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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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In primitive culture, people had a sense of existing at the centre of the world. As they conquered ever more distant geographic and historical spaces and got to know more and more human cultures, people’s central position became less secure. The discovery of new lands, and especially the global shape of the Earth, altered their situation. It is difficult to speak of a place that is the central point in the world. People’s position was disturbed even more by the discoveries of Copernicus. They found themselves on the Earth like on a ship circling and soaring around the Sun. The discovery of galaxies and their centrifugal motion and the awareness that our solar system is part of one such galaxy led to people becoming utterly lost in the universe. In times when the natural sciences are completely dominant, the field of cultural anthropology, including musical anthropology, may seem absurd, since it heads back in the opposite direction, as it were, attempting to restore people’s central place in the world, partly by reaching back to their natural situation, not yet marked by the stamp of science, and by showing – through more profound analysis of man himself – his central position in this scientifically cognised world of nature. For humans, the outside world has by no means ceased to be primarily the environment conditioning their existence, not expressed in terms of cosmic time and cosmic space, but forming the basis of their natural human scale of time and their natural human...

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