Music and time

“There is also in this [nineteenth-century romantic] music an extraordinary sense of control over the passage of time; a moment will be held still as if suspended, and then released with a rush. Einstein has told us that time is relative, flexible and elastic; I have noticed these qualities whenever I have tried to play to the tick of the metronome. It literally seems to change its pace. Some notes seem longer and others shorter, though I know in my rational mind that the beat of that instrument is automatic and even. In music, memory governs the sense of time, from the individual notes, to the phrase, to the overall contour. Living in music is like living in a family of time relationships corresponding to the physical states of the body and the emotions. For the performer this communication with the listener is one of life’s most established experiences, for if a mood of serene acceptance is established, an audience can be held there for as long as four or five minutes, as in the slow movement of the Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The larger the audience, the more intense is the sensation. I have no feeling that I am responsible for the music, somehow addressing the listeners and urging them on; rather I am the means by whereby a common meditation becomes possible.”

Yehudi Menuhin, cited in Menuhin, Yehudi and Davis, Curtis (1979) The Music of Man. Sydney: Methuen, p. 195.