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Time in Music and Culture


Ludwik Bielawski

From Aristotle to Heidegger, philosophers distinguished two orders of time, before, after and past, present, future, presenting them in a wide range of interpretations. It was only around the turn of the 1970s that two theories of time which deliberately went beyond that tradition, enhancing our notional apparatus, were produced independently of one another. The nature philosopher Julius T. Fraser, founder of the interdisciplinary International Society for the Study of Time, distinguished temporal levels in the evolution of the Cosmos and the structure of the human mind: atemporality, prototemporality, eotemporality, biotemporality and nootemporality. The author of the book distinguishes two ‘dimensions’ in time: the dimension of the sequence of time (syntagmatic) and the dimension of the sizes of duration or frequency (systemic). On the systemic scale, the author distinguishes, in human ways of existing and acting, a visual zone, zone of the psychological present, zone of works and performances, zone of the natural and cultural environment, zone of individual and social life and zone of history, myth and tradition. In this book, the author provides a synthesis of these theories.

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The dispute over time has recurred in philosophy and learning for centuries. It has concerned in particular the objective and relative nature of time. Newton, for example, taught that ‘absolute, true, mathematical time flows on by virtue of its own nature, uniformly, and unrelated to any outward circumstance’.1 That view was fundamentally revised by Einstein, who showed the relativity of time and space and their dependence on matter. In Einstein’s own words, the meaning of the theory of relativity is as follows: ‘It was formerly believed that if all material things disappeared out of the universe, time and space would be left. According to the relativity theory, however, time and space disappear together with the things’.2 In demonstrating the relativity of time and space and their dependence on the point of reference, Einstein had in mind objective systems, independent of man. Fascinated by philosophical views and scientific advancements, art theorists sometimes forget about their own system of reference, which makes them humanists and not scientists. For humanists, that system of reference will always be humans, the way they exist in time and space, the way they observe and sense time and space, and the way they organise time and space, as documented in the products of their own activity, one of the crucial manifestations of which is artistic activity, including music.

Even if Einstein’s theory to all intents and purposes shows the relativity of time and space only at velocities close to the speed of light,...

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