8³ : J.-P. Caron

 

On the transcendental significance of time-stretching

by J.-P. Caron

In a recent interview with Lee Gamble, Robin McKay refers to a “transcendental significance of time- stretching”. This essay, without being an attempt to reconstruct McKay’s idea of what this significance might be, is a personal uptake on this idea.

Time-stretching is a digital process whereby a sound and/or a musical structure has its duration extended without modifying its pitch content. Before the advent of digital sound the only available way to extend the duration of recorded sounds was downward transposition, in such a way as to obtain an inversely proportional duration with regards to the pitch to which the sound is transposed. In one type of digital time-stretching the increase is created by the multiplication of the digital windows that compose the digital representation of the original sound. This means that time- stretching exists through the recognition of the constructed character of digital sound in order to activate- ideally beyond human capacity of perception of that structure which is maintained (stretched)- an contrived traversing the discontinuous representation of sound.

This exemplifies human incapacities in at least two ways: a) by the sometimes extreme extension of the duration the identity of the original structure is lost on the listener because it exceeds her available identifying memory and b) by the micro-assemblage of digital samples it creates the impression of continuity by exceeding human limits of micro-temporal discrimination.

This essay intends to explore some of the consequences of extreme time-stretching, as a specific form or procedure related to drone music, in relation to human cognition, digital processing and the aesthetic consequences of a form of “art” that exceeds both the superior and inferior temporal limits that a (human) subject is capable of indexing. This echoes Kantian ideas on the mathematical Sublime in a specific way: Is this experientially absent time recuperated by the concept, or by reason? Or is reason defeated by the impossibility of sensibly engaging with such a totality?

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