Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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tion from its painted and sculptured prison.
So we may say that this sphere is more
free in itself and stands for a greater free-
dom than the two previous spheres. The re-
straint of the Body's own movement means
a kind of servitude in Art as well as in Life,
hence the tendency of the fixed form to break
out of its fetters into self-activity. That is,
the living Body in Sculpture and Painting,
being confined and enslaved to a single mo-
ment of action has the tendency to burst its
limit and to make a dash for a more complete
artistic liberty, which it finds in the Kinetic
Arts. These give to it the full round of its
own action in living reality.


For this reason the grand descent of
Christ into corporeal appearance, which oc-
cupies such a central place in Painting, be-
ing the genetic idea of the latter, had to be
transformed by the Church from the fixed
l)ictnre into the actual series of events, had
to be made over from one single moment of
its process, even though this be the most im-
portant one, into all its moments. Thus
^ye see the whole cycle of the great occurrence
in real sequence of its several scenes. The
famous Christmas festival at Rome would
give the appearance of the Son in a human
Body illuminated above in the dome of St.
Peter's, and descending gradually with in-
creased size and radiance to the earth below,
Avhere stood the people viewing with awe and
adoration the successive stages of the cre-
ative event of Christendom. To be sure
many pictured forms of that same world-
transforming Theophany had been painted
there in Rome, and had been viewed with ad-
miration and love, but they stood still, fas-
tened to one point of Space and Time, and
hence did not adequately represent the mov-
ing reality. So the impulse of Art drove to
add what was missing, the embodied proc-
ess itself in actual manifestation. Here we
may behold the transition from Painting to
the Kinetic Arts, from the moveless to the


moving- form, tliongli this form in both these
fields of Art has the same content, utters the
same message, namely the God becoming-
Man, the universal Self descending into the
individual, the divine-human manifesting
itself to our vision in outer Body. But the
before-mentioned transition shows the paint-
ed Theophany widening out into the kinetic
one, which fact may be otherwise stated as
the appearance passing over into the reality,
the pictured Body transmuted into its coun-
terpart in action.

Here w^e may emphasize that all three
stages of somatic Art — the plastic (Sculp-
ture), the graphic (Painting) and the kinetic
— are theophanic, they manifest deity in the
human organism. Such is their common
spiritual attribute, which, however, they show
in different ways. It is true that they often
represent far other and lower things than
this one supernal theme which is their orig-
inal ground of being. The history of all Art
shows the great lapse from the inner creative
soul of itself to an outer technical display
on subordinate subjects, which may still be
made to have artistic value. Sculpture and
Painting today have lost their directly the-
ophanic purpose and Avith it their original
power, since the consciousness demanding
such an x\rt is transcended. And yet they


have their sphere of service, though it no
longer can take rank as the highest and most
adequate expression of the age.

So the Kinetic Arts on this side are an ad-
vance over their two predecessors. And yet
on another side they are less effective, less
intense than Sculpture and Painting. The
very fact of their breaking loose from the one
fixed center means lack of concentration;
they are thrown into the sweep of Time, and
thus disperse their power as well as scatter
the attention. The sense of sight and with
it the soul, instead of being focused upon the
one essential point, is whirled through many
successive points, and feels the diffusion if
not the confusion. The result is that the ex-
ternal appearance and not the essence has
the emphasis. The danger of all kinetic Art
is that it may degenerate into a mere show
gratifying the outer curiosity but not the
deeper emotion and thought of the beholder.
Thus the phenomenal, the ephemeral, the
evanescent is uppermost, and does not let
the abiding abide. One impression wipes
out the other, and then is wiped out in turn.
So it may become a chase of superficial im-
ages across our eye-balls. Accordingly ki-
netic Art moving in real Time with beginning
and end lacks the permanence of Sculpture
and Painting held fast in an ideal Time with-


out begiiiiiiiig and end. We still look npon
some statues which Pericles saw, while his
jjageants, probably just as artistic in their
way, are buried in the very bottom of obliv-
ion, unless one of them should happen to be
preserved by the sculptor, such as the Pana-
thenaic Procession. So it comes that kinetic
Art has the seal of mortality stamped upon it
by old Time so remorsely that it scarce seems
to live at all as an Art. For this reason it is
often not regarded in books treating of the
Fine Arts. Still it belongs, is indeed a nec-
essary link in the chain, without which link
there is no chain.

Note that this Art has been unfolded out
of Sculpture and Painting in the foregoing
account; yet these two Arts may be seen to
unfold out of it in its first crude manifesta-
tion. Hence it comes that some writers de-
rive all Art from savage games, dances, fes-
tivals. Still such an early stage belongs more
to archaeology than to Art. Undoubtedly
the Body had motion before this was fixed
in outline. Likewise the highly developed
agonistic skill shown in the Olympic and
other similar Games w^as caught and made
permanent in Sculpture. Imagine how much
trained motion before and after is crammed
into the one crystallized moment of the (so-
called) Borghese Gladiator. How did he get


into that position — how will he get out of it?
So we are driven by the work to gather in-
to an ideal unity many actions antecedent
and consequent. On the other hand just these
actions are what is realized in kinetic Art.
They are implicit in the statue and also in
the picture, but they break forth into life and
actuality in the Art of bodily movement (ki-
netic). They are dormant though present in
the plastic and graphic shapes, but now in
the present domain they wake up and start
to going in their own individual embodi-
ment. The suppressed crystallized activity
of the organism becomes explicit, real, un-
folded into a new artistic expression.

So in psychological sequence we arrange
kinetic Art as the third of the somatic group,
not as the first. Undoubtedly it turns back
to Sculpture determining the same as well as
Painting, both of Avhich, however, in their
limitations can manifest but potential phases
of it in its entiret}^ Thus the somatic round
is made complete in its process of thought.
Organic Body in its truth, which is its self-
movement, has thus its own Art, and is put
into its own picture, which represents it in
its freedom, not in its subjection to the one
tyrranic moment as master. It is no wonder
that great artists, sculptors and painters,
and also architects, cultivated the kinetic


Arts, feeling' therein a kind of liberation. Li-
onardo at Milan devoted only too much time
to the pageantry of the court of Milan; Bru-
nelleschi in company with other great artists
at Florence produced grand festal entertain-
ments for the show-loving city in which the
kinetic Art of the Renaissance reached its
culmination. To be sure it could only sport
as the gorgeous butterfly of a few hours' du-
ration. Its fatal birth-mark was transitori-
ness, and yet it was an integral part of the
artistic process.

The reader probably is asking what is to
be included under the present Art. Its great
diversity has been already hinted; it em-
braces many fragile forms of spectacular
evanescence, not easy to relate together. In-
deed the chief reason why it is often deemed
not to be an Art at all is that it has no eter-
nal element, being merely an outer transitory
appearance, the undivine victim of Time.
Still, we repeat, it fills its niche, and so we
shall try to group a few of its leading vari-

I. The most immediate example of the
artistic significance and position of kinetic
Art is the descent of the- divine Person into
the human, as illustrated by the already
cited instance of Christ's epiphany in the
form of a church spectacle. The fixed pic-


ture was tlius transmuted into the moving
pageant, and herein lay also the passage out
of Painting into the next Art, as previously
stated. But this was only one instance,
though the most central, since its theme
touched the source of all Art. The whole
Christian Mythus was turned into action
from its painted fixity. Nativities, Annun-
ciations, Adorations, w^ere represented in
pageants and processions. The Madonna
and child were shown in their living counter-
parts, along with other members of the Holy
Family. In like manner scenes from the
life of Christ were enacted in pantomime in
which the Apostles, Saints, Fathers, as well
as the real symbols, animals, flowers, imple-
ments, were present fulfilling their parts.
Thus the legend and the picture were trans-
formed into the direct palpable fact before
eyes of the people who demand the actual
thing and some appearance of it in their Art.
Of course language was added to the repre-
sentation when the whole became the medie-
val passion play, which our age has seen re-
vived with a world-wide interest. A spec-
tacle of the Inferno given on the river Arno
at Florence became famous; a bridge upon
which many persons were gathered broke
down, and precipitated its human mass into
the waters below, and seemingly into the


flames of the boats, in which a number per-
ished. Still the church retains not a little of
this artistic pageantry in its processions,
rites of worship, and ceremonies on festal

Also there were numerous kinds of secular
spectacles. Ancient Mythology during the
Renaissance furnished many subjects for
varied display. Venus and Mars caught by
Vulcan perhaps led in favor, as illustrating
the manners and morals of the time; Guido
Reni 's Aurora could well be named a painted
spectacle. Roman triumphs were likewise
re-enacted in the streets of Florence ; the an-
tique world, both mythical and historical,
renascent Italy longed to live over again
through its great characters.

The spectacular parade has still its hold
upon the popular fancy, though seldom upon
the popular faith. The carnival is hardly a
religious festival any longer even in its home,
though Christmas certainly retains its hold,
yet often with changed meaning. Children
are now the main celebrants, though for their
sake j)arents are also involved. Very dif-
ferent was medieval Europe when the whole
people took part for their soul's need of a
new bond of fellowship in faith. Still today
the feeling of a common nationality may be
roused by an imposing spectacle like a coro-


nation or inauguration. Kinetic Art lias an
associative power; an institution often uses
it to waken or keep alive an interest in itself
among its own adherents.

II. A different phase of the kinetic Art,
witli its parades, processions, and spectacles,
is the Game, or contest of skill and strength
of body, especially as developed in ancient
Greece. Here the world-famous Olympic
Games are the model. Their influence not
only upon Greek Art but upon Greek charac-
ter has probably no parallel among other
peoples. Indeed the prestige of these Games
has continued through time along with Greek
civilization, of which thev were a verv sis:-
nificant part. Today they are being revived
not only in Greece but throughout the world.
The art of bodily superiority brought out by
competitive trial seems still to be holding its
own along with its cognate Art, Sculpture,
though the modern conditions be so different
from those of antique Hellas.

The Olympic festival opened with relig-
ious services to Zeus principally, and in a less
degree to the other Gods as well as Heroes
to all of whom offerings were presented. The
Greek Pantheon headed by its ruler was thus
invited to be present and to show divine fa-
vor in the great contest. It is evident that
the Greek conceived his Gods to manifest


tliemselves at the Games, especially in the
person of the victor. Here, then, we may
again note a phase of the divine descent in-
to Body which runs through all somatic Art
in its origin. In the perfect shape of the
athlete the God is seen to appear quite as in
the sculptured form, which certainly was
modeled from the Games, whose religious
character must be put first, at least in their

The contest itself (the pentathlon) came
to consist of five parts, leaping, running
throwing the quoit (discus), throwing the
javelin, wrestling, to which boxing ^yas after-
wards joined. The contestants came from
all parts of Hellas, from the farthest colo-
nies to the nearest communities, and had to
be freemen of pure Hellenic blood ; no slaves
or barbarians could compete though they
might be spectators. Thus the Hellenic race
was brought together in a common cele])ra-
tion, which in this way became a strong bond
of association between its separated and
often hostile members. Religiously Greece
would unite, politically it would separate.
This separation was also reflected in the
Games. Each of the contestants belonged to
one of the many Greek communities, and
fought for it against all the rest in his per-
sonal battle. The winner was alwavs re-


ceived with special honor when he returned
home, as having performed a great public
service, as a victor in a mimic war of his
City-State against the other City-States,
which were full of political jealousy. To be
sure there was an undercurrent of Hellenic
unity against the barbarian, especially
against the Oriental in the bloom of Greece,
though this feeling lapsed more and more
with the loss of Greek independence, till the
last Olj^mpian victor is reported to have been
an Oriental. But the Olympian contest at
its best pictured the civic struggles of the
Greecian. world within itself. Thus it may
be said to have mirrored the Greek con-
sciousness, when it was at its supreme flow-
ering, when it was world-historical. Hence
we may say that the kinetic Art of Greece in
the form of its Games, was an image of the
rise, bloom, and decline of its civilization, an
image as distinctive as its Sculpture and Po-
etry. It should be added that not only at
Olympia once in four years Avere these Games
celebrated, but in many other places at dif-
ferent times. In fact, each little community
had its local Games, and also its gymnasium
for training in preparation for this Greek
university. And not only the somatic Arts
were in evidence there, but Poetry, Song,
Music, could be heard, and even History and


On the whole, this form of kinetic Art, the
athletic Games, was the most popular Art of
the Greek people. The interest sprang not
only from the fascination of a contest of skill
and strength and endurance, but also from a
covert religious feeling that the perfect hu-
man body in its victorious deed was the man-
ifestation of a God-sent power and beauty.
The contestants had to be naked, and thus
each triumphant muscle was made visible,
and the total human organism revealed itself
in its divine fulfilment. We moderns have
lost such an artistic impulse, as we have lost
the faith out of whose depths it gushes up.
It may be felt already in the Iliad and Odys-
sey, in both of which Games rise spontane-
ously to the surface. But the culmination of
the athletic spirit and its Arts are co-eval
with the culminant period of Greek civiliza-
tion. The poetic representative of this
sphere is the lofty-worded Pindar whose
odes celebrating victorious contestants intro-
duce often the Gods and the sacred Mythus
as the divine element both of the Games and
of his own song.

The revival of the Olympic festival as well
as of athletic sports has doubtless its artistic
significance for our time. Still the half-
naked runner of today, though he be called
Olympian, can hardly rouse any religious



thrill in the gazing mnltitncle, such as made
the antique kinetic Art a kind of revelation
from Olympus, home of the Gods. The cre-
ative belief in such a manifestation has de-
parted, and with it the corresponding artistic
reality. Still the perfectly developed human
Body in its triumph and majesty has its own
worth which may be mirrored in Art, even
if this be of a lesser significance. It should
be added that gymnastic practice in its ex-
cess turns destroyer of what it seeks to cul-
tivate; both ancient and modern physicians
have pointed out the bodily ills of too much

The people in our own time are strongly
attracted to the various kinds of skill in the
kinetic Art. The popular circus with its ac-
robats, gymnasts, cavalcades, etc., is full of
kinetic performances which require training
and Art. The Veiled Prophet's procession
in St. Louis, the Mardi Gras celebration in
New Orleans have won a national fame.
Many festivals, including those of children,
show artistic merit of the kinetic sort.

III. Another form of kinetic Art is the
Dance, which in general inclines to some
phase of circular movement, either of the
single Body or of a group of Bodies. The
festival parade or procession keeps onward
in line, the Game (as here regarded) is a con-


test between two or more, the Dance has the
tendency to retnrn into itself, whether as
simple bodily rhythm or as the complex
rounds of the ballet.

Primarily the Dance also is to be regarded
in its religions aspect. It was with early
peoples a way of worship, of expiation, of
reconciliation. It is a means among savages
of kindling war, of stirring patriotism, of
preaching a crusade. Our Indian (Sioux)
outbreak of 1890 was chiefly the work of a
prophet who claimed to be the red Messiah
arisen to save his vanishing race ; he promul-
gated his doctrine chiefly by means of the
Ghost Dance, through which the Great Spirit
came down and entered the living tenement
of every Indian. Thus the God became in-
carnate in the human form and manifested
himself in a supernatural frenzy of gyra-
tions. The old Greeks had a similar view and
have transmitted to us a word for this state
— enthusiasm or the working of tlie God with-
in you as body and also as mind. Certain
Grecian deities, as Cybele and Bacchus ap-
peared to throw their worshipers into ex-
travagant saltations and convulsions, which
on the whole the Greek sense of moderation
and symmetry shunned. Still the Pythian
priestess at Delphi partaking of the pro-
phetic vapor, was supposed divinely pos-


sessed of Apollo, the God of Art, when she
uttered her oracles. Moreover Delphi was
noted as a center of all the Kinetic Arts,
Dances, Processions, Games (Pythian), as
well as of Sculpture and Painting. It is
probable that the Greeks refined the Dance to
the highest artistic perfection it has ever yet
attained. It too must have had that ideal
divine strain running through it which we
have noticed in all Greek Art. Into the
bodies of the youth and maiden as they cir-
cled gracefully in the chorus, the God was
conceived to descend and to manifest him-
self in all his ever-youthful beauty. Doubt-
less the Dances accompanying Pindar's
words were as full of myth and deity as are
his Ivrics which we read todav. His Kinetic
Art, however, being of the moment has per-
ished with the moment, even if we may catch
some faint traces of it in the rustic whirls and
leaps and rounds still to be seen on the
choral places of Greek villages.

Of course dancing drops to a mere amuse-
ment, having lost its sacred intention like
every other somatic Art. Also it becomes a
display of surprising bodily dexterity in the
ballet and other stage exhibitions. It has its
heroes and heroines well known to fame.
Lucian says that the Greeks danced their
Homer, making thereof an epic of motion


which included their mythology. We also
hear of the dance poem of Faust, the great
character of Teutonic legend. The angels
dance in many a Christian picture, notably
in one by Fra Angelico. The spinning Der-
vishes are hallowed objects to the Moslem
through their Allah-inspired rotations. Some
modern communistic sects have made a form
of bodily movement a jmrt of their worship,
and indeed of their faith.

It is evident that the Dance has an associ-
ative power which likewise originated from
a common religion. The God who unites the
people into tribe or even nation is thus man-
ifested. All participate in the motion
which makes them one in honor of their deity
who thereby becomes to them a presence. It
is the sense of the Divine which primarily
associates man and which drives him to ex-
press this association in Art, in kinetic as
well as in other Arts. Then the secular
Dance, which is without a direct religious
impulse, also associates, is indeed the pre-
vailing social act for young people, and as-
sumes many ingenious figures.

Kinetic Art tends toward the rounded
movement, the varying circle which still
returns into itself. Thus it completes its
sweep and becomes an outer manifestation of
the mind in its basic psychical process. The


so-called round dances and square dances
are many variations of this one cyclical act
of Body and of Bodies. The play of chil-
dren tends to be at bottom a moving ring,
which means that they play their very self
from within outward. This fact the kinder-
garten has used in many ways.

Painting is nearer to motion than Sculp-
ture which has the solid forms of length,
breadth and thickness, not the seeming forms
of surface, line and point. The latter, ac-
cordingly, appear ready to move, if not to
fly, and to become kinetic. Still they are
fixed, though imagination tries to make them
start. The thought will rise that the popu-
lar show of moving pictures may be the pre-
lude of a new synthesis of all the Somatic

Putting the latter, the Somatic Arts, to-
gether we observe that they form a round or
a process of which the Human Body is the
center. Sculpture makes this Body real in
a real Space. Painting reduces it to an ap-
pearance in an apparent Space, both fix it in
a moment of Time, from which kinetic Art
sets it free, giving to it successive move-
ments of Time and also restoring to it its
first spatial fullness. Such is the primal ele-
mental round of the plastic, graphic and ki-
netic Arts, each of which has its own proc-


ess, but is at the same time a part of a higher
process which we call Somatic Art as a whole.
It has also been noticed how the before and
after, implicit and crystallized in the one
moment of Sculpture and also of Painting,
becomes explicit and dissolved into actual
motion in kinetic Art. Likewise emphasis
has often been repeated upon the creative
theme of all somatic Art, the manifestation
of the Divine in human shape, which mani-
festation defined itself differently in the dif-
ferent Arts.

But next we are to make a fresh and larger
transition from the first stage of the Fine
Arts (Somatic) to the second stage. Archi-
tecture, which evidently does not belong to
the Arts of the organic Body, being an en-
closure separate from, yea opposite to the
latter, even if including it. This fact de-
termines its place and character: it is in-
herently separative and twofold, it is an
outer which reflects the inner from which it
is separated. Thus we pass out of the first
or immediate stage of the total cycle of the
Fine Arts (or Sense-Arts), and enter upon
the second stage, that of Architecture, whose
position must be vindicated in a few remarks.



As a starting-point let us conceive that
Architecture brings to manifestation a sec-
ond artistic Body — the first Body being, that
of Somatic Art which has already been con-
sidered. Keeping up the analogy, we join
together the two Arts, that of the human

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 28 of 32)