Sound and Oneness...or Thirdness

Minimalist composer, Terry Riley:


"Music can also be a sensual pleasure, like eating food or sex. But its highest vibration for me is that point of taking us to a real understanding of something in our nature which we can very rarely get at. It is a spiritual state of oneness."

Terry Riley's spiritual state of oneness correlates well with an idea presented in a collection of essays entitled REVERBERATIONS: The Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Politics of Noise. This oneness can be seen as a sense of duration, what Henri Bergson calls true being. For Bergson, music removes us from our constructed illusions of quantitative time, or clock time. Rhythm and measure interrupt it and bring us into duration, which is a sensation of time where being and sound form an 'intensity'. This intensity is an idea that occurs both inside and outside duration - as something entering the mind to a degree that measure is lost. It does not reflect merely properties of sounds or a piece of music, but the reception of the input, or how it is received. Somewhat paradoxical... how can music, existing as physical, measurable, organizations of sound, actually breakdown the listener's concept of measure and time? Music, like minimalism, ambient, trance, or noise, employs a purposeful rejection of the time music, or organized sound, structures for us. La Monte Young, another influential minimalist composer, hints at this idea;

"One of the aspects of form that I have been interested in is stasis - the concept of form which is not so directional in time, not so much climatic form, but rather form which allows time to stand still."

Deleuze and Quattari in A Thousand Plateaus, have an interesting take on how time can both move and stop without changing position or halting.

"This proliferation of material has nothing to do with an evolution...It is on the contrary an involution, in which form is constantly being dissolved, freeing times and speeds. It is a fixed plane, a fixed sound plane, or visual plane, or writing plane, etc. here, fixed does not mean immobile: it is the absolute state of movement as well as rest, from which all relative speeds or slowness spring, and nothing but them. " (1988, 267)

It's possible that non-moving music is the goal of 'spiritual' music, to create a trance-like state or to reveal an essence of the emptiness of time. In his essay, A chronic condition: noise and time, Paul Hegarty says the constant flow of music allows for multiplicity of thoughts and sensations, an endless becoming of duration. Bergson's idea of multiplicity of intensity is one of transformation. Deleuze and Quattari extend this thought, where the multiplicity of intensity is one of simultaneity. Deleuze and Quattari view intensity and the quantitative to be transformed into a plateau or rhizome, where connections are reconfigured so as to prevent ideas of meaning or narrative to be formed. This plateau can be seen as a location that allows dwelling, a certain sort of settling.

Dwelling can mean this spiritual state of oneness - particularly in the listener, or "the Other".  For in fact, 'one' sound is made and is perceived/understood by 'two', the Other. Music tends to be about three, or thirdness; about the sea at which communication drifts. If this thirdness is a space or field, it can be experienced, explored, researched, mapped, and designed. It's a dynamic process where the world is re-ordered and re-imagined as it is being presented. It is the fluctuation between movement and non-movement, a 'fixed sound plane'.