Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Heidegger's Hammer

Hammer patent, H. H. Frey (1915)

I've always loved this passage from Heidegger's 'Sein und Zeit' :
 "The less we just stare at the hammer-thing, and the more we seize hold of it and use it, the more primordial does our relationship to it become, and the more unveiledly is it encountered as that which it is—as equipment. The hammering itself uncovers the specific ‘manipulability’ of the hammer. The kind of Being which equipment possesses—in which it manifests itself in its own right—we call ‘readiness-to-hand’." (Being and Time 15: 98)
I am having some of my students wrestling with the passage right now, and it has struck me (in the run up to this concert) as full of insight into the whole notion of 'etude' that we are engaging with here, and with the technical aspects of performance in general.

It is the action of hammering that reveals the potential of the hammer, not the contemplation of the hammer; the action of performing reveals the potential of the instrument, not the contemplation of the instrument. (Sounds a lot like counter)induction, to me at least...)