Time and the Warm Body

A Musical Perspective on the Construction of Time


This study deals with time and with music, and the link between the two is the suggestion that music is a modeling of the way we construct time. Time—the now, duration, succession and order of succession; the past, the future—is seen as a resource for managing systemic disequilibrium and as the evolutionary elaboration of the now. As organic dynamical systems humans maintain themselves by means of self-regulatory actions, nows, and these nows are proposed as feeding off a pre-temporal, interindividually accessed energy in nature, an ongoing cosmic proto-present. Speech is a way out of sensory immediacy and a way into a complex shared world where coordination and planning take place away from the distractions of the present as given by the senses. Music is presented as one of a group of behaviors comprising the arts and games that evolved in parallel with language to compensate for its abstractness. Language tends to the complexly abstract and music favors the complex, sensorially concrete: like speech, music operates on a synthetic plane, but provides synthetic occasions for sensory immediacy at a level of complexity to match that of language.

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Author of a previous study, Sound, Speech, and Music, David Burrows is Professor of Music (emeritus) at New York University. His recent publications deal with the now, and his current interests include the evolution of music and of speech.
Persons interested in the study of time, in the esthetics and theory of music and in dynamical systems/chaos/complexity theory as applied to humans.
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