About time

I’m trying to tease out the relationship between ‘internal time’ – the time of perceptual cognition, and ‘real time’ or space-time, in order to develop an account of co-present metonymic relations that allows for the time it takes to perceive something, but that can still be regarded as ‘co-present’, that is, occurring or existing at the same time. I think Volumina by the twentieth century composer Ligeti (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoA7vgEgxHg is an excellent example of what Thomas Sattig (reviewed: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=8083) and Kasia Jaszczolt (book abstract: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199214440.do) refer to as the supervenience of psychological time (the time taken to perceive sound changes), over space-time, which is in this case: the performance time of Volumina.

Per Aang Brandt, from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, submitted a note: ON THE GAIT OF TIME to the metaphor-L email discussion list of researching metaphor and metonymy (http://www.case.edu/artsci/dmll/larcs/documents/tempusfugit.docx) that describes our human embodied sense of time thus:

Time, in the presence frame, furthermore has an inherent metric, in that the subject can generate countable beats by a reflexive bodily activity called rhythm; the subject can intentionally express regular series of ‘nows’ through movements of certain body parts, rhythmically realizing tactile cascades of such beats and immediately perceiving them: reflexive self-perception – the body addressing itself, so to speak, by generating its own periodic sensations – is a constitutive aspect of subjectivity. Subjectivity is inherently rhythmic. Inter-subjectivity, correspondingly, begins in rhythmic attunement between the bodies of subjects perceiving each others’ expressions as they perceive their own and as the other’s experiences them themselves. The phenomenological instance called ‘consciousness of time’ (Zeitbewusstheit) relies on, or even consists in, this potentially shared rhythmic self-perception, alias: reflexivity. Shared reflexivity underlies shared attention.

When events enter into the subjective presence frame, they are received through this basic, rhythmic pulsation of consciousness, whether its bodily expression is motorically manifested or suppressed. Before events happen, they can be expected, and the subject can thus prepare bodily and mentally for their reception, because the phenomenological metrics allows the subject to project the beat cascades into the future. In that case, an event traverses a metrically stable ‘expectation space’ immediately before arriving in the presence frame; having thrown a stone into a deep well we expect and wait for the resounding splash of its hitting the water. Subjects thus attune to the surrounding world of events; expectation rhythm will often match the rhythm of perceived events, which will make the feeling of time vanish; but events can ‘slow down’ and create a feeling of temporal expansion, or they can ‘speed up’ and let us feel a temporal contraction. This plasticity of time is inherent in human time consciousness. It can evidently be caused either by external changes in event rhythm or by internal changes, occurring in the subject’s rhythm of expectation and present experience.

This psychological time has a measurable electrical oscillation of about 40 Hz, with a relatively slow stimulus-interval-dependent response of 12-15 ms (see Marc Joliot et al: Human oscillatory brain activity near 40 Hz coexists with cognitive temporal binding: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC45309/pdf/pnas01146-0475.pdf.

We reveal a subjective bodily rhythm not only in language but in things we make.  Car engines, clocks, etc all tick, beat and hum to a rhythm.  If we consider the development of the clock, it began as a static construction, with a swinging pendulum, such as the long-case or ‘Grandfather’ clock.  Railway station clocks were also fixed pendulum devices – a slightly faster tick (shorter pendulum) – maybe located in the ‘waiting room’. Then came the carriage clock, with its rapid tick and its ability to function while it was on the move. This was followed by pocket watches and the modern day ‘watch’. Each device had a different rhythm, which through experiential metonymic relations connected with our live styles.

According to George Lakoff  (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999:152) the path of time can be thought of in three distinct ways:

Time Orientation:

What we will encounter in the future is ahead of us.

What we are encountering at present is where we are (present to us).

What we encountered in the past is behind us.

Moving Time:

What we will encounter in the future is moving towards us.

What we are encountering now is moving by (passing) us.

What we encountered in the past has moved past us.

Moving Observer:

What we will encounter in the future is what we are moving towards.

What we are encountering now is what we are moving by.

What we encountered in the past is what we moved past.

But I digress…..

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