Time Drips has had kind of a long gestation period. I had violist extraordinaire Michael Hall on my radio program Relevant Tones to talk about the Chen Yi viola concerto and after the taping we got to talking about music, philosophy, architecture and practically every other interesting thing under the sun we could think of and before I knew it I was telling him about this idea I had of a time cave or a place outside of linear time as we think we understand it.
In this cave, (I think of it as a cave most likely because of Plato’s famous cave in the Republic), there is no such thing as linear time, but in my imagination there is a substance that drips from the ceiling and each of these drips could be eons of time if it were uncompressed and put in a linear fashion as we’re used to experiencing it.
Of course when you’re talking about an infinite amount of time, which is essentially what each of these drips would contain if they could be expressed linearly, then there is no longer any sense of the passage of time. The question arises how is anything even dripping from the ceiling as the motion of a drip would take place in linear time?
How can you even have something as finite as a cave without a linear passage of time in which it could have been created? If there is no beginning and no end then can there be Platonian forms at all? Or is everything that we perceive simply a matter of perception? An attenuation of infinite space/time into a cave or a drip or a person. All of reality is infinite and it’s only how you carve that up into objects, Plato’s forms, that they seem real. But how do you carve up infinity?
Well, this is where my thinking was taking me. I was using the time cave as a means of thinking about how nonlinear time could possibly exist, or rather and perhaps more interestingly, since all things can be extrapolated to infinity, how you start with infinity and, through attenuation of parameters, get to something finite. It doesn’t seem possible and is the point at which reason breaks down and we simply have to accept that it’s a mystery.
Musically I tried to express all of this with relatively simple passages, the viola “drips” with pizzicato passages in the opening and the piano doubles it rhythmically. Then there are slow escalating passages that strive to reach a goal but then forget that there is a goal, or sink back into eternity. More drips, more restless striving and then, and this exists in all of my pieces somewhere, there is the “event.”
There must have been a first event, what Aristotle would call the prime mover. In this case it’s not a first event, but a flash of temper, almost anger. The intrusion of a radically different sensibility before the piece sinks back into eternity and concludes with a haunting ending.
I’m so happy that this work is finally getting performed in January. Can’t wait to hear if these ideas work musically!