Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The time-traveling detective @3QD

My latest is up at 3 Quarks Daily, “Time travelers we are, each and all”, https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2019/10/time-travelers-we-are-each-and-all.html.

The title tells the tale. I suggest/argue that, in a sense, music makes time travelers of us all (and, by implication, culture in general). Music entrains brain states. When we listen to or perform a piece of music again, we enact the same trajectory of brain states. Since we, or at least our minds, are trajectories of brain states, it follows that, when we repeat a trajectory, we in effect travel back in time to the original occurrence of that trajectory. Of, if you all, all repetitions of the trajectory happen outside the flow of clock time. Sorta’ like the movie, Groundhog Day.

The article is an amalgam of an anecdote or two from Beethoven’s Anvil plus a bit of speculative engineering and more speculative engineering from a working paper, “The Magic of the Bell: How Networks of Social Actors Create Cultural Beings”, 2015, https://www.academia.edu/11767211/The_Magic_of_the_Bell_How_Networks_of_Social_Actors_Create_Cultural_Beings.

Let’s think about this. You’re a conductor, but also an amateur detective. You get on the podium, become the composer, and then come off the podium in the composer’s shoes. Who do you become, and why? Do you want to solve mysteries in Mozart’s Vienna, or Mussorgsky’s Russia? What mysteries? And how would you solve them? And how would you get back to your own time and place? What constraints are you operating under?

All these problems. But that’s what world-building is about, no? Maybe you’re an amateur historian instead. Different kinds of problems. But still, how much time, and how do you get back? During the next nights performance? What if there’s only a single performance. And what happens to your body back in the 20th century while you’re gallivanting about late 19th-century Russia, or Bach’s Leipzig? And what of the poor fellow in whose body you take up residence?

Yikes! Fiction sure is hard.

What about you can’t time travel, but you can enter the mind of anyone attending a concert while you’re conducting. What can you do with that? As a writer, I mean, not as a character in one of your own fictions. That ONE’s already got you fully occupied.

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