Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Technology and Time

In 1997 Dave Tecson (then of Edgeworx) a brilliant post-production specialist, transformed some Tonal Refractions into a computer animation which we presented together at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the animation accompanying my live piano playing.

At that time it seemed logical that Tonal Refraction should go the tech route, i.e., that it would lend itself to use via computer technology.  It would have been tempting, perhaps even lucrative, to have gone there but somehow I knew it would not have been true to the essence of the process.

Trying to figure out why, I recalled the process of preparing the animation, more than anything else, a matter of controlling time.  I spent hours with a metronome timing the rhythmic fluctuations of Toscanini's Beethoven recordings, coming to terms with the technological imperative of x frames per second no matter what.  (The principle works I played were both Beethoven: The 32 Variations, and the "Moonlight" Sonata, two of my favorite works.)

Many years later computer whiz Damon Horowitz pointed out that, in his view, the trouble with Tonal Refraction is that it takes too long.  His observation unlocked the mystery.

Tonal Refraction takes a forever in comparison with the mental speed to which computer people are accustomed.  But their speed ain't nuthin' compared to the speed of vibration.  And Tonal Refraction involves literally drawing vibrations as if one at a time which, while it seems physically slow, is actually tapping into that specifically Beethovian phenomenon where super-fast meets and matches super-slow.  Therein lies its real content, its real power.

Having been challenged to try Tonal Refraction, Damon's assessment of the process was entirely transformed.  Three sessions enabled him to play Chopin's "Winterwind" Etude--a work of enormous rhythmic and technical complexity--as he put it, "like a baby."  To read excerpts from Damon's introduction to my book see, the Books and CDs page.