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Saturday
Jun092012

Time

Please bear with me on this post as it ties together a lot of stuff. At least it attempts to do so. 

The Music Settlement had their performance party for the Music Therapy program last week. Isaac did Bach's Prelude in C, something he and his therapist have been working on for a long time.  Isaac, though he has  perfect pitch and does reasonably well keeping rhythm tends to play notes on the piano sequentially without a lot of concern with how long he is supposed to hold them.  This gets to one of the fundamental differences in how he sees the world. Proportion does not mean much; everything is discrete. His therapist used the Prelude to teach about arpeggio, broken chords. Instead of playing all of the notes of a chord at the same they are played evenly one after another.  The listener still understands the chord. This was was a brilliant invention at the time. You can almost see it as a photograph in reverse. In a photograph, we take many moments in time and condense them into a single instance (at least some photographs do.)  While there is a lot of beautiful music, when it contains both beauty and invention it is very special. Bach is rightly considered a genius. This is where Isaac's perfect pitch helps him. Since he hears the chord more "perfectly" than we mortals it helps nudge him into playing more evenly than a more complexly structured series of notes.
Why does Isaac struggle playing things for duration  written if he knows the symbols and understands all the components?  I do not believe that Isaac perceives the continuous passage of time as we do. Rather he sees it as discrete events on many axes.  One axis is holidays. For example, his birthdays. His 37th birthday is one from his his 36th birthday, two from his 35th, three from his 34th, etc. Another is days.  June ninth is one after the eight, two after the seventh and so on.  Times Sylvester tried to eat the Tweety bird when Isaac and dad were watching TV on Saturday morning.  Everything is catalogued in his head this way and he seems to forget none of it. it is sliced similarly to how physicists do space-time maps Courtesy of Nomad Office Architects. This was not the illustration that I was originally seeking but was so lovely......to show the effects of gravity. If you look at the pages in The Album Project, this is how he labels his events. Thanksgiving 1991Thanksgving 1998While he does not have the kind of language to confirm this, I absolutely believe that, in his mind, the seven difference between Thanksgiving 1991 and Thanksgiving 1998 and the seven difference between 1 PM today and 8 PM today is the same, seven. To us the difference between an hour and a year is huge.   To him it is the same.
My "bad parenting" example of this was a few years ago when I was supposed to be picking him up after his work day at the courthouse which is on the north end of the center of downtown Cleveland not far from the lake.  We were having one of our occasional freak snowstorms and the city was completely gridlocked. Sitting in traffic, looking at my watch, my blood pressure rising, surely the end was nigh. Finally, roughly 30 minutes late, I pull up. Standing there, encrusted in ice, he gets in the car. "Hi dad, how are you?"  Exactly the same greeting he gives me every time he gets in the car. I expect to be sent to horrible parent prison for a lifetime in the hotbox with a bevy of insurance salesmen and HE DOES NOT EVEN REALIZE I AM LATE.  There are advantages to different. To him, everything is still in order - Finish work at 3:30,  tinkle, wash your hands, pack your Square Rigger, put on your coat, take the elevator to the first floor, walk out the door, wait for dad, drive home with dad…..
Cannot leave the subject of discrete and continuous time without mentioning my other run-in this week. I proposed a project last week and suggested that it would probably would be on film but might be digital because there would be some situations where there was not enough light for film, film might be too labor intensive and film would be much more expensive (actually more than buying a very nice digital camera with enough left over for a new MacBook Pro and that new tripod I have been lusting after.)  Turns out the digital camera being considered comes in two models, one without an anti-aliasing filter. I will avoid yet another digression about how everything was invented at Bell Labs and that now they are gone we are probably doomed.

Suffice it to say, there are two very real ways to observe time, continuously and discretely.  The greatest minds of the past few hundred years have been pushing us back and forth over those boundaries. Bach did it. Newton did it.  Even my kid is doing it. Go figure.

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