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How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time

How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time
One evening, some 40 years ago, I got lost in time. I was at a performance of Schubert’s String Quintet in C major. During the second movement I had the unnerving feeling that time was literally grinding to a halt. The sensation was powerful, visceral, overwhelming. It was a life-changing moment, or, as it felt at the time, a life-changing eon. It has been my goal ever since to compose music that usurps the perceived flow of time and commandeers the sense of how time passes. The human brain, we have learned, adjusts and recalibrates temporal perception. We conceive of time as a continuum, but we perceive it in discretized units—or, rather, as discretized units. In recent years, numerous studies have shown how music hijacks our relationship with everyday time. Perhaps the clearest evidence of musical hijacking is this: In 2004, the Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring deemed Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie the most dangerous music to listen to while driving. Footnotes 1. 2. 3. 4.

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