When Time Stands Still

Started by Mandryka, December 02, 2022, 09:25:55 PM

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Peter Power Pop

Corelli: Christmas Concerto - Adagio

The pauses throughout this movement, where one violin is followed by another and then another before the entire orchestra joins in, are so unutterably gorgeous that they make me forget to breathe.


A thought that needs more developing: I suppose the "conventional" views of music that makes time stand still are (1) the sorts of things that are so perfect as to make you "forget the stars, the moon and sun" (two examples for me: Byrd's Turn our captivity and the Pavan of the Sons of the Morning from VW's Job), or (2) the sorts of things in which almost nothing happens for long periods (step forward, Mr Feldman).  However, I'm thinking more of pieces that mess about with time by structural means - usually, in what I'm thinking of, by confounding our expectations of sonata (or other) forms, unexpected repetition, cross-reference etc.  Probably easier to give examples than explain: so I have a fair idea of how long many pieces have lasted after hearing them - 7 or 8 minutes for a typical Haydn sonata-form movement, 20 or so for a Bruckner first movement, and even something as non-repetitive as Erwartung or Earth Dances feel roughly like their respective 30 minutes or so.  But take the first movement of Shostakovich 15 (symphony) - after hearing that, I have no idea how long it has lasted (10 minutes, 15? - about 8½, apparently, after looking it up).  Prokofiev's 9th sonata has the same effect on me, as does a lot of Messiaen.  It may be something to do with very engaging music that nevertheless doesn't make any sort of conventional progress.  Just random thoughts at the moment.
"All the world is birthday cake" - George Harrison


How about (sections of) Debussy's Pour Les Sonorités Opposées (Étude IX)?

 There's a performances by Anatoly Vedernikov which lasts close to 7 minutes - well worth checking out.

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Quote from: DaveF on December 23, 2022, 01:52:07 AMI have a fair idea of how long many pieces have lasted after hearing them

In most cases I'm ahead of the actual time when listening to any given piece of music, either when checking during playing or after it stops. What to me might have seemed like 10 minutes, for instance, turns out to have been just 6. I don't know why this is so --- and it's the very opposite of time standing still, actually: times flies faster for me when listening to music.  :)
Music should humbly seek to please; within these limits great beauty may perhaps be found. Extreme complication is contrary to art. Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part.- Debussy



Le reveil de l'intraitable réalité, part of Finnissy's History of Photography, has many moments in Annie Li's (wonderful, best available) performance. Second track here, an example about 8 or 9 mins in.

Li studied the music with the composer for a year, and I find what she does more poetic than Knoop, and probably Pace too - I may be being unfair to Pace.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen


From Jonathan Cross's essay Musical spectra, l'espace sensible and contemporary opera

Something extraordinary occurs in the third scene of Pygmalion, Jean-Philippe
Rameau's acte de ballet of 1748. The title character, a sculptor, is creating a marble
statue of a woman. She is so beautiful that he falls in love with his own creation. The
intervention of L'Amour, the goddess of love, brings the statue to life; the statue, in
turn, declares her love for her creator. Jubilations ensue. At the crucial moment of the
statue's metamorphosis, Pygmalion sings of his joyous bewilderment, accompanied
by the most astonishing orchestral sounds. . . .

Prompted by his discovery of the work in acoustics and intervals of
Joseph Sauveur (published, as Rameau notes, in 1701 in the mémoires of the
Académie Royale des Sciences8
), Rameau attempted to demonstrate in the Nouveau système de musique théorique et pratique (1726) how any single note produced by a
sounding or vibrating body was in fact made up of a spectrum of overtones above a
fundamental frequency, in a similar way to that in which white light had been shown
by Newton to be made up of a spectrum of colours. More precisely, he observed that
'a single string makes all the consonances resonate, among which we distinguish
principally the twelfth and the major seventeenth'.
9 This is what defines the corps
sonore for Rameau. And in this moment in the opera we hear a musical realisation of
this scientific discovery: the position of each note in the initial E major triad coincides
with the spacing of the overtones in the corps sonore, to which in subsequent bars the
violins and flutes add further partials, 'as if Rameau were composing out the corps
sonore itself'. . .

This moment appears as sacred, in that it is set apart from that which surrounds it. The normal passage of time appears to be suspended as the corps sonore
reveals itself; as a result, time takes on a (vertical) spatial dimension. The listener is
invited to cross an imaginary threshold in order to enter a different time/space, to
engage a different, non-narrative mode of listening. It is as if a bell has sounded,
tolling out across the space, ritualising time. But it is not just the statue that has been
'sensitised'; it is the entire theatrical space. The corps sonore here creates an espace
sensible, a term I adopt from Michel Leiris.. .

The moment in question is just before 14 minutes into Leonhardt's recording

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Leiris's Opera: Music in Action, mentioned in the above essay on Rameau, is here

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How about this one, Messiaen's first organ work, Le Banquet Celeste (1928)?


If time stands still, then it loses its direction. When we listen we cease to be aware of  time past, present and future. Stasis. That's what I think Messiaen achieves here, at least in the first part, up to the pedal points which come in at 2.30 in that youtube performance. I'm not sure what to make of the pedal points.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen