music with fluctuations

About ten years ago, I talked about 'music with fluctuations' at one of the lecture series held every Saturday at a jazz cafe in Tokyo, where music writers and critics gave small lectures each week while playing some music (mostly jazz) under certain themes they chose. For my turn, I decided to do a personal interpretation of the music I was especially interested in at the time rather than a formal lecture. Also, since I had not yet been exposed to a wide range of music back then, my choices of music were embarrassingly narrow - some from contemporary jazz, some from minimal electronics. But one thing I particularly remember is that I was strongly fascinated with something like ‘fluctuations’, which I found in some of the music.

In those days, I was not able to explain why I was so strongly attracted by 'fluctuations' in music, and did not fully grasp exactly what kind of musical phenomena caused the fluctuations. I just noticed that in the process of some music developing (supposedly) under a certain frame of the music along with the flow of time, sometimes there was a moment when a subtle change appeared like a waver and stirred the music as if the music were almost going slightly off balance. Sometimes it was a little tremor of a voice, or a moment when a soft sustained electronics sound started slightly wavering, or a moment when I thought I perceived a hidden unexpected tone under the present chord. Those changes were almost unrecognizably subtle like small events happening in a micro world, and seemed to be missed easily with casual listens. But for me, they created a vivid (and fascinating) moment as if I were falling into a black hole or the reality was fading out in front of me for a moment, which almost caused me a light dizziness. What I perceived then could be some 'sound movement’ that I had never experienced before. Or it may not have been an actual sound movement; instead it could have been just an impression in my imagination via some particular element (or some combination of multiple elements) that had somehow brought the images of fluctuations into my brain.

These images of fluctuations in music, which I had only faintly sensed in those days, are now much clearer to me since I started listening to Michael Pisaro's music (especially 'an unrhymed chord' and 'harmony series 11-16'). The fluctuations I perceived in the music, I now think, seem to be connected with ‘the unknown’. For example, if there is a straight line on which regular numbers are supposed to appear one after another like '1' followed by '2' then by '3'. But if some unexpected number like '1+1/2' appears as a half-translucent image between numbers, or if the number supposed to follow '3' is somehow almost invisible, our established sense of reality is momentarily shaken with the unexpected event - and this must be the moment when we experience a 'fluctuation'.

Along with the subtle resonances of the harmonic overtones that bring actual wavers in the flow of the sounds - just like magic, the moment when our established sense of reality is challenged, could be when we see the entrance to the unknown time and space (which is slightly away from reality). This experience activates the listener's imagination - just like some invisible sentence seems to emerge in between printed lines of sentences on a paper if imagination is involved. When a listener encounters these fluctuations in the music, his/her brain which used to rely on predictions unconsciously and just follow the flow of the music (reality) passively before, suddenly starts working actively for the first time – then the listener starts listening to the music more carefully, trying to explore something which may be hidden under the music (and silence) beyond the actual sounds and silences.




あの頃、いくつかの音楽の中におぼろげに感じていた「揺らぎ」というのが一体何だったのか、マイケル・ピサロの音楽(特に「an unrhymed chord」や「Harmony Series 11-16」)を聴くようになってから、より明確に見えてきたような気がする。音楽の中に感じ取る「揺らぎ」とは、未知の体験と結びついているのではないかと思う。たとえば、1の次は2、2の次は3…というように、一定の規則に従って流れていくはずの線上に、ぼんやりと「1+1/2」のような数字が半透明に現れたり、3の次に来るべき数字が消えかかっていたり…というように、何か意外なことが起きて、脳に組み込まれている既存の現実感覚を揺るがす瞬間に、脳は「揺らぎ」を知覚するのではないだろうか。