Saturday, February 24, 2007

The only thing fast than the fastest thing

One of my favorite aphorisms was discovered (by me) in an interview with Bjarne Stroustrup (see his website for pronunciation key), and it has to do with computer programming, the writing of 'code':

"The only code faster than the fastest code is no code."

On a similar note, I was reading Robert Fripp's diary this morning and discovered this fascinating account:

[A student] was having difficulty with alternate picking on the third string open: when they reached a certain tempo, moderately fast, their right arm began to get tense. Listening, the up stroke was louder than the down stroke, and this was the clue to the difficulty. The words down stroke & up stroke, although conventional terms for picking, are misleading: they imply that we do something, and this something is two discrete actions: a striking-down followed by a striking-up. The GC terms are release & return: we release the wrist, and then allow the hand to return to the beginning point. Since the hand is holding a pick, when the wrist releases the hand, the pick moves through the string & then returns to its original position. Nothing is done, and while nothing-is-being-done, two notes are struck: effortlessly.

Listening to the [student], it was clear that, in addition to the doing-something of striking down, even more effort was being put into striking up; and that this effort was a result of a particular way of thinking about the action/s. So, we began by thinking there was one action: striking down; the return “stroke” was therefore an inevitable result of striking down, and didn’t count as an action: two notes for one strike, as it were. Then, we moved to thinking of a four-note unit, initiated by the initial down stroke, with the 3 succeeding notes as inevitable results of the beginning down stroke: four notes for one action. Then, to a 6-note unit, then 8 note unit, then a 16-note unit, all generated by one beginning action. Then, by releasing, the initial action becomes a non-action, the doing something becomes doing nothing. The wrist releases the hand, the hand moves with gravity, followed by an inevitable series of notes, and all generated by the initiating release.

Similarly, watching Luciano in t’ai chi, I notice that he doesn’t lift his arms, moving against gravity, to make the form: the form is already there waiting & Luciano allows himself to be drawn into it. When Luciano moves his balance from one leg to another, he doesn’t move his balance from one leg to another: one leg is released & the balance changes as an inevitable result of this. Nothing is done: and while nothing is being done, a form is assumed.

"You've just taken your first step into a larger world" -- Obi-wan Kanobi

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