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The repeating note
A small comment on the repeating note.
I'm just listening in the background to Schumann's Toccata (Yves Nat paying) and a sublime part caught my attention. It's simply a quick repeat of a note there, but then I noticed that many times I find a repeating of a note to be extremely moving, for example in one of Mozart's Sonatas for violin and piano.

What is it in the repeating note which is so powerful?

Schumann as you might know went insane hearing a single note constantly in his head. The single note is common to many people who go insane. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. This repetition. Why? What's so strong about it?
Music Discussed
Yves Nat: Ses Enregistrements, 1930-1956 [Coffret du 50ème Anniversaire] [Box Set]

It's a brilliant question. After all, as you suggest, there are at least two emotionally resonant extremes of repetition: on one hand, the almost palpably impossible prolongation of an experience (there is an echo, one lingers before moving on: one moves, it seems, almost against time). And on the other hand the visceral fear of being trapped.

Perhaps in both cases the issue is a kind of interruption of the fabric of time, but not an interruption which stems from our own power; rather, one which reminds us of its uncontrollable movement.

I think one sees both of these aspects at work simultaneously, though much more darkly, in some of Celan's poems. And perhaps in the story (and image) of Orpheus? The music which enchants, holding us suspended outside of time, while in the meantime death enters. Music which is almost able to restore the world afterwards -- but not quite.
Your post reminds me of the score to There Will be Blood by Jonny Greenwood. The strings at some crucial parts were absolutely horrifying and pretty much static. That's just it actually, it reminds me of the static from the television screen, that sound of insanity.

You mention Molly two emotionally resonant extremes of repetition. I wonder why we shouldn't include comfort. Shouldn't the sameness factor add a level of comfort? At first it seems like it should. But sameness doesn't exactly exist completely does it? Nothing is ever the same forever and Water is never completely still.

Insanity must exist at the edge of repetition. Imagine people of varying degrees of insanity. Which are the most insane? The least perhaps are the ones with a certain tick. For example, every time he hears a trigger word he must do a corresponding action. He is locked into that loop continually. The more insane are locked further into loops. For example, a paranoid schizophrenic might be constantly thinking the CIA is after him. Every point of evidence points to the CIA following him. The further and further insane are trapped inside shorter loops of synapses until that single repeating note. Is catatonia the same as death? In looking up that word, catatonia, even the suffix root tonia comes from the Greek tonos for tone or tension.

Is it any wonder that sound has been used as a mechanism for torture? It is inescapable, it goes directly to our brains where it takes on an existence of its own. The repeating note is a reminder to this point. It is almost as if the repeating note is a hammer tapping on the glass wall of our sensory understanding. You ask Arthur what is so strong about the repeating note? Well, what is so strong about repeating anything? Tap long enough on that one spot of glass and it will shatter. In Chinese Water Torture, water is dripped on to a prisoner's forehead in the same spot over and over again allegedly driving him insane. Repetition focuses our attention, it makes sure that single note is listened to over and over and over again. Is there anything in the world you'd want to do over and over and over again besides breathe?
I might agree with what you say (and I might) but youse certainly write beautifully. Hanna and Arthur are familiar. I have no idea as to what sort of environment would give rise to a Molly.

Compliments aside, I would side with the prolongation and emphasis of the prolongation. There is something about peak experiences/moments and movement that repetition denies.

Not quite sure but it feels like the comfort level of sameness doesn't have that build/movement element to it. Thinking about a favorite dish or the comfort of a down comforter. Doesn't have that movement element that the music example does.

There are certain aspects of mental illness that revolve around repetition. While there is discomfort involved there is also feelings of safety, of knowness, of an old routine/pattern. Speaking of conversations with OCDers.

Sound as torture is cheap, reliable, and not so terribly effective.

I like the "repetition focuses our attention". If I'm listening to the flow of the music, expecting more flow, and repetition occurs, I could see how that would be jarring.

Nicely done.
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Latest Post: January 28, 2012 at 11:35 PM
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