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Ma is a Japanese word which can be roughly translated as “gap”, “space”, “pause” or as “the space between two structural parts.” In Japanese, ma suggests interval. It is best described as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision.
Ma is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. Therefore ma can be defined as experiential place understood with emphasis on interval.
There is no equivalent single word term for Ma in the English language. Sad, but true.
In composing this, I recalled the extraordinary and controversial work of John Cage with his composition 4’33” wherein the three movements are performed without a single note being played, allowing it to be perceived as the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed
Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.
Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space between it
is the essence of the pot.
Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house.
— Lao Tse “The Uses of Not”