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  • Being Time: Case Studies in Musical Temporality by Richard Glover
  • Jason Noble
Being Time: Case Studies in Musical Temporality. By Richard Glover, Jennie Gottschalk, and Bryn Harrison. Pp. vii + 189. (Bloomsbury Academic, London and New York, 2019. £19.99. ISBN 978-162356-494-0.)

Being Time: Case Studies in Musical Temporality presents a series of encounters between its three authors—all composers and scholars of experimental contemporary music—and pieces of recent music that made lasting impressions on their senses of temporality. The introduction lays out the book's methodology, the backgrounds of the authors, and their individual approaches to the chapters, with subjectivity and plurality squarely in the spotlight. From the outset, the book makes clear that it 'does not deal in generalities' (p. 3): it rather aims to demonstrate the value of plural subjective experiences of musical temporality, defending the thesis that 'by focusing in high-level detail on individual temporal experiences . . . much can be revealed about the nature of subjectivity and temporal experiences' (p. 92). The book states that it is not a 'comprehensive study of experimental music, of musical temporality, or even of the works under consideration' (p. 3), and that it does not 'assume that there is an ''idealized'' listener'; rather, it 'celebrat[es] diversity in listening capacities and behaviors' (p. 4). The authors suggest that the book may be useful as a 'meditation on the capacity of musical works to influence temporality', as an 'investigation of musical behaviors that have an impact on temporality', and as 'evidence of the continued validity and utility of exploring particular works in depth' (p. 2).

The core of the book is a series of six single-authored chapters presenting highly individualized accounts of the authors' experiences of temporality in the selected pieces—Morton Feldman's Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello (1987), James Saunders's Compatibility hides itself (1998–9) and 511 possible mosaics (1999), Chiyoko Szlavnic's Gradients of Detail (2005/6), Ryoki Ikeda's +/- (1996), Toshiya Tsunoda's O Kokos Tis Anixis (2013), Laurie Spiegel's The Expanding Universe (1975), and André O. Möller's musikfur orgel und eine(n) tonsetzer(in) (2003). It may be tempting to regard these pieces as representative of properties known to pose challenges for musical temporality and perception, such as prolonged repetition, harmonic stasis, micro-level perceptible change, and so forth, but the authors pre-emptively refute such assumptions: 'There is no statement that we feel can be applied to a generic short or long piece, or even to a ''typical piece by a particular composer . . . the focus is on the specific and the individual (p. 3). Over the course of these investigations, various perennial themes in musical temporality are taken up—duration, information density, memory, expectation, pulse, looping, harmonic stasis, etc.—but always resolutely emphasizing the particularities of these pieces, these recordings, these subjective listening experiences.

The authors acknowledge and embrace the diversity of their modes of presentation—'[a]t times, the writing style is confessional, autobiographical, or analytical . . .[s]ometimes direct, often tangential—stating that to homogenize style would be to lose sight of the premiss of the book (p. 6). The chapters frequently include the authors' raw, listening-diary-style notes, presented with minimal editing, which they characterize as 'listening to ourselves listening' (p. 7). [End Page 755] Each chapter is followed by a Postlude, a short reflection written by one of the other authors in response to the chapter and to their own experiences of listening: these Postludes often draw on conversations between the three authors, multiplying subjectivities and further minimizing any impression of making objective claims about what musical temporality 'is'.

A seventh chapter, 'Observations on Musical Behaviors and Temporality', remains focused on the pieces, recordings, and listening experiences detailed in the earlier chapters, but 'zoom[s] out' in order to 'address some key aspects of musical construction' (p. 161). This chapter frequently reproduces verbatim transcriptions of informal conversations between the three authors, followed by summarizing observations that veer as close as this book gets to generalization (e.g., 'materials re-presented aren t the same things they were before', p. 166). There follows an Epilogue, which offers some final reflections on what the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1477-4631
Print ISSN
0027-4224
Pages
pp. 755-757
Launched on MUSE
2020-05-14
Open Access
No
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