Some of you have been asking for the text of the talk on simultaneity I read at the "Progression by Digression" panel at AWP in March. Below is an excerpt of the full piece which went live on ESSAY DAILY" today. (Thanks to those who have been waiting for it.)
Rainy night, windy night. Subway Platform, A Train, 59th Street, Columbus Circle. Four bearded young men huddle by the turnstiles, lift their horns and begin to play Bach. Four melodies, four tones fill the tunnel at once. My eye fix on the tracks, on the junk down there. A little rat runs through the junk. Like everyone else on the platform, I pretend I’m not a struck tuning fork. That’s what the city exacts of us. We’re already dreaming into the thing we’re on the way to: workout, hookup, business deal, drink, dinner, that meeting with an editor. And yet something important is going on here. I know it, I suspect the men and women beside me know it. It’s our secret. This isn’t just music, but a village. Four voices in conversation, mimicking, talking back to one another. Sometimes in sync, sometimes in argument. I think there is something beautiful moving among them, between them. The sounds lean into one another. They lift us above the trash. The one light of my train is coming up the tunnel. Soon the village will be taken down into the noise of it, but that’s all right: that’s a part of the pact. Perhaps the playing (and listening) wouldn’t be so animated if there weren’t some shared awareness of interruption. And then it occurs to me: this might not just be a village we’re listening to but something nearer, inside us. It’s the sound of consciousness, the song of the human brain thinking four different things at once.