Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Long Now; The Short Now

The clock is ticking, ticking, ticking on our farewell to 2008. I thought it was a wonderful year. I hope 2009 isn't too bad in comparison (all the advance hype leaves my usual optimism with so little wiggle-room!)

In San Francisco recently, I went down to the headquarters of the Long Now Foundation.

I was excited to see their cool brass-and-stainless-steel clocks and planetary orreries, and the turning of another new year seemed like a good time to visit. Unfortunately, the museum/bookstore/headquarters was closed for the holidays. Since the Long Now Foundation is an organization dedicated to shifting our frames of reference from short-term and local horizons to longer and broader ones, I guess I shouldn't sweat the fact that I'll have to wait until later to visit the Long Now Foundation. I will come back sometime in the next thousand years or so, to contemplate the difficulties and complexities of the long-term protection and preservation of human knowledge and culture.

I've been reading about this organization with much fascination, especially since I've recently learned that it got its catchy name from Brian Eno, who seems to be a board member or some such thing. Another notable involved in the group is the wonderful author Neal Stephenson, whose recent novel "Anathem" was inspired by the Long Now Foundation's "Clock of the Long Now" project.

It's very interesting to think about how music fits in with a super-long frame of reference... I guess my favorite Bach two-part inventions are almost three hundred years old. But most of the music I love is a tenth as old as that, and I have to admit, when I think about who I'm writing for, it's not people three hundred years from now, never mind people ten thousand years from now. If I'm making music for people alive now, then my music is for the Short Now. Time can tell how the Long Now will deal with it.

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