I felt haunted by a monumental sense of failure, of aborted struggle and lost time.

I set out to write an exploration of music and its relation to the science of time. Music itself embodies time, shaping our sense of its passage through patterns of rhythm and harmony, melody and form. We feel that embodiment whenever we witness an orchestra’s collective sway and sigh to the movement of a baton, or measure a long car ride by the playlist of songs we’ve run through; every time we feel moved by music to dance; when we find, as we begin dancing, that we know intuitively how to take the rhythm into our bodies, that we are somehow sure of when and how the next beat will fall. Surely, I thought, there must be a scientific reason behind that innately human sense of embodied time, a way of grounding our musical intuition in physics and biology, if not completely quantifying it. But I also wanted to write about music because it has shaped the time of my own life more than almost anything else. I have played the violin for nearly twenty years, practicing five or six hours a day for most of them, because all I wanted was to become a soloist. When I realized in my early twenties that this never would be—and never had been—a possibility for me, I began to question why I had wasted so much time on music at all. I stopped playing for a while, and though I eventually picked it up again I no longer felt the same fire or ambition. Instead I felt haunted by a monumental sense of failure, of aborted struggle and lost time. Not only had the effort and sacrifice of the past all been for naught, but the future I had planned from that past seemed obliterated, too.

Natalie Hodges, from Prelude in “Uncommon Measure. A Journey Through Music, Performance, and the Science of Time” (Bellevue Literary Press, March 22, 2022)


This, is failure?


NY Times Book Review: The Violinist Natalie Hodges Writes About Her Devotion to Music & 12 Books We Recommend This Week (April 7, 2022)

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