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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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2 The zonality of time


2.1 The processual and qualitative aspects of time, the logarithmic law

I would like to dwell on two basic ways of understanding time, conditioned by two different scales revealing different, even opposing, properties of time. Although I am dealing here in detail only with the latter scale, it is essential to the further argumentation that the reader be clearly aware of the differences that exist between them. From the theoretical point of view, both scales are very important. The limitations of previous theories of time were due precisely to the lack of their clear differentiation. With a degree of simplification, one can say that analyses of time have been grounded usually on the concept of a homogeneous, immutable continuum of physical time, onto which is superimposed our psychological time, understood as a continuously flowing pause. It is into that pause that the musical work, which begins at a specific moment and ends, composes itself. This situation is represented in Example 2.1. The timeline heads in two directions to infinity: to the past and to the future. A specific place on that line is occupied by a perceptual person, in relation to whom the work moves from the past through the present to the future. The work is bookended by pauses.

The scale of time as thus conceived is of course an arithmetic scale: regular segments of time correspond to regular segments of the line. Their size differs according to the kind of...

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