie playing that day was Towers Open Fire. In this book I just bought, there is a picture and the caption says “William S. Burroughs taking aim at the New York skyline,” and it’s a picture of him aiming a rifle. He’s not aiming at the New York skyline, he’s aiming at the trade towers. That’s just very profound to me. And then his whole thing, his whole Hassani Sabbat model. Osama Bin Laden is playing exactly the role of Hassan I Sabbat in the Burroughs character, the sort of mythic assassin that has fanatical suicidal followers. It’s really an interesting thing that’s unfolding. There’s at least an interesting fictional case that someone should make for this idea that that this is a sort of Burrough’s magical working. But anyway this is sort of off the point but I find it really interesting and it relates to all these models.
M: So, what were you talking about before that?
P: Well there’s a few things. First there’s this commodity form modulation of our understanding of time (our time being totally parceled out by commodities and their intersections) obscures from us these more holistic and complicated ways of understanding time. And so one of the things that does is it prevents us, for instance, of having any sense of these magical possibilities, right? So it’s directly restraining our possibilities in life. What it really is, is kind of trance-formation, which is what makes the Thriller thing so significant, because in that moment it’s a nice thing to use to point that out because of the way it was being repeated like that, but also the fact that it’s zombies.
M: So you’re saying that the pop song is a commodity, and that the fact that it’s a commodity is what’s disallowing us from being able to use music, or experience music as something that is revealing of multiple ways of interpreting time, or alternate ways of seeing time other this closed, linear prospective.
P: Yeah, when I stop and resume I will talk about the nature of music as a commodity.
Resonance 6 (music as a commodity)
P: It’s not that “oh, the problem is that music’s been commodified” and because of that that’s what makes it bad. Now, there is something about the commodity that is somehow, in the way commodities resonate with each other. And this is another thing, the spectacle in the situationist sense, what it is is not just an accumulation of images. The images are just a representation of what the spectacle is. The spectacle is the imaginary space where all commodities resonate with one another. So then the commodities, the resonance of the commodities with one another, it’s like an imaginary version of the universe and how all of these structures resonate with each other, and it supercedes our understanding of that. And another take on that, for instance, is Walter Benjamin this thing I like. He says it’s not the red neon sign, it’s the reflection in the wet asphalt. Which is really beautiful because it’s true. It’s like it’s not the commodities themselves that do what they do to us, you know? That constrain us as human beings, that make capitalism problematic for the human whatever. It’s the ambience, and it’s the ambience that’s powerful.
M: Yes, that’s so great. Because you can feel that, you viscerally understand what that means, even if you can’t articulate it.
P: Right. So then what makes the pop song problematic is not that it’s a commodity. It is problematic in itself in that it has displaced everything other than itself. But as a commodity it’s interesting to look at because in a way it’s the model commodity for what’s happening now, because it’s already become completely dematerialized. It circulates as pure data and can be stockpiled infinitely, even though you’re not going to be able to listen to it all. That’s what’s happening with the pop song now as a commodity, right? Now this is what’s going to happen to all commodities. All commodities will be in some way, you know like, you’ll buy options for things, and you’ll buy many more options. Because since we always have to consume more, and we can’t physically consume the things, we’ll have you know, like, virtual rights to thousands more barbecue meals than we’ll ever have. So in that way, the virtualization and the stockpiling of the song as a commodity is a pre-cursor to what’s going to happen to all commodities. Now this is the logical continuation of the ideas of Jacques Attali, who wrote the book “The Political Economy of Music,” and he thought that the state of music at any given time in the west is a precursor to what’s going to happen in the economy of the west. And he makes some interesting takes on that. And I agree with that, and what to continue his schema because I think it’s so much more true now than when he was writing in the 70’s. He was talking about how people bought record albums and bought a lot of them. Then there’s also what happens just in terms of globalization and multi-cultural realities, because another thing obviously that this commodity form is replacing is all other musical cultures, without question. And this is not something that people should be arguing with any more, because people who look into this responsibly, like ethno-musicologists, agree that this is just happening. Because musical cultures are so much more fragile than linguistic cultures, and linguistic cultures can disappear through globalization pressures really quickly, musical cultures disappear much greater.
Because generally, musical information is imparted in an embodied sense, from one body to another. You know that’s the only way it works. Which is a whole nother angle you could go into. And when you interrupt those chains of body to body transmission, you lose that particular culture, period, and it never comes back. And this is one of the things that, ironically, people complain about with Western classical music, but it’s a part of every classical music thing, is the process of embodiment. The fact that in order to become a classical musician you have to go through this incredible period of discipline, spending 8 hours a day doing physical things to your body. It’s like Gloria saying “I haven’t practiced in a few days, I have spend a couple hours practicing or I’m really gonna be in trouble.” You, know, like even in a couple of days, without putting in the hours and you’re losing the physical culture from your body. It’s very profound.
M: Two questions, one is how does the new phenomenon of electronic music relate to that, and two (larger) do you have a vision for what needs to happen, for a new music, to put it simplistically?
P: Both good questions. One has to do with the fate of classical music as it’s understood in the west, and probably the fate of classical traditions period, across cultures, as we move into what will eventually be a post-human future, anyway, which is that things that rely on embodied transmission are going to have a hard time surviving, because, that’s not the direction we’re going. That should not be problematic to understand. This is what makes the total separation of the classical music world from the electronic an example of symptomal torsion. Like I remember a conversation with Gloria sometime, and she said “Well, why isn’t it that at the beginning of every Network for New Music concert, you could play a five minute electronic piece. That just needs to be played, no expense, the composers would be happy for it. Why don’t you suggest that to them?” I know that they would never do it, and they can’t even admit to themselves why they would never do it, and that’s what makes it like a symptomal torsion. But that’s because they realize that the electronic is a threat to the embodied practice of classical music and is incompatible with that nature of it. So as long as they define what they’re doing in terms of that traditional embodied practice, they wanna stay as far away from that threat as possible. So in terms of what I think needs to happen going into the future, it’s like to accept what’s happening as a fait accompli on a certain level, is not to not be saddened by it’s passing or anything else, but the point is you what to find something else about the tradition and maintain it. Now this was Derrida’s whole thing. People thought that he was like, he’s been misinterpreted in the US as being this guy who wants to get rid of all the dead white males. This was not his orientation at all. He sees the disappearance of what’s significant in western culture and wants to find those elements that are really what’s important so that they can be maintained. And those elements are not necessarily the things that we think they are. So I’m trying to do the same thing. People have misinterpreted what’s important in western classical music tradition. They’re like, oh what’s important is that people keep playing violins. No, that’s not what it’s about: violins didn’t exist at the beginning of it, for the first 800 years of it, you know? That’s not the point. Like, why have none of the instruments changed in the past 100 years? Because that is what’s killing…that’s like accepting death. Instead of saying let’s uncover what is significant and maintain that. What I think is significant in Western musical culture is that moment of abstracting time so it can be manipulated that was inherent in the first polyphony.
When I spoke to Arthur last, he brought up a quote of John Cage that I had forgotten about, which is that our ears are in perfect working order. So what needs to happen is that people need to open up their damn ears. That people are awakened to…so his move was to say: It doesn’t matter what you listen to, we don’t need any special kind of music: listen to the traffic, listen to the trees. What the west needs to do is get their ears back. And if we do that, then we’ll figure out what we need to do to have a musical culture again. So now, this is one of the biggest things that pop music as a commodity also does, is constantly fill our ears. We’re always listening to these structured pseudo-aesthetics, you know, that pattern time in a way that shuts down any possible experience. And of course it’s a model for what’s gonna happen with all of the other modalities. We’re always filling our ears, we’re gonna increasingly be filling our eyes. Our screens are going to first come into our glasses, and then come into our retina, we’re always going to be looking at the world through a screen that’s gonna be an overlay of information structuring our experience, etc. etc. And that’s what we’re already doing sonically through the commercial sound that we hear.
Megan: Listening to Tristan making his noises…if you open up your ears you can hear all of this different stuff in his sound. You can think about all the different pitches that he’s doing, or you can think about the way that his voice sounds in his body and resonates in his body and whether he’s more in his throat or more in his chest or whether he’s using his whole body cavity to form the sound. It’s just interesting to listen to his little voice developing in his body. It also reminds me of that thing we were talking about a few weeks ago about how one’s voice, in singing, how you have a physical structure that allows a certain range, and then you commonly use, in your speaking voice, the top of that physical possibility or the middle or the bottom and we were talking about how that happens, and different people that we know and what part they use. Are those kinds of human thoughts related to what your talking about?
Peter: In a number of different ways: one way is that one of the chapters of A Thousand Plateaus by Delueze that talks most about music and sound starts with the figure of a child singing to himself in the dark. This is another example of what the commodity form does: why do we have to listen to music all the time? Why must every space be filled with music? Because the silence gets filled with fear. And in our culture that’s being increasingly fear driven, every silence is going to be filled with all that fear that’s being pumped into us all the time, and the music at least keeps the fear away, until we hear the voice that interrupts the music that instills more fear in us. And it’s not just the fear of whatever it is: terrorism, destruction of the environment. It’s the fear that’s instilled in us in every single incitement to buy a commodity. Cause the message is always the same. You are missing something. You lack something. You need something. You are not whole. So this is also where the song, like the song says the opposite thing. The pop song always says “You’re ok.” The verse always says “I feel like this, I’m like this.” And the chorus says “I hear ya, I’m right with ya, you’re ok.” That’s basically the move of every pop song.
Megan: That’s important, I feel like, that talking about the role of pop songs in the formation of subjectivity.
Peter: So on one level, there’s that the lyrics do that, so it happens on that linguistic level. But then also the back and forth repeating nature of it, the fact that every pop song does the same thing: here’s a, here’s b, now repeat. So it’s the simple idea of the concept of temporal loops. And now, every pop song now, the traditional song form is undergoing a change. All that needs to happen now is that one loop starts. That’s the new model for the pop song. Every hip hop song is that way. One loop starts and never ends, it’s not even verse chorus anymore.
But how this relates to subject formation, not just that these things always tell you how to be, what to feel, etc, but the idea that who you are as a person is constructed by the temporal loops of your activity. Who am I? I get up in the morning, I go to work, I drive my car home every day and pull into my driveway the exact same way. That’s who I am.
Megan: Just like Traces Pathways.
Peter: About subject formation, so firstly you have the lyrics telling you exactly how to be in every situation. But then you have the reiterative loop nature of it which basically says, do what you’re doing, keep doing what your doing. Then there’s the idea that the self itself is a reiterative process in that it’s created in every moment by the boundary between your will and the resistance of the world around you, so it’s another kind of bubble situation. And this is interesting too, you know a bubble is always exactly as big as the material it is made up of will allow it to be. One more micro-whatever and it pops. Which is also why this bubble has the kind of properties it does in terms of resonance inside it. So this would be a model also for an expanded self, rather than a shut down self. If the self is the most it can be, it’s more resonant. Resonant with possibility. The selves that we want are bigger bubbles. The ideal bubble would be a bubble that encompassed your entire material isomorphism, which would be the whole damn universe and all of time. Do I lose you there?
Megan: How did you get to that idea of the bubble, though, b/c it seemed to me that you were using the example of the bubble as something bad about popular culture.
Peter: Well, it’s the question of, if you consider your self as a kind of sphere of possibilities, then what the commodity culture around you, if you allow yourself to be enslaved by it does is shut down your possibilities. Not just your physical possibilities of what you can do, it’s what the move from a disciplinary society to a control society does. We don’t have to punish people for driving in the wrong place, they can only drive where the roads take them. Everything in our culture is functioning more and more like that. Now all of this is related to Foucault, with an angle off to Burroughs and looking ahead to Judith Butler. Because Foucault took Burroughs’ idea on a society of control as, it was very important at the end of Foucault’s life for understanding how the model that he had mostly theorized, which was about disciplinary societies, which were about molding the body to be a certain way, are being replaced by societies of control which is where you have cybernetic remote control over people’s possibilities. This also relates nicely to the disappearance of classical music as an embodied tradition into the electronic and in terms of possibilities this is **pause**
Megan: so you’re saying that Foucault has this model of disciplining the body, and that’s how you are socialized basically?
Peter: I’ll resume this another file!
Pick up a little bit about societies of control and discipline…Foucault and Burroughs. Two things I want to say about that. One is this control idea comes from Burroughs and then to Foucault and is picked up via Foucault but with the understanding that it’s from Burroughs by Delueze, for whom it’s then significant (That’s going to be important for me to point out that lineage) but then also that Judith Butler tries to locate in her theories of subjection the psycho-analytical models for Foucault’s subject formation in a disciplinary sense. But maybe part of what the problem is there is that she’s not looking past the discipline concept towards the control in the cybernetic. She’s not a Deleuzian, she probably doesn’t think much of Burroughs either. But I think that she’s looking for some kind of idea of reiterative….screw all that it’s not worth it. But I wanted to talk abou another thing with classical music and how it’s a disciplinary model and how you have to train your body over all this time. Then you have the big model of the orchestra where everyone saws away together under the control of the director guy and it’s that model of society. Compare that model, for instance, to the Princeton laptop orchestra, where it’s each person sitting in front of their own laptop and they’re all working software through some kind of interface. The interface maybe captures some kind of gestural control but it’s not, they haven’t developed skills with their body to control an instrument, they’ve created instruments to use skills they already have. But then furthermore there’s no central person directing it and in fact each person’s gestures don’t have a one-to-one relationship to sound generation, but might be controlling various parameters of other people’s instruments. So that is an example of, that obviously is more in resonance with the kinds of things that are happening elsewhere in our society like in our work flows. The way work gets done: it’s no longer that you have the factory and the factory director. It’s that you have all these people intersecting with machines in ways where one person’s work can modulate the work of another person: a document flows through a group of people and changes are made. People have different control elements to different processes. This is another reason why the classical model is doomed to failure unless the classical music world says “you know what, the Princeton laptop orchestra is actually doing something that’s more significant and more in tune with the trajectory of Western classical music than an orchestra that hasn’t changed in 100 years playing music that was written 100 years ago. For their own survival they have to make that change: well, not really they can continue to exist as a museum but then it’s something different, it’s a museum.
Yeah, there’s collaboration involved in this model, and that’s why it’s seen as more liberatory. People get together in work groups where roles on different projects are in flux and it feels like there’s a lot more freedom. You work at the café, you have an idea, you call up the person that’s working at another café. You fax over the data to the other guy who’s at the beach, and it all feels nice and loosey goosey. But you’re working harder than ever before, and also when there was the people in the factory and the central director, there was a certain clarity. You organize the workers into a revolutionary force and you overthrow the forces of capital. Now, nobody can locate the forces of capital. Everyone feels, on one hand very free, but on another hand, not free at all b/c no one can identify who’s really pulling the strings in our culture. Everyone talks about everything that happens in our economy as if it were, like, the weather, anymore. Nobody can locate anything. Burroughs already theorized this long ago and said you can look all you want but ultimately there is nothing there. We’re creating a situation where we are not in control and no sentient force is actually in control.
You know, this fits in very nicely with Heidegger and his conceptions of technology. Because Heidegger makes the critique, he thinks we misunderstand technology and that we think we are making tools to make our lives easier. Which he would say is not at all what we’re doing. We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re making something that is taking us over, that is appropriating us. And there is something very meaningful about it, but we don’t know yet what that meaning is. We are not in a position to know what that meaning is. But we can’t stop the process, it’s already too late. We can’t go back, we’re not in control of it. But, we can try to be conscious of it. It’s about recentering. It’s like finding the resonance at the core of your bubble.
Megan: In the same way that you can willfully change your trajectory, and affirm, and be that Latin thing that you said about fate or whatever, but you can’t know what is going to happen.
Peter: exacta-wactly. Amor Fati.
The idea that was really significant as to what music was at the birth of the Baroque. And the early operas, so many of the early operas were around the idea of Orpheo, Orpheus. And, like, Monteverdi’s Orpheus opens with the figure of music saying “I am music, this is what music is.” And what they say music is, ultimately, is music is the mechanism by which you induce the gods to change your fate. I mean, that is really profound. As relates to all of this, if you think of this sounding as a model for the kind of subjectivity that allows you to choose your fate. I mean that’s really great. Then this also relates, well, you bring up the gods, to Nietsche’s idea of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. What’s happened in our culture is that we’ve lost the balance between the Apollonian and the Dionysian, if you follow his model. And we’ve also misunderstood which is which. We think that the Dionysian is rhythm, you know like you lose it man, you shake your booty. No, that’s the Apollonian b/c it’s measure. It’s this constrained idea of time, b/c it’s one timeline and everything is oriented around that timeline. Boom, boom boom boom. Right? Nietsche says that the Dionysian is melody and harmony, specifically harmony b/c different pitches are different frequencies, which are already cyclic but you put them together, you have multiple timelines happening at the same time, instead of one time. And then what that gives you, the experience of multiple timelines happening at the same time, gives you the feeling of ecstasy, which is ex-stasis, being moved out of your place. This is the core of what’s really profound, I think. We’ve definitely lost the ecstatic quality of this. We have a cheapened idea of ecstasy. It’s related to the commodity culture. Our model of ecstasy is the sex machine: you’re doing it and doing it and doing it well. You do it again and again and again…don’t stop don’t stop blah blah blah. And that’s not it at all. It’s the loss of self, it’s not becoming a machine. That’s another thing that we’re really mixing up in our culture. We’re confusing the loss of self in a positive sense with becoming a machine. As we become machines in cybernetic culture, we feel the loss of self and we mistake it for ecstasy. The real loss of self is something very different. The real loss of self is not becoming a machine, although it has elements of the machinic, and this is where Deleuze and Guattari are important, because they talk about machinic subjectivities and how important it is that we’re meshing with them.
Megan: What does that mean, machinic subjectivity?
Peter: That’s a digression I don’t want to pick up right now.
This though, is where you can get into the Pythagorean trap. Because it becomes this thing of like “you have to put yourself in harmony with the vibrational harmony of the universe and then all possibilities are open to you” and it becomes New Age cripe, right? So we have to keep our heads about us, and not go down that road. And say, yes, it’s about becoming cosmic, right, but that this is not some vaguely spiritual mystical thing, this is not some kind of whatever. This is just following the matter. This is being more materialist than the scientists. This is just going with the way things are, trying to figure it out, I guess.
A little digression on the machinic. If you think about it in terms of creativity and creative subjectivity. Think about an artist at work. There’s a different kind of relationship that happens from picking up some paint and a brush or working with a software program. The software program offers possibilities in a very different way than a paintbrush does. It’s important that they be different: we try to make them the same. We make stupid programs where we imitate the style of different kinds of paintbrushes, and call the program painter. And people make fake watercolor s, and its dumb. Why do that instead of find what software can really do? But what software can really do still feels profoundly alien to us. But its important because it’s our path into the what post-human is. Now this is what Bill is like when he’s like “oh it’s ersatz.” What he really means is that it’s not pretending be something that we already know what is. And it feels alien. But so when you allow yourself to mesh as an assemblage with that, when you allow your creativity to be partially intertwined with those possibilities, that’s an assemblage with machinic subjectivity. In a way it’s dangerous too because the Deleuzian position can end up being another justification for the free reign of the cybernetic. Like, “artificial intelligences are just as good as real intelligences because real intelligences are artificial anyway because we’re all machines because it’s all material processes.” And there’s a lot of truth to that, but it’s also, like, there’s a lot of things that are true, and that’s exactly what makes them dangerous. And that’s how the Pythagorean stuff is. You know it’s like, cosmic harmony, blah blah blah. It’s totally true and does nothing for you if you just take it that way.
Megan: But, the paint and the paintbrush are inert, whereas the software is responsive. But it’s responsive in a way that’s not human.
Peter: Exactly. But that feels intelligent, and so provokes other kinds of intelligent responses from us. But a digression with that, even talking about relationship of materials. You know, like the idea of what was significant in different artistic moves in the visual arts. Like what was significant with Pollock. Some people say the fact that it’s just pure abstraction. Other people say that it’s that he went from the vertical to the horizontal. I don’t think either of those things are what’s important. I think that what’s important is that what his medium was was the relationship of the viscosity of paint to gravity. That’s really profound, and inherently makes what he was doing much more related to something like music, also. Which people saw at the time but they did in a very superficial way, like they were like “yeah, it’s like jazz, man, it just goes all over.” No, what I find significant is that it’s these intensive properties, gravity and viscosity are intensive properties, as opposed to extensive properties. Usually you use lengths of line, markings on paper, those are extensive properties, they’re linear. Music also is not about extensive properties, it’s not about lengths of time. It’s about the change of an intensive property over time, which is air pressure. It’s putting together rates of change of an intensive property over time, which I’ve said before. And that relates it in a very different way to Pollock’s intersection of viscosity with gravity. And also relates it so nicely to dance too, in some way. I don’t know.
More about intensive and extensive properties, again if you want to relate them to the Apollonian and Dionysian, it’s that extensive properties are Apollonian, intensive properties are Dionysian. Intensive properties, also, are what are important for non-linear dynamical systems. What’s really important, also in our culture is the move from linear processes to non-linear processes. But this is profoundly earth-shattering to our sense of being human. And it’s funny, it’s another thing, when everyone was worried about the bomb in the 50’s, Heidegger was like no, our biggest problem is if WW3 doesn’t happen. Because if we bomb ourselves back to the stone age, we’ll still be human. If we don’t, we’ll eventually not be human. Now I have a similar thing with the energy crisis. Everyone’s like “oh no, we’re gonna run out of energy. We have to solve our energy problem.” The real danger to the continuation of humanity is that we’ll solve our energy problem. We’ll have as much energy to do with whatever we want. We’ll harness all this energy so that we can fuck things up faster bigger harder stronger.
Non –linear processes. Small inputs make for big outputs. This is where things become so dangerous for us. As more and more of our culture becomes non-linear, big big big critical things can happen from small changes, which is also necessary for harnessing power and for doing the things we want to do, but it can also make things more dangerous. One of the problems, also with the music that we have, both the commodity music and what remains of the classical music tradition, is that it doesn’t pay any attention to non-linearities. Of course there are some musics that do pay attention to this, both machinic subjectivies, non-linear dynamical systems. The closest it gets to the vernacular is for instance Brian Eno is totally into generative music, you know where you set up parameters and the computer generates music that is all, you know, that’s the other thing people say that our music is as repetitive as it is partially because it’s all made by machines. This is a misunderstanding of what machines are like. This is confusing the machinic of the 19th century with cybernetic realities. This is imagining that everything is cogs and pistons and steam. It’s not…our computers are completely non-linear. There’s no reason why a more machine-oriented popular music wasn’t music that has no repetition ever. Because unlike a human being, a machine will be perfectly happy not just to repeat the same thing forever, but also to never repeat the same thing, ever. One way to approximate non-linearity compositionally is to move both further away from and closer to your material. If you can set up systems and then step away from them with a control mechanism so that one change in your control mechanism makes for changes in multiple parameters at the same time. It’s a very different situation from moving your finger on a violin or something like that.
First topic, spatial resonance. I will use the figure of “I am sitting in a room” which is a piece by Alvin Lucier that examines spatial resonance.
Next topic, temporal resonance.
McKenna Time Wave:
McKenna has a concept, he wrote a book I think called Time Wave Zero. He had an idea that events happened in time in wave forms that were self-similar at different scales. So there might be a pattern to the unfolding of events within a day that mirrored the patterning of unfolding of events in a year or a century, etc. He also thought that all of these patterns were in sync and came together at significant moments of entrainment in ways that were in resonance, you could say, with the Mayan calendar. He also had an idea which maybe I’ll bring up b/c I could relate it to John Cage on some level. He made a mathematical model for the unfolding of these events in time, what he called maps of novelty in time. Or what Deleuze might call moments of extreme deterritorialization.
Now Walter Benjamin. He has a philosophy of time and history and stuff which I have to look into again, but the central, I mean in this temporal resonance I’m basically looking at different ways of time moving frontwards and backwards because McKenna, in a way, makes the suggestion that at his endpoint, where the Mayan calendar date of December 21 2012 is a date of so much significance that all of history leading up to it in a patterned way is blowback vibration, backwards in time from the event. Walter Benjamin said something very similar with his famous thing about progress and this angel. You know this thing where he says there’s a storm blowing from paradise, basically he talks about how history as we see it is just this accumulation of broken things, disasters and what not. And he says there is an angel that’s constantly trying to go back and fix things that have been broken. And then he says but there is a storm blowing from paradise, pushing the angel backwards into the future, and this storm is called progress. So there’s a lot of things there to me that are in resonance with a totally different tradition, a totally different way of looking at things. You know, of Mckenna who’s coming from hallucinogenic drugs and computer software, and people who are looking at Mayan things, and then this Walter Benjamin who’s coming from a totally different place.
Megan: A philosophical place:
Peter: A philosophical place but of a particular kind, You know he’s in the same sort of, you know the Frankford school orientation with Adorno and whatnot. Although there was a trippy side of him. Because there hasn’t been much discussion of drugs in philosophy proper. He wrote a book on drugs, and spent some time doing those kinds of things. He died by the time he was my age, you know.
Then there’s Heideggerian time which again I don’t know a whole lot about and I have to learn. But, there’s a few things about it. Like one there’s the idea of constrainedness. Like part of the human condition is that we feel to be constrained by time into one direction, that we’re moving in this direction. Walter Benjamin’s angel, in a way is not constrained to time in that it’s trying to move backwards, but something is not letting it happen, you know it’s also getting pushed into the future. But Heidegger also has a different idea of like when he thinks about what’s part of being, what’s real and not, you know, if you’re sitting here, and you’re daydreaming and you’re sort of visualizing yourself in a certain time and place, right? And that stuff is very much closer to your consciousness than whatever your immediate surroundings are that you’re not really paying attention to, why does is make sense to say that you aren’t in that time and place. And of course you know on a certain level I think that you are, I mean that’s the thing that always haunts me is this idea that when you’re, you know sometimes when you’re at a place, well whatever I’m not gonna go there.
This is basically just about non-linear models of time. I talked about McKenna, I talked about Benjamin, I was talking about Heidegger and the idea that when you are sitting at your desk but you’re thinking about Table Rock in Maine, in some very real sense you are more there at Table Rock in Maine than you are at your desk. And if you are thinking about it when you were a child then in some sense you’re more there in that temporal reality than you are sitting at your desk. And you know, for me, I entertain that to such a degree that I feel like what makes for one of those eerie childhood moments of resonance is the fact that you’re thinking about it as an adult, not that you think about that moment as an adult because it was that way. Which isn’t that it’s one or the other but that it’s inherently both, always. Ultimately, and this goes into the next topic, the idea of a block universe, is the idea that there’s only one moment. And that’s, like I said in Einstein’s block universe there’s only one moment. It’s a block universe because it’s totally static. And then we had this question of well isn’t it all in flux and it’s like well in a way that’s the same thing.
Megan: Can I just say though that I don’t really like calling it static because that means that, you know, even if you’re just talking about the simple 3 dimensional universe, there’s no movement on the x/y/z grid, if it’s static.
Peter: Yeah but think about this, to have “movement” on the x/y/z grid, necessitates an additional dimension, that of time, which functions in a very special way.
Megan: Oh, right, how can it be there and there. Well because you had time to get from there to there.
Peter: Right, which is just another way of saying it’s in both places, and all places, but we just don’t understand that.
Megan: For me, that little conversation we had right now clears up a lot in my mind and I think that’s a really cool clarifying example.
Peter: Okay. Now obviously there’s not much in the way of physical models for this, but people have known since Einstein that they have a problem with time, right? And then there’s the issue that Einsteinian relativity and quantum electro-dynamics or quantum mechanics are in contradiction to one another. They both appear to be completely true, but they can’t both be true, they are in contradiction. So people have been trying to resolve that.
Megan: Quantum theory and Einstienian relativity…?
Peter: right, are in contradiction. I can’t go into the details of the contradiction because I’m not a physicist, but the point is this has been a problem in physics for a hundred years. One of the things that’s involved in resolving it is new models of time, right, and there are physicists who are working on this, and I told you about this physicist who’s trying to prove, through a modified version of the double-slit experiment, trying to prove retrograde causality. I don’t remember his name but he was the consultant for that movie déjà vu that we saw. Because in there, that’s a fold in time, right, you know when he realizes that he’s looking into “the past,” but it’s not really the past because he shines his laser there and she sees it. But you see how that scientific model of possible retrograde causality could be “in resonance” with McKenna’s ideas, Walter Benjamin’s ideas, and Heidegger’s ideas as I’ve just laid it out. Because one thing I don’t understand is continental philosophy seems to be very wedded to a certain kind of naïve realism when it comes to time. They’re just like “well, retrograde causality, well that makes no sense! Ra!” But what are they gonna say when science says, oh, well within limited scales, it appears that causality happens in both directions. You know, that is deeply problematic for continental philosophy as relates to the the idea of will, as relates to the idea of constrainedness to time, of humanity. Another term that you know, Heidegger talks about thrown-ness, that as a human a deep part of our existence is this idea that we’ve been thrown into a situation. You know, at any moment there’s all this stuff around, there’s a history, there’s a potential future.