The Eschaton, continued: Guest Post by Earrach of Pittsburgh
Charles Ives, adumbration

Art in Response to The Eschaton: What is Ekpyrotic Art?

I'm going to start  working on a series of posts looking  at an aesthetic reponse to the Eschaton.  

The first time I used the word Ekpyrotic, I was looking for the title of a new quartet - same instruments as Messiaen.  I like to use an alphabetic bestiary, with titles like Dreams of a Debauched Dodo, Aprocryphal Aardvaarks.  Yodelling Yaks.    Ekpyrotic Emus (unfinished).

Ekpyrosis is a model for the creation of our  universe derived from string theory.    There's a concept of Hyperspace with Brane objects floating, and their collision causes the creation of our of many.  In Stoic philosophy, ekpyrosis is the inward path of a universe that cycles through creation and destruction.    

Ekpyrotic art is music of the Eschaton.  It is a liturgical expansion of Space Art.  People have been practising space art since  the first cave paintings.  Hidlegard was a space artist, with her visions of the sky.  Recently, Space Art refers to artists who are directly influenced by the changing perspective brought on by a movement in to outer space.  Some of this is technology providing opportunities to reach new places with new media.  Some is conceptual, the change in what it means to be human as we see the rest of the universe in more details.  

Different categories of space art (I'm paraphrasing and extending a bit from  the introduction to Burgess, The Quiet Axis:

  • Art executed on the earth but at a scale to be seen from space.  
  • Art that captures the experience of a rocket launch, or that documents the surface of other planets.  
  • Art designed so that it is complete only when it has moved into outer space, that trajectory changing the piece.   
  • Art that is executed away from gravity.  Sculpture that can be exquisitely thin and hugely long at the same time.
  • Art where the content and the architecture is formed by an analysis of data.

Ekpyotic Aesthetics is primarily  concerned with experience. It is an aesthetics based on the mechanics of a common experience.   The anticipation of the experience of space, and the recapitulation of the memory of Earth.    Anticipates the departure from earth, the end of time, the death of a species.  Ekpyrotic art will provide a sacramental framework for memory.   Of the past.  Our evolution, our place in time, ontogony.

To begin, the Ekpyrotic must impact physiology:  captivate the nervous system, entrain the nerons.  Loudness.  Extreme quiet.  Mesmerizing complexity.  Unequivocal simplicty.    An idea so compelling that all else falls away (zen koan).  Shake loose the hard-held notions, then generate new ideas, new experiences. 

A first example?  Start with Ive's Universe symphony, a piece written to be performed  with orchestras and choirs arranged on hilltops, in valleys.  It's  not explicitly written anywhere, but lets assume that he envisions the Universe symphony performed across  the land as it is etched in his own psyche.  

This is a piece written before orbiting satellites.  We have to imagine that we're hearing while  suspended hundreds of feet in the air,  looking down on a landscape that has been sacralized by the composer's actions.  Ives has embodied  memory around  the ground.

The first I heard this piece was last summer, on the final weekend of the Aldeburgh Festival.  The work is complex, a timed pulse coordinates musical lines played by a couple dozen instruments each independant except for this pulse. 

 According to his notes  Ives was

"striving to  paint the creation, the mysterious beginnings of all things known through God and man, to trace with tonal imprints the vastness, the evolution of all life, in nature, of humanity from the great roots of life to the spiritual eternities, from the great inknown to the great unknown." 

The  piece is unfinished (either missing or never written down).  But let's assume that there's a sense, a Mind-Sense (the ZenGlop?) in which Ives has this piece completed.  That's where our ears have to go first.   I'm not talking about the score - although there could be a score. It's a step outside of time, a full-fleshed dream.  The form of a memory as it precipitates from the individual consciousness.   Now we have to extend up, high  above the hills, rivers and valleys.  Ives would have envisioned Danbury.  I choose to look down on Pittsburgh, to the Point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio.  Instruments are on the West End Overlook, they are up on Troy Hill, and also on Observatory Hill. We are freed from the restrictions of traditional instrumentation, the orchestra is embellished by seraphim who play their Futurist machines and sound devices.   Human?  Alien? It's breathtaking, and quite besides the point of an actual performance.  We are immersed in the adumbration of the sound.  

That's the space art, that's Ekpyrotic.  The intersection of memories, the intersection of universes.