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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, May 28, 2005
    Big Here and Long Now
     
    Haven't given The Long Now much thought lately - perhaps that's ok, in the stretched-out scheme of things. But, on Eno's site today, pre-ordering his upcoming cd, Another Day On Earth, I stumbled across the transcript of a talk he gave a couple of years ago in the Long Now Foundation's series of seminars about Long Term Thinking. Here's a taster...

    It was a very exciting time in New York. They were living an exciting life but their commitment to the city was absolutely zero. They planned to move on as soon as they could, or they planned to get a loft like my friend's loft. At least there was no attachment to the idea of the city as a continuing entity. So I thought they lived in a very short Now, their sense of Now was from about the beginning of last week to the end of next week. And if you said what are you working on now they would tell you what they had been working on that morning, not what they'd been working on for the last couple of years or so - it was exciting but it was very narrow and that kind of narrowness in time-thinking slightly worried me, because it doesn't translate into terribly productive social behaviour. It doesn't encourage you to set in place projects and agreements and arrangements between people that will flower over very long periods. So my response to living in New York was to try to make musics that celebrated both the Long Now and the Big Here I think. I always made music as an antidote to the place I was living in; for example the noisiest music I made was when I was living in an idyllic house in the East of England surrounded only by geese and I was making bloodthirsty enraged afro jazz punk for a brief period.

    When I was in New York quite a lot of the music I made was very very quiet. The music I made which was a celebration of the Long Now idea included the records On Land, and Plateaux of Mirrors with Harold Budd. But then there was another thread of the music which I think was in some sense a celebration of the Big Here. Now in musical terms the Big Here asks how much of the world can I include in my music. I guess it's now called World Music but at that time it didn't have a name and I think that the things that came out of that thread would have included My Life in the Bush of Ghosts which was a very African influenced record, but it was also whatever I happened to hear on the radio at the time. I would just tape it and build it into the music. One of the other manifestations of that is the work that Talking Heads and myself did together I think. That was very much a celebration of being alive in a big world and being able to handle the variety - not putting fences round it. So these two thoughts - Big Here and Long Now were in my mind, and they remained in my mind and like many of the other ideas in my mind I didn't do much with them - they just sat there for a long time.