The Personalist Project

Comments (4)

Scott Johnston

#1, Mar 27, 2012 4:09am

I wonder if a loose analogy to music is possible here?

When a musician is first learning a piece of music, initially, one's mind is consumed with the immediately present details of what note to play and the rythm at each moment, etc. Gradually, as the piece is learned, those little details of notes and rythm become a kind of habit, and the mind is much less consuemd with them. The focus of one's mental energies shifts to broader things such as the feel/mood/expression of a passage. Dynamics and phrasing become more prominent. And then there is the ensemble--mindfulness of how one is blending with other musicians to produce a harmonious whole. Also, one is more mindful of more personal matters of one's own feelings/emotions and how those come through in performance. And, gradually, these broader aspects also become a habit of sorts.

Then, there is a kind of reverse process, where, in performance, certain particular details at certain points can jump out for a moment and become more consuming in the musican's attention (the volume of a particular note; the slightly altered tempo of one measure, etc.). As this happens, though, the broader aspects, now ingrained, are ever-present.

Scott Johnston

#2, Mar 27, 2012 4:27am

And so, I am thinking that the broader, more universal elements of a piece of music that gradually (in a later, more advanced stage of practice) become ingrained as well (mood, phrasing, dynamics, etc.) might be analogous to the "superactual" idea?

I know from my days of playing in a high-level drum corps, there are various phases of learning and absorbing a piece of music as an individual and then as a group. And as this happens, there are also shifts in the way a group plays and experiences the same piece of music together as an ensemble.

For example, a typical drum "chart" for a particular song in a drum corps show will have certain sections that are particularly intense from the standpoint of technical difficulty. As one learns and becomes familiar with the whole chart on all the various levels, one's personal subjective experience of playing the piece in ensemble rehearsal changes--one's relationship to the piece of music grows and transforms. As the ensemble learns a piece well, they are thinking less of the small details of individual notes or measures and more of larger matters--and of maintaining a certain united/shared energy, feel and concentration.

Scott Johnston

#3, Mar 27, 2012 4:39am

But, for a drum line, there are those points of special technical intensity in a chart where one does shift down into a more specific focus upon a certain few notes and getting the timing right of this particular phrase. And then you shift back into the more broad, less detailed focus.

Howeer, even as you are momentarily mindful of a more microscipic level of detail, the larger matters of phrasing, dynamics, mood, remain ever-present. These too have become ingrained, and "carry" through every moment you are playing, even as you temporarily shift one's primary attention to another level of concern. In fact, these broader-level matters are what give a piece of music its unity as a whole while it is being performed. They are always in the background, touching and guiding every note--whether or not they are especially prominent in the forefront of your mind in a given moment.

And I would very much say that these higher-level, broader matters that give a work of music its integral unity as it is being performed live, never quite become subconscious. The musician is always concious of them, but in different ways at different moments of shifting mental demands. Thus, "superactual"?

Scott Johnston

#4, Mar 27, 2012 5:14am

Sorry for another comment!

I want to offer something faith-related about this. . .

When we arise and engage in an act of prayer that we willfully make for our entire day--such as a traditional morning offering--we thus consecrate our day in that regard. All of our sufferings and joys, sucesses and failures that day are recreated in a sense into spiritually significant events with an impact that goes beyond the limits of space and time.

If I do this and then later I'm driving to work, on the phone, writing emails, etc., I do not become uncounscious of the spiritual consecration of my day that I made in the morning. Yet, I am not explicitly thinking about it most of the time, either. If I choose, I can instantly call it to mind and make it more present in my thoughts. But at most times I am attentive to more ordinary matters.

Is this akin to the idea of the "superactual"?

Maybe it's something like if we could sing a note out loud in such a manner that when we stopped actively singing, it nonetheless continued to sound faintly through the day, audible at any time, though usually unnoticed.

Sign in to add a comment, or register first.

Forgot your password?