Time is a traveling beat that takes on the pulse of every generation.
Time is a construct that creates a concrete spacial awareness, which we call endings and beginnings. Time defines human life and everything that exists within it. From train schedules to movie times, to class periods, time commands us to live by its rules. When a person dies we say “their time has run out”. This aspect of “running out of time” is very interesting because it suggests that we could outrun time; that we can beat it. Obviously, we can not; time will always win. Once a human life ends, that’s it. That’s the “end”. In this way, human life and the time we are given to live on earth is much like a song. Once a song is created they can only exist within that specific time frame of two minutes and fifty seconds, or whatever it may be. While you can listen to a song over and over again, you can never manipulate the time within that song to hear the beats/melody/lyrics at a different time frame. Songs have a physical lifespan just like humans. Songs, metaphorically, however, are able to transcend time in a way that humans cannot. Songs can live on, so long as there are devices to play them and people to listen to them. A song can become timeless by being passed on from one generation to the next.
The artwork we used to describe time is a photo of a radio tower from an exhibit at the Tate Museum in London. This exhibit shows a tower of radio models from all different periods of time, stacked on top of each other into a cylindrical shape. Some of the radios are turned on and playing music out of them (different songs are coming out of different radios), so when you walk into the room your ears are immediately struck with muddled noises of intersecting sound waves. The feeling is disorienting, and causes you to lose your spacial awareness, much like the feeling of walking through the Garden of Slow Time.
One thing that is extremely interesting to us about this exhibit, is the idea that this artwork gives the observer a visual and virtual representation of music and time intersecting. Music has elements of time in it: tempo, song length, and song speed. All of these and more are crucial elements that help define and comprehend music. Music uses these elements to tell a story, much like how time tells a story. Time tells a story of the past and present, and with those stories, we can begin to predict the future. Music gives us a unique look into the period of time when it was created. It allows us to see the societal norms and configurations in which people existed and the changes that ensued from one generation to the next. Moreover, on an abstract level, music likens to time. Across time: people have come and gone; trends have came and went; societies have ruled and crumbled; social norms have changed drastically from political end to end; all the while, music has accompanied time.
While the musical trends may have changed– the artists may be different, the genres may have shifted and molded into one another — music itself, stays connected with time. When we look back on the past and see what history has taught us, we notice many things about time.
Time exists, it always has, but people’s interpretations have changed. We can find this same phenomena through music. You will always have musicians who push genres further; for example, look at the Sugar Hill Gang in the 1970s and early 1980s, pioneered rap into a genre. Before that, rap was considered witty jazz music. But, time has evolved and we can see the evolution of society through music. This was a stark difference from the Punk Rock rebellion many of these children’s parents (Generation Y or Millennials) grew up in. Across generations, spanning the history of humanity; music has accompanied humanity for all its existence. Whether it was playing the flute as a court jester, joining in the marching battalion of a Roman army, or playing maracas with a mariachi band; music has withstood the tests of time and gives us glimpses into the past. Much like the phrase “time is a flat circle”, music is just one long sound-wave vibrating to the beats of generations.