Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Classical music as synchronicitous soup

From Bell's theorem, which asserts that one subatomic 'object' can affect another such object without even the slightest interval of time or space separating them, to Zen archery, in which archer, arrow, and target are so tied up together that the shot has really been fired before it leaves the bow, wisdom manuals of all stripes bring us the news that everything in life is connected with everything else. Not just connected in a nuts-and-bolts, superficial kind of way, but more deeply and subtly than we can perceive and even imagine. Subject and object, cause and effect, the events of yesterday and of tomorrow: all of these things float in a vast "synchronicitous" soup that we play a part in whether we know it or not.
No apologies for returning to Ptolemy Tompkins' The Beaten Path for that quote. No apologies either for venturing into what some will dismiss as New Age bad science: because, as anyone who has contacted a call centre in India will know, the alternative of post-modern age good science does not provide many answers. So let's accept for the moment that classical music is a synchronicitous soup in which everything - composer, performer, audience, instruments, hall acoustic, physical performance space, climactic and environmental conditions, and beyond - are connected more deeply and subtly than we can perceive and imagine.

This would explain why live classical music is the best form of transmission. It would explain why the pupil/teacher relationship at the centre of music education is irreplaceable. It would validate Benjamin Britten's holy triangle of composer, performer and active listener. It would expain why classical music resists encoding in digital formats. It would reconcile us to the lost art of listening. It would explain why classical music only exists in constant flux and flow. It would also explain why the efforts of the commercial-intermediary complex to water down the synchronicitous soup and sell it in cans are so counter-productive.

Soundtrack for this post is Alain Kremski's Résonance/Mouvements for piano, gongs and large Tibetan singing bowls on the French Cézame label. Early in his career Alain Kremski received an award from the American William and Noma Copley Foundation. His teachers at the Paris Conservatoire included Nadia Boulanger, Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen. At the age of 22 he won the prestigous Prix de Rome for music composition using the pseudonym Alain Petitgard: other recipients of the prize include Berlioz, Debussy and Henri Dutilleux. In the final year of his stay in Italy Kremski was influenced by the controversial Polish-French artist Balthus.

Alain Kremsk is an acclaimed pianist and has made a number of recordings of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann piano works. In the the theatre and film studio he has worked with Jeanne Moreau, Michael Lonsdale (who synchronicitously appears in the unmissable Of Gods and Men) and arranged the music for Peter Brook's film of G.I. Gurdjieff's Meetings with Remarkable Men. Alain Kremski's path as a composer has led him to writing new music for traditional Eastern instruments and Messian described his compositions as creating "an absolutely new sound world".


Résonance/Mouvements is a multi-track studio production with Alain Kremski, seen above, playing all instruments. The close miked sound is very impressive and if you have the right speakers the bass will turn your innards into synchronicitous soup despite any limitations of the digital format. The work is dance based and is influenced but not limited by the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann oeuvre.

In an illuminating French sleeve note for the recording Alain Kremski categorises Western culture as dualist and limited by the binary notation of 0 and 1 whereas Eastern culture recognises ternary states. He uses Eastern percussion instruments as an example and describes how the binary Western mindset can only accept the two conditions of a gong sounding and silence. By contrast the Eastern mindset accepts a third condition between sounding and silence during which the gong itself has ceased sounding but the resonance can still be felt within the listener. Or in other words the gong and the listener are both floating in a vast synchronicitous soup. Kremski describes this third condition as approaching the ineffable. Which takes us back to the start of this post, because it is this essential ternary or mystical dimension that is at risk when music is heard with a binary mindset or remotely via binary (ie digital) technology.

Some will view the theory that classical music loses its life force when it is pasteurised and Tetra Paked for mass consumption as quackery. They will also doubtless disagree with the idea that encouraging audiences to think outside the binary box is more important than classical charts and Facebook flash mobs. But others will see these ideas as support for the call to move classical music away from hypermediation towards transmission. Both views are, of course, products of the binary mindset. The Eastern mind would seek the ternary viewpoint somewhere between bad science and Eureka!

* Alain Kremski's website with audio samples is here. There was an earlier encounter with him in The great mandala.


* Several paths are floating in a synchronicitous soup at the moment. A Tibetan singing bowl made an appearance in my post about John Tavener's Towards Silence and so did René Guénon's The Crisis of the Modern World. This book champions Eastern mystical culture against Western materialism. Despite being written in 1927 The Crisis of the Modern World is about binary versus tertiary mindsets and is totally relevant to this post. My copy published by Indica Books in Varanasi, India is seen below. More in Towards silence this Christmas.

Also on Facebook and Twitter. Résonance/Mouvements was bought at the Harmonia Mundi boutique in Marseille and The Crisis of the Modern World was bought online. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Pliable said...

Diane Bennett O'Callaghan has commented via Facebook:

Never thought I'd live to see quantum entanglement get its due - and in the Arts, yet!

http://www.facebook.com/overgrownpath/posts/186630974698397

mrG said...

heh ... quantum entanglement isn't really needed, the Hammeroff-Penrose Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) theory of consciousness will do, given research that also shows musical ensemble work will synchronize mental states between performers; if, as is seen in the neighbouring instruments (adjascent reeds will sympathetically sync like metronomes on a a skateboard) the cognitive collapse rates phase-lock, the each member in the ensemble would generate a quantum Orch-OR wave that adds by the wave-power equations (exponentially, not additively, hence why Lasers work) to emit a cognitive resonance that will fall off by the distance squared. Thus adding microphones to a performance doesn't really 'reach' any more people than without.

So why then do people like recordings and amplified concerts at all? I hear you ask :) Same reason we can watch Humphrey Bogart in black and white and never be bothered by the greyness of his skin or the flatness of his image; those of us with experience with the Real Thing simply imagine the missing bits, and the less work we need do to imagine the lost data, the less 'warm' the medium becomes (now THERE is a true McLuhanism for you!) which in itself may explain why extreme audiophiles tend to be cold and analytical about their listening :)

The whole-system view is, of course, the only sane view, yet it is the view the concert promoters refuse to acknowledge because they themselves never go to these shows, they don't even know one artist from the next half the time, its just their business to sell units, be they flat bits of plastic or bums in seats. But given the vectors all over the room, from player to audience, but also player to player, audience to audience, people to room, all things every musician knows as true, if we could express the beauty and power of all that in our marketing, that sense that Cage called "an environment for self-discovery" (which is not 'self-actualization') then do you think maybe then people might want to come out of fear they may miss something their dreary lives desperately need?