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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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1 Introductory questions


1.1 The anthropological perspective and two hierarchies of time

The anthropology of music is the study of all manifestations of music in the world, irrespective of the degree to which that music is developed and how it functions in culture. It focusses on man’s musical capabilities, exploited and developed in various ways in different cultures. Music anthropology is an emerging field of study, still seeking its own identity. Awareness of the need to establish it is quite widespread, but there is no agreement over the way that goal might be achieved. Great hopes are often invested in the experience and achievements of the most dynamic humanistic disciplines, which in recent decades have included modern linguistics and the related, but more general, field of semiology. Without negating the substantial and hitherto underexploited possibilities afforded by those disciplines, one must realise that different needs motivated their emergence and development. Consequently, when referring to music, they often impose an approach that is alien to its nature. There is also potential, of course, in interdisciplinary research into humans and human culture, including music. However, by no means do they lead in a natural way to the forming of syntheses; in practice, they increasingly expand the horizons of observation, multiply perspectives and tend to obscure the overall picture. It is my personal opinion that some positive effects may accrue from a return to the most basic categories of human thinking, action and existence in the world, which certainly include the categories...

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