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Hindustani musicians have always named this organic tempo, or rhythm, laya. Laya measures a rate of succession, not of iterative units, but of activity between gestures. Perhaps more precisely: laya keeps track of both the "ongoing stream of time" and the repeated actions deigned to divide "musical time into individual units" (Rowell, p.189).


Jazz critic Frank Kofsky was fortunate enough to interview John Coltrane towards the end of his life. The interview ran longer than expected, and Kofsky would have missed his scheduled departure had Coltrane not given him a ride to the train station. When Coltrane and Kofsky's interview went mobile, and Coltrane drove Kofsky to the station, the interview turned to the question of translating music into another idiom, writing. Coltrane's advice: dissipate the ego (yoga). When you correlate "power" with ego, Coltrane explains,


"you lose your true power, which is to be part of all , and the only way to be be part of all is to understand it. And when there's something you don't understand, you go humbly to it. You don't go to school and sit down and say, "I know what you're getting ready to teach me." You sit there and you learn. You open your mind. You absorb. But you have to be quiet, you have to be still to do all of this" (Kofsky 452).


Crucially, laya also means rest, and is etymologically linked "with the phase of creation in which primal matter exists in an undifferentiated, amporphous state," and therefore, to sunyata, the Buddhist notion that has been too quickly characterized as "void." (Huxley 202). In a sense, laya directs our attention to the thread-thin lacunae that generate musical time, according to these productive interstices' rate and sequence of unfoldment. The art of keeping time, then, seems to require that we beatmatch our sounding gestures and silent gestures while focusing on heirarchies of order, different laya. Best, then, to become a listener, and let the resonance do the composing.


If a percussionist and a sitarist are to achieve laya (rhythm), both artists must be able to alternate and coordinate cutting/striking gestures with opening/flowing gestures. Such compositional activity proceeds only by distributing and coordinating acts of sounding out (compose) and periods of rest (repose).



The vacuum spaces produced by electronic delay technologies have always been a part of rhythmic practice. Call and response is the iconic exemplar of delay technology. Allows interference patterns, standing waves, evolutionary feedback, hierarchies of information, and novelty. As a technique of call and response, delay depends on laya.


Kofsky's play-by-play of rhythmic displacement in the classic quartet when Coltrane begins to solo on "My Favorite Things":


"Tyner greets Coltrane's entrance by stating the vamp with greater force, and Jone's reaction to this heightened emphasis...is as radical as it is devistating: to counterbalance Tyner's stronger assertion of the initial downbeat--to "respond," as it were, to the "call" of the piano's chord on the opening beat of the first measure--Jones delays his bass drum accents until the second beat of the measure"




Coltrane's ensembles enact an accelerated rhythmic "entranement," an ability to distribute the complex interiority produced by dense information flows (in/out, open/close ). This would seem to produce what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has called a "crisis" of "psychic decomposition." (Future of Man, p.139). However, Coltrane's sonic yoga prescribes a dissipation of ego that has always been a dissolving, not into nihilism, but into a commons. Therefore, de Chardin reminds us, so-called ego-loss, "provided it be accompanied by a revival of the phyletic sense" is in fact the "true instrument" for the "collectivisation of Earth" (Future of Man,p.141). The entrainment of logos-centric patterns transforms our browsing, reading, and writing habits into such instruments of commons-formation, where participants tune and retune constantly in an ongoing renewal of evolutionary practices of composition forged at the nexus of wyrd and flesh.


press play

By means of these three concepts and their corresponding kriyas or gestures (kala, kala, laya), “the temporal structure of music is manifested. This,” Rowell (1992) continues, “is the essence of tala” (p. 189). In compositional space, an art of mixing simultaneous/sequential modes, “by which we combine the rhythms with one another, if it should be necessesary in some degree,” becomes an art of timing. For Coltrane's ensembles this dance involves a difficult-to-desribe chieronomy, but for everyday writers, this can be simplified to Shiva's 3-fold means: learning when to press “record,” when to press “stop,” and when to press “play.” Talais the rhythmic art that teaches the coordination of such simple gestures in space and time. In "The Subconscious Language of Musical Time" , Rowell (1979) explains that Tal “derives from a physical metaphor: the Indo-European root *TEL means a broad flat surface, and the Sanskrit tala signifies an action applied” to this rhythmizomenon by physical actions called kriyas (p. 100). Practitioners trained in tala coordinate gestures (kriyas) of dividing time (kalā ) with an attunment to “becoming time” (kāla), and in doing so, manage the “tempo,” or timing of rests (laya). In so doing, tala percussionists produce visceral sonic effects through flow and the cutting of flow, both “continuity and reticulation,” laying out a surface, and cutting that surface (p. 98).


divisions (kala), time (kala)


Infodynamics of Sound

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