Tuesday, 12 December 2017

David Bohm on Music

I'm finding my current obsession with David Bohm quite mind-changing. His insights are profound. I have not been this affected by academic work since I discovered Alfred Schutz a few years ago.  The common denominator is that both Bohm and Schutz say some penetrating things about music. This is Bohm on music in Wholeness and the Implicate Order, pp198-200:
Consider what takes place when one is listening to music. At a given moment a certain note is being played but a number of the previous notes are still 'reverberating' in consciousness. Close attention will show that it is the simultaneous presence and activity  of all these reverberations that is responsible for the direct and immediately felt sense of movement, flow and continuity. To hear a set of notes so far apart in time that there is no such reverberation will destroy altogether the sense of a whole unbroken, living movement that gives meaning and force to what is heard. 
It is clear from the above that one does not experience the actuality of this whole movement by 'holding on' to the past, with the aid of a memory of the sequence of notes, and comparing this past with the present. Rather, as one can discover by further attention, the 'reverberations' that make such an experience possible are not memories but are rather active transformations of what came earlier, in which are to be found not only a generally diffused sense of the original sounds, with an intensity that falls off, according to the time elapsed since they were picked up by the ear, but also various emotional responses, bodily sensations, incipient muscular movements, and the evocation of a wide range of yet further meanings, often of great subtlety. One can thus obtain a direct sense of how a sequence of notes is enfolding into many levels of consciousness, and of how at any given moment, the transformations flowing out of many such enfolded notes interpenetrate and intermingle to give rise to an immediate and primary feeling of movement. 
This activity in consciousness evidently constitutes a striking parallel to the activity that we have proposed for the implicate order in general. Thus [...] we have given a model of an electron in which, at any instant, there is a co-present set of differently transformed ensembles which inter-penetrate and intermingle in their various degrees of enfoldment. In such enfoldment, there is a radical change, not only of form but also of structure, in the entire set of ensembles[...]. and yet, a certain totality of order in the ensembles remains invariant, in the sense that in all these changes a subtle but fundamental similarity of order is preserved. 
In the music, there is, as we have seen, a basically similar transformation (of notes) in which a certain order can also be seen to be preserved., The key difference in these two cases is that for our model of the electron an enfolded order is grasped in thought, as the presence together of many different but interrelated degrees of transformations of ensembles, while for the music, it is sensed immediately as the presence together of many different but inter-related degrees of transformations of tones and sounds. In the latter, there is a feeling of both tension and harmony between the various co-present transformations, and this feeling is indeed what is primary in the apprehension of the music in its undivided state of flowing movement. 
In listening to music, one is therefore directly perceiving an implicate order. Evidently, this order is active in the sense that it continually flows into emotional, physical and other responses, that are inseparable from the transformations out of which it is essentially constituted. 

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