chrono-synclastic infundibula

22nd November, 2006

  Perhaps you’ve read Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. I did, and was struck by, among other things, the idea of the chrono-synclastic infundibula. The idea is that the universe is so large that any location can be observed from a variety of vantage points – and each vantage point will establish a different context for the location. Imagine looking at the earth from mars, or the moon, or another, distant perspective. Each perspective contextualizes the earth within a different data set, and, the chrono-synclastic infundibula accept each of these perspectives as equally valid. Vonnegut describes the infundibula as places where these “ways to be right” coexist.

  Perhaps you’ve read some earlier posts where I mention Dr. Manfred Clynes’ Sentics. Here is another quote, from pages 12-13:

Recognition plays a key role in genetic processes: the shapes of molecules are recognized with high specificity. The loose chemical bonds used in the processes of building instructions and of replication depend fundamentally on the recognition of specific molecular forms. More recently the importance of vibrational modes, introducing time, has been discovered. Indeed, recognition implies time as well as space: the frequency of a photon is recognized by an electron – forms in time may be programmed by genetic instructions as well as well as forms in space alone.

In human language we have been far too negligent in naming forms in time. The precise reality of forms in time has escaped the language-making processes and words denoting specific time forms are quite rare (e.g., sigh, caress, etc.)

Here is a constellation of personal, current associations:

           nyc Rachel Columbia 00’s eric change

                    mike eric time xenakis nikos 90’s Columbia

nikos noisy neighbors nyc xenakis

eric rachel Columbia time 90’s mike 00’s

I grew up in nyc and am familiar with noisy neighbors, street noise, bright street lights, etc. I don’t live in nyc at the moment and have enjoyed, for perhaps the first time, the experience of a quiet apartment, and real darkness to sleep in. I associate neighbor and neighborhood noise with nyc.

  A good friend of mine is named Nikos. We became friends in the late 90’s in nyc via some musicians I worked and socialized with. Nikos is a mathematician with whom I share common interests. He and his wife now live in England, and we rarely get to see each other. We exchange emails a couple times a year – seemingly at random. I associate Nikos with living in nyc and elsewhere and comparing the differences.

  I spent my early years as a composer and performer in the contemporary music world, based in nyc. Nikos is an aficionado of contemporary classical music, he and I became friends based, in part, on our mutual commitment to that artform. Nikos is was one of the few “civilians” (non-composer/performer) who seemed to genuinely like the music of Iannis Xenakis. I associate Nikos, nyc and Xenakis.

  About a month ago I was awoken at 6:45am by a blaring clock radio in the apartment below. I did nothing, as it was the first time since moving in that such an event took place – I accepted it as an aberration. Perhaps someone was visiting. It made me think back to nyc, and caused me to appreciate the silence I enjoy in my current apartment.

  Two weeks ago I again heard the clock radio, and I thought about saying something to the neighbor, but forgot. Things returned to “normal” – but I began to reflect more often on living in nyc.

  Last week I was browsing youtube and typed in Xenakis – just out of curiosity. I hadn’t really thought about, or listened to his work in quite a while (like years) – his name just seemed to pop into my head late one night. I found some stuff to listen to; really liked it, especially a solo violin work I hadn’t heard before.

  Last weekend I went up to nyc – first time in a long time. Participated in a discussion held at glowlab via red76, and then visited my friends who are expecting their first child. My friends went to Columbia U. at the same time Nikos did, but they never met. My friends are also deeply involved with contemporary art and music. They have much more in common than their relationship to me. I associate Columbia U., contemporary classical music, nyc, the late 90’s, early 00’s, and my career as a composer with them.

  While wondering around the city last weekend I thought about Nikos and how much he loved being there, and how much I love being there, and how many of my friends who are still there think often about leaving.

  Two days ago I spoke with my friend Eric about his new baby. Late last night I received a “random” email from Nikos. Hadn’t heard from him in about eight months. Just saying hello. I started to answer it but felt tired and went to bed.

  Yesterday 6:45am blaring clock radio woke me up. Couldn’t get back to sleep. Went online, wrote to Nikos.

  This morning, 6:45am blaring clock radio woke me up. Managed to fall back to sleep. When I woke up I wrote this post.

  I’m not sure how to represent the form(s) of this constellation in such a way that the interrelationship of the elements will permit others to experience them as I am beginning to consider them: as simultaneous. According to Clynes, we neglect “naming forms in time”. The events described, sequentially, above are perhaps one event that I’m experiencing from different perspectives, and those different perspectives may have more to do with interrelationships of things in space than events in time. In other words, I am in a space where the probability of the experience of the events described above is high. The order that I experience those specific events in speaks more to the level of probability of the event than some temporal displacement. Put another way, the present is where all of us always are. We understand things in terms of relationships, and it doesn’t make sense – and is perhaps even impossible, to compare something that is (present) with something that no longer is (past), or isn’t yet (future). That which we can touch touches us, and we only know that which we can touch (be in some physiological contact with). This is to say that my ability to relate one event to another indicates the presence of both – and, probabilistically, one of the events is revealing aspects of itself that cause me to consider it in the present, while other aspects of itself I experience as a memory of the past – or an anticipation of the future, but they are all, really, present. Does that make sense? I experienced a sequence of events but know that the others (and I include people as well as their memories and things [the Xenakis videos, etc.,] in the category of others) involved within this sequence where involved in different sequences of events – all of which were no doubt very real to each person, and all of which were happening simultaneous to mine.

I’d like to add that Eric and I have spoken frequently about the nature of Time. I will also add that another friend, Mike, is a conductor/composer in nyc that I am also rarely in touch with, but began thinking about last week. I have also had long talks with him about the nature of time (starting last spring), and was surprised a few days ago when my father, who doesn’t know Mike well and rarely asks questions about my friends, asked about what Mike was up to.

I wonder if our understanding of time isn’t based on our experience of the probability of change, and if our belief in the past-present-future paradigm, while seemingly, experientially, true, isn’t, perhaps unreal. I wonder whether the challenge (to reference Clynes) isn’t to name forms in time, but to name/model/metaphorize/ forms in change. To explore these forms we may have to consider the implications of concepts like Vonnegut’s chrono-synclastic infundibula and to minimize our reliance on our (ref. Newton’s) concept of time.


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