Collective Reflections on Temporality
Performance | Caruso Catholic Center | University of Southern California| USA | April 2016 | 30:00m
We are stuck in the perpetual stream of time, floating from one moment to the next, down the proverbial river. From ancient philosophy, religious doctrine, and modern science to poetry and fine art, humans have contemplated the mystical nature of time. Is it linear and teleological? Are we truly stuck to its seemingly constant flow? Can it be controlled? Rolled back? Sped up? This 30-minute suite is divided into eight movements that explore a diversity of concepts about time using animation and music to deconstruct and then reconstruct these notions. Each movement is constructed using multi-media approaches ranging from hand-drawn to digital collage to 3-D animation.
Dedicated to Hocket piano duo and violinist Alex Russell, Collective Reflections on Temporality was a yearlong (2015-2016) artistic collaboration between composer Jaco Wong and animator Evan Tedlock. From ancient philosophy, religious doctrine, modern science, to poetry and fine art, humans walk closer and closer to understanding the mystical nature of time. Because of the temporal nature of the art form, this visual music composition is an appropriate artistic response to various concepts of time. This 30-minute suite is divided into eight separate movements, each taking on their own processes and properties based on contextual relevance. All movements are visually constructed in a non-objective system and musically eclectic driven by programmatic purposes.
- Collective Reflections on Temporality | April 2016 | University of Southern California | Caruso Catholic Center | Los Angeles | California
In Sanskrit, refers to an extremely short amount of time in the Buddhist ideology, approximately 1/75th of a second. It is said that one human reflection is about 90 ksanas long. The film incorporates a frame rate of 75 fps to accurately visualize the brevity of this capsule of time and 90 separate elements representing a human reflection in an extended form. The music is disorderly structured in moment form, representing that time is not teleological. This movement is a collage of musical materials from the following movements.
Eternal/Return as a concept appeared in several cultures throughout the ages, including the ancient Egyptians, is the idea that time is cyclical. The music, beginning and ending in Dorian mode, is largely post-minimalistic. Using multiple layers of ostinatos, smaller cells and larger sections repeat simultaneously. The visuals are constructed with many self-contained cycles arranged in radial design patterns. It is meant to immerse the audience in meditative space to consider this cycle of life.
III. Here and Now
According to Zen Buddhism, time and space are illusions that bound oneself. However, an individual, represented here by the solo violin, may be liberated during meditation. The sonic materials take inspirations from the Tibetan bells and Shomyo Chant. The animation is composed to emphasize the drastic differences between time-space and meditation-space. Using the vehicles of depth-of-field and radial design, these two spaces compete to be the one true reality. 3-D animation, watercolor, and photographic elements build up a rich tapestry of contrasting imagery.
IV. Cornus Canadensis
Named after the fastest flowering plant, this short movement represents time in a biological sense. In the same way that this flower bursts open, this painting develops in bursts of colors and splashes of paint, complemented by the musical depiction.
V. Shrinking Tree
Shrinking Tree is a model of time that conceptualizes the flowing of time. As the universe ages, branches of possible futures disappear, thus producing a successively shrinking tree whose trunk represents the fixed past and whose branches represent remaining future possibilities. This non-deterministic view of time inspired the aleatoric and chance nature of the music. The visuals also offer live improvisational opportunities such as added elements and exponentially complexifying clips.
To look at the past can be as simple as looking up to the night sky, because the light of the astronomical objects could have taken millions or even billions of years to reach the earth. Similarly, listening to a dated music composition can be, in a sense, listening to the past. This movement is a re-imagination of excerpts from Claude Debussy’s Petit suite pour piano a quatre mains and W.A. Mozart’s Sonata for Piano Four-Hands in C Major, K. 521. Using images of space and subtle animation, this piece emphasizes the timelessness of space and provides a humbling sense of scale.
VII. Time Present Time Past
This excerpt of T.S. Eliot’s poem is a literary manifestation of the B-theory of time, or eternalism, which takes the view that all points in time are equally real, and that each space-time moment exists in and of itself. Words and phonemes are divided among the speaking orchestra to temporally represent the ideas that Eliot suggested. Using simple imagery and an automatic animation technique, the circle develops into scribbles as it expresses its past and present simultaneously.
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
Excerpt from Burnt Norton, Four Quartet (1936), T.S. Eliot
VIII. Persistence of Memory
Exploring similar philosophy as the preceding movement, this final movement is a musical reaction to Salvador Dali’s famous painting, which was in itself a reaction to Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. Visually, the finale offers a reprise of the entire collection of ideas, while expressing the softness of time. The clock motif in the high register of the piano, which occurred multiple times throughout the previous movements, finally reappears in its fullest form, concluding the composition as the clock melts.