Saturday, April 28, 2012

Rest With a Fermata

Carl Honoré:

First, let’s underscore what the whole Slow culture quake is about. It’s not anti-speed. It’s not about doing everything in slow motion. It’s about doing things at the right speed – what musicians call the tempo giusto. Every act has the right rhythm for it, and if you find that rhythm you’re going to do it better and enjoy it more. Particularly in cities, we get infected by this virus of hurry, where our default mode is to do everything as fast as possible. We fall into the trap of trying to do more and more things in less and less time, putting quantity before quality in everything we do.

Some of biology is essentially a pause: sleep, for example. Pauses serve a purpose, breaking the flow. Like rests in music or caesuras in verse. Like the old nightly break in the news cycle and the financial markets, gone in our 7 X 24 era. Even a confirmed atheist and Sunday driver must believe that the Sabbath served a therapeutic purpose, too, in the epoch when people observed it. Now, of course, Puritanical blue laws are mostly long gone, and Federal Express boasts of delivering on Sunday "because the world works seven days a week." Haydn may have been the first great master of the rest in musical composition; he used rests for surprise, rests for tension, and even rests with fermatas. Silence indefinitely prolonged. Rest and pause. A rest with a fermata is the moral opposite of the fast-food restaurant with express lane.