Subject: RE: Meditation /Music/ attention
From: Eldad Tsabary (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Nov 20 2005 - 22:23:04 EST
Kevin Austin wrote:
" In my (rather limited) experience, composition was more demanding of my
attention than playing, but maybe playing an instrument is not always really
A few clarifications
1) I do not mean to say that composition requires less attention than
performance - this is hardly the case; rather that performance - being
carried out in real time - is less forgiving to lapses in attention. It
requires a continuous, unbending attention. Composition on the other hand
allows you to rest, gather yourself, examine and re-examine, focus on
selected areas, correct and improve as much as you like until you give the
listener the final product. Practicing an instrument (or a diffusion
console for that matter) may be more forgiving than actually performing in
front of an audience; nonetheless, part of the reason for practice is to be
able to play with continuous attention. Composing requires a different type
of attention, involving, perhaps, more components and more depth, but allows
you to rest as much as you find necessary.
2) Perhaps another idea: how much thought is done by a performer during a
live-performance? How much thought is involved in a composition process? How
much thought is involved in listening to a live performance? Probably it
depends on the individuals involved; however, it is quite obvious that time
constraints in a live performance limit one's thought process to a minimum
and requires a more direct, rehearsed action (and meditative attention). In
a composition process one thinks as much as desired. A listener in a concert
is also constrained by time as the performance goes on; however, he/she has
the privilege of lapses in attention and of picking it up later. This
allows more thinking. What is done with this thinking is of course personal
(structural analysis, mental admiration of the performance, creative thought
influenced by the aural input, or simply wandering off to other subjects.)
3) I am sure a lot of what I am saying is not new; and the discussion about
lack of a "live" component in many EA concerts has been brought up countless
times. My point is more specific: This type of lapse-less attention that is
required in a good performer is a desirable ability - it is a trait of great
performers (instrument players, EA performers, diffusers, improvisers,
comedians, athletes, circus performers, dancers, public speakers, etc.)
Music or EA works being played out of loud-speakers without any live
intervention do not require such a performance skill; quite possibly such
concerts do not really qualify as performing arts despite happening in front
of an audience and despite having a linear time dimension.
>In the five recent concerts at Concordia, seven students did
>stereo-projections of two of Annie Mahtani's pieces.
>Some had truly exquisite moments, a couple maintained the level of aural
focus that was quite astounding.
>Part of the problem was that students had
little "practice" time before presentation.
>One student's projections (he was able to do Surfacing three times)
'matured' over the three days.
>His listening became more detailed with each performance.
4) Obviously, this type of "lapse-less" attention I am referring to is
required in EA performances in which a live component is involved.
From: Kevin Austin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: November 19, 2005 11:47 PM
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; Eldad Tsabary
Subject: RE: Meditation / Sports / Music and attention span
Some of this may be related to one's background and experience.
At 14:25 -0500 2005/11/19, Eldad Tsabary wrote:
>If music performance thickens the cortex in the areas of our brain
>related to attention and attention span (as does meditation and
>sports) do we not lose this important aspect of performance as
>composers of musique concrete, acousmatic works, EA (not EA sports)
>or any other form of performance without live components?
In my (rather limited) experience, composition was more demanding of
my attention than playing, but maybe playing an instrument is not
always really performance.
In the five recent concerts at Concordia, seven students did
stereo-projections of two of Annie Mahtani's pieces. Some had truly
exquisite moments, a couple maintained the level of aural focus that
was quite astounding. Part of the problem was that students had
little "practice" time before presentation. One student's projections
(he was able to do Surfacing three times) 'matured' over the three
days. His listening became more detailed with each performance.
Some students had done mental practice of the piece and it was clear
to my ears that they had become "one" with the inner workings of the
>I am not suggesting we certainly do ... often I feel in a state
>similar to meditation in such concerts as listener or as
>composer. But creating such music I find not to be as demanding in
>unbending attention as does practicing an instrument for example.
This is a point of view that is frequently encountered in discussions
between 'acoustic' musicians who have come to ea, and those who have
'grown up' with ea in their blood. I feel that the differences are
probably greater between individuals than between types of activity.
By this I mean that the 'detailed' mind will be as detailed whether
the medium is ea or acoustic.
If the ea composer uses standard or slightly modified patches /
plug-ins etc, and does not have experience with a lot of serious
micro-editing, then IME their work is closer to that of someone who
writes words without having a strong formation in articulatory
phonetics. The "word" becomes about the smallest building block of
the sonic vocabulary. (The /s/ assignment is designed to break
through this barrier.)
Thanks for the ideas.
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