Saturday, November 14, 2009

thinking about spaces between

an unquantifiable metaphysical space (duration) of dynamically tensed absence of sound 
Toru Takemitsu

The Japanese concept of ma refers to the space between things, a concept approximated but much less poetically expressed in the English language as ‘negative space’. The idea of ma can relate to the physical space between objects or images or the temporal space (duration) between sounds or sonic events. The idea that the space in between things is just as significant as the things themselves offers a different way of thinking about ‘emptiness’ or ‘silence’. Space doesn’t need to imply an absence of something – it can be full or meaning and implication.

Hence the name for this blog…Spaces Between.

Spaces between things: spaces between events, spaces between actions, spaces between ideas. And these things, these events, actions, ideas, are shaped by the spaces between them. There is the space of contemplation or waiting or distraction or anticipation or boredom or irritation or frustration.

For me this idea of ma or ‘spaces between’ can apply equally to my creative practice (as a composer, sound artist, writer, occasional video maker) as well as to my life and how creativity and everything else fits into it.

In my current life situation (being a mother of two small children) there are large spaces in between anything resembling creative activity; long gaps between chances to sit and think; extensive intervals between doing things for me (like seeing a film or going to a performance); lengthy periods between catching up with friends. My life is full of ma.

In terms of music and sound, the concept of ma is particularly relevant. I believe silence is one of the most powerful elements of music – in the way it shapes the sonic space and the way it impacts on the listener. I am in the process of writing a paper (or at least a proposal for one) about Listening. It is a strange experience to be writing about listening when what I really want to be doing is writing something to be listened to. That will happen soon and in the mean time I am enjoying this particular space between.

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