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On Time

Organizing Committee:


Any sensation or experience that we have can be understood only on the basis of time, only if we locate the occurrence within its temporality.  Yet, we never have an experience of time itself; time is never an object present in our world that we can intuit or conceive of.  Something like this paradox led Hegel to call time the nonsensuous sensuous. What, then, can we actually know of time?


It seems that time, much like Being, can only be known through its difference from these phenomena (time never manifests itself as such, within the phenomenal realm).  Time is only intelligible on the basis of some difference, the changes in our world that lead us to intuit a temporal progression of cause and effect, which in turn requires time as the ground of its identity and continuity.   We expect something to support the flux of our world, and yet time is only this flux; Aristotle said as much when he defined time as the "number of motion,” and Einstein said the same when he defined time as what we measure with a clock.


We will hold a series of meetings examining how time shapes the form of expression in a variety of discourses, and how these arts and sciences play with and within their peculiar temporality.  We will begin with a meeting where we consider the representation of time in the history of metaphysics, by looking at Derrida’s Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money.  Derrida locates Heidegger’s lecture “On Time and Being” on the cusp of this metaphysical tradition.  Heidegger points out, among the many paradoxes of time, that time is nothing temporal.  What is temporal arises and passes away within time, while time itself does nothing such.  As with Being, Heidegger cautions against saying "time is," as such a locution presumes what can never be a given, that time is, that it could ever come to presence as a being.  He employs an idiomatic German expression, es gibt, it gives, which would translate to the English "there is" (it gives time/there is time).  For the same reason, we must avoid asking the question "what is time," and inquire instead - Time: what gives?


jonotrain's picture

Hey everyone!

The next session of time class has been scheduled. For those who haven't seen it on the calendar yet, I'll include the details here. It will be about some of the intersections of time & music. Hope I see you there!

***NEXT SESSION: Tuesday, May 22nd, at 7:00 PM, 155 Freeman in Greenpoint

Rhythm and Musical Time w/ Jackson Moore and Brian House
Music may have a biological basis as a faculty for synchronizing actions within groups of people. Periodic rhythms grounded in the body allow us to coordinate collective behavior in time. As anecdotal support for this idea, I will discuss two independent cases in which nascent cognitive theories of music had to be refactored to take time into account: James Tenney's theory of musical gestalts, and Fred Lerdahl's generative musical grammar. Both theorists came from a tradition that emphasizes pitch organization, but were compelled to ground their musical morphology in rhythm and time in order to produce a coherent formal model. A look at these efforts will help us to think about how we perceive and participate in events as they occur, and supplement our original discussion of time itself as a transcendent entity with a look at the forms that emerge from it.

Jackson Moore is a musician / composer / artist. In the nineties his work examined the semiotic systems that musicians use to think and communicate with one another. Since moving to New York in 1999, he has undertaken various projects: writing and recording antisymmetrical song forms with jazz soloists, creating a musical pidgin language, developing a formalized music based on natural language, and building an auditory spacecraft, among other things.
I will initiate a discussion on Rhythmanalysis (1992), a collection of essays in which Henri Lefebvre posits that rhythm deserves its own science. In one particularly evocative chapter, he attunes himself to the rhythms perceptible from his Paris balcony -- a dérive through time rather than space -- not just listening but engaging all of his senses to apprehend the cycles of the city. Lefebvre suggests that the acculturation of the individual to the environment and to society is a process of rhythmic entrainment, and he introduces classifications of rhythms and their relationships as a means of critical reflection on society's relationship to time. I am also interested in the possibilities for and implications of a contemporary, data-centric practice of rhythmanalysis.

Brian House is a bricoleur whose work has traversed locative media, experimental music, interactive narrative, and social practice. By constructing embodied, participatory systems, he seeks to negotiate between programmed constraints and the serendipity of everyday life. He spends his days at the New York Times' R&D lab and his nights at Eyebeam.

jonotrain's picture

Hey Time friends!

I wanted to let everyone know that plans for our next meeting are in the works right now. We should have a class discussing time & music in mid-May, if everything works out. I'll post the details when it's official.

In the meantime, I wanted to see if there's anyone who knows anything about Geology and might be interested in leading a session on geological time?


Thought this could be of interest to you all:

jonotrain's picture

Also, this is worth giving a listen:

It's a link to a streaming version of 9 Beet Stretch, a version of Beethoven's ninth symphony slowed to last 24 hours. Let me know what you think tomorrow.


jonotrain's picture

Hey all!

Thanks to everyone who came out to class yesterday, and many thanks to Che-Wei for putting together such a great discussion! Here's a link to the radiolab episode that Che-Wei mentioned on time:

And I updated the links on the Public School tumblr so you can listen to our first discussion: I put the last death class up there too.

I'll let everyone know when we have a schedule for the next meeting!


i have not been able to attend. Nonetheless all sounds great!

Just an FYI; the link to the audio is not working (mediafire says file has been deleted). Would very much like to hear. if could re-up would be great.

Best, Andrew

jonotrain's picture

Hey everyone!

Just a reminder that tomorrow at 2 PM at 155 Freeman will be the next meeting of On Time. Artist Che-Wei Wang will lead a discussion about the history of time-keeping devices. Hope I see you there!


jonotrain's picture

Hey Sarah! Thanks for sharing - this sounds great. I'm there!


Hi Everyone,

For those of you who attended the first On Time discussion who were interested in narrative/memory/time/healing, there's a lecture at Columbia next week (3/20, 6-8pm) that might be of interest with Rita Charon, a pioneer in the field of narrative medicine:

"A Sense of Story, or Narrative Medicine for the Chaos of Illness?"

A public presentation by narratologist Dr. Rita Charon

WHO: Rita Charon is a general internist and narratologist at Columbia University and founder and Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine. She completed her MD at Harvard in 1978 and the Ph.D. in English at Columbia in 1999. Trained in medicine and in literary studies, Rita Charon is a pioneer of and authority on the emerging field of narrative medicine. Her research focuses on doctor-patient relationships, narrative skill in medicine, and reflective practice. She is the author of Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness and co-editor of Stories Matter: The Role of Narrative in Medical Ethics and Psychoanalysis and Narrative Medicine.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 6:00-8:00pm.

WHERE: Columbia University, The Kraft Center (Rennert Hall). 606 West 115th Street, New York, NY 10025.

ABOUT THE WORKSHOP: Created from the confluence of disciplines including medicine and the humanities, narratology and the study of doctor-patient relationships, narrative medicine is medicine practiced with the competence to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness. Dr. Charon’s workshop will include an introduction to the principles underlying narrative medicine, a discussion of narrative methods employed to help doctors to recognize patients and diseases, convey knowledge, and accompany patients through the ordeals of illness. As Charon asserts, “narrative medicine provides health care providers with tools to hear what patients tell them—in words, silences, mood, and the body,” and can ultimately lead to more human, ethical, and effective healthcare.


jonotrain's picture

Dave Morgan made a recording of the class, so I'll definitely let everyone know when it's available.

I'm also happy to say that the next session of On Time is on the calendar - we'll be meeting on Sunday, March 25th at 2 PM for a discussion organized by artist Che-Wei Wang. We will be reconsidering the history of time-keeping devices. Hope I see everyone there!




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