II., Analysis

IIa., Playing “In-Time” and Analysis “Over-Time”: Subjectivity and Objectivity

In the previous chapter, I., Improvisation: Playing, and Replaying from Memory, we saw that our consciousness is mostly concerned with short-term and procedural memory while we are engaged in playing and replaying. We can thereby, in fact, counter-intuitively, be considered to be forgetful of precisely what we play, since our memories of playing and replaying are mostly short-term, working memories that form and last only seconds, or minutes at the most.

Why is it that we seem to forget that which we play? Being a musical improviser for more than twenty years, my experience is that we forget that which we play because we are engaged in a position in time, which do not lend us the necessary overview and distance to our position, as we play, in order to form memories of our playing with which we could create our analysis.

But even though I am engaged in analysis of my playing, not only do I not have reliable sources of memory to provide my analysis with, but the language, narrative, and form with which I anticipate to account for my playing require information, e.g., tempus (grammar/ontology), order of occurrences (structure), and style (meaning/syntax), that in turn presuppose a position in time that is other than the one I was in while playing, and of which I now mostly have short-term and procedural memories (Larsson 2020). Furthermore, the data I then have at my hands are not apt to be accounted for by my analysis, i.e., an objective position, outside of time.

Basically, when I am engaged in playing, time unfolds to me procedurally “in-time”, whereas when I am engaged in the act of analysis, it opens up a space “over-time” (Smithers 1996, 1998; Iyer 2008; Frisk & Karlsson 2011), in which I can move freely between past, present, and future in a kind of fictive and narrative, linguistic and performative modality of the world.[1] What then are the ethical implications to our fictive, narrative world with which we engage in analysis? This leads us to the next chapter, in which we will see to what psychological research has to say about the correspondence between the physical world of playing and replaying, and the fictive, narrative world of analysis.

[1] By performative I mean that it is not out of the spatiotemporal world in which we physically live our lives, but it can impact, change, and permeate that said world by way of its coming into existence for us through analysis. See, e.g., (Pollock 1998). For another account of linguistic [semantic] metaphysics of time, see (Hansson Wahlberg 2013).

In contemporary civilization where everything is standardized and where everything is repeated, the whole point is to forget in the space between an object and its duplication. If we didn't have this power of forgetfulness, if art today didn't help us to forget, we would be submerged, drowned under those avalanches of rigorously identical objects (For the Birds, 1981).  -John Cage