Music begins to disappear at the moment of its creation. The history of recording is the history of our desire to capture that ephemeral moment, and to repeat it at will — to capture the flow of harmony. It strikes me that the successful capture of a musical moment implies our ability to, perhaps even mandates an attempt to, similarly capture and reproduce other transient, transcendent moments that amaze and define us.
Consider love. Falling in love, being in love, realizing love. Young love, first love, true love. These phrases seek to pinpoint moments of pure harmony. Central to the human condition is our attempt to freeze those moments — to record, photograph, paint, tweet, or post them. Those many efforts are but different facets of the same inclination seen in recorded music: our desire to capture a transcendent moment that is innately transient – to catch lightening in a bottle.
Futile though it may be, this desire lies behind many of humanity's crowning achievements. Furthermore, it is this inclination that most clearly distinguishes us from our fellow travelers here on this great blue orb. Our compulsion to capture the magical transient transcendent moment undergirds all of humanity's highest expressions. It prompts our music, our art, sculpture, and architecture. It forms our philosophy, our theology; it guides higher math, and physics.
Inherent in the creative drive to capture the transient transcendent moment, is the twin desire to reproduce it. We are driven by a need to be able to release those notes again into the air, to gaze once more upon that face or form, to see light dance again across that vista, down those halls and across that landscape, to catch again the subtle scent of evening flowers, of fresh cut grass. In these acts of of attempted representation we hope, we seek, to recreate the transient transcendent moment that inspired its artistic replica.
Alas, such recreations may lie beyond the reach of even the best of us. I do not for a moment seek to besmirch the obvious genius of the works that have delighted our senses across the centuries and amaze us with contemporary brilliance. I simply need to point out that those creations are works inspired by the transient transcendent moment, they are not the transient transcendent moment itself.
I am reminded of Edmond Rostand's play, Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano is a gifted poet in love with the beautiful Roxanne. But he mortified by his face, defined mostly by a immense nose. Convinced that Roxanne will never love him, he helps his handsome but poetically challenged comrade-in-arms, Christian, win her love by becoming Christian's "ghost writer." Cyrano goes so far as to accompany Christian to a tryst beneath Roxanne's balcony. Cyrano whispers verses to Christian who repeats them to the lovely Roxanne, who listens above. Cyrano is the transient transcendent moment, Christian is the recording, the captured and reproduced transient transcendent moment. Christian proves an acceptable surrogate and wins the lady, but he is not Cyrano. There is a lesson here.
Our attempts to capture the transient transcendent moment have resulted in some of the world's finest art and moments of deepest human insight and understanding — they are windows on the wondrous, they provide glimpses of the divine. Only a fool would find fault there. But I continue to be nagged by the realization that even the greatest art is but an "at arm's length" representation of the transient transcendent moment that inspired it.
Let us return to music, to the harmony that underlies the universe. We have all had the experience. The tune is stuck in our head. It may be a soaring aria, a pop tune, or it may be a jingle from a beer commercial. But we are stuck with the melody until, miraculously, it disappears — or is replaced by another. The point is that the transient transcendent moment was a moment of pure harmony within us — a moment when chord and experience were accurately mirrored. And, in all likelihood, the transient transcendent moment lurks, like the tune stuck in our head, within us still. It remains transient in that it is no longer front and center. But the transcendent power of the perception, the clarity of the previous realization, keeps it safe, deep within us. If you have the skills, paint your way to it, write your way to it, play your way to it, dance or sculpt or compute your way to it. Those efforts may well produce results with their own significant worth.
However if, like most of us, the artistic genius chips had all been handed out before they got to you, there are other ways to recapture a transient transcendent moment. First, as I said above, it is vital to remember that, as a defining note in your chord, the transient transcendent moment is still in us somewhere. I often think of my mind as a rambling old Victorian mansion; simultaneously lovely and disorganized. In such a structure a transient transcendent moment may be hanging out down some forgotten corridor, or sitting on an end table, next to the name of your first grade teacher; perhaps it is stuck in the bushes over there between the houses on your 7th grade paper route. But It is your mansion and the transient transcendent moment is in there somewhere. The trick is finding it.
I use a three-step process. It is rooted in Reike, which for 30 years now has marked the way I end my day. I get into bed, immerse myself in music and run through my Reike routine, which involves both touch and visualization. That preparation actually precedes the three steps for recapturing the transient transcendent moment. The purpose of the Reikeritual is to distance myself from the distractions of the day, to relax, to enter the world of my chord, to meditate. Reike experts and meditation gurus alike might well quibble with my ritual — but it works for me. You choose your own relaxation process, whatever allows you to leave day-to-day behind and start wandering around in those special spaces where wonder is more important than work, where intuition trumps data.
OK. Once you are there let your mind wander back to the particular transient transcendent moment you wish to recapture – that moment that you remember was wonderfully important, but has faded with time. Don't try to grab it head — if you could do that, none of this would be necessary, right? Instead, ease yourself down on the other end of the bench and begin to read your book or feed the squirrels. You and the transient transcendent moment are just sharing a bench in the park. No big deal. No expectations.
But every once in a while you steal a glance over at the transient transcendent moment, just a quick look to capture a fast detail. Got it? OK. Now open a canvas in your mind, and stick that detail on the canvas. The great thing about this step is that even though you may not be able to draw your way out of a paper bag, the detail looks just fine there on your mental canvas. You do this for awhile. Quick glance. Stick it on the canvas. Repeat. Again. And again. This is step one.
Now once you have a few details over on the canvas, stop glancing over at the transient transcendent moment. Look at the canvas. Study it, reflect upon it. Move the details around. They will begin to make sense, more sense than the shadowy figure at the other end of the bench. This is step two.
Actually, by this time the figure at the other end of the bench may have gone off to get a hotdog or ride the swan boats. No problem. You don't really need them anymore, as the real transient transcendent moment is taking shape on the canvas. Now you use your memory to add the details to the transient transcendent moment. What feelings, smells, sounds, physical sensations, can you recall? Put them up on the canvas in your mind. This is step three. This is the recreation of the transient transcendent moment. I usually react to the completion of step three in one of two ways: Most often I fall asleep, which isn't a bad thing. Other times I get up and try to write or sketch pieces of the transient transcendent moment to prevent it slipping out into the backyard or up into the many attics of my mansion.
It is through the latter efforts — of which this is one — that I have come to realize that I am not always recreating that exact transient transcendent moment. Often I am creating a representation that defines or reflects the part of the chord that lies behind the transient transcendent moment. For example, I will often create this scene: A cabin stands beside a lake. It rains, there is thunder in the background. There is a breeze. It is not enough to chill me, but it adds comfort to the light cotton blanket in which I wrap myself as I rest on the porch. It is twilight. A fire crackles in the middle of the floor. Fragrant piñon smoke traces patterns against a log ceiling. A bird I cannot identify calls softly across the water. Crickets chirp quietly, but other than that there are no insects. Nothing hurts. I can close my eyes, yet still see the scene that enfolds me.
I have never been to this place, and yet I am more "at home" there than in any place I have actually inhabited. This place is not "real." Rather it is what my chord would look like if my chord were a cabin, if I could occupy perfect space. And thus it is, I believe, with all transient transcendent moments. They are moments sufficiently aligned with the perfect construction of our chord that, just for a moment, we see through the construction to the purity of the unadorned chord. And it is that transient perception that strikes us, amazes us and defines us.