PRESENTISM

Within the philosophies of time, three oppositional schools compete: Eternalism describes the phenomenon of time like a strip of film – the past and the future do exist, are real, but the present is merely a human concept. The growing block theory, maybe the most intuitive of the three, states that the present continually creates the past, but the future is unwritten. Presentism on the other hand argues that the only thing irrefutable is the present and that the past and the future are both unreal. By applying these three concepts to music, we may end up with a number of strategies to rethink what we consider as given.

I would like to propose that there has been has been a slow shift in how music was perceived. Improvised music, prior to notation, can be considered as presentistic, manifesting itself only in the present, it’s only traces of existence written in memory. With interpretation and notation, the perception shifts more to a growing block. The mind got a hold of the past, but the future still remained a very unstable realm – once the hand made a mistake with an instrument or the voice was interrupted to catch a breath. Obviously the advent of the recording introduced an absolute future and with it the concept of eternalism in music. Furthermore the introduction of the loop, applied in its most extreme way within techno, embeds the listener in a coherent body of past and future, even with a view of the timeline – first on the record, later on the waveform. A car, racing on the Autobahn, free to move in both directions. Of course, one could argue that the state of ecstasy in which techno is consumed compresses time into a perfect present, the psychological present, which is defined as 2-3 seconds with the equivalent of 1 bar by 120 bpm…

But staying for the moment with the first thought, we can ask the questions: is the loop the defining property of techno? What happens if we remove the certainty of the next kick, eroding the temporal and structural integrity of the genre? Presentism is a project based on one temporal randomised pulse, denying our ability to foresee the next kick and obscuring the possibility to form loops. Yet it upholds timbres and instrument references common to the genre. The aleatoric function acts like an agent of presentism in an eternalist domain. Like improvisation, it has the ability to remove a stable future and at the same time blur the memory by forming insignificant patterns. Intensification usually benefits from a balance between control and the prospect of collapse. The temporal shuffle of techno is the attempted surrender of control of the past and future to the present.

– JAT

collaborative record forthcoming Spring 2021 on Diagonal

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