The musician has three disciplines: of the hands, the head and the heart. Each of us tends to be more functionally disposed towards one more than the others (and in some cases two of these, in which case the third centre is referred to as under-developed). Some players are more naturally centered in their hands, and by extension their bodies; some are more in their hearts, and by extension their feelings; and some are located in the head: these are the more intellectual or cerebrally oriented players.
So, we have three primary ways of relating to time: through the body, through the feelings and through the head. Our experiencing of time, from each of these perspectives, is different.
Good time is primarily in the body; connecting and playing to the fundamental pulse of any piece of music is through the body.
Music is a quality organized in sound and in time (and may also be understood as a way of shaping Silence). The quality of music is eternal, but the forms of organization adopted for musical expression vary from culture to culture, and from time to time. In that part of Western popular culture, in the genre known as rock music, c. 1973 in the United States, one way of relating to fundamental pulse was known as laid back. The drummer, while maintaining fundamental pulse, placed their snare beat at the back end, or slightly behind, the top or centre of the beat. This, without the pulse slowing or deviating: not metronomic and fixed, but good time. In punk c. 1976-77 in London, the accent was right on top of the beat, with tempi characteristically faster. These, two examples of experiencing time primarily through and in the body.
Those more seated in their emotions, and disposed to gush in their emotional lives, in their relating-to-time will tend towards rubato. In a singer, the accompanist will be prepared for colla voce.
Performers centered in their head will tend to play ahead of the beat and move around it; listening to the standard repertoire of violin concerti and its soloists will reveal much movement around the beat, particularly in passages of allegro and presto. To anyone who has ever played for dancing, or those experiencing time in their bodies, this is poor time.
Three notions of the process of music unfolding: time, timing, and time ordered or organized. Time – relating to fundamental pulse and its rate of flow (tempo) is primarily in the body. Timing - the stressing of legal discontinuities in the placement of the note around the beat in response to feeling what is right - is primarily in the heart. The organization and ordering of the sequence of unfolding flow, through time signatures and bars, is primarily in the head.
One standard GC suggestion as to how we might improve our time, is to put up posters – Dance In The Village Hall On Saturday Night! – and place bowls of overripe fruit near the entrance. Those intent on dancing tend to be unforgiving towards those who upset their enjoyment with bad time.
Tuesday 27th. October, 2009;
All Saints Retreat Center,
Raft Island, Gig Harbor, WA 98329.