Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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A Psychology of Aesthetic






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Introduction on Music.

introduction-Part i.



The Unit of Music ....

The Sound Whorl x

Music the Many-Whorled ... xv

introduction-Part ii.

The Biological Medium of Music xxx

Music as Associative xlvii

introduction-Part hi.

The Orchestra Ixv

The Orchestra as it Appears . . Ixxiii

The Orchestra as Associative . Ixxxii

The Orchestra as a Psychical

Process xcii



Introduction on the Fine Arts ... 1

CHAPTER I. -The Somatic Arts . . . 13

I. Sculpture 18

Oriental Sculpture — The Sphinx . 26
European Sculpture — The Classic

Style 57

A. The Hellenic Period ... 74

B. The Hellenistic Period . . 139

C. The Helleno-Roman Period . 184

H. Painting 200

Lionardo Da Vinci 247

Raphael 286

Michel Angelo 318

HI. Kinetic Art 371

CHAPTER n.— Architecture .... 392

CHAPTER HI.— Music 401

nsk antr t^e Jfine %xtB.


The Unit of Music.

Can we bring to light the original con-
structive principle of the total edifice of
Music? We seek tirst of all to grasp and un-
fold the primal germ out of which it grows
from its earliest bud to its latest flowering.
And as Music is the most psychologic of all
the Fine Arts — stands nearest to the Psyche
and responds most readily and intimately to
the process of the same — we may well deem
that a preliminary study of its ultimate na-
ture will be the best preparation for a funda-
mental survey of all Art, especially from the
psychical point of view. We shall see later



that in the final ordering of this subject
Music is the third and highest of the Fine
Arts proper (Sense- Arts) ; but we shall start
with it now, for in this case, as in many
others, the end is the explication of the be-
ginning, and the best commentary.

On the threshhold of our present subject
the question may be asked: What is the
genetic unit of Music? We seek first of all
to find and to formulate the embryonic germ
out of which the entire musical organization
unfolds ; to use a biological comparison, w^e
would fain reach down to the cell, the orig-
inal basic unit of which the total body of
Music is constituted. To be sure. Music is
not a stationary thing which we can examine
with the microscope; its essence is move-
ment, it is a process incessantly going on;
when the motion stops, the Music stops; it /
has to be active, yea self-active in an external
way, and hence it is the most adequate outer
artistic manifestation of our mind's self-ac-
tivity and of that of the universe too. i

Now the peculiarly striking as well as sig-
nificant fact about Music is the recurrence
of sound always and everywhere taking\
place in it, through sweeps large and little.
Music is a series of tone-cycles embracing
the whole as well as the smallest unit of its
composition. Indeed it would not be truly


artistic, nor attune the liiiman soul to a con-
cordance with itself, unless it had in its least
part the tonal process of the whole, we may-
say of the All.

Accordingly the genetic unit of Music is
the recurrence of sound wdiicli is ever going
forth out of itself^anxL ever coming to itself
again. This is what elevates sound, which
is of itself partial and broken, into its music-
al entirety; sound made whole becomes the
tone which is the ultimate harmonic constit-
uent of the total structure of Music — the
beautiful well-shaped block of marble of
which the vast cathedral is to be built. The
musical tone, therefore, has in it, as its es-
sential characteristic, this cycle of sound
ever self-separating and self-returning in an
outer process for the sense of hearing, which
is to carry it within.

But to what inner sanctuary does the ear
carry this cycled tone-world, and for what
purpose? Soul, Self, Ego, it is variously
called, which also has its process (named in
this book the Psychosis) corresponding with
the tonal process of Music. Here we have
the two sides which are to come together and
produce the one concord, the physical and the
psychical; these form the happy pair which
give up their twofoldness, unite and kiss and
marry in the rapture of Music. Here w^e


may see the musical purpose of the rounds
of tone : they stimulate the soul to symmetri-
cal rounds of its own which it feels as its
very self in activity. Such is the corres-
pondence between the outer tone-cycle and
the inner soul-cycle; they agree, and so
Music is often said to be agreeable — to whom
or to what? To the Ego which is roused
thereby to its own elemental process (or
Psychosis) in response. We may conceive
it as stirred by Music to be itself, to be its
own primal process or self-activity, yea in a
degree its own self-creation. Such is the
first musical pleasure, the earliest thrill of
inner psychic harmony responding to the
outer rounded pulsation of the tone-world.
'The soul is an instrument which is played
upon by the cycles of Music; truly it is the
instrument upon which all musical instru-
ments have to play at last, stimulating it
to its elemental activity which may be called
pure feeling or even emotion. But we should
add here that this soul is not simply the pas-
sive recipient of musical tones from the out-
side; it is that universal instrument which
goes back to all special instruments and con-
structs them for its purpose, which purpose
is essentially that their notes not merely
move forth but also come back, and thus are
made musical. Indeed it is just at this point


that Music begins to be a matter of Art, and
not simph" a thing of Nature. Art turns the
sound into a cj^cle, and thus attunes the same
to itself, to its own process, which makes it
a musical tone capable of intimate fusion
and concordance with the inner Psyche.

In some such way we seek to grasp the ge-
netic unit of Music as the tone, self -separat-
ing yet self-returning; vibrating outwardly
])y Nature toward the infinite, yet brought
back to its starting-point usually (but not
always) by Art. Such is the primal sensa-
tion of Musicj the soul hears the fleeting
sound restored to itself out of its flight from
itself, a kind of outer self-restoration after a
tonal self-alienation. This process it hears
not once but many times, wrought over into
all sorts of sequences, forms, and musical iri-
descences. But this outer diversity of tones
has at bottom the one unitary principle, the
tonal cycle, which stirs the Psyche to its own
similar unitary process (the Psychosis).

Here we may add a word about this Psy-
chosis for the deeper student. In its sim-
plicity it is the primal act of human con-
sciousness, the original making of selfhood,
which has to be ever repeated. Music stim-
ulates to a new creation the primordial self,
which is perpetually renewed and re-created
in the conscious act. That is, Music reaches


back and starts afresh the first origination
of the Ego in man, Avhich act gives to him
creative pleasure — the fundamental pleasure
of Music, as this makes the Ego feel its own
rise into being through its self-generative
act. So Music as its ultimate fact stimulates
the first creative process of mind, renewing
its very birth into consciousness. Such is the
simplest stage of the purely psychical act;
hence we say that Music in its primordial
round stirs the elemental Psychosis, or proc-
ess of the Self, starting the same to its earli-
est re-creation. And this psychical process
we are to observe running through and hold-
ing together all Art.

But we must come back to consider the
unit of Music, self-separating and self-re-
turning, out of which is to be erected the
musical temple, not rounded out once for
all, but ever rounding itself out in the move-
ment of sounds.


The Sound-Whorl.

Our p'ressing need now is a word to des-
ignate, distinctively and strikingly if possi-
ble, the conception arrived at : namely that
of t he unit nf Mnsi o. This alhjifii^vasive ele-
ment of tonal harmonv must somehow— be


caught on the wing and he ld in a char acter-
istic vocable, so that it (the said unit) may be
recognized in the multitudinous metamor-
phoses of the sound-world. That is, the
physical unit of Music must be grasped and
named. "■

Accordingly, before proceeding further,
we wish to find a musical term or category
which will always recall this genetic unit of
Music, which is its elemental ultimate, and
which is organized into its thousandfold
forms. We might call such a unit the music-
al cell, by an analogy taken from biological
science. Every living organism, plant and
animal, is made up of cells, which, starting
from their simple unity, are organized into
all the diversity of life-forms, vegetal and
animal, before us. The cell is, therefore
proclaimed the final constitutive unit of to-
tal living existence, with the unique power of
association into every vital shape. So we
might have a cellular science of Music, deep-
ly significant of the Time's spirit, reflecting
the scientific movement of the age, which is
in hot pursuit of the cell through all cre-
ation. Still we would fain leave to Biol-
ogy its distinctive terms, and find for Music
its own nomenclature. It is well to keep dis-
tinct the special speech of different spheres,
even if universal science must have its uni-


versal categories wliicli correlate and order
all knowledge. Besides we shall later have
to consider the living cell itself in relation
to Music.

Now this ultimate unit of Music has move-
ment, being in Time ; its essence is the proc-
ess sensibly going on; to call it a cell hints
rather of moveless Space (even if a cell has
life), not of ever-moving Time, which is its
primal element. So this unitary sweep of
musical sound, ceaselessly going forth and
coming back, vibrating around itself in the
least throb as well as in the largest forms of
Music, in the simplest note as well as in the
extended symphony, will receive its own des-
igimtioh ill the present treatise by giving
specially to it the name of the Whorl. Ac-
cordingly the foregoing ultimate genetic unit
of Music is in general the sound-whorl, since
the content of its movement is sound, contin-
uously separating from itself and returning
to itself.

The word whorl, which is derived from
whirl and ought to preserve its meaning of
rounded movement, has been employed in
botany and elsewhere to represent a more
or less fixed rotundity of shape, not moving
or vibrating. But in the present exposition
the concept of motion ever cycling in concen-
tric waves of sound cannot be left out, being


the fundamental, yea creative fact of Mnsic
as a physical phenomenon.

As already indicated, this movement of
musical sound, self-separating yet also self-
returning, shows its correspondence with the
Soul, or Ego, which has the same process as
psychical, and which is stirred to its pri-
mordial activity of selfhood hy the simple
tonal round. That is, the sound-whorl
wakens the soul-whorl and starts it to mak-
ing the same movement which is primordially
its own, given originally by the All-Self.
Here takes place the elemental harmony or
agreement between the outer and inner
worlds, which is the grand musical act at its
highest consequence, the emotional reconcili-
ation of man and the universe. Music is in-
deed primarily religious, mediating the hu-
man with the divine Self through some form
of this sound-whorl, whose essential char-
acter is concordant and mediatorial. Still it
must be granted that Music can have and has
often had its negative, discordant phase, fall-
ing into the fiercest contradiction with itself,
leaving the soul in strife without the final
reconciliation. At certain periods musical
Art seems to take delight in its own self-un-
doing. Even thus, however, it may well be
deemed an expression of the spirit of the
time. Music has its stages of revolution,


dissolntiou, anarchy; it defies tradition,
breaks down its own law as established, and
violently strikes its head against its own lim-
its. Some such strain is running through the
music of the present epoch (1912), though
perhaps not yet dominant. Rag-time is a
protest against the transmitted measure, and
Debussy, the French composer of Pelleas
and Melisande, claims to be assailing the key-
note, or the basic tone upon which the mu-
sical structure has hitherto been reared. And
Richard Strauss seems to have his delight in
the anarchy of musical form just through
his marvelous harmonies. Still the sound-
whorl as the unitary principle of Music will
doubtless remain through all these tempes-
tuous tossings, as it rests upon the bed-rock
of Nature itself. Vibration with its move-
ment back and forth is primarily such a
whorl, which can both be seen and heard
when the stretched string is struck. Sugges-
tive is the fact that so many physical whorls
are found in the ear externally and internal-
ly, as if it would preserve the peculiarity of
the sound-world, and perchance emphasize
it on the way to its psychical destination.
Nor without a hint of the same fact is the
tendency to whorls in the forms of the in-
struments of the orchestra, especially of the
horns, whose function is to put such stress


upon the soiind-wliorls. Then look at the
dance with its many whorls of the sing-le
body, as well as the combination into the
dancing figures, in response to the whorls of
the music, which gives the start to all this
multiplicity of motions — music itself beinij
constituted of a vast diversity of whorls,
whereof we shall next speak.


Music the Many-WJiorled.

If we listen to a single instrument, a violin
or piano, we notice how its tones and tunes
roll up and down and around high and low
within a given range in a kind of linked line
of cyclical sounds. But if we listen to many
instruments playing in the orchestra we ob-
serve a far greater complexity but the same
ultimate phenomena; surging lines and
masses of sound-wdiorls varying in color,
pitch, and strength, cross one another, sepa-
rate and unite in manifold diversity; the
whole seems at first an angry maelstrom of
confused sounds, but it is finally found to be
well-ordered, moving according to law, and
reducible ultimately to a unit of composi-
tion, the sound-whorl as it has been desig-

We shall try to bring before the reader's


mind the prevalence of this sound-whorl in
every stage and sort of music from the sim-
plest to the most complex. It has to touch the
psychic whorl at every point, and set the
same to throbbing responsively, whereby
arises the exquisite sensation of agreement
or harmony between the outer and inner,
which is the primal act of Music, the many-

(1) Look at the leader of the humble
singing-class or of the great orchestra beat-
ing time with his hand or his baton. AVhat-
ever be the kind of tempo, 2-4, 3-4, 4-4, that
hand sweeps down, and perchance around,
till it comes back again to the starting-point.
Here w^e behold in an outer dramatic pres-
entation the inner character of Music, to
which the singers, the instruments, and also
the audience are to adjust themselves. We
observe that the visible movement of the con-
ductor, to which the audible movement cor-
responds through and through, is a going
forth and a returning, it may be through
several intermediate stages. But the round
has to be made before another begins, which
repeats essentially the same cyclical move-
ment. The latter thus becomes the funda-
mental type, the seen model of the heard
Art; the visible key-note, we may call this,
struck before or with the audible key-note,


and prefiguring its whorl. Sight gives the
image which is more immediate and remem-
berable than the impress of Hearing, since
sound has not strict outline, but keeps dis-
solving in its own waves. The time-beat is,
accordingly, a typical action even wdien
thumped by the foot of the rural fiddler of
a country dance. It causes us to see and to
keep in view the whorl which, embodied in
sound, winds and coils serpentine every-
where through the musical composition.

(2) Next we are to note specially that the
foregoing movement is also in Time; the
Space-whorl, which may be compared to the
making of geometric figures, is followed by
the Time-whorl which marks off a limited
round from unlimited succession. Thus
Time is measured, being turned back into
itself by measurement, and its succession be-
comes a succession of measures, or of Time-
whorls. And we shall find that this succes-
sion of measures in Music has the tendencv,
after a greater or lesser sweep, to come back
to itself at the start. But now we are to see
that Time, the pure succession of points or
moments, is made the elemental bearer of a
cycle of sound in the single measure of a
strain. Underlying the sound-whorl, and
bearing it around is the Time-whorl which as
simply conceived is the pure unfilled self-
returning movement of music.


It may be liere added that Space and Time
are the earliest, most hoary and most chaotic
of the forms of Nature (See Cosmos and
Diacosmos, pp. 50, 59, etc.). Man has in va-
rious ways to order the Time-chaos, with its
all-swallowing succession (old Kronos of the
Greek myth) ; thus he does specially hy
forms of the pendulum which is also this
round of going forth and coming back. The
most direct way of measuring the pure Time-
whorl is by the tick of the clock or watch;
the musician employs the metronome for the
same purpose. Now sound is thrown into
this elemental Time-whorl which gives its
basic motion in Music. So the tempo is the
primordial ordering principle of the sound-
world, making it musical and bringing into
existence the sound-whorl.

Thus every piece of music is a portion of
Time ordered, a fragment of pure succession
made to turn back upon itself and round
itself out, even if the links of the temporal
chain continue. In Music, accordingly, we
begin to listen to cosmos rising out of chaos ;
each measure, even each note, is a little bit
cut from blank void Time, which is thus
sphered and is made to intone its act of
sphering; this is the original music of the
spheres, not playing far off yonder amid
the stars, but in every musical measure on


our little earth-ball. From this point of view
the soul too must be sphered, must be set to
moving in its psychic rounds to which Music
stimulates it by this spherical movement,
stirring the potential and as yet chaotic Self
to its primal activity. Hence it comes that
Music has always been deemed a means of
education, especially for infancy. But as
the grown man also never fails to have with-
in himself an unordered, unevolved portion
of his ancestral heritage, he can well appeal
to Music to help him sphere his inner trans-
mitted chaos. For Music, being itself prop-
erly wordless, appeals to the unspoken and
for the time unspeakable part of man's na-
ture, to the deep far-down unconscious foun-
tains of his being, which have otherwise no
utterance, no outlet, but which are throbbed
by Music into their first psychic whorl (or
Psychosis). Thus the sound-whorl starts
into activity the elemental soul-whorl,
through which the man begins to feel the un-
worded content of his unconscious inner
world. And the Music of the Spheres is real-
ly his own, is the musical Sphere, the peri-
odic Time-whorl of a note, a measure, a
strain laden with self-returning sounds and
stimulating the orderless Ego to periodize
itself into the psychic ordering principle, the


(3) If we take the sound-whorl in its ele-
mental form, the note produced by striking
the stretched string, we can see the oscilla-
tions from side to side, and hear them also,
as they sweep forward and back again, form-
ing successive cycles of sound, in which these
oscillations "return to the same condition
after equal intervals of time" (Helmholtz).
The great physicist has here stated the fact
of the vibration of a single note self-sepa-
rating and self -returning in a series of rep-
etitions, which he calls periods. Now this
periodic movement is what makes a sound
musical ; we have to hear the whole round of
it, if we wish to get a musical sensation, or
feel the Psyche stirred to its fundamental
process. On the other hand, mere noise is
non-periodic, it has no return, no cycle, or a
broken disjointed one, which jars upon the
nerves we say, stimulating a clashing disor-
dered outer Psychosis. Naturally the ques-
tion rises whence comes this order of the
Psyche which mere noise assails, but which
the measured sound-whorl excites agreeably,
or agrees with sjTnpathetically? Doubtless
the source of the individual Self (the All-
Self) has just this psychical order, and so
may be intimated or brought down to man
in the far-reaching tones of the musical


The physicist calls these vibrations of
noise irregular (unregelmassig), while those
of a musical sound are regular (Helmholtz,
Tonenipfindungen, p. 15). That is surely
the case, and this regularity is what stimu-
lates the Ego to a happy response, both hav-
ing at the bottom the one regula (rule). But
what is this? and whence? The physicist
does not feel himself obliged to answer such
questions ; that is the sphere of the psychol-
ogist. But it is just this psychical element
w^liich elevates Music into a Fine Art. Truly
there must be an original elemental order in
the Ego for it to feel this outer order of the
sound-whorl and take up the same as its own
intimate counterpart.

The oscillations of the single note are,
therefore, a series of these sound-whorls in
their simplest recurrences, through which
we see the one genetic tone reproducing it-
self in many successive repetitions in time,
till they drop out of the range of the ear.
Actively creative of itself w^e must conceive
the musical tone, that it be truly itself, for
it is a process recurrent on the air, in its w^ay
a generative process, wdiich is manifested in
the repeated self-creation of its own oscilla-
tions. So we behc^ld another illustration of
the genetic unit or reproductive cell of Music.

(4) But now we have to consider the fact


that this single note divides itself within
itself indefinitely, yet reunites with these
divisions getting smaller and smaller. This
is the phenomenon known as harmonics or
overtones. The single note which we hear is
by no means simple, but compound, con-
sisting of a series of tones derived from it-
self, yet combining with itself; for instance
low C will throw off its octave C, and then
its second octave C with the intervening G
or fifth, and then re-unite with the same. And
so the process of overtones (not to be fully
described here) continues. At present the
object is to observe that the single note
plucked from a stretched string or blown
from a flute is not merely compound (as the
books usually say) but is continually decom-
pounding itself and then recompounding
w^hat it has decompounded. That is, it must
be grasped as a perpetual process of divid-
ing itself from itself and taking this divided
part back into itself. Now these ejected
tones of the fundamental note (harmonics)
have been specially named by Helmholtz as
harmonic upper partial tones, or simply the
upper partials of the fundamental. In such
nomenclature is suggested their origin as
well as their re-combination; but we wish
here to emphasize that this is a process ever
going on; the note is always self-separating


yet always self-returning within itself; it is
incessantly making a series of rounds in its

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 1 of 32)