Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 266: Continuity

Day 266: Continuity, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A few ideas have converged. I was thinking about music and how albums of the past had a coherence. They were often not just conceived as a place to put several songs, but that the songs were in some way related - there was a concept. Although we often had favourite songs, we usually listened from start to finish. With iPods and CDs it became commonplace to shuffle so there was no longer any continuity from one song to the next - just randomness.

Yesterday I met with an elementary school teacher who had been training other teachers on the process of reading text and reading images. She spoke of the continuity in a picture book, how the artist helps structure the story through his use of images. For example, sections that are "real life" were drawn paler than sections that came from imaginary events. When children learn to expect continuity they are better able to understand text and to see it as a whole.

Our ability to concentrate and follow through was once more mentioned in an interview with Leon Fleisher, a classical pianist who will be playing a concert here this week. He spoke of the fact that many works (concertos, symphonies) are as long as 40 minutes and that audiences need to learn to stay focused for that length of time. Many have grown up on the ten minute television segment followed by commercials. The ability to focus has been compromised. And you need to focus to really enjoy the music, to hear the theme move and be transformed and come back in new ways in each movement. I went on a cruise some years ago and was really bothered when the classical string quartet played one movement from one piece and then a movement from something else. The continuity was lost.

Today's society is fond of morsels: sound bites, sampling, clips, excerpts. But we lose the continuity, the depth and breadth of the experience, whether it is a whole concert, reading an entire book, looking at news in depth or simply focusing on an idea long enough to make sense of it.


  1. Many ideas to think about here - and I will add that balance between the extremes is another consideration.

  2. Susan, I so enjoyed this post. You must be thinking deeply about things and synthesising everything constantly. I'm going to come back to this post to sort out a few of my own thoughts about the subject. Thankyou.