Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ideas in Their Place-Part 1

A Cabalist who recently visited our Outpost has shared, in what time allowed, some aspects of this tradition and some lesser related non traditional practices. One of these is known as Gematria, a system involving the relationships of number and letters in Hebrew. Briefly, it associates the root of an idea with a number, usually prime, then pursues the combination of ideas through the combining of numbers. Since ideas and concepts are infinite, so are the series of primes, so there is always a way for the new and unforeseen to find its locale in the numerical continuum.
Of much interest though is their sensitivity is to the 'life' of an idea , it's beginning energy and how that energy changes in the process of manifestation and use. Likewise how it interacts with the plethora of ideas that have already been expressed. The basics are symbolized in their 'Tree of Life' which arranges the first ten numbers is a particular pattern, showing a pattern of descent or ascent. hence any new idea can be followed in its first 10 steps.
Perhaps a dogma but it represents a sensitivity to something we usually don't bother to think about. i think this sensitivity is fruitful in dealing with ideas in relationship to music, especially conceptional and or philosophical ones. Possibly this same type of reflection could be focused upon exactly how these ideas manifest when acted upon, regardless of their goal. Could it be that the more extreme ideas get us lost and some of the simplest have been the vehicle for some profound works? Could experimentation be fruitless unless we evaluate whether it was successful or not when it is all over? I remember Stockhausen making the comment how the text to one of the text pieces "From the 7 days" brought out a certain ferocity in performance which one would not foresee in the concept of the text itself. This is a good example of type of sensitivity.
One general idea as an example. We witnessed a century that by the end there was no sound nor form possibility that was not allowed . In this environment of "infinite possibilities" it is interesting to see how culturally bound this music remained (and will so spawned from this idea). One compares it to other world music traditions to witness how much is left out that have blossomed out of humans without such concerns. The west can make them or get there only by appropriation. This idea leads us away, not closer to these practices. Hence we can not get there from here, not that it is the only place i want to go, but don't want to rule it out. So we must move on, leaving it behind as much as we did the concept of the ether (in the sense of true or not, it cannot be observed, therefore of not much use to include it, or exclude it) . In the end "infinite possibilities"- so what?

A concept is not thinkable without its opposite.- Paul Klee

Let us look at the negative side of "infinite possibilities" . There might be a parallel to say we push beyond the limits plants are accustomed (just because we can) resulting in hybrids that are sterile and can produce no offsprings. A Botanist might tell you there are others ways to do this, slower but more substantial. And what good are such plants beyond a show of cleverness if we only have finite land for gardens?
One Cabalist stated, "Solve half the equation, but leave the other half unsolved." Certain ideas pursued allows us little choice in the matter and the most fruitful for all involved

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