Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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swing and in the complicated ballet. Here,
however, the stress is that Music, the last
sense-art, returns to a primitive sense-art


and suggests the Psychosis of the total
sphere of the Fine- Arts.

Another point of relationship between Mu-
sic and Architecture is the exact measure-
ment of their elements. The sounds of the
scale are subject to mathematics as well as
the masses of the temple. The law of pro-
portion governs in both cases, the notes are
just so far apart, so are the columns. The
rigid quantitative principle may seem to
comport easily with Architecture whose ma-
terials are spatial and visibly measurable;
but it at first surprises that changeful Mu-
sic should also be in the grip of unyielding
numbers which control it beneath all its fluc-
tuations and seeming caprices. The fact,
however, that the feeling of the permanent in
the variable constitutes its main artistic ef-
fect; moreover mutable Music anchored
within by law, imparts its lesson and per-
chance something of its character to the lis-
tener's emotions. Those ever-moving sound-
whorls constitute also a measured structure,
and are built into a musical temple accord-
ing to exact mathematical proportions which
of course have to be learned in advance.

All Music by its very Nature has within it
the return out of its own scission and inner
separation, thus it suggests recovery, restor-
ation, the self-regaining of the soul after

MUSIC. 413

some trial or estrangement. Hence comes
its healing power for the lacerated heart ; its
inherent character is sanative, it medicines
its own wounds, so to speak, and retrieves
its own breach. So much lies in the simple
process of the sonnd-whorl as already de-
scribed in its self-division and self-retnrn.
And if it stimulates that same process in the
soul, we may understand its remedial nature,
so often celebrated. It touches the fate-
broken psychosis of life and tends to make
the same wdiole again, revealing itself as re-
storer. To be sure, it must unite with the
suffering emotion, in order to overcome the
rent; the outer Music must become inner,
making the soul musical, reestablishing its
healthy psychical round. The concord of
sweet sounds is to render the self concord-
ant within itself. Still the fact cannot be de-
nied that Music may become negative, dis-
sonant, contradictor}^ to its own nature; it,
may halt its own separation and refuse to
move forward to its self-restoration, thus re-
flecting and uttering the disease of the man Or
the time. So Music may beget a fate to it-
self, and break to pieces its own complete
circle; it can turn destroyer in its frenzy,
and undo its own work and itself, like those
two other great healers, love and religion,
which have also a destructive side. The dis-


order beautiful has been thrown into the suc-
cession of sound-whorls with piercing effect,
and anarchy has been let loose in the tonal
realm of law.

Having thus looked at the relation of Mu-
sic to the preceding Sense-Arts, we shall seek
to extend our glance to the entire acoustic
realm of which the luusical tone is but a
small part.

The Sound- World.

In the Introduction we have attempted to
show forth the ever-present, but shifting and
evasive unit of Music, which clothes itself in
so many varied appearances of sound. This
unit, here specially named the sound-whorl,
is the basic constituent of all organized Mu-
sic, from the simple tune to the full orchestra,
and is, moreover, what stimulates in us the
psychical element, corresponding to the
.same and connecting with it in form and

But now, in order to reach a complete con-
ception of this subject, we must grasp the
total sound-world, which has also its non-
musical part. We may imagine Music as a
great sphere which lies inside a still greater
environment of sound. The tone is on all
sides surrounded by noise ; the band of play-
ers in the street is enshrouded and often en-

MUSIC. 415

gulfed in the roar of the city, and still far-
ther of the earth; indeed, the musical and
non-musical domains are often in a fierce
clash on their borderland. The Orchestra,
that it may be heard, walls itself in from the
disordered din of the non-periodic sound-
world, which is verily its foe. Here takes
place the strife between the two kinds of
sound, the one ever moving outward in sep-
aration, the other ever returning inward to
its start and rounding itself out to concord-
ance. And we should add that the human
soul has the same two tendencies or possi-
bilities : the sweep toward inner separation,
disruption, distraction — chaotic, and on the
other hand the self-returning sweep toward
unity and self-integration — all-ordering.
Now Music stirs man to the latter by its very
origin and character as the sound-whorl. It
battles with the negative of itself, its devil,
the anarchic uproar of the unsubdued sound-
world, which it has to conquer and put under
its law. Yet the fact is not to be left unmen-
tioned that Music can beget its own devil
within itself and turn negative to its own

(^\ The sound-world shows, accordingly,
two opposing sides — the musical and un-
musical, the periodic and unperiodic, the
ever separative and the ever restorative, the


one pushing to divide outwardly in succes-
sive undulations, the other pushing to inte-
grate inwardly in repeated sound-whorls.
Still between these two extremes lies a third
intermediate department partaking of both:
the musical notes of Nature herself, the spon-
taneous sound-whorls which at times spring
out of mere accidental noise. The waves of
the sea have a musical recurrence, the falls
of Niagara move up and down forming a
scale of notes, likewise the ripple of the
brook, the whistle of the winds, the susurrus
of the forest. Nature, even inorganic Na-
ture, shows the tendency under certain con-
ditions, or perchance in certain moods, to
roll back the noise of her collisions into it-
self, as in thunder, and thus to suggest the
musical unit, the sound-whorl. Nature often
shows a longing — probably this is always
present in some form — to get out of her
state of separation, which is her primordial
character, and to be restored to oneness and
harmony with her first origin, the Creator
of whom she then becomes a psychical image.
Hence she may be heard in auspicious mo-
ments to break out into a voice of aspiration
which at least intones a note of return and
restoration, and may be deemed the proph-
ecy of Music. Possibly we may have the
right to say that Nature wishes to be made

MUSIC. 417

over into a musical being, and aspires to have
all her ungodly noises transformed into
sound-whorls, which of course represent and
stimulate the happy Psyche. Thus lifeless,
inorganic Nature has a bent toward Music
amid all her unmusical alienation and dis-
cord wdthin herself. And when we take liv-
ing organic Nature, for example the song-
birds, we find the musical individual already
existent as a natural phenomenon.

From the present point of view, accord-
ingly, we observe three divisions of the
sound-Avorld : First is the non-musical realm
of Nature, its vast sphere of material clash
and noise, circling the globe in an envelope
of discord with which is always raging along
the line the fight of musical concord, though
in many a fluctuation. Second is the spon-
taneous but sporadic outburst of harmonious
tones and even phrases from the foregoing
maelstrom of broken irregular lawless noises
— the sound-whorl pulsed up from the bosom
of Nature, who has far down a psychical
throb and aspiration derived from Creation's
first fountain. Third is that division of the
sound-world which embraces Music proper,
the work of man who, through one device or
another, turns sound back upon itself, mak-
ing it psychical in form and therefore deeply
harmonious with himself and at its best with
the All-Self.



Such we conceive to be the general sweep
from the sphere of noise to that of the tone,
from the unmusical sound-world to the mu-
sical. We may further conceive that the lat-
ter is the true realization and fulfilment of
the former, that the destiny of noise is to
become musical, whereby the cosmos may
turn harmonious literally, and the music
of the spheres be actually heard; At least
some such transition we can observe in the
Orchestra to which we betake ourselves out
of our noisy existence with its many conflicts.
In the composition of the Orchestra we may
first note the so-called instruments of per-
cussion (drum, cymbals, triangle, etc.),
whose character is to give out Nature's mu-
sical scale on being struck. Then follow the
wind instruments and the stringed which are
made to produce the sound-whorl by art, and
of course constitute the body of the orches-
tra. Here then we may emphasize the transi-
tion from the unorganized unmusical sound-
world to the organized musical one, the two
being connected through the instruments of
percussion, which are a kind of conduit from
the vast chaos of noise to the very limited
cosmos of tones. Music thus becomes a sug-
gestion, a prophecy, a sjTnbol if you please,
of a soul (and of a world too) rising out of
disorder to order, out of discord to harmony,

MUSIC. 419

out of Inferno to Paradise. This movement
is the fundamental one of the present Fine
Art, revealing its ultimate training and sig-
nificance for man. It should also be observed
that all musical instruments are primarily
percussive, that is, matter strikes matter in
them and starts them' to vibrating. The bow
of the violin strikes the strings, and in the
flute the breath strikes the column of air,
and sets it to indulating in sounds. In the
voice the breath strikes the vocal chords.
Thus Music begins with an external blow,
the blow of Fate which it is to transform
even in sound. Accordingly the whole ma-
terial sphere may be regarded as one vast
instrument of percussion whose separated
pieces of matter are perpetually colliding in
some way and producing sound. Such is the
primordial percussion instrument in the
orchestra of the universe. At every micro-
scopic point there is- a little friction, and so
the sound-world has its atoms. This thought
may be unfolded further.
C 11. ' When any material object is struck, it
gives forth a sound, it utters itself in re-
sponse to the blow. The body is said to vi-
brate, it is set in motion by the force from
the outside, it trembles, as it were, shiver-
ing in every particle or molecule; it seems
to quake with a kind of terror. Undoubtedly


it is assailed, its individuality lias been at-
tacked, possibly jeoparded, though not nec-
essarily destroyed. When I lay my pen
down upon this table, there is a collision be-
tween the bounds of two limited material ob-
jects, the result is the report.

Thus the physical world is full of sound,
because full of colliding matter. All bodies
are in a state of motion, of change, and
hence all bodies are giving forth some kind
of sound, though it may not be heard. The
fact that they are bodies, distinct, individ-
ualized, bounded, exposes them to everlast-
ing conflict, whose expression primarily is
sound. The whole material universe is a
vast mill in which every particular thing is
grinding and being ground, is striking
against something and is being struck by
something in turn, even down to the minut-
est particle of dust. The cry of this uni-
versal conflict of matter is sound — not the
cry of pain, which implies a being with sen-
sation, but the cry of a material thing or in-
dividual object whose existence in small or
in large is assailed.

On our earth at least the air is the chief
medium for the transmission of these vibra-
tions, these tremblings of the stricken thing.
The latter strike the surrounding air, which
is also material, infinitely elastic, responsive

MUSIC. 421

and continuous. Though this medium be mat-
ter, it is without rigidity, expansible, su-
premely plastic; it is completely formable,
that is, it has no form which can be seen and
so is quite invisible except in its effects. The
air has its own individuality, but its
individual character is a surrender of
individuality, it yields itself to be the
bearer of the stricken material world,
being struck itself by it, and gives
a sympathetic response to the blow through
sound. Air is the impressionable element
still more than water.

Every collision of material objects, even
infinitesimal, becomes a center of vibration,
which is communicated to the surrounding
atmosphere, and continues in ever-wddening
circles to go beyond and beyond, toward the
aerial boundary. The leaf falling on the
ground we may not hear, still it sends forth
its little pulsation of sound upon the circum-
ambient air. The skylark, soaring out of
sight, continues to sing, and thus makes it-
self a center of vibration, wrapping itself in
a musical garment made up of spherical fold
on fold, to the thickening of a mile or more.
In such fashion it forms the heart of an un-
seen melodious world of its own, and like a
tiny insect, weaves an enormous cocoon of
song about itself. Such is the tuneful


sphere called into being and kept in a thrill
by one little throat.

From millions of points throughout the
universe, wherever matter impinges on mat-
ter, these centers of sound are created and
surround themselves with their spherical
vibrations indefinitely extended. And it may
be said that quite at every point in space
matter is impinging on matter, though it be
of the greatest tenuity. The capacity of the
human ear takes up only a limited range of
sound vibration, probably but a small frac-
tion. Yet that capacity is marvelous. Ac-
cording to the calculation of Lord Rayleigh,
there may be a sound vibration when the
amplitude of movement in the vibrating ob-
ject is one twenty-five millionth part of an
inch. As regards pitch, the range of audi-
bility is usually said to lie between 16 vibra-
tions per second for the lowest sound, and
35,000 for the highest. Such are the limits
of the sensation of sound which through me-
chanical devices can be indefinitely extended.

So what we have called the unmusical
sound-world can be transmuted into Music
by the suitable contrivance, and what is im-
mediately noise can be mediated into har-
mony, perchance through a new combination
of instruments. As the sound-world is prob-
ably composed of something like sound-

MUSIC. 423

atoms, we may yet find some apparatus for
investigating them and employing them in
the science and in the practice of Music.
Seemingly we have yet no adequate micro-
phone for the ear equal to the microscope
for the eye. The sight-world has been probed
more deeply and minutely than the sound-
world. At present, however, we would re-
peat the fact that Music seeks to transform
the irregular unruly sphere of noise into the
well-ordered law-governed sphere of organ-
ized sound-whorls which constitute the har-
monious realm. Hence Music is deeply
institutional — a thought here only to be in-
timated, since it has been before fully un-
folded. (See Introduction under Music as
associative. )

Thus around us exists an inaudible world
of sounds yet to be heard, as well as an in-
visible world of things yet to be seen. The
air is full of stray notes, lost chords, wan-
dering melodies, a homeless gypsy music of
the atmosphere. A strange instrument is
the so-called melodiaphone, invented by
Daguin, which has as its object to catch up
some of these unheard strains out of the cir-
cumfluent ocean of sound, and make them
reveal themselves to the human ear in their
musical shape. It is something like a horn
with a peculiar mouthpiece, not to be blown


into by man's breath, but tlirougli aery lips,
truly those of a spirit {spiritus — breath,
wind), and it has three vents, like those of a
flute, which vents, however, are to be stopped
and opened by mortal fingers. The result is
a melody, now audible, but coming out of
the unheard AV'orld of sound vibrating every-
where about us incessantly; the instrument
has found the lost strain, separated it from
the other roving vagabonds of the air, and
has endowed with new vocal utterance that
silent voice. This is, however, but one short
streak of sound caught out of the full skies,
yet we can imagine by means of it how preg-
nant with music the air must be, all of it per-
chance ready to be born, if only the right
midwife would appear, doubtless in some
instrumental form.

^III. Still another turn we may give to
this subject. Every free material point in
the universe is a center of friction and so
must be a center of sound enveloping itself
with spherical layers of vibration to infinity.
The result is that these spheres of sound,
perpetually expanding from every point,
must clash, and the entire physical universe
becomes the arena of their collisions. Such
is the elemental crash of the sound-world,
always taking place, whose spheres roll
against one another, interfere, double up,

MUSIC. 425

suppress and are suppressed in turn, making
the grand battle-din of matter. For all mat-
ter means ultimately division, antagonism,
conflict, being in its very genesis the separa-
tion from the one harmonious principle of
the universe, which is spirit and the Divine.
Nor must we forget that the air, as medium
of sound, is itself material, and is further-
more divided into currents, strata, bands,
which collide, like the winds, and so produce
as well as transmit sound.

All motion begets friction of matter with
matter, thus making a huge instrument of
percussion, for thus friction finds utterance
in sound; even the quiet hills are enveloped
with unheard collisions. But what is behind
this motion! A force or cause it is called;
it works upon the material object and sets
it going. Then what is behind the cause I
Ultimately self-cause, the primordial origin-
ative energy which is Will, and not only Will,
but also Feeling and Intellect. The stroke
which reaches through all matter, driving it
against itself, can be only the fiat of an Ego.
One hears in the least sound the echo of the
primal shock of creation, which matter ever-
lastingly perpetuates throughout the phys-
ical universe, and which scientists often call
the Conservation of Force or the Eternity of
Motion. The primordial source of sound can


be discovered only in tlie creative Will of a
Self or Person.

We have observed that the vibrations of
the stricken object are communicated to the
surrounding atmosphere, and continue in
ever-widening spheres to sweep onward
through space — whither! Many other spheres
of sound they encounter, still they keep on
going, like wandering voices, till they are
lost in the vast externality. Manifestly all
sound is an expression which has in it a seek-
ing and a vanishing; it longs for but does not
find. But what is it seeking, what is the end
of its longing? Something which it has not,
and never can have, though it roam onward
forever through space. I hold that it is seek-
ing to come back to its primal source, to reach
the self-determined, the Ego; it is longing
for self-recovery, for selfhood, which is really
its fountain head. Thus it has its consonance
with a soul in alienation, stricken by the
blow of fate and yielding to the external
power. The stroke assailed the material ob-
ject from without and made it vibrate in re-
action. The sound of this vibration is the
outcry of its stricken individuality, corres-
ponding to the outcry of the soul at the blow
of fate.

Thus there is a natural basis for Music in
the correspondence between sound and soul;

MUSIC. 427

a philosoplier lias called sound the subjective
principle of the material body, and hence a
connecting tie or sympathetic bond between
matter and mind. Still this natural relation-
ship is not enough; the Ego must take crude
physical sounds of matter and work them
over for its own purpose, as the architect
hews the native marble into blocks for his
temple. These straying voices of nature
must be caught and turned back from their
aimless wandering toward the bounds of
space; they must not only make the return
themselves, but also express the return, and
thereby become a true utterance of the proc-
ess of the Self. In this manner to their phys-
ical side is conjoined a psychical side, the
purely material element of sound is trans-
figured into Music, wdiose deepest character
may be said to be a coming back out of na-
ture to the process of spirit through the
w^ork of the spirit.

Sound becomes the Art of Music through
its expression of the Return, which hints
restoration of the soul from its many es-
trangements, restoration from chaos, anar-
chy, pessimism, and a hundred other spirit-
ual maladies. Still we have to repeat that
Music itself may become diseased and ex-
press the time's disorder. Music in its ulti-
mate constitution springs from the mastery


of its own fate ; yet it too may become fated.
It begins with a percussion which we may
take as the external stroke of destiny, whose
outcry, however, is not suffered to repeat it-
self evermore, but is turned about to its
start and is made to control just the stroke
which originally caused the sound. This be-
comes thereby the sound-whorl which de-
termines the musician to his art, whose func-
tion is to produce not simply the sound, but
the sound-whorl, the basic unit of Music.
Mere noise may be taken as the image of fate,
but Music in its field shows to us fate over-
come. The further reflection may be added
that these units of Music are organized into
a beautiful temple of sound, such as the sym-
phony, in which man may well see and feel
the building of his institutional world, the
true home of his freedom.

To be sure the total sjanphonic movement
is in time, it comes to an end, it is not eternal,
it persists only as it takes lodgment in the
soul and character. Thus Music too finds its
fate just in its fundamental element — time,
and calls for a more universal utterance of
the universe, perchance a higher Art. More-
over Music is always shown having a struggle
within itself to transcend its given limits.
The Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, the last
one of his creation, reveals a deep wrestle

MUSIC. 429

with tlie sjmiplionic form itself, wliicli the
great composer had unfolded to new power
and completeness, and then had grown to
feel the limits of his work. He had become
traditional to himself, and would break over
his own self-made bounds. The old Titan
seems in a wrestle with very Time. Still his
long effort concludes, the Music ends and
drops us back into our old world, though for
a while it has borne us beyond into the feel-
ing of a universally creative Presence.

vIV. It is worth while to give a thought to
the medium of sound and hence of Music —
the air which we use also for breathing. We
notice first of all, that air has two opposite
qualities : it is heavy yet indefinitely expan-
sible; it falls downward yet is always rising
upward; it obeys gravitation, yet it defies
its obedience and degravitates. The w^eight
of a column from its indefinite height to the
surface of the earth equals thirty inches of
Mercury, or about fifteen pounds (Torri-
celli's famous experiment). So at last after
expanding and reacting many miles over our
heads, air gives up inner opposition and
yields to the terrestrial pull. It keeps sepa-
rating within itself and resisting its material
center till the final molecule. Thus air itself
is an image of vibration with its rises and
falls, till its evanishment. Hence this me-


diiim is already sjanpatlietic with the
throb of matter when assailed, for it is al-
ready throbbing in itself, and takes up the
latter 's outcry into its own bosom, and really
gives utterance to the same, at least for us.
Air is supremely sensitive to the material
stroke, and voices the same, be it great or
small, producing what we have called the

Now air is itself matter and heavv, and can
be made to impinge on itself, emitting sound
which may be the low M'histle of the breeze
or the roar of the maddened tempest. Thus
air gives an outcry at its self-inflicted blows ;
it can shout in agony at the throes of its own

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 30 of 32)