Music as a Gradual Process

The title for this post is not mine, it belongs to Steve Reich. And he is one of a number of musicians that I have spent more time reading about (& thinking about) than actually listening to their work. Is that a bad thing? Who knows… Steve Reich, I am sure would be the first to admit he is not striving to be a popular artist – his work is challenging & while I am not trying to say he strives to be unpopular his work, unlike much popular music, does bear thinking about.
I remember back when I was in the slow motion process of dropping out of university, reading about one of his works involving hanging microphones over guitar amps & setting a cycle of feedback in motion, as the mics moved like pendulums… Decades later I have still never heard that work, or even a recording of it, but I have many many times thought about hearing it, such that it is a familiar sound to me….
Similarly this is not the first time I have read his dissertation of Music as a Gradual Process & I suggest if this is your first chance to read it then it should not be your last. As with all good writing there are multiple interpretations to be found & each is based on your own experiences & perception. Here are just a few excerpts that resonate with me now:

“Performing and listening to a gradual musical process resembles:
pulling back a swing, releasing it, and observing it gradually come to rest;
turning over an hour glass and watching the sand slowly run through the bottom;
placing your feet in the sand by the ocean’s edge and watching, feeling, and listening to the waves gradually bury them.”

“While performing and listening to gradual musical processes one can participate in a particular liberating and impersonal kind of ritual. Focusing in on the musical process makes possible that shift of attention away from he and she and you and me outwards towards it.”

So what brought on this reflection on music as a gradual process? Two things; first the photo above; that is the footprint of Hua Chi, a 70 year-old Buddhist monk who has been praying in the same spot at his temple in Tongren, China for over 20 years. And when I say pray I mean he performs his prayers 3000 times a day….

Secondly, I was reminded of the holes in the floor in this video:

3 thoughts on “Music as a Gradual Process

  1. dave romero

    talking/writing about music that way never appealed to me. even the most eloquent language always falls so far short of the real experience. i don’t see the point

    i don’t know who said “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture” but i completely agree

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