A Stab at Time
Date/Time: September 16, 2019 - September 17, 2019
Karole Armitage (The Armitage Foundation/ Armitage Gone! Dance)
John Harte (UC Berkeley/SFI)
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The public is often intimidated by the complexity of science, seeing it as cold and unfeeling. And yet, without a basic understanding of science, one is ill equipped to make meaningful decisions on a myriad of issues that impact our lives in critical ways. At this meeting we plan to come up with a point of view, scientifically and aesthetically, for a dance production on the subject of time, in connection with the SFI research theme on Complex Time: Adaptation, Aging, Arrow of Time. The meeting will serve as a brainstorming session, with the choreographer, composer, dancer, and scientists talking extensively about time, music, design and the characteristics of the performance. The goal is for everyone involved to understand the nature of how time is to be experienced by the audience, so that everyone’s individual contributions adhere to the same fundamental understanding.
Gregory Spears (Composer) - Time in music
In this session we started with a discussion on how meter, rhythm, and tempo work together to give a listener a stable experience of time flow in music. Then we focused on the way Stravinsky’s work for dance creates the experience of multiple layers of time. We traced these techniques back to composers like Bach and Perotin and also looked at how Stravinsky’s experiments with time influenced composers in the late-20th and early 21st-century. We focused this analysis on minimalist composers who employ process to create a uniquely modern sense of time. Along the way we discussed how concepts like entropy, decay, and rhetoric can be expressed in music and how they affect a listener’s sense of time progression in music.
John Harte (UC Berkeley/SFI) - Time: history of thinking about time, CPT time, matter and anti-matter, mirroring
John’s presentation at the “stab at time” workshop began with a review of the history of concepts of time. Shifting perspectives, from the Greek philosophers, to Newton and Leibniz’s mechanics, to Clausius and Boltzmann’s thermodynamics, to Einstein’s relativity, to high energy physics and modern cosmology, were described. The nature of the fundamental symmetries of nature, as reflected in the CPT theorem, were discussed, along with the observed breakdown of P (mirror symmetry) and T (time reversal symmetry) in weak interactions. While the history of physics is generally characterized by the trend toward discovery of the underlying simplicity on the other side of complexity, and of the unity across seemingly distinct domains, the concept of time has arguably resisted this trend. The more we look at time, the more complex it gets.
The probabilistic underpinning of the thermodynamic arrow of time, and the complete compatibility of the second law with the existence of life were discussed, along with speculations and deep puzzles about the connection between microscopic blurring and the awareness of time. The presentation ended with a brief discussion of cultural time, the notion of “time binding” as passage onward to new generations of insights from previous generations, and the inadequacy of this process in the anthropocene where modern global-scale threats to civilization lack historical precedents. John concluded that time is not on humanity’s side.
Reference Materials by Presenting Attendees