Time present and time past, Are both perhaps present in time future....

TS Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets

Posted by Kevin Flint on Dec 05, 2016

Reading Eliot's opening line to Burnt Norton and thinking back to the last blog in reflecting upon how we might invent time for ourselves we could go back to a number of different philosophers who’ve ranged over such questions – with the real risk of getting lost in the technicalities of such discourses.

But, we all have the capacity to think through this invention of time for ourselves, have we not? Just think back to a memorable time in climbing, cycling, running… when you were so engaged in the activity, so absorbed by the possibilities… you somehow lost any sense of time, any sense of the duration of the activity in which you were engaged. Haven’t you then stepped out of any dominant linear view of time as a sequence of ‘now… now… now…’ that we can trace back to Aristotle?

In that moment of intense absorbed activity – for me, almost a feeling of being lost in a small space on the rock where in that moment nothing else matters, your own survival being dependent upon just how you choose to move and to coordinate the movements of your body. In that moment, a moment that comes back with such intensity as [a] picture[s] in the memory, haven’t you in such activity invented your own ‘time’ for such an activity – a ‘time’ that does not fit and could never be included in any linear invention of time. A time that stands outside any dominant economy of that convenient, conventional, and always calculable linear time that encloses so many of our institutional apparatuses.

In making reference to 'economy' it's important to keep in mind its etymology - in anticipation of a move just a little further in exploring what it might mean to move outside the space generated by an economy. In the Ancient Greek language oikos signified a home or dwelling place and nomos - the law, or what is included, excluded and remains an exception in any such home.

In this way doesn’t the foregoing series of questions; the very act of questioning, does it not open space revealing what is so appealing to many involved in climbing, running, cycling and other such activities…? In other words, does not climbing, running, cycling and other such activities open us to the freedom as human beings for inventions of our own time, our own space, which are unconditionally incalculable, and impossible to conceptualise in any standard homogeneous economy?

Is this not an exciting possibility for human beings?

Does it not begin to open space for reflection on just who we are as beings – beings that always have a built in desire, a built in drive to exceed, to challenge any homogeneously structured economy involving the calculable dimensions of our practices – whose possibilities are always dependent upon how we choose to measure and view such economies.

Does this questioning, this reflection upon activities such a climbing, running, cycling and so on… open further reflection upon our needs as human beings, for space-time that is located in heterogeneous economies – economies opening us to the unconditionally to incalculable possibilities of our existence are always impossible to reduce down to any ready metaphysical determinations? [I’m using ‘metaphysical’ here to mean that there is, supposedly, a connection between a sign, a word, a sound, a symbol… and some material object].

At this point I guess a number of readers will be asking what does this all mean for our everyday practices?

More concretely, too, what exactly does living in a heterogeneous economy mean? How is this possible? I’ll return to respond to these questions in the next blog.

For now, let’s just in our own way reflect upon how any experience of climbing, running, cycling … other everyday activities may be transformed or otherwise by ‘viewing’ them through different genres of music.

I’ve suggested three contrasting examples as an opening possibility… of course there are innumerable other possibilities one could employ.

I’ve arbitrarily chosen examples from Jazz, Classical and Folk music. Clearly one could identify other genres and many other examples. In what follows I’ve also prefaced the particular work I have in mind with some brief remarks on the musician involved in order that readers might gain some orientation in terms of the context for the work in hand and the kind of lens such a genre may possible open for viewing various everyday activities, including climbing, running, cycling… [I know not all readers may regard ‘climbing’ as everyday! Please forgive me, it’s a mark of how long I’ve been involved in this activity that I come to regard it as ‘everyday’.]


My choice of the American jazz alto saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator, Jackie McLean, was in part influenced by his connection with Ornette Coleman who featured in my earlier blog, and in part because his work underwent a significant turn, with his production of Let Freedom Ring, from playing formerly with hard bop performers of jazz, to playing with avant-garde jazz musicians, such as Ornette Coleman.

Given that this blog is concerned with the freedom of movement in the way we may understand our everyday activities when viewed through the lens of particular genre of music, the choice of a musician who had become interested in the movement of his own music seemed entirely pertinent. Clearly others may have quite different views, and it would be interesting to know more about other examples.

Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring


My choice of the avant-garde violinist and violist, Nigel Kennedy’s music, was strongly influenced by the movement he cultivates in all of his work. Movement directed towards the re-interpretation, and re-production of classical and other genres of music in order to breathe the oxygen of new life into them for contemporary times.

Perhaps a mark of Kennedy’s success in cultivating movement in the art of music itself, as a young prodigy his debut involving the re-working of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the English Chamber Orchestra in 1989 was an immediate success. The recording sold over two million copies and remains the best-selling classical recording ever. His biography and discography also bear witness to the remarkable range of Kennedy’s re-workings of extant music.

On reflection, then, in focusing upon Kennedy’s music as a lens through which to explore contemporary activities, including climbing, cycling, running… I began to wonder what movements, and transformations in the way we variously understand contemporary everyday activities may be encouraged by viewing them through music that is itself a re-invention, a re-working of the original script – if such ‘original’ ever existed [it could be a mythology].

Nigel Kennedy reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons


From what has been explored already, Hamish Scott Henderson’s ‘Freedom come all ye’ is unlikely to be a surprise for many readers. Again, though, as with Kennedy and McLean, I would be very interested to know of other examples of music working on the border between the traditional and the avant-garde.

2015 recording

What thoughts, ideas, questions, language…. comes out of such ‘viewing’? To what extent have the questions and aligned questioning in this blog, along with viewing the earlier blogs or some other writing on climbing, running, cycling through the lens of one or more of these genres of music cultivated the space for you to rethink, re-invent, transform your own experiences of the activity you particularly love?

I’d love to hear from you.

Kevin Flint

October 2016