In The Forum V
THE ALLEGORY OF THE FROGS
Sympnoia: Can we examine the progression of Time and its organization through any other means? Deriving all participant materials from the First Cause, Time, and its manner of divisions is certainly one way to illuminate Time, but of another? Or others? I am most curious about all manner of realizing Time.
Proklos: Most certainly, and I greatly admire your wish for further explorations of this matter of Time, and the manner of its organization. To open our minds to this task, we can begin so by hearing the Myth of the Frogs, or the Allegory of the Frogs. For there was a time they say a long long time ago, when there lived in the forest a community of frogs. They were remarkable creatures and they had incredible abilities both in their singing and in their hopping and in their abilities to communicate one with the others, and the others with the one. When they were all in a pond together they sang in such a way that all the frogs in the pond could hear this singing and knew by the manner of their singing and the tones they were singing that they were all in the same pond together. They would sing in just this fashion and they would know and be able to understand - they were all together. But then frogs being frogs, and though they enjoyed swimming and singing in the pond, they also sought to explore the forest around them. So sure enough, one by one each frog individually would hop out of the pond and hop in various directions all throughout the forest, some hopping high some hopping low, some hopping quickly some hopping very slowly, some going in one direction and others in other directions. All moving in their own individual manner and all singing in their own individual manner too, some singing high some singing low, some singing quickly some singing very slowly, some singing facing one direction and others singing in other directions. And again frogs being frogs, though they enjoyed hopping and singing in their own individual fashion, they also remembered how much they enjoyed swimming and singing all together in a pond. So sure enough one of the frogs would happen upon a pond and would begin to sing so joyfully that all the other frogs recognized the sound and would then begin hopping and singing towards the frog who had found its way into the second pond. And again some frogs would hop and sing quickly, some slowly, some would hop and sing in one direction, others in other directions - but eventually they would all make their way to the second pond. And as each frog would enter that second pond that frog would begin singing in that joyful voice that told all the other frogs that they had arrived in the second pond and for the others to come and join in the fun. And after the last frog finally hopped into the second pond, all the frogs would begin singing in such a way that was understood by all the frog community to proclaim that they had all made it to the second pond and they were all singing together. Now of course they all sang together until yet again one of the frogs decided to go for a little exploration and hopped out of the pond. And then all the other frogs recognized that their singing had changed, that one of their members had left that second pond – so they all, again individually, left the pond, each at their own speed, hopping as they felt and singing as freely as they wished, as they went about their journeys. And this of course continued as they went about their hopping and singing and swimming and exploring, from pond to pond to pond to pond.
Now a human happened upon them as he was sitting next to one of the ponds where they were singing. He marveled at the concert that they were presenting to him. Though he did not speak frog nor did the frogs speak human, he thought he should attempt to communicate with them and understand their manner of hopping and singing. Well no sooner had he thought this thought, had he had the idea to try to understand what the frogs were doing, when suddenly one of the little frogs hopped over close to the pond’s edge near where the human was sitting. The frog with its little frog foot drew in the sand a kind of a circle. And then the frog made a slow look all around the pond, around the entire circumference of the pond, as though the circle that had been drawn in the sand was describing the edge of the pond. Then with its little frog digit it placed a dot right in the center of the kind of circle it had drawn in the sand. And then it clapped its little frog hand against its little frog chest as though it were indicating that the dot in the sand represented the little frog, who was inside the kind of circle which was describing the edge of the pond. This drawing in the sand showed a little frog in the middle of the little pond. Well, thought the human, this must be the sign for what I am hearing now – all the frogs singing together, singing in such a manner that they sound as with one voice. When this thought was finished in his mind, the little frog must have understood that its drawing had been understood, for it quickly leapt out of the pond and continued on its exploration of the forest. And then sure enough, the human noticed that all the other frogs, one by one, they too leapt out of the pond and hopped on their various adventures, hopping and singing in most interesting melodies and rhythms and volumes, each frog’s singing and hopping traveling throughout the forest. The human tried to follow them as best he could, though this proved difficult. Until he noticed that after a period of time that lasted just as long as it seemed most natural and appropriate, he heard a certain sound that was a steady sound which to his ear was growing bigger and bigger. He followed his ears which directed his footsteps to the edge of another pond, and sure enough, all the frogs were singing and hopping into this new pond, and as they jumped in they began to sing in tones that blended all the little frog voices into one voice. Soon all the frogs had landed in the pond and the chorus of frog-voices singing all together made the sunshine seem to glow even more radiantly. Well, the human was quite amazed and he remembered the little drawing in the sand that his frog friend had drawn for him, and thought, “That little almost-circle with the little dot in the middle, well that joyeous blended unified sound which I’m now hearing, is that shape turned into sound”. When the human left all of his frog friends in the forest, for them to continue their singing and hopping and swimming and adventuring and exploring, he traveled to a place where there were humans who also sang. So he showed them the shape of the drawing in the sand, and explaned to the human singers how the frogs had done their singing. And since he had been traveling where the humans spoke a language called Italian, they called this drawing-shape the frog had done in the sand an Italian word – the fermata.
Sym: What a marvelous myth, and well describes our recurring subject, ars imitatur naturam in sua operatione. It is not the imitation of the frogs voices which this allegory teaches me, but their manner of progressing through Time!
Pro: You have well and quickly captured the essence of this tale. And as the Scribe once said, “every telling has a taling, and that’s the he and the she of it”.
Sym: What is also not to be overlooked is the fsact that no ONE entity is controlling the progression of the time, not even the “composer”, nor a “conductor” nor any ONE of the participants, but it is a method of progressing which requires the entire COMMUNITY – of frogs, singers, musicians, humans – for the progression from unity to individuality to unity, and so on.
Pro: Again, you have grasped the beauty of this Time in its entirety, and as Erostotle once wrote, “asteron panton o kallistos”….of all the stars the most beautiful. How might you propose to utilize this manner in your way of organizing time and sound?
Sym: My first thought would always be with a study of methods, perhaps written for a string quartet. The communally understood fermata might be a timbral type, or a rhythmic unity, or a pitch shape, or an amplitude shape or some such combination of all, for example, each string player playing any natural harmonic, with a dynamic change which was always p to ff over the course of 4 counts, such that all players would have to arrive and realize that “sound-complex” before they could go off and play their individual musics, until the next fermata of their “playing any natural harmonic, with a dynamic change which was always p to ff over the course of 4 counts” – which would again communicate to the other players that they had arrived at the next fermata, that they had arrived at the next “pond” and they would wait for the other 3 players to arrive there as well, before they could again, set out on their individual sonic “adventures”.
Pro: Most profound and glorious this study of Time and Sound will be. I await its realization most wholeheartedly.
Sym: But, dear Master, may I also make a request to see and hear something more akin to the methods and manner of the Allegory of the Frogs, so that I may use this for furture understanding and illumination in my continued work?
Pro: My most kind and agile-minded Sympnoia, in hearing you speak your mind and your thoughts and your responses, and most importantly your ideas for the sonification and temporalization of this Allegory, I think the title of “Master” may belong to you! And I am most happy to show you a work which uses the methods we have discussed that have sprung from the Myth of the Frogs. Though this is a round, it follows in the same manner, and it rests herein: