online: 13 july 2002

13 july 2002 against stiffness (or for it?)

19:22 After lying on a seat for about twenty minutes looking up at blue sky seen through birch branches.

All this afternoon, and for several days past I have been working slowly to complete a text for the book of the John Cage Symposium at Bremen - which I was so glad to take part in. It has taken most my attention this week and now, after half-an-hour here alone among trees, my thoughts are only just beginning to detach from some details of typography and of meaning that are still not quite right... it's indeed pleasant to get so involved but of course it is tiring.

...but now my attention is taken by an insect that was attempting to enter this handheld computer... by the tuning-up sounds of an outdoor concert that is happening here this evening... and by the scores of spreading branches of a scrub oak before me (it has no trunk to speak of - its branches radiate from an imaginary point about half a metre above ground level)... Why do some trees have trunks and some not? I've no idea of the answer.

...and now the concert has started - with something classical and slow - but as usual (since I became attuned to modern music and especially to John Cage's) I am irritated by the predictability of any kind of tune and much prefer the less predictable sounds of tuning-up. But this piece is so slow as to be almost tuneless - so I may go nearer...

I used to think there was something wrong with me, not being able to like or appreciate classical music, or any, but now that I've got to like John Cage's (and a few others such as Morton Feldman's) I think it is the mainstream of western music that is wrong. Too manipulative perhaps? ...So I stay here with the silent trees - and the squirrels, who are silent also. There is one in front of me now - eating, eating, eating.

The slow music continues in the distance and I continue to write.

And now some people are travelling above us in an aeroplane, held up by suction, though probably none of them is thinking of that - the surprising fact that the reduced air pressure above a fast moving wing contributes more of the lift than does the increased pressure below it. I doubt if the Wright brothers knew it - or if the wings of their aeroplane were of sufficiently curved cross-section to induce this effect. I think it was more like a kite - with flat surfaces.

Oh yes, I do like the way that one's thoughts,when writing freely, can range so easily across the imaginary boundaries of supposedly separated 'subjects' like classical music, and trees, and aerodynamics... and squirrels. What next?

Walking back I passed a huge fallen oak tree with bare branches. By shaking one branch quite gently, in tune with its rhythm, I soon caused big branches ten or fifteen metres away to oscillate also... and when I stopped shaking the branch the big tree, now slightly mobile throughout, kept on moving to strange rhythms for a few seconds. Large forces, I realised, can be generated by small ones if the parts of the thing moved are free to interact - which I feel is some kind of modern parable - against stiffness (or for it?).

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© 2002 john chris jones

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