My yellow notebook #5 – On the fascination of repetition

Music has two fundamental elements that had always interested me and can be traced like a red thread through all my creative phases: I love melody and I love repeating sequences of notes. Where does this fascination for repetition come from?

 

I

I breathe in – I breathe out – I breathe in – I breathe out.

Each day, the Earth revolves before the sun. There is a morning, a midday, an evening. It gets light, it gets dark. The sun rises, the sun sets. The moon rises, the stars come out, one by one. Every day anew. Day and night. Spring, summer, autumn and winter follow each other. For ever and ever.

Creatures are born, live and die. Are born, live and die. We are made of energy. We absorb energy. We radiate energy. Nothing is lost. The ebb and flow of the tide. Electrons rotate around atomic nuclei. The hands on my watch turn in circles. The Berlin Ringbahn travels in a circle. Wheels. Windmills. Motors. Each day planes take off and land at the same time. Boarding – disembarking. Traffic lights cycle through red to green and back again. Stop and go.

I breathe in – I breathe out. I breathe in – I breathe out.

 

II

Everything I perceive runs in loops, cycles, endlessly repeating intervals, rhythms, circles. Yet no repetition is exactly the same as the next one: Life is in flux, developing and evolving despite always appearing the same. This is how I perceive this amazing life that fascinates me and from which I am overwhelmed. And my music can only be a reflection and expression of this.

 

III

Nothing begins, nothing ends. Just I happen to have stumbled into this continuum and one day I will have to leave it, like every other living creature. Maybe the awareness of my own limited lifespan lies at the foundation of my fascination for repetition, as I want to attain and experience a form of endlessness with the aid of loops and repetitive patterns.

IV

And: repetition makes time stand still, it prolongs the moment by turning it into an endless loop. That repeats for as long as you want. A rotating internal reflection in an extended present.

 

V

It was like this from the beginning: when playing, there was nothing I liked more than those euphoric moments that arose in my inner being, when a continuously repeating phrase increasingly evolved from being a physical movement into abstraction, when the mind stopped checking the body, when mind and body lifted off and began to fly, when energy is experienced in an elevated state in which the piano, the hands, the sound, the rhythm, time, space, inner and outer worlds combined into a single state of being in another dimension.

 

VI.

“Teasing something new out of repetition, enticing the difference to come forth, this is the role of imagination or the spirit, in its manifold and fragmented condition.”
Gilles Deleuze, “Differenz und Wiederholung“ (1992)

 

VII – Repetitive music, spontaneous selection

  • Philip Glass: “Two Pages”
    • Philip Glass: “Music in Contrary Motion”
    • Steve Reich: “Piano Phase”
    • Steve Reich: “Drumming”
  • Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians
    • Tangerine Dream: “Cherokee Lane”
    • Kraftwerk: “Trans Europa Express”
    • Donna Summer & Giorgio Moroder: “I Feel Love”
    • John Adams: “China Gates”
  • Laurie Anderson: “Oh Superman”
  • Phuture: “We are the Phuture”
    • Orbital: “Chime”
    • Arvo Pärt: “Spiegel im Spiegel”
    • Max Richter: “Sleep”