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I’ve talked about duration in any post where I’ve mentioned rhythm. This is a bit tricky to talk about. But interesting. Really interesting.


Two types of time

We live by two basic types of duration: clock-time and experiential time. Clock-time breaks our lives into chunks. Experiential time happens when we “lose track of time.” At these times we experience time going by more (or less) slowly than we thought.


We experience time as a flow instead of chunks.


Time and listening

When we listen to a piece of music we generally can’t tell how much time has gone by (unless we sit there counting seconds). We experience time based on our relationship to the music.


If we like what we’re hearing, time flies. If we hate it, it takes forever. In either case, we don’t separate time into equals portions. Instead we mark it by noticeable events in the music.


Music markers

So if we hear the guitar start we unconsciously create a time-marker. When the voice comes in, that’s another time marker. Then we might notice the bass, or the keyboards. Maybe the horn section plays a couple of shots in the verse.


All these things interact, occurring at different points in time.  The cool thing about music is that we notice some of it on the first listen, and something else on the second listen. And something else on each subsequent listen.


And then one day, we just stop listening.


Different time-senses

But while we listen, we get a different sense of time each time we do. If the song-writer or composer has done a good job, some of the stuff they’ve written will be “hidden.” “Hidden” just means supporting stuff like strings that sneak in and then disappear. Or a bass line where a couple of notes jump out of the texture.


Sometimes we notice these things, sometimes we don’t. And this means the song seems a bit different each time we listen to it. This is partly because the things we notice become time-markers, and our experience of time shifts on each listen.


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