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Time and meaning

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

In music, time passes. But it mustn’t be without purpose or reasons: without . . . meaning. And that’s the point: Music can give meaning to time. If all the interwoven elements in a piece of music mean something—if they remind, reflect, comfort, inspire, or excite—then by definition the time it takes for them to do all that will mean something too.

When I played in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., years ago, I used to have a little joke. Before we began a lengthy symphony, I’d turn to my colleague on stage and say, “See you in 45 minutes.” A piece of music must take a certain amount of time; there’s no way around it. But within that self-contained fragment of time, within that separate little world of music—if it’s good music—time can be spent, saved, arranged, and manipulated so that the passage of time makes sense; so that the time itself is meaningful.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.