Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stopping Time to Listen

Musical time is one of the most difficult phenomena to describe.  Most likely the typical listener assumes that rhythm represents all there is to know about time in music, but that is far from the case.  Actually, as musicians listen millions of events occur within every entity that passes for "a" beat.  I guess you might call it fine tuning.

I experienced one of the best examples of the difference watching a silent movie, of all things.  It was at a series of westerns being shown at the Museum of Modern Art many years ago.  There, in total silence, a drama was unfolding on the screen.  Behind me an elderly gentleman caught (and commented on) the gist of the successive frames long before I did.  Clearly he was used to this kind of event depiction, where the emphasis was on silence. 

We are by now so accustomed to being almost literally thrown around by sound that we can't imagine what might really be happening.  I say "we" because I, too, have fallen for it.