Back to my own practice. Due to the intellectual nature of the process described above, when operating within the temporal horizon of the score, my activity, outer or inner, only fleetingly involves paying attention to what I am doing and to the physical now of the performance in terms of what is going on in the performance environment at large. Amidst the entanglement of images, doing, anticipating, adjusting and evaluating, my experience of the actual physical present of the performance is lived in relation to the internal time of the work and not for and in itself, and in case I do pay attention to my surroundings, it is generally in terms of how it is contributing to the performance of the work. Otherwise stated, the now is ‘an instant without identity’ (Malabou 2019, 380, my translation), irrelevant except as a site of transference and a synthesising node between the different movements of my attention, as I oscillate between listening, playing, preparing and evaluating, between memory and anticipation, between future and past. In fact, this state of oblivion seems to be a necessity, as philosopher Peter Szendy (2008, 103) notes, specifying that hearing structurally means that there can be ‘no void, no distraction, no wavering in listening, other than that of the brief comings-and-goings of memory between past, present, and future’. Once I have started the process of playing, listening, evaluating and reconsidering, it must run its temporal course otherwise my interpretation risks breaking down.
Reports by other musicians would suggest a similar experience of being detached from the physical environment when one is playing: ‘When I am playing I do not think of the arm motion. I am, of course, absorbed in the composition being performed’, says pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch (cf. Cooke 1999, 129). ‘At my own recitals no one in the audience listens more attentively than I do. I strive to hear every note and while I am playing my attention is so concentrated upon the one purpose of delivering the work in the most artistic manner dictated by the composer’s demands and my conception of the piece, that I am little conscious of anything else,’ Ferrucio Busoni (ibid, 99) corroborates.12 These musicians, indeed, are so engrossed in the musical work as they play that their surroundings disappear; they forget about themselves and their bodily presence. This seems to be applicable to the audience as well, described by Weber (1997, 678) as ‘absorbed’ – listening ‘in complete attention to the music’. Art critic and historian Michael Fried (cf. Wesseling 2016, 173) elaborated on this ‘absorbed mode’, describing how the viewers of representational artworks, although they are physically situated in front of the painting, are mentally drawn into the image, whose ‘life’ apart from them arouses their interest and invites them to be lost in the work, without awareness of their own bodily presence or the passing of time. Art historian Jonathan Crary (2001, 10), studying attention, describes this same activity as a form of perception ‘so rapt that it is an exemption from ordinary conditions, that it becomes a suspended temporality, hovering out of time’. Since time is suspended, all physical perceptions beyond those that occupy the attentive subject are also suspended; the spectator becomes oblivious to the rest of the world.13