Two ads for audio supplies: “Is it live or is it Memorex,” (Memorex) and “Stop the world. Just press Play” (harmon/kardon). Both tell a truth. Any experience of recorded music is absolutely real and materially present: live, here and now. To press play is to stop one world to start another; nor is it to replace a live world with a dead and archived one. We experience recordings through our own lived present, one no less real or present for our enjoyment of the recording. In fact the experience is not a matter of tuning one world out (our present) as much as it is tuning another world in. Recordings cannot offer anything to us if they do not unfold in a synchronous, continuous, and real time. And this is a material constraint on the universe of recordings. They must be experienced in real time. Try to listen to any recording at anything but absolute speed and you will instantly recognize the disconnection that rises up to stand in between you and your experience. Presence is temporal, and it’s time signature is identical to life itself. There’s no speeding up or slowing down the time of life.
Filmmakers know the value of time signature and play with it now as much as musicians do. Films give us slow motion and fast motion, even reverse forward motion (aka “bullet time” in The Matrix) to offer us new narrative pacings. These suspensions and jumps have effects on the viewer intended by the filmmakers to accomplish experiential objectives. In Woo’s slow motion we see the eloquence of movement, grace in violence, the organic and the smooth. In fast cuts (for rarely do we experience fast as sped-up; it’s almost always through cuts) we jump and slice our way through time, subjecting it to intermittence, discontinuity, division. Slow and fast are not opposed in film. They are not even of the same order or kind. Slowness is applied to movement. Speed is applied to time.
Unlike film, life cannot bring these together.