Monday, October 1, 2012

Clarity of Time

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. “

When I was coming up I would often do a solo or groove so ‘hip’ I would ‘lose’ the rest of the band.  I would get annoyed that they did not share my level of hipness.  In reality, as the old adage states, I think it was a case of two hips making an ass.

As bass players we hold a very special relationship with time.  With our teammate, the drummer, we are the keeper of the groove.  In thinking about time though I have come to the realization that there are so many ways of conceiving of it.  For the sake of this discussion I want to think of it as a linear succession of events.  I think of it as continuum.  We are the ones that are choosing to subdivide and ornament it in different ways.  By this every possible subdivision always exists.   I think that is it beneficial for us to think of time as a fluid, organic, and chaotic thing that we are shaping. This gives us freedom and doesn’t pigeonhole into just one view of time.

So how does clarity fit into this?  Once you are comfortable with the idea that time is undefined and you are the one defining it I think you can be a more active participant.  The hard part about this is acknowledging infinite possibilities. The time or groove is not something you are subjected to like hopping on a moving train.  Instead you are taking a formless thing and shaping it.  You are building a foundation with only your own will for the window-dressings to sit upon.  A foundation needs to be strong and deep but it also needs to fit the building that is being build on top of it.  Too much and the building will look silly, to little and it will fall down.

As a digression this all brings to mind Zeno’s arrow paradox and a great Aristotle quote.  “If everything occupies an equal space at rest, and that which is in locomotion is always occupying space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless.”  Basically the idea is that in any one instant of time, the arrow is neither moving to where it is, nor to where it is not. It cannot move to where it is not, because no time elapses for it to move there; it cannot move to where it is, because it is already there. In other words, at every instant of time there is no motion occurring. If everything is motionless at every instant, then time is entirely composed of instants.  I think of these because it is thinking of time as a series of points.  The notes we choose are that series.

This brings back the idea that clarity is about perception.  Develop the ability to step outside yourself and listen to the group as a whole.  What you perceive as the hippest groove in the world might just not be the right one for the song at hand.  Divide time in such a way the you build a strong foundation.  And most of all be comfortable enough with time that every note you play is with purpose and intention.

Time is such a huge topic and I may make a second post about it.  Feel free to comment and let’s see where it takes us.