In a Time Lapse

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Just how much truth is there to the Latin meaning Tempus Fugit? It’s certainly true that time flees, flies and flows quicker than we may want it to, but does this only happen when we let our hair down and have fun, or does time (or the illusion of) steadily speed up and accelerate the further we progress down the path? As soon as we reach the point of realisation, the prospect of fleeting time can be a frightening one. One may ask if ‘time’ even exists at all, and how such a concept can even be measured. If it is a concept, then must it not have been created by mankind?

If Time gets frozen…

Perhaps time is integral to the Universe, and we merely channel it. Yet, if there were no footprint of Man on Earth, time would still manifest itself upon the environment. It can be seen all around us – in nature, in the seasonal cycles, in the passing of the years and in the ageing process affected by our own, internal clocks. There are no minutes, or even clock hands as such, but time still ticks away towards an inevitable conclusion.

On Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi’s 12th studio full length, the days and nights become one, as viewed in a time lapse, yet the mainstay linking everything as one is the rushing sense of time slipping away. For as every note is played, the sands of time continue to shift, moving forward and moving ever on. Einaudi’s piano is not immune to the advance of time. In fact, Einaudi’s piano is the architect of the advance, rhythmically progressing itself and the album as a whole, ticking on and on and creating the pulse of a beat, like the seconds that haunt spaces with a never-ending tick of timpani. Einaudi’s piano becomes the pulse of time. It is this rhythm that continues to shape the seconds, and ultimately the minutes, of music on In a Time Lapse, revolving around the music in a similar way to the seconds circling around the face of a clock, silently void of emotion as they look down upon our own ageing face.

Like the sound of seconds running endlessly around a clock, Einaudi’s compositions sink into the mind until they eventually absorb into the subconscious. You may have heard Einaudi’s music on television, in multiple films and on the radio, and he has become one of the world’s most successful composers. In a Time Lapse was recorded in a monastery near Verona, Italy; a setting somewhat relieved of the chaos that can be Western life. Surely, it is inside this still space and serene air where the pace of life – and our perspective of time – flows even more slowly, as the falling orbs of dust are illuminated by thin beams of light shining through the windows, centuries-old, themselves caught up in an ageing, progressive time-lapse. The music does seem to have absorbed this Holy air, even though many of the fourteen pieces rush on with a frenzied, highly-stressed level of activity. Yet it’s fair to say that the setting has also apparently blessed the music with an air of rested peace, enhancing the music with an atmosphere of divine tranquility and a careful deliberation, and it is this sense of peace that largely prevails.

A time lapse offers an amazing, spectacular change of the horizon, when to our immediate perspective it can seem as though nothing has really changed. Traffic flow may transform into streaking orange orbs, and the sky colours may fade over an ever-paler arc, concealed at times by white-grey clouds shooting past the camera. Yet, we are all caught up in our own time lapse, one that isn’t angled on top of a thirty-storey building and uploaded to YouTube. Everything continually changes; our perception isn’t always in tune with the change, and this is what produces the shock when tuning back in – ‘would you look at the time!’

As Einaudi says…

when you are conscious that our time is limited, you try to fill that space with all your energy and emotions and start to imagine beyond the limits and live every moment of your life as fully as when you were a child

It’s a wishful longing to return to childhood (which is fascinating, as so many children wish to fast-forward childhood and become adults, right here, right now). There are perils in this wish – with adult eyes, the past might not be as we once knew it. Staying for too long a moment may be a curse more than a blessing; so often, it’s the tiny seconds, the looks, quick glances and easy smiles, that remain all the more special for their short duration. In a Time Lapse is both a reflection and a slow motion advance through an ever changing landscape that could easily be viewed from a child’s eyes, fusing the classical and the contemporary over the course of fourteen pieces. In fact, I would say that there are currently only a select few who can blend styles of music so successfully as Einaudi does in his music and his vision, and his compositions on In a Time Lapse not only solidify, but increase his reputation even further.

You may even find an electronic beat rotating around, pumping out a rhythm as if streaming through a body’s circulation, underlining the rhythmic advance of time and the forward momentum inside a thumping beat. Easily blending multiple instruments into his compositions, there is never a sense of misplacement; they all fit in together nicely, cohesively, and this is only further evidence of Einaudi’s compositional talent.

‘Corale’ is a beautiful point of departure, an easy stroll through shifting, orchestral colours of classical leaning and deepening shade. Snaking around, the cello and her elegant, yet mournful melodic movement is able to keep the listener in a state of suspense, constantly guessing at its course, until the final resolution rests peacefully down. This piece is a spirit-shattering start, a slightly downcast atmosphere as the grey clouds ink out the last of the horizon colours, as if the return to the past never lived up to what we had believed, but it is all the more beautiful for its delicate, sensitive mind-set. Even this early on, ‘Corale’ may be the one piece that best represents the childhood illusion of endless time; endless youth and eternity that is blown away suddenly in the early teens. Next up, ‘Time Lapse’ changes colour completely, as electronic currents weave their way through to the foreground. A piano is introduced, and, later on, a guitar melody, orbiting in light circles of arcing degrees, like light reflecting off an oh-so-delicate bubble floating through a course of temperate air.

Pinpointing Einaudi’s sound into a precise category is difficult (and probably a futile exercise), and there’s no need to place his music, or anyone’s music for that matter, in any one style; it’s just the primitive human need to deconstruct and categorize everything and everyone. Frequencies of electronica, violins, a deep, spacious piano, the dusty depth of a cello and timid guitar lines can all be found inside his expertly crafted compositions. Einaudi cites African music, folk and early rock as influences upon his music, and this wide-ranging stylistic embrace ensures a freedom inside his music that remains unrestricted to any one genre. Einaudi’s orchestra, the strings of I Virtuosi Italiani and violinist Daniel Hope all contribute to this instrumental variety.

Twinkling melodies, similar to an old music box or a nursery rhyme, glue nostalgic fragments back together inside the web of the mind, and help to focus the record onto the memories of childhood – the crux of time, when the days and nights were at their longest. Children show us the true meaning of love, one that is untainted by a world shredded by violence and sin, a beautiful place in our youth so different to the one now reported on. It cannot surely be the same world we see today, but this is another perception that has changed with the passage of time. A child knows no words to begin with, and yet they speak a language that all can clearly understand, and one that some of us have lost as the years have passed. There is probably a science attributed to our early love for the early days. Maybe the world hasn’t changed as much as we thought, but it is we who have changed…and yet, the world has aged, along with the strands of lost innocence. As every repeated rotation around the sun is completed, the world itself lapses in our black reach of space, where time doesn’t listen, and doesn’t care.

For the most part, Einaudi’s melodies are placid, yet awake and always alert. ‘Discovery At Night’, for instance, is an absolute gem, an enlightened, nocturnal piece that strays sleepy-eyed into a beautiful piano melody and remains there, unhurried in the midst of chaos and despite the ceaseless advance of time; yet, the night also attracts sleepy states, where for several hours the frenetic race of the day can be paused underneath the starlight, allowing a hushed atmosphere to preside and reside over all. As if the music is already aware that time is running out, Einaudi’s compositions can begin life tentatively, only to sweep into a roaring crescendo two minutes later, and all in the space of a single piece; they live life to the full. Einaudi’s piano is the one instrument linking everything together; the eyes in the dark.

The intensity of ‘Newton’s Cradle’ is almost violent, but never obsessed with rage, where the strings are in such a rush they are capable of crushing everything that dares to stand in their way. ‘Waterways’ is a much more reflective piece, with an absolutely sublime progression courtesy of a cello and a thoughtfully inserted piano over the top. The surprise arrival of that heartbeat adds even more to the piece, until all that is left, and all that can be, is a thankful appreciation for music as inspiring, as uplifting, as the music of Ludovico Einaudi. Every track offers a different route, and a different voice, yet all are beautiful. In my eyes, ‘Waterways’ is already in contention for composition of the year. Listen to it, and prepare to be amazed. As mentioned earlier, pinpointing Einaudi to a particular style is practically impossible, and this will come as a disappointment to lovers of genre-classification and to the category-enthusiasts – it’s minutes of beautiful music, end of. It’s the classical elements that hold these minutes, and inside the minutes the seconds, together, as the clock face supports advancing hands. Tempus Fugit.

Even if time were a concept, everything still seems to rotate slower – in a time lapse – when lost inside Einaudi’s roaming piano phrases, with chord transitions capable of melting icy hearts that have deadened in adulthood. The time lapse is, of course, all an illusion. In reality, the seconds continue to tick toward our fate, endlessly.

Let’s get lost again.

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