WIP: Technology and Time Travel, Memory and Nostalgia

"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once." - John Archibald Wheeler

I came across an essay this evening that has provided me with even more considerations for this work on nostalgia. In the essay the author describes the act of composition as "fixing -to a greater or lesser degree- the internal life of an abstracted period of time". Time Binding, he calls it. And the score or recording becomes a Time Capsule. He then discusses the varying degrees to which time may be bound and the dimensions that can be bound (timbre, harmony, rhythm, etc.).

The author supposes the Time Capsule can be manipulated. It can be performed verbatim, or altered by playing divisions of the Time Capsule in a different order either planned or arbitrary. This manipulation of the Time Capsule is mimetic of memory. Psychology and experience tell us that every time we revisit a memory it is altered. And, in actuality, that memory doesn't exist until we recall it and therefore that memory is created in the process of recall. This begs the question in music, what is Beethoven's 5th Symphony? Is it the London Philharmonic recorded performance from May of 1983, or the Portsmouth Sinfonia's incompetent performance last spring, or is it the score (Time Capsule) itself?

Memory and it's unreliability are indelible aspects of nostalgia. Is the "golden haze" of memories long past possible if time were encoded in Hi-Def from all available perspectives and available at will? Doesn't this potential exist in our hyper-real world of iPods and YouTube (or radio and television)? Forgetting has been called "the one kindness that time affords". How does this new inability to forget affect the forging of identity narratives?

It seems that any work on nostalgia would have to address the dimension of memory and the affects of technology on our personal narrative, for what is nostalgia but an expression of that narrative. And as we forge our identities, memory and forgetting play powerful roles. And our collective memory plays a similar role in the narratives of our families, communities, nationalities and races.

I'm beginning to wonder how a string quartet or piano solo could possibly address the subject of nostalgia in any meaningful or poetic way. Our daily lives mimic the hyperreality of the movies (and many of us are the subject of "films" e.g. YouTube) and television. We are surrounded by music wherever we go. We can access the events of the world in near real-time regardless of our geographic proximity. String quartets were originally written as parlor entertainment on a Saturday night. Dad would pickup the latest piece on his way home from work and he, Mom, brother and sister would perform it that night after dinner. Would writing a string quartet about nostalgia then become an act of fundamentalism? A cry for the wholesale return to "Family Values"?


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