Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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own self-activity, when once started, for it
has to have -in some way the outer stimula-

In this fact we penetrate to the essential
nature of the sound-whorl : it makes itself
many sound-whorls and then remakes the
many to one. And this is done with an in-
finite diversity of composition, decomposi-
tion, and re-composition, giving the vast va-
riety of the qualities of tone in instruments
(timbres) and suggesting the diatonic scale,
and harmony, and even melody.

In the previous section we observed the one
note sending oscillation after oscillation up-
on the air, reproducing itself externally in
repetitions. But now we find this one note
internally reproducing itself in successive
acts of self-division yet always re-joining
with itself its own ejects to form new kinds
of tones. Or the fundamental sound-whorl
keeps separating from itself other sound-
whorls which have their own independent in-
dividuality, yet re-combining with the orig-
inal sound-whorl. Here also we observe the
primal association of tones even in the one
note; this is not a simple homogeneous
sound, but a complex society of sounds with-
in itself. Thus the unit of music has been an-


alyzecl like the unit of Life, the cell, and
found to have its own complex process.

Again we reach ont for the source of this
separation and return which we find to be
the inner determining principle in all these
forms of the sound-whorl. This movement
is that of the Ego itself, with which it be-
comes harmonious through their common
process. But especially we are reminded of
the psychic act jvlien we observe the funda-
mental tone making itself into object or a se-
ries of objects, and then restoring such ob-
ject to union with itself. Thus the musical
note by itself reveals a kind of outer self-
consciousness, which indeed runs through
total Nature as a part or stage of the All-
Self. Sound as natural or objective shows
the traces of its origin, which must be ulti-
mately psychical, in the processes which we
have been w^itnessing.

(5) Such is the individual sound-whorl
taken by itself. But next we come to the
case of several of these individual sound-
whorls following one another in succession.
Here also we observe that if this succession
is to be musical and is to form a melody,
again the sound-whorl appears in various
ways. We have already noticed the meas-
ure with its time-cycle recurrent; but after
two or four of these measures usually there


is a return to the beginning of the first phrase
which is repeated with some changes in the
second phrase. Thus what is commonly
known as the strain of a melody, is a sound-
whorl composed of eight measures, in whieli
the movement is first a going forth and a
development, when there takes place a re-
turn and repetition which rounds out the
strain. Moreover the strain as a whole then
goes back to the beginning awd repeats it-
self. Generally the entire musical composi-
tion which is composed of a number of
strains or periods is built in the same way.
The somewhat vague notion of rhythm in
music or its right swing depends on the re-'
currence of sound-whorls. What is known
as musical form deals with these sound-
whorls also, in the least and in the largest.

Accordingly it may be affirmed that the
sound-whorl is the genetic unit of Music,
the fundamental principle which weaves
creatively through the whole fabric of it,
from the individual tone to the vast associa-
tion of tones in a symphony. The foregoing
instances are perhaps sufficient to illustrate
the point, but many others will occur in a full
consideration of Music. The single note, as
we have seen, manifests the sound-whorl
both externally (in oscillations) and inter-
nally (in overtones) ; so does the measure,


the plirase, tlie strain, the whole work. Quan-
titatively we feel the separation and return
in crescendo and diminuendo. Also there
are the swift and slow time-whorls of sound
with corresponding stimulation of the Ego.
Qualitatively there are the timbre-whorls of
sound, in great variety of color {Tonfarhe
in German). Even chords are sound-whorls
of the fundamental note in the overtones,
emphasized by a stroke, as may be tested on
the piano or violin. Many-whorled Music is
perhaps the characteristic epithet of this art.

It should be repeated that this sound-
whorl, ever varying yet ever unifying, moves
concurrently with the form of the Ego, show-
ing the process thereof. So the sound-whorl
passing through the ear (one might call it too
the ear-whorl or series of whorls) stimulates
the dormant or elemental Ego to its primal
self-activitv, verilv the first source of musical
pleasure. Or the external sound-psychosis
enters and stirs to like movement the internal
soul-psychosis, so that both unite in one proc-
ess, which is indeed the basic harmony, and
the fulfilment of all Music.

The musical genius takes these sound-
whorls and builds them into his musical
structure. We may conceive them as the
brick or the hewn stones which he erects into
a new style of palace; they are the material


out of which he creates his artistic work.
And this is likewise a sound-whorl all-inclu-
sive, for the whole has essentially the same
process as its constituent part or parts.

In this connection we may refer to a very
fruitful thought of Spinoza which declares
that the unifying principle must be found
equally in the part and in the whole (aequo
in parte ac in toto). More fully stated, the
process of the totality is manifested in each
of its particulars. Applying this principle
to Music, we are to see that the universal
musical process is reflected in each of its
constituents. The minutest element of Mu-
sic reveals the same movement as the larg-
est total of it. Thus the sound-whorl as the
unitary constituent is potentially a small
sonata or symphony, implicit indeed, yet
suggestive of the whole, yea pushing for the
latter in musical evolution. In like manner
every cell is prophetic of the entire organ-
ism and is marching toward that fulfilment
of itself. Even scientists tell us that each
particle of dust pre-supposes the universe.

Indeed one may think in abstract terms, if
such are liked, that Music plays the grand
harmony betw^een the universal and the par-
ticular, and makes us feel it through varied
syntheses of sound-whorls, each of which is
the least unit of the largest composition.


"The part of a whole must have the process
of that whole in order to be a part of it " are
the words of an abstruse philosophic
apothegm, which can be set to a very simple
tune swaying our emotion if not our intel-
lect. Indeed the humblest piece of Music is
made up of many sound-whorls ordered into
a single completed sound-whorl, whose func-
tion may be regarded as the attunement of
man and world, between whose jar lie the
chief discords of existence.

(6) The sound-whorl in its widest music-
al purport may be found in the great compo-
sitions of the Masters. Schumann has inter-
related the separate movements of his D
minor symphony by repeating his first the-
matic material ; we hear him returning to his
Allegro in his Finale, and thus making his
whole work a great symphonic sound-whorl.
Liszt calls up strongly the same suggestion
by his piano concerto in E flat, with its four
distinct movements; these, however, are all
interlinked by the opening phrase which the
orchestra loudly intones, and which it re-
peats. in the closing strain. This is called by
some writers the cyclical method of compo-
sition, and has been traced in the works of
many great musicians (notably in Beetho-
ven's C minor symphony). Thus the largest
instrumental works show the recurrence of



and the return to the basic unit not merely in
their details but in their total sweep.

In such fashion we seek to grasp the ulti-
mate unit of Music, the sound-whorl, and to
mark its capacity for stirring to activity the
corresponding ultimate unit of the Soul, the
Psychosis, whereby comes that agreement
which makes the musical tone agreeable,
pleasurable, and often something much more.
But that is the start, the elemental concord-
ance as it were, of all Music, which by mul-
tiform combinations of these sound-whorls
becomes in the orchestra a wondrously inter-
woven garment of many-colored ever-shift-
ing tones reflecting the world as well as man.
So we may conceive Music distinctively as
the many-whorled, with all its diversified
play of qualities and degrees.

Abundant illlustrations of the foregoing
characteristic the student will find in the
works of the great composers. Wagner's
"leading-motive" is a peculiar example of
such musical recurrence for a unique psy-
chical effect. Especially the whirl of the
waltz has called forth many varieties of the
sound-whorl in musical compositions. In
this respect most naive and direct seem to us
the waltzes of Von Weber, as the famous
"Invitation," and the more simple "Last



The Biological Medium of Music.

In the preceding account we have placed
the chief stress upon the sound-whorl with-
out and the soul-whorl within, which are
the two extremes of the primal musical proc-
ess, the one being inorganic or external, the
other psychic or internal. Now rises the
fact that between these two extremes lies a
mediating third element without which
thofee fully separated and indeed opposite
elements, the sound-whirl and the soul-
whorl, could never be brought together and
the musical intermarriage between Matter
and Mind would be impossible, the aerial
tone would never reach its spiritual counter-
part and stir the same to a consonant activ-
ity. Such an intermediary is the organic, or
the vital Bodv, in fine Life in its ultimate
unit, known as the cell. This also will be
found to have its process, which we may call,
keeping up the analogy, the Life-whorl. It
may be here added that the word Life has a
great diversity of meaning and application;
we intend to use it in its primary sense as


the vital process, or the reahn of organic

Thus we have the original triple chord
of Music, that which creates the el-
emental process of this Art — sound-whorl
(inorganic), life-whorl (organic), soul-
whorl (psychic). So it comes that three
great divisions or stages of the Universe —
Matter, Life, and Consciousness or the Self
— have to be invoked to produce a complete
note of Music, with its cycle of three constit-
uents, inorganic, organic, and psychic. The
three whorls which make up every musical
tone, are drawn from the process of the Uni-
verse which in its above-mentioned three
stages may be conceived as one vast creative
whorl, that of God Himself making the round
of the All. And the human Self returns to
inorganic matter and produces the particu-
lar musical tone in imitation of the creative
Self in its universal process.

Let us repeat the foregoing thought in a
somewhat different way. Hitherto we have
taken into account specially the sound-whorl
and the soul-whorl, and have noticed their
agreement actively brought forth as the ulti-
mate fact of Music. The tone stirs the ele-
mental process of the Ego (the Psychosis).
Next we are to notice that this sound-whorl
belongs to the inorganic, non-vital domain of


Nature, wliile its stimulated counterpart is
internal, psychical, is indeed man's very Self,
Ms consciousness.

Now between these extremes, the sound-
world and the soul-world, lies active the
realm of Life, the organic domain of
Nature, especially in the form of the
living animal body. Hence the question
comes up about the relation of Music to this
intermediate sphere of Life, intermediate
between the outer phj'sical vibrations of the
air and the inner psychical vibrations re-
sponsive to the former in Music. Well-known
is the fact that the living frame of both
lower animals and man is awakened to cor-
responding activity by musical tones. Thus
the organic realm, that of Life, has its rela-
tion to Music. We may premise that there
rises between the sound-whorl and the soul-
whorl the life-whorl ; or the tonal unit is now
to be seen stimulating the vital unit, even in
advance of the psychical unit. Hereafter this
vital unit will be identified as the cell while
the psychical unit has been already named
the Psychosis.

Here the thought may be mentioned that
Music in its way makes the transition from
the Inorganic to the Organic, and from the
Organic to the Psychic — a feat which science
has not yet been able to perform. That is,


the scientist is still struggling to pass from
the non-vital sphere to the vital, chiefly
through some chemical manipulation, but he
has never succeeded in producing directly
Life from Unlife. In like manner the chasm
between Life and Consciousness has never
been bridged scientifically. So much the Sci-
ence of today acknowledges. But Music
passes with astonishing readiness these oth-
erwise impassable limits; in fact, its very
nature lies in conjoining, assimilating, and
harmonizing such different, quite refractory
realms. If our globe was once thrown off
from the sun and gradually cooled down and
evolved living things from its inorganic
stage, we may feel in Music something of
the same transition, a possible suggestion of
world-creating, which some keen, bold spirits
have imagined they could hear in the highest
musical works. It was Nietzsche who as-
serted of them in one of his vast audacities
that "the listener ought to feel an impres-
sion similar to that which he would feel as
if present at the creation of the world by
God." A little speck or note of such a cre-
ative act may be remotely traced in the in-
organic sound-whorl stirring to activity the
organic life-whorl or cell, which reaches out
yet farther and starts the psychical round
or soul-whorl. Thus Music is conceived in


a certain sense to beget Life, undoubtedly
after this lias already been begotten and
needs a sort of renascence, which is brought
about by the musical tone.

From these far outreaches we come back
to our immediate task, which is to trace the
intimate relation between Music and Life,
between the tonal and the vital processes".
Each has its own constitutive unit, out of
which its whole fabric is built. Now when
the unit of Music (the sound-whorl) strikes
the unit of Life (the cell), there is not only
a movement in response, but an agreeable
movement; the two agree, co-operate, move
in unison which is the fundamental concord.
This is the primal pleasure of Music, the el-
emental activity of Life's unit, its fresh rise
into being, its creative act, which is always
pleasant. Thus the two ultimate units of Mu-
sic and Life come together, are married and
joroduce the primordial harmony. On this
point some details may be given.

L There has always been a good deal of
discussion about the origin of our delight in
Music. What produces it? What is its ex-
planation? It has long been vaguely felt
that Music somehow reaches down to the
sources of Life and starts them to flowing
afresh, often with increased eiiergj. It
seems to have the power of vitalizing anew


every living thing of sensation wliicli may in
any manner possess the sense of Hearing.
Animals are certainly influenced by Music,
some of them make it, as the song-birds and
doubtless certain insects. How far down in
the scale of animated Nature the musical re-
sponse may extend, cannot of course be told.
But it seems to have some intimate connec-
tion with animal life, a connection which
goes back to the fountain-head thereof and
to unite with the primal native act of living
existence. It starts a peculiar response in
the organism, stimulating it to thrill, to leap,
to shout, especially to move in the dance.
There would appear to be in it some ele-
mental correspondence with the ultimate
vital process not only in man but also in the
lower orders of animals. Music seems to en-
ter quite at the origin of sensation and to in-
crease in power as creatures rise in the scale
of being.

These considerations throw us back upon
the unit of Life, pointing to that germinal
dot in which vital action may be supposed to
begin. Now Science has discovered and de-
scribed the object of which we are in search.
This is the unit of Life which biologists call
the cell. All living organisms reach back to
their final oneness in the cell. Here the
question comes up: does Music in any way


tap this genetic source of all sense-life and
perchance set the same to moving in concord
with its own vibration, though at first very
faintly? Does that peculiar elemental power
of Music start in the first fountain of Life
itself? Does the origin of musical pleasure
(and the pain too) reach down to the very
origin of our organism? Doubtless, even if
such pleasure be microscopic.

Here we must spend a few words upon the
nature and construction of the cell. Under
the microscope we behold it continually di-
viding within itself, then each part re-unit-
ing and forming new individuals. The cell
is in a perpetual round of self-generation.
The central body of it, called the nucleus, sep-
arates into its two halves (let us say), then
each half unifies itself into a "whole, which
again separates and repeats the previous
process. Such is the fundamental act of vital
energy, cell is ever begetting cell through its
own productive force, self-creative through
its own inner separation and return. To be
sure there are many other facts in connection
with the cell; biology has written huge vol-
umes about it and is still working at it in
many experiments. But the essential point
is what has been stated above : the cell has the
power of self-division and of self-return in
an increasing cycle of self-reproduction, ever


begetting' its own individuals. Whence it
derives that power of inner division and con-
tinuous individuation is a mighty problem
which cannot be discussed here, as it belongs
to Natural Science (we may be permitted to
refer, for the elaboration of the cell together
with an attempt to order it in the realm of
Nature, to our Biocosmos, p. 96, 117, etc.).
Still the suggestion may be given that this
process of individuation is universal, being
that of the Universe itself.

But the fact which is to be emphasized
here is that this round of the cell is essen-
tially one with the round of the musical tone.
That is, the ultimate unit of Life in its in-
nermost movement has the same process as
the sound-whorl heretofore described. To
be sure they are also different, an outer and
an inner; still they are completely symmet-
rical and formed after one basic pattern,
which must be at last psychical ; we may
note that each is a Psychosis, following in
its own particular way the universal norm,
that is, the norm of the All.

But at present w^e must come back to the
sound-whorl which strikes upon the ear and
stimulates the nerves to start afresh the vital
process of everything which lives and has
the sense of Hearing. Thus we may conceive
the ultimate unit of Music blending with the


ultimate unit of Life, and stirring the lat-
ter to a higher self-activity, which is indeed
a perpetual self-generation. Music at its best
thrills the creative essence of the organism
itself, and imparts to it the ecstacy of gen-
esis. The sound-whorl impregnates the
cell-whorl (so we may call it for analogy)
and incites Life to the more intense repro-
duction of itself at its primal fountain-head
which is the cell.

We have now brought together these ulti-
mate units or processes to which w^e give
names expressing their identity as well as
their difference — sound-whorl, life-whorl,
and soul-whorl, which are all united in
Music, though in very diverse ways and de-
grees. It is well-known that Music stimu-
lates the body of the savage more clirectly
and more powerfully than that of the civ-
ilized man. Youth also is more readily
stirred to bodily action by sound than the
older person. We have to think that in the
one case the life-cell, the corporeal unit, is
swifter to take up and respond to the mu-
sical tone than in the other. The pleasure
(or agreement) in such instance belongs
more to mere life; the charm is largely,
though not wholly, physical. There is no
doubt, however, that the civilized man be-
comes less demonstrative physically to the


raptures of Music, and more receptive psy-
chically. Indeed the appeal of Music itself
in its development is directed less and less
to the life-whorl, but turns all the more to
the soul-whorl. Observe the audience at the
orchestral concert; not only silent but also
motionless as possible it sits even in response
to a Strauss waltz, whose excellence lies in
the fact that it has a psychical element un-
usual to its species. Still every quiet listener
who enjoys the music has trained, conscious-
ly or unconsciously, his life-whorl to be the
placid obedient medium which transmits the
sound-whorl to the soul-whorl, not, however,
without adding its own tinge of corporeal

On the other hand we may observe the
primitive effect of Music upon the primi-
tive man who judges of the excellence of a
tune by its ability to set his body to revolv-
ing in a dance or his heels to cracking on the
floor. In his case the vital response or the
cell-whorl far overshadows the psychical re-
sponse or soul-whorl, though the latter as-
suredly is not absent. But this physical ex-
citement simmers down with deeper culture.
Indeed the complication of the sound-whorls
in the development of Music becomes so man-
ifold and intricate that the body cannot fol-
low them with its movements, cumbrous and


external. There is required the elasticity
and subtle flexibility of the soul-whorl to
meet the ever-increasiiig variety and com-
plexity of musical tones. Still we are not to
forget that each of these sounds has to pass
through the physical sense of Hearing, which
must in some way possess an enormous di-
versity of cells to take up and transmit the
corresponding diversity of sound-whorls
heard in an orchestra for instance. But
these small auditory cells of the cultivated
ear no longer have the power of setting the
whole organism in motion as they have more
or less in the musicallv untrained man: cul-
ture seems to be able to connect them directly
with the soul's process, or without much in-
terference from the physical medium.

Thus the sound-world strikes (like an in-
strument of percussion) the life-world, built
of cells, which in their turn stimulate the
soul-world to its musical response.

There is another point which should not
be neglected in the present connection. This
life-cell which mediates Music with the
Psyche (soul) has already in itself a psy-
chical element, like all Life. The vital unit
has a material and a psychical element in-
terfused and mutually pervasive. How or
when the original Psyche got into Matter
and made it live cannot here be told because


it lias never been found out, especially by
Science. That onr globe has passed in some
way and at some time from Unlife to Life is
a postulate of Science even if scientifically
unproved. Still we may conceive the vast pri-
mordial protoplasmic mass transformed in-
to living units through the creative soul of
the All which imparts itself to each micro-
scopic speck. This henceforth lives -and is
the vital cell, the first living individual of our
earth, possibly of the whole physical uni-
verse. At any rate there is an inorganic as
well as a psychic element in every living or-
ganism, and primarily in each of its constit-
uent cells.

Now it is owing to this twofold nature of
the cell that it can become the medium to
transmit Music from the outer to the inner
world. The vibrations of sound are at the
start purely inorganic, but they set to vibrat-
ing in response the inorganic side of the cell
which is bound up indissolubly with its psy-

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 2 of 32)