Monday, March 7, 2011

No Enlightenment on the Topic of Enlightenment.

This semester at uni, I'm taking a class on World Music, studying music's relationship to different cultures through religion. It's pretty sweet. Today the lecture was on Buddhism. I know a little about Buddhism, as I based my year 12 artworks on it a couple of years ago, and I found it absolutely fascinating. So much so, that I did a fair bit of unnecessary research on it, before deciding to work with a media that I had absolutely no experience in and making a pretty mundane project. But that's another story.

So yes, the lecture. We were going over The Eightfold Path, and the idea behind 'Right Mindfulness' got me thinking. My (wandering) thoughts tied it into something we were discussing earlier, about music fusing time and space to reflect eternity and freeze the flow of time.. it's a very confusing concept, and I brushed it off as mumbo jumbo when it was first brought up. The basic idea behind 'Right Mindfulness', is living in the present, and really experiencing your sensations and thoughts. It's a beautiful idea in theory, but practically impossible to stick to!

Music is used in some religions to go outside of the boundaries of the mind. Outside of 'rational' thinking and pure logic. It 'fuses time and space' by bringing the past and present together, forming one whole thing. A piece of music is the reflection of someones mind state in the past (when it was written), while also reflecting their mind state in the present (when it is performed); neither being of more importance. So as the writer and performer of a piece, you're in a kind of limbo! As a listener, however, you're in a different place again: your present is the result of someone elses fused past and present.

The concept of 'Right Mindfulness' in relation to this is quite interesting. As a writer, you can go back to the past and essentially reembody it. While I'm playing music I've written, I feel as though I am in the present more so than usual, as I'm experiencing my senses to an extreme level, and am focused on my feelings and thoughts of that exact moment. But does this reembodied past count as present? Does it change when I'm playing something I haven't written?

As a listener, it can be the two extremes. I've been to concerts where I can't bring myself to pay attention. I try to listen, but get distracted by contemplative thoughts of completely unrelated things. On the other hand, there have been concerts where my attention doesn't leave the music it's entirety. The first symphony I ever witnessed went for 2 hours, and I heard every single bar of it.

Unlike Buddha, I have not reached any level of enlightenment on the subject of music and time. However, it continues to fascinate me, so I shall continue to ramble about it to anyone who will listen. If you actually read to the end of this without losing interesting or having your brain explode with confusion, come and collect your prize.