Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

. (page 4 of 32)
Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 4 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

medium, and is to be seen in a new relation
besides its scientific. The purely external
sound-whorl can touch it on its outer side,
that of Nature, or even Matter. But this
conjoins intimately with the Soul or Psyche ;
such conjunction takes place just in that liv-
ing cell, and becomes the grand marriage of
the inorganic universe with the organic. It
is in every part of our bodies, microscopic
and perhaps smaller.

Accordingly that w^ee cellular process —
the cell-whorl — is the stream on which are
borne the musical units — little individuals,
yet with a great and complex organization
— to the corresponding soul-whorls which
they find in a similar organization, and stir
to activity. For you as Ego are organized
in a vast variety socially. You contain all
institutions, the total social order. That is
what the organization of sound-whorls
rouses into feeling, into a state of emotional
activity, yea into intelligence. Thus your
subjective chaos gets ordered or feels a sense
of order through music. The whole spiritual
structure of your inner self with its associ-


ative character is made creative by the as-
sociation of tones.

Music then touches the germinal point of
the living universe, and makes it throb to an
act of creation. As far as we know, Life be-
longs to our planet alone, and the original
vital cell is the first burst from the Inorganic
world to the Organic. To be sure we cannot
tell what effect the musical sound-whorl may
have upon this very elementary dot of first
Life. But as our corporeal cell is directly
derived from it, there must be some faint
response at the earliest start. Li this sense
w^e have a commentary upon many a vague
and obscure word of writers on Music, sug-
gestive even if mystical, who declare it
to reach back to the very fountains of

Music makes or can make its appeal di-
rectly to the Self without the image of any
particular thing, wherein it differs from the
other Fine Arts. It has been called "the
impression of immediate certainty," as of
"God Himself," an "intuition of the in-
most and truest life," or better a communion
with such life whereby man is in creative
spontaneity even to recreate himself and
the world. But chiefly as we look at it. Music
is the cunning demiurge who can rouse and
even reproduce associated man along the


whole line of his evolution. You may well be
reminded once more of the basic thought
that the inner structure of your soul-world
is built by the institutional order around you,
in which you participate. There this order
lies more or less latent, somnolescent, till
Music of the deep organic sort comes and
stirs YOU to rebuild it within, and make it
alive and present. For society has made you
as Ego far more than you have made it; in
you it sleeps by a long ancestral transmis-
sion till wakened and set to throbbing by
Music, especially by the Orchestra, which has
as its main object to socialize or rather to in-
stitutionalize your subjective chaotic recal-
citrant world — emotion, passion, even sen-
sation. Reflect again that it is the institu-
tion which associates men, unites them in a
common bond so that this institution is in
every Self belonging to the same. Music
helps to keep such an institutional bond ac-
tive and even creative. It may be added that
the complexity of Music has a history run- •
ning quite parallel to the complexity of so-
ciety, which it is not only to picture, but to
keep alive in the listeners who have all to
live an associated life in institutions and
help create the same.

What part, then, of the total science of
Music best represents in tones or builds up


by a large and complex system of sound-
wlioiis this institutional world of man?
Doubtless the Orchestra. Our whole subjec-
tive Self, the huge vat of caprices and our
feelings, is apt to bubble up without order or
control, and hence needs to be socialized, be-
ing naturally insubordinate to reason with
its law. Philosophy may train men, who
have time and talent for it, to a rational sub-
ordination of their emotional nature, by a
more or less violent repression. But Music,
does not crush, it rather affiliates with the
emotions themselves, and caresses them into
a social order and harmony of their own, as-
sociating them through themselves. Philos-
ophy is hardly for the multitude, though
Music is, even if with many gradations. The
people are to be socialized in their turbu-
lence of feeling, wherein lies the great field
of the Orchestra which is in itself a small
folk appealing to the great folk through
their common, most intimate bond. The peo-
ple stand close to Nature, and Music, as we
have seen is Nature made psychical and thus
kinned with the popular heart. We can feel
Music as the love uniting Physis and Psyche
in each living cell, where they meet, kiss, get
married in a rapture of ecstacy.

The Orchestra, then, we may well study
in its musical supremacy. It is itself an in-


stitution, we may call it tlie sentient institu-
tion which has the power of sensing the in-
stitutional world of man and of re-producing
it for the sense of hearing, of re-building the
social structure out of sound which there-
by stimulates and renews human asso-



The Orchestra,

We have observed the sound-whorl in all
its simplicity; now we are to grasp it in all
its complexity, which is found in the Or-
chestra. It is still one, yet made up of many ;
it still excites the soul-whorl, which has a
corresponding multiplicity and power of as-
sociation with its own.

The greatest fact in modern Music is the
Orchestra. It is essentially one instrument
composed of many instruments harmoniously
fitted together to produce harmony. Many
members forming one organism we may re-
gard it, or many individuals forming one so-
ciety or many tones constituting one music;
thus the pervasive principle of the Orchestra
emerges in its unity — an association or per-
chance a federation of the sound-whorl. This
fact indicates the last and highest stage of
musical development up to the present mo-
ment, and hence the most complex and diffi-
cult. Thereby the Orchestra becomes the
summary and explanation of all the varied
forms and phenomena of Music, revealing
their ultimate purpose as well as interpret-
ing their evolution from the start. This


thought we may well carry a step further.
As Music is the highest of the Fine Arts, the
third and last stage of them according to
our view of their order, it should be looked
at in advance to catch the scope and out-
come of the entire artistic movement of man.
And furtherm'ore as the Orchestra is the
culmination and climax of Music, we shall
treat of it here in this Introduction, looking
from it as from the height whence w^e can
best behold what has been as well as what is
to be, in the evolution of Art.

There is one other reflection in which I
may indulge at this point. The Orchestra in
America seems to be getting somewhat natur-
alized, but by no means yet nationalized.
The love of it is increasing and also spread-
ing; in the West even the lesser cities are
trying to have an orchestral attachment to
their communal body. Is it a passing fash-
ion or a permanent longing for self-expres-
sion in a Fine Art— a momentary caprice or
a genuine need of the soul which has arisen
and which will surely deepen! We incline
to the latter view, for the American spirit
has shown itself supremely associative, man-
ifesting a mightier power of social organiza-
tion than has ever yet appeared in the
World's History. Indeed the problem of
the time is to curb and to subordinate to law


tliis new giant of energy let loose among us,
especially in the economic field where it
threatens to swallow up the State and all
institutions together w^ith many of us lesser
individuals. Now this principle of associa-
tion, long since known and at work from
the human beginning, but breaking up into
our country and age with a new volcanic out-
burst is what that collective musical instru-
ment, the Orchestra, plays before us, and
thus it makes us aware of ourselves, makes
us deeply feel what we are about, with many
a hint of our strength and of our limitation.
To be sure this orchestral instrument is not
ours, at least not yet; it is European, spe-
cially German in its music and in its per-
formers, and to no small extent in its audi-
ence. Indeed the Anglo-Saxon, American or
Englishman, is not creatively musical and
never has been, in any high sense. Germany
has developed the Orchestra as expressive
of itself certainly, but more deeply expressive
of another social and institutional world
which is rising. iVnd this is not the first ex-
ample of an artistic principle which has been
originated by one people, but developed and
applied by a different people in a different
part of the world. And many a literary
masterpiece has had to wait for its constit-
uency of true appreciators to be born out-


side the author's own nation. In Europe
the Orchestra is still a somewhat select, aris-
tocratic affair, but in America the best is to
be democratized.

Still the associative impulse is not the
deepest throb of the Orchestra, which
readies down and stirs the Self, the Ego
underlying the social order and creative of
it. All Music, as we have seen, with its basic
sound-Avhorl stimulates and attunes the soul-
whorl, and thus in its ultimate function is
psychical. At this x:»oint Music, especially
orchestral Music, attains its universal char-
acter, stirring to activity the deepest proc-
ess of Man and the universe, of the individ-
ual Self and the All-Self. This point must
not be left out in the complete view of our

Accordingly we propose to seek to pene-
trate to the heart of the Orchestra by taking
three main steps as it Ave re from the outer
to the inner.

First we shall look at the external phase
of the Orchestra, as it appears before us in
bodv, with its four outer divisions accord-
ing to material and shape, with its separate
instruments and their peculiar timbres.
This method gives the usual way in which
the Orchestra is taken up, discussed and ex-
plained — the Orchestra as it appears.


Second is the interpretation, ^^ilicll seizes
upon the associative aspect of the Orchestra,
as above intimated. To this phase in its de-
tails will be given a special section.

Third is the insight which beholds the
Orchestra as psychical, and sets forth this
point of view as the nltimate. In words
somewhat technical doubtless, we call this
final stage the orchestral Psychosis, reveal-
ing the soul-movement of the total organism
of the Orchestra.

Such are our methods of approach to this
subject. If the chief object of Art be to utter
to us our social and intellectual spirit, and
to envisage for us the supreme aspiration of
the age, tlieil the Orchestra is at present our
highest artistic form. It tells us best what
we are at our best, and lets us glimpse the
depths of our consciousness more complete-
ly than any other Art. It is the most associ-
ative part of Music which is itself the most
associative of the Fine Arts. But it reaches
deeper than associated Man, since it touches
the depths of psychical Man in his final proc-
ess and spiritual form, from which society
and all association primordially spring.

The Orchestra looked at and listened to
for the first time seems a circled maelstrom
of human beings, each of whom is produc-
ing a medlev of sounds on his instrument, the


result being a confused tangle of tones whirl-
ing about in hundreds of eddies large and
small with a sort of audible delirium. The
discipline of the hearer is to find the order in
this apparent disorder, to discover the law
underneath these chaotic movements. Here
is indeed a seething reservoir of sound-
whorls bubbling, roaring, tumbling, through
one another, all of which, however, both
singly and together, have their soul-corres-
pondances; they are an external likeness,
are even the tonal counterpart of the active
sub-conscious world lurking in every Ego,
and composed of inherited and acquired ten-
dencies. It is not too much to say that the
Orchestra has an outer resemblance to this
under-life of ours to which it directs its in-
ner appeal, stirring it from dormancy to a
self -renewal in activity. Thus the Orchestra
makes us more deeply aware of ourselves,
bringing up from our subliminal treasury
feelings, memories, images, even thoughts
which we did not know that we owned, and
over which w^e otherwise had no control.

One of the first struggles of the student
who is bent on the mastery of the Orchestra
is to identify each musical instrument by its
external shape and position, and then by its
peculiar sound. The tone of the violin is
generally familiar, and the note of the horn


is not hard to discriminate, tliongli each of
the horns has its own qnality which must be
discerned separately by the ear, as well as
felt in relation to the entire orchestral body.
This remark applies to the peculiar voice of
every instrument: it has its own individual
character, yet this character, however unique,
is but one of a considerable society, which
constitutes a single co-operant organism.
The instruments known as wood-wind have
each a strongly specialized tone, which cuts
through the silken resonance of the strings
with an easily discernible note. More diffi-
cult is it to catch the combined tints of these
diverse instruments when playing together
by twos, threes or more, and producing the
mixed colors of the Orchestra, in which com-
mingled shades of the tone.-world each com-
poser is seeking to evoke surprising novel-
ties. To catch all this shifting play of tonal
iridescence, and moreover to feel the ade-
quate psychical response to it from the deeps
within, is truly a new discipline for our un-
developed soul-life. In ourselves, in our own
Psyche, we shall be astonished to find many
unrecognized natives to whom the Orchestra
gives us our first introduction.

If we take a good look from a distant gal-
lery at the Orchestra playing, we shall ob-
serve that it has some resemblance to a liv-


ing animal sqiurming on tlie stage and work-
ing the parts of its body in a peculiar yet reg-
ular manner. Of course there is no change of
place singly or as a whole; but the encirc-
ling border of the entire body seems in a
common movement which frequently rises to
violent agitation, while the center is rela-
tively quiet, nearly motionless in appearance.
The outer perturbed ring constitutes the
greater part of the total organism, and is
made up chiefly of the violin-players from
bass to soprano, manipulating their instru-
ments, who surround the whole orchestral
body except at one or two places. On the
other hand the enclosed calm portion of the
animal (if we may be allowed to retain the
image) is the place of the wind instruments,
which are played by the breath driven
through a pipe and fingered into the sepa-
rates notes. The violinists keep up a kind of
rhythmic dance together, possibly in concord
with the nature of their instrument, around
the centered part. Moreover the animal has
its head, the conductor, turned not outward
but toward its own body, and controlling the
same by look and gesture. Has this outer
shape and movement of the total body any
suggestion of the inner character? In the
human being both form and gesture are sup-
^posed to indicate somewhat of the spirit ; in-


deed form and gesture are just what the So-
matic Arts seize upon for expression. Still
the external movements of the Orchestra are
not the main externality of it, but the ex-
ternal sounds resulting from such move-


The Orchestra as it Appears,

As already intimated, we- are in the be-
ginning to look at the Orchestra as it appears
on the outside, to see with the eye of the ob-
server who is making his first studies. Most
authorities on the subject will tell him to
mark four orchestral divisions ; such we may
take to be the external appearance of what
lies before him. But naturally w^e shall have
to move from outer to inner, from what
merely appears to what is essential. Reflec-
tion will soon show us that these four divis-
ions do not spring from a common principle,
that they are not correlative. So we shall
have to change them, at least in one part;
for right organization depends upon seizing
the right ground of division of the theme.

The Orchestra we may primarily regard
as an organism with its own peculiar life and
spirit, this organism being the product of a
long course of evolution. It is composed of
many souls co-operant, but it has distinctive-


ly its own soul ultimately determining- yet
also determined by its organism. It is there-
fore, inherently psychical, and as Music is
the most psychical of the Fine Arts, the Or-
chestra is the most psychical of the forms of

As already said, the society of performers
employ a society of musical instruments, and
thus fulfil their distinctive orchestral func-
tion, for in other regards the playing indi-
viduals are not taken into account. Hence
these musical instruments have to be organ-
ized, ordered, correlated first of all; they
form of themselves a rounded whole, indeed
a closed society into which it is not easy for
an uninitiated instrument to enter, though
sometimes it breaks across the charmed cir-
cle under the protection of some daring com-
poser. Especially the percussion instru-
ments form a kind of gate-way for entrance
to the strongly intrenched fortress.

What, then, are the instruments which con-
stitute the Orchestra in its present organi-
zation ? They appear on the outside to form
four separate groups :

1st. The violin family, in diiferent sizes,
from small to large, but quite alike in shape,
and showing a close kinship throughout, the
violin, the viola, the violincello and the bass-
viol. This is often called the string quartet
and is the bulk of the Orchestra.


2ncl. The wood-wind instruments, made
of wood mostly and played with breath —
flute, clarinet, oboe and the English horn.
Here we intend to make a distinction which
we believe to be helpful in this classification :
these wood-wind instruments form not a
family in kinship (like the violins) but rather
a tribe (so we may name it) in which each
member has his own family. Thus there is
a family of oboes to which the bassoon and
contra-bassoon belong, and a family of clari-
nets of several sizes, including the bass-clari-
net and basset-horn, and a family of flutes
capped with the piccolo. But taken together
they form the wood-wind tribe.

3rd. The brass-wind instruments, made
of brass or other metal and played with the
breath — tuba, trombone, French horn, trum-
pet and cornet. These are not similar in
shape, excepting the last two, and do not
form together a closely related family (like
the violins), but rather a tribe (like the wood-
wind instruments) in which each member is
one of a family alike in shape and character.
So we emphasize the two tribes, one of wood
and one of brass,

4th. Percussion instruments, those which
are struck a single blow, and hence sound one
note with its resonance. They have no scale
though some of them may be changed to a


higher or lower note, as the kettle drums.
Here the number of instruments gets indefi-
nite — cymbals, bass-drum, side-drum, tri-
angle, gong, several kinds of bells, etc. It
is at this point that the Orchestra taps the
vast domain of unorganized sound which
encompasses it on all sides, not eschewing
mere noise like the report of cannon (which
some of us may have heard in an orchestral

It is well enough to reflect that the Or-
chestra which is a sphere of ordered sound,
is overarched by an unbounded canopy of
disordered sound, crude, violent, antagonistic
which will swallow up the wee atom of terres-
trial Music unless this be somewhat strictly
protected. Hence it comes that the Orches-
tra plays not in the open air, whose noisy
demons would tear it to pieces, but keeps
in its roofed four-walls, veritably its for-
tified castle built specially for its home and
adapted to its voice. Still further it guards
jealously its almost closed circle of instru-
ments which experience has selected and ap-
proved; only a small aperture for varying
caprices of percussion seems to be left ajar.
The question springs up whether this inner
circle of instruments has not become too rigid
and exclusive, and thus destructive of free
development in the present domain of Art.


Revolution today is threatened against cer-
tain established boundaries of Music, espe-
cially as regards mode and tonality, and it
is possible to think of some vast new recon-
struction of the Orchestra which will out-
strip the daring innovations of Wagner and
Richard Straus, since these after all proceed
on old lines. A new association of instru-
ments, and perchance a new force working it
— of such a change we can only yet dream.

But at present it is ours to enjoy and to
grasp the Orchestra in its supreme work of
playing a world of disorder transformed into
one of order. Thus it represents and even
pre-enacts in the sensitive soul the divinely
creative fiat of the first Maker. We have at
last to conceive the Orchestra as embosomed
in a vast circumambient chaos of sound
reaching out toward infinity, in which it can
be but a small speck. But it is organizing
what is disorganized, harmonizing what is
inharmonious, socializing what is dissocial.
Thus it helps tune the listener to his supreme
call in life, and hints the supreme function
of all Art.

What is the general principle interrelat-
ing these many instruments, or the act com-
mon to them as a whole! They smite the air
and set it in vibration, each in its own way.
The performer, accordingly, uses the music-


al instrument to start the given medium, the
air, which surrounds him, into wave-like
movements producing sound, each different
instrument exciting different oscillations and
hence causing different sounds. The kind of
instrument, therefore, mediates the kind of
sound ; and a selection of these instrumental
sounds is what has been organized into the
Orchestra. In general it may be said that
the principle of such selection has been to
bring about the completeness of tonal asso-
ciation. The musical tones associated in
the Orchestra must be those which most eas-
ily and adequately represent associated Man,
or society in its full complexity and progress.
Glancing back at the four groups of instru-
ments of the Orchestra we should observe
that those known as the wood-wind and the
brass-wind are joined in a common funda-
mental characteristic : both kinds are played
by human breath driven through a tube
which takes many different forms in the dif-
ferent instruments, and indeed in the same
instrument. For instance if we follow the
various tube-forms employed to produce a
single note on the flute, we start with the
tubed wind-pipe, pass to the tubed lips (em-
bouchure), then to the tubed body of the
whole instrument, finally to the tubed vents.
Something similar may be observed of the


brass-wind set. Hence both these tribes (as
we call them) of instruments are affiliated in
a common essential character or mark of
kinship, and they form in this regard a strik-
ing contrast to the percussion group on the
one hand with its single outer stroke, and to
the violins which employ the haired bow im-
pinged upon strings as the sound-producing
force. Consequently the wood-wind and the
brass-wind instruments must be put together,
if we wish to correlate rightly the instru-
mental groups of the Orchestra wdiicli are
three, not four as most of the books say in
giving the fundamental divisions of the or-
chestral instruments according to their su-

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 4 of 32)