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The Momentaneous & The Permanent

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Avatar for Mictorrani
Written by   433
1 year ago (Last updated: 1 month ago)

Some time ago I discussed with a musician friend about the volatility of music, that, unless one records it, it is not preserved. Indeed, if, if we disregard recording (which is a quite recent invention), music is to its nature momentaneous, it exists only in the moment. If you pluck a string of a guitar, the action is dead when the tone has faded. If you perform a piece, it exists only during the performance, and each performance is slightly different from any other performance, so it is unique and can never be heard in exactly the same way again.

Recording changed that. It is as revolutionary for musicianship as the invention of printing was for literature, perhaps even more. Suddenly the art of a musician could be preserved and listened to any number of times. Previously only compositions could be preserved, but they are dead notations as long as no one plays them, musicianship remained a momentaneous art until the invention of recording techniques. This could sometimes be felt as a limitation for the musician whose work in a sense is lost the moment he has done it. Once the vibrations causing the sound fade away, they don't physically exist any longer.

Literature has a physical presence in the text. Still this is a very unreal art. If no one knows the language any longer, a book is just a pile of paper (or clay tablets, or digital files, or whatever material is used to preserve text) without any meaning. The book, or the text, has a physical presence, but the meaning is an intellectual construct in the mind of writer and reader. In that sense also literature is momentaneous. The book exists, but is just a pile of paper; the meaning comes alive only when someone is reading it and that happens in the mind of the reader. However, it is not momentaneous in the same sense as musicianship (but not composition), because the writer's work remains. Also thousands of years after his death, people can read it (if the language is not forgotten). Contrary to the momentaneous musicianship, his art has permanency.

If we look at theatre, however, for a long time the art of actors and actresses was as momentaneous as that of musicians. Recording techniques, not least film, has radically changed that during the last century or so.

Pictorial art (drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.) has always been different. The works have physical existence in a very real sense, It is inherent in their very nature to be recorded – recording is consequence of the process of creating them. It is impossible to paint a picture without having it recorded, then there would be no picture. Even if sometimes there is a meaning that requires intellectual processing, the colours and shapes of a painting are always there once the artist has finished the work. With music it shares “realness”; it is sensually present even without intellectual processing, while literature consists entirely of intellectual processing. However, it differs from music in the aspect of permanency. There is nothing momentaneous in a painting or a sculpture; once it is created, it is there. Its durability is only limited by the durability of the materials used to create it.

As I am or have been practising all the arts mentioned (except acting) and many others, many times throughout my life I reflected on questions like these. When I was young, the momentaneous sometimes felt too unreal, as if a work was wasted if it did not give a lasting physical result.

Later I changed that standpoint. Today I see value also in the momentaneous. Indeed, the general obsession of recording and preserving everything, as well as copying techniques (affecting most arts), have made me appreciate the unique and the momentaneous – that which cannot be preserved or copied. Everything doesn't have to be preserved to be of value. Some works of art may (perhaps should) be momentaneous, as a flash of thunder over the sky a dark night, and then not exist any longer. Even if the only one perceiving it would be myself.

That also applies to life itself. Let's take one example: the obsession of taking photos. Is it meaningful to preserve every moment of a life and what does it do to your appreciation of life? It moves interest away from life and into an endless world of frozen persons and moments, a world of static death. As if nothing really existed until recorded and shared with others. That is comparable to a bureaucratic system where public records have precedence over reality.

I don't say that nothing should be preserved, I am taking photos myself, but not as an obsession to record everything. And for the really great moments, I would never give attention to taking photos. It would just destroy the atmosphere and negatively affect the experience.

A photo can be a support for memory when trying to imagine a person, place or moment, but it is not quite as efficient as most people tend to believe. If you consider watching old photos, do they really recall to your memory the feeling of a person or situation? Or is it a relatively boring series of frozen people and moments that don't touch you deeply at all? Besides, what do you remember? After seeing it a few times, you are remembering the photo rather than the moment, place, or person it depicts. Then it doesn't support memory at all, it distorts it; in your memory the record replaces reality.

Before recording everything indiscriminately, consider whether a great moment, or your memory of a loved person, might even be destroyed, or at least belittled, by a photo.

It's the same with people who have photos of family members displayed everywhere in their home, every member in every age and situation. To me that is a macabre menagerie of dead moments. I don't want this on display around me. I, too, have family photos, but I don't have them displayed. When I want to look at them, I can do that, after that I can put them away again. Having flat, static, frozen pictures of them, doesn't give me the feeling of having this people around me anyway. I also consider such pictures very private, I don't want every visitor to see them. But most of all, my memory of these individuals are more alive than the photos. I don't want the full spectrum of my memory to be reduced by permanent exposure to the photos.

Copyright © 2020 Meleonymica/Mictorrani. All Rights Reserved.

You find all my writings on Read.Cash, sorted by topic, here.

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Written by   433
1 year ago (Last updated: 1 month ago)
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Comments

" it exists only in the moment" That's why I will be supporter of the phenomenon Carpe Diem! People seek to preserve things but for enjoying the moment :I

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1 year ago

That's one way to see it, yes. But it seems to me that recording the moment sometimes destroys the moment, so the current obsession with recording everything becomes the only essential part of life. The recording itself replaces life.

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1 year ago

recording moments have it's advantage where by one can return back to those recording just to feel in the moment... Then again some when it becomes too regular, it looses its value.

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1 year ago

Yes, I think it easily loses its value. One doesn't really feel the moment by them. Perhaps while they are new, because then you remember the moment well, but after several years you more remember the recording than the moment, and then it's not giving the right feeling anymore.

But then we are talking about individuals recording their lives, not recording of art, such as recorded music etc, it's amazing that we can enjoy the work of great artists after they are long dead.

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1 year ago

yeah that's very true, without the ability to record most historical contents would not have been at our disposal and we would have lost that part of history.

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1 year ago

Yes, for history, recording is very essential. The whole historical science is built on that: recorded events. Even earth itself brings us records, for instance remnant of dinosaurs that makes it possible for us to now that they have existed. That's not deliberately created records, but it's still records.

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1 year ago

I total agree with the fact music live is unique each time. It's a renderer at a moment. I Like the fact music is moving, living.. progressing on it form. I'm speaking for exemple for the same composition. But not all musicians are open with that. leave room for spontaneity or even improvisation during a solo. Playing you're still exploring, learning :0)

Great article!

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1 year ago

Yes, you are right, playing that way is exploring, and that's art living only in that moment.

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1 year ago

Most people nowadays specially teenagers take photos/videos to post on social media and to let their so-called "friends" see what they are up to. The reason why people capture moments really changed , and as what you said, recording the moment sometimes really destroys the moment.

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1 year ago

All this taking photos for social media, is typical for what I mean. These individuals are so obsessed with recording everything and showing everything so they forget to live.

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1 year ago

The work of the writer must be compared with that of the composer. The difference in the reproduction of the contents of the text it book and the notes is: most people can read and do not need a reader. For the reproduction of the music they usually need a musician. The obsession to photograph everything has expanded with the advent of digital photography. Taking a photo is easy and simple, so everything is photographed.

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1 year ago

You said it. Writing and composing is related, but still, music also has to be performed because most people cannot read sheet music and transform it to music in their mind. It is analogous to if people are illiterate, and need someone to read a text loud for them. It's just that "reading" music and really hear it in one's mind is extremely advanced. It can be done with training, but requires much of the brain. So, in practice, the music itself exists in the sound of it, but literature exists by its notation alone - simply because literacy is more common than the ability to read sheet music (and transform it in one's mind).

This is even more interesting than it first looks, because alphabetic script also denotes sound (opposite to pictorial script). Most of the script systems used in the world today are in some sense phonetic - they only describe the sounds of spoken language. But that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

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1 year ago