Surprise, Surprise

I was chatting with Harmsichord (who co-wrote the recent Remote Possibility tunes Coked Up in Kentucky and Vacancy) about his latest solo piece, Doby Coyote (warning: highly addictive bassline!), and the role of surprise in the context of enjoying music.

Here’s what he wrote.

Vincent, your blog entries about surprise reminded me of the book I mentioned, Finite and Infinite Games ["A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility" by James P. Carse.]

In finite games, the author says surprise is something to be overcome or eliminated through mastery, with infinite games, surprise is a major part of the whole point. Here’s a quote that sort of gives you a sense of it:

“… The infinite player does not expect only to be amused by surprise but to be transformed by it, for surprise does not alter some abstract past, but one’s own personal past.

To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.

Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there.

Training regards the past as finished and the future as to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing
self-discovery; training leads toward final self definition.

Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.

I don’t know about you, but I find these quotes to be particularly compelling and thought-provoking, beyond the narrow confines of music-making.

So I thought I’d mention them here as a contribution to the surprise debate.

In the meantime, I need to get this book.

15. February 2008 by sknob
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