12 October 2008


The third piece we played today was "Taheke for Solo Flute and Harp." Uwe, our conductor, played the flute and Yi Jin our harpist played the harp - an absolutely lovely little piece of music deceptive in its simplicity. Simple, minimal - and beautiful.

It would be saying too much to say that I had an 'intellectual vision' during the playing of it, but I did see, as it were, that the essence of what man is is temporal. Man is time.

I feel handicapped - I cannot express what I saw here - but it was very moving.

I thought of the minimum requirement for music to be music. I think that minimum is rhythm. I can imagine 'music' that is just a lot of harmonies on top of each other - but even then, there would be change - and thus the time dimension. Man does not merely live in time - he is defined by it.

Well, I knew when I started this that I could not make any sense out of it and I have not.

My cat exists from moment to moment. Is she able in any way to rise above those moments, to see them as part of a history, of a sequence that has a beginning and an end?

I am. I am not merely a cork floating on the surface of the stream. To some extent I am able also to stand outside myself, to see my self going down the stream - and to influence my direction in the stream - not to float, merely, but to steer.

And for me, there is a goal. My cat has an end. I have an end. And it matters how I seek that end - and what end I seek.

As is obvious, I have had only a few moments to write the above. It has been a busy week, culminating in today's concert.

A piece of music satisfies us when it does what musicians call 'resolving.' It comes to an end that does not seem accidental, that fits in with the timing of the piece, its rhythm, its harmonies. We can all feel this, even when we cannot really explain how it is happening. There is no shortage of modernist music which deliberately fails to resolve, comes to an abrupt end, perhaps does not finish with a chord based on the key, perhaps does not even have a key. There is, I am certain, an intended philosophical statement about the essential meaninglessness of life in this sort of music.

The music of our life should not end that way. Our history should - God grant it will! - come to a suitable end - one that fits the rhythm of our lives, its harmony, its melody even. This ending will not, perhaps, be what we expected all through, but if we keep our eye on the Conductor - I think it is possible. I pray it may be so for each of us.


Cameron said...

Very interesting John. I read recently a description of the philosopher as one who is not content to float downstream, but who points himself upstream and paddles towards the source. Did you get to see/hear any of the talks by Fr Dominique's, the visiting Brother of St John?

John Thayer Jensen said...

Sue and I went to both week-end days of Father Dominique Faure's talks. Yes, I understand.

I had only a few minutes to write yesterday's post and had resolved to post once each week-end. Because of this I did not express myself well.

But I must say that I also was hampered by the very real experience I had whilst playing music yesterday. I wanted to express it by saying that "man IS time" - which, of course, is nonsense! So I did not know what to say. I think that we think of time as a 'dimension through which we move.' Well, fair enough - but as in John Dunne's famous early 20th century book "An Experiment in Time," it seems to lead to an infinite regress of time 'dimensions' - which he took literally.

I just don't really know what to make of it, but it seemed to me that time really is somehow of the essence of what it means to be a creature - and yet that man really is also in a way 'out of' time - or will be so in eternity.

Whatever 'eternity' means... :-)


Cameron said...

I remember being fascinated with the notion of time when I was a teenager. It's good to return to these things - these passions of youth :)
I suppose we tend to think of time as an external medium through which we are moving - or something abstract. Was your insight something to do with time being more concrete? Or rather, the WAY in which creatures exist, the way in which a created life manifests itself - by unfolding, bit by bit, and not being possessed all at once? Music is like this. The song rushes past us and 'escapes', leaving an imprint, partly forgotten, though maybe the echo of a particular line resounds in our memories. Now I am rambling...