Perceptions and time

Was set off thinking by doing a bit of research last week into some links provided by the dancer Katie Duck on her webspace centred around exploring scientific research into the brain and perception. Out of this I focused on the idea that our perception of time can be change when involved with work like improvising. I’ve been thinking to try and attend one of the workshops she runs and was interested in looking at this material as it seemed to form the basis of a lot of the work she does in them.

I’m guessing its a familiar experience of other people involved with playing improvised, free and open musics to find that a large period of time has expired while playing when you perceived only brief moments and vice versa. However, one thing I’ve experienced the more I’ve played is that I have a pretty good idea in terms of my own internal body rhythm of how long half an hour or an hour is when playing; this is partly to do I think with stamina for playing and partly through having been in situations improvising repeatedly so have learned on basic level how those periods of time can be experienced. The thing that’s interesting is the experience of detail in those moments, often a huge amount of information is being processed and exchanged in very small periods of time; at other points a single idea maybe sustained over a longer period with details within it coming to the surface. The experience of silence and pauses can be incredible; fragments of a second feeling like great yawning chasms. Co-existing rhythms that are both imperceivably slow as they are at the same skittish and driving. The use of repetiton with detail inside working towards the feeling of trance and suspense (and also elongation) of time which what we experienced last summer in Morocco seeing the Master Musicians of Joujouka .

In my reading today came across a great part in Robert Macfarlane’s “The Wild Places” that seemed to serve as a good allusion,

“In the Basin I had come to imagine time differently, or at least experience it differently. Time seemed not to express itself not in terms of minutes and hours, but in shades and textures… The Basin kept many different types of time, and not all of them were slow. I had seen quickness there too: the sudden drop of a raven in flight, the veer of water rund a rock, the darts of damselflies, the midges who were born, danced and died in a single day. But it was the great chronologies of its making- the ice’s intentless progress seawards down a slope of time- which had worked on my mind most powerfully.”


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