Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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perficial appearance. The foregoing trinal
division goes back to their basic difference
in originating their tones and in starting
their primal vibrations through the air,
wherewith we shall find connected their dif-
ference in psychical attributes.

Here we may emphasize a special point in
our terminology of this subject. The pre-
ceding three groups we shall designate by
separate names corresponding to their social
character, since they constitute a society in
themselves and musically mirror human soci-
ety. The violins we shall call by the closest
social tie among men, the domestic one, and
name them the family— a title to which the


other groups cannot rightly lay claim. For
the violins differ only in size, being simply
larger and smaller, but having the same gen-
eral shape, contour, and innate disposition.
Still we must observe that the difference in
size brings with it a difference in voice, in
timbre, in position on the scale, since each
memljcr of the family occupies a different
range of tones, lower and higher, and since
it requires all four sizes to fill out the total
scale of the Orchestra (over seven octaves).
On the other extreme the general nature of
the percussion instruments is to have no in-
ner relationship in shape, size or tone
(though the several kinds of drums are a
limited exception) but to be grouped to-
gether by the fact of percussion, by the ex-
ternal blow given singly to the instrument
for starting vibration. But the intermedi-
ate group of wind instruments are different
in shape, size and tonal character, though
they all are related in a common trait, that
of employing the tubed breath of the player.
So we may call their bond tribal rather than
domestic, though each member of both tribes
will also have his familv connections, for in-
stance the clarinet and also the trombone.

In this fashion we seek to apply a social
nomenclature, that of famil}^, tribe and class,
to the supreme tonal society, such we have


already seen the Orchestra to be. We be-
lieve that a true manifestation of its essen-
tial nature is thus to separate itself into
such divisions, counterparts of human soci-
ety. For the Orchestra is in itself a social
system, made to image man's social system,
and not only that, but also to manifest the
very process thereof in time, since Music
also has the movement of time.

The instruments of the Orchestra form,
therefore, a kind of social totality, with its
various divisions and sub-divisions, which
are pretty firmly fixed, though the number of
individual members is somewhat fluctuating.
Still even here we find an orchestral ideal of
right instrumental balance which seems to
prescribe that the violin family should have
about two-thirds of the entire orchestral
membership. That is, in a total of ninety
instruments, there should be sixty violins,
all sizes taken together, numerically twice as
many as the other members combined. The
grounds for this disproportion reach to the
soul of the Orchestra and will be fully con-
sidered when we come to treat of its psy-
chical process, which is the deepest fact of it,

The performer, accordingly, finds the Or-
chestra a transmitted society, to whose law
he has to adjust himself. And the instru-
ment which he plays has been handed down


to him in its present sliape and character;
he is not to change its timbre, rather is he
to bring the same to perfection, and make
it express what lies in itself and in him;
finally he is to associate it with the rest of
the Orchestra. This timbre is nltimately de-
termined by the material, and voices the lat-
ter 's individnality, since every piece of mat-
ter has its own resjjonse especially when as-
sailed, and this response is already a kind
of inanimate self-expression, which may hint,
if carried back far enough, of the original
individuation of Nature herself.

At present, however, w^e are to note that
the musical instrument is a product of evo-
lution and hence has a history, often a long
one. Still further the association of musical .
instruments has evolved till it results in the
modern Orchestra with its social order re-
enacting in its waj^ man's ordered society,
even in its structure. Now this association
is something which we have already noticed
in the unit of Music, namely the sound-whorl,
which has a tendency to combine w^ith itself
in melody, harmony, overtones, and in long
musical compositions. An instinct we might
almost think it, wdiicli the sound- whorl shows
in its unwillingness or perchance inability
to stay alone by itself, so eager is it to unite
with its fellows in some kind of society. This


fact lias been already sufficiently sot forth in
a former section. But now we are to ad-
vance to the climax and fulfilment of musical
association, as far as this has yet been
evolved, namely in the Orchestra.


The Orchestra as Associative.

Accordingly we are next to penetrate be-
neath the orchestral appearance and grasp
its social character and function. Here we
begin to glimpse the reason why it is the
most modern of all the Fine Arts, with the
strongest push for a great future develop-
ment. The Orchestra in itself embodies the
image of associated Man, whose function
therein is to manifest his own deepest in-
stinct in life, namely, association. The pure
forms of the sound-whorl are co-ordinated
into a society whose very object is to repre-
sent society in its many-colored evolution.
Wild, dissocial noise is socialized by the or-
chestral society into harmonies which attune
the soul, often otherwise discordant, to its
social duty and heritage. Thus man is made
to feel himself as institution-builder, where-
in lies supremely his destiny.

Let us again take a glance at the Orches-
tra in its home. It appears a single organism


having its own life, its own movement, in-
deed a will of its own with some definite aim.
In that body of performers lurks an orches-
tral soul which is to reveal itself in a unique
voice quite different from ours, and yet ut-
tering for us something which is ours and
which we need to hear. A huge Titan or per-
chance monster you behold it spread out
yonder on its platform with its peculiar
speech of diversified tones now caressing,
now raging, all of which are addressed to
you for some end of your existence. A few
obvious social facts may be set down about
the Orchestra here at the start.

(1) It is a society of men, each in his
place, active in the performance of his spe-
cial function, making himself a member of
the one organic Whole. A hundred people,
more or less, drop into their seats and be-
come a unit under the control of their head,
the conductor, who directs this suddenly
born organism. Yet each man is an inde-
pendent self with his own inner world, his
bent, his talent, his experience. Now, how-
ever, he associates and helps form not only
a new body, but a new soul, we may say ; his
individuality he keeps but holds in abey-
ance to his associated purpose.

(2) It is a society of musical instruments,
selected from a vast chaotic mass of such


sound-producers, improved and ordered in-
to a system; hence associated also we think
them, in all their diversity. What a variety
of material, of shapes, of appliances ! Yet
we conceive them all fitted together finally
into an ideal totality, into one complete in-
strument of which these separate instru-
ments are parts or members, perchance its
vents. Thus the Orchestra as one associated
person plays upon one associated musical
instrument to the soul, though to the eye
each of them (instrument and person) is
composed of many diverse members. Evi-
dently the spirit ruling in both is association.

(3) The Orchestra is a society of sounds,
yea of musical tones, which the two socie-
ties previously mentioned produce, and in-
deed exist for producing. Now each tone has
its own movement and individuality, we have
already distinguished it as the sound-whorl,
sound with a self-returning process which
makes it musical as contrasted with mere
noise. Moreover these sound-whorls are
of infinite variety in speed, in pitch, and
in quality. Yet they are all associated
in the musical composition, which thus in it-
self becomes a kind of community, a federa-
tion of sound, and echoes the human associa-
tion of individuals.

(4) The Orchestra is a society of tonal


liarmonies, of chords which are played in
each stroke. The many performers and the
many instruments give forth a note in com-
mon; the associated movements of the
players produce an associated sound which
is composed of many tones, high and low, of
the scale. Thus the Orchestra weaves to-
gether lines of unisons into the fabric of its
work, which still further becomes an associa-
tion of chords, of harmonic progressions.
The orchestral tone is a chorus of voices
within itself, voices not merely of one kind
but of many kinds or timbres. Every note
struck is a society of diverse members, but
socialized into harmony.

(5) The Orchestra is playing what is
popularly called a piece of music, yet this is
at its best not a piece or fragment of dis-
jointed tones but an organism of chords
rounding themselves to a completed unity.
The entire composition bears the impress of
a society. From this point of view a sym-
phony is an association of many harmonies
which move in an order to the close.

The Orchestra has of course its audience
made up of human individuals to whom it
must in the last instance play its deepest self,
its very essence, which is associative. The
listening public posseses in the Orchestra the
soul's most intimate education to harmonv,


both personal and institutional. Tims Music
becomes the greatest socialize!' of all the
Fine Arts, stirring us to a re-creation of our-
selves in the social order. The Orchestra is
a world made audible; so we ask, what
world?- Evidently the world in which and
through which we truly live together, that of
institutions, which unifies and harmonizes
our refractoy^ individualities, often in spite
of ourselves. The Orchestra plays associ-
ated Man listening to his own deepest in-
stinct of association, which has made him
create his institutions. The society of mus-
ical sounds so intricately organized in its
thousandfold nuances, reflects and in its way
re-enacts another society, that of man, which
has also had its upheavals and varied experi-
ences. Associated Man conceived as one we
may deem the real Super-man in whom every
individual participates, whom indeed he
helps constitute, and for whom the Orchestra
may be said to play.

All this doubtless seems transcendental
enough; still we may wing the thought yet
another flight upward. We can consider the
cosmos a society, which is constituted of
celestial bodies of many sorts, each with its
own distinct individuality, yet all connected
together under the law of their social system.
The denizens of the interstellar spaces are


also associated, of course in their way; the
physical universe may be taken as a social
order, which the Orchestra reflects in its own
personal organization as well as in that of
its sounds. Thus it may be conceived to ntter
the supreme musical principle — cosmos ris-
ing out of chaos to a harmony and manifest-
ing the universal order through the medium
of concordant tones. God institutionalizes
the All in accord with His own deepest na-
ture, and the Orchestra may be felt in remote
suggestion to attune its work after the
divinely creative process. Many a mystical
soul, very sensitive to Music in its farthest
outreach, has given expression to its concord-
ance with the supernal act of creation. We
mav not be able to affirm that God created
the world to the sound of Music and bowled
the earth, sun and stars out of his hand to a
tune; still we may hear from afar the song
of the cosmos realized in the best orchestral
sjmiphony. So Beethoven often conceived
himself in his work. And Wagner writes
in the same strain of a transcendent com-
munion with the world-order. At any rate
Music is primarily religious, and strives to
reproduce in its movement the creative proc-
ess of the divine Self as the fountain of uni-
versal harmony.

We come back to the fact that the orches-


tral society of sounds is employed to express
human society, the institutional world, which
in its sphere is a rise out of chaos to cosmos.
Man is a social being, we often hear; he in-
stinctively evolves a social order through his
Will, which thereby becomes actual, an ex-
istent entity. The society of sounds, which
is thrown into time and thus moves genetic-
ally, reproduces such an order in the musical
Art. The Orchestra, we cannot repeat too
often, plays associated Man unto himself as
listener, and it can represent in its ever-
varying multiplicity of tones the social soul
within and the social organism without, as
each unfolds in its genesis.

The audience which sits in quietude hear-
ing the Orchestra, must also be spiritually
alert, yea creative, if it is to pluck the high-
est fruit of Music. It must not sink into a
merely passive state of receptive pleasure,
indulging only in the sensuous titillation
of sweet tones, but should be roused into par-
ticipation with the great positive movement
of man in his social development as well as
into harmony with the creative soul of God.
Thus the finite human Self is elevated in
feeling and sometimes in vision to a com-
munion with the universal Divine Self which
is the genetic principle of the world's order.
Music hence becomes a form of worship and


finds its place in the Cliurcli, the religious in-
stitution, while it also has its deep practical-
significance for the secular life of society on
account of its all-pervading associative char-
acter. Of such Music the culmination is the
Orchestra, itself an institution, we may re-
peat, whose object is to bring home to the
listening human consciousness the institu-
tional world, religious and secular.

In fact, we may behold a striking outer
image of association in watching the hands of
those fiftv or sixtv or more violinists in the
Orchestra. How they all co-operate in a
common movement of the bow, making one
stroke with their multitudinous right-arms,
as if they were swimming! Then on the
other side with the left-hand what a varied
and often rapid play of the fingers — several
hundred of them careening and whirling and
tossing wildly about, each digital set in a
kind of tarantula dance on its own stretched
strings ! Yet they all are working together,
co-operant to one end, producing an outer
seen harmony of motions which corresponds
with the inner harmony which reaches the
soul through the ear. Call the huge organ-
ism by a fabled name, Briareus, the Hundred-
handed, with all his tenacles swimming in his
own sea of Music; thus we may mythologize
the Orchestra for our fancv. But Briareus


the fiddler with his many arms draws only
one bow, and with his several hundred leap-
ing fingers plays only one tune, which is thus
the product of his manifold associative
power, whereof he may be taken as the liv-
ing semblance.

So we seek to image to ourselves the great
fact of the Orchestra as associative and its
relation to associated Man, whose supreme
artistic presentation it is up to date. But
even association reposes upon a deeper thing
than itself, verily the deepest of all things,
the ultimate of Man and the Universe. Also
to this ultimate in its own right the Orches-
tra makes its appeal, which of course must
be the final one of all Music and of all Art.
We have, therefore, to reach down at last to )
that which creates not only associated life\\
with its institutions, but also creates the Or- j
chestra itself to represent the same in the|/
harmonious order of the tone-world. Thus"^
we penetrate to the common creative prin-
ciple which botli makes man's social insti-
tutions and makes the institution to reflect
them to man in Art, whereby he is brought
to feel and even to know himself in his social



The Psychical Process of the Orchestra.

The Orchestra, as we have seen, is social
not only in its own particular structure, but
also in its artistic purpose of showing forth
associated Man ; it is a special society whose
function is to represent universal society, a
single institution (so we may deem it) which
has to portray in sound the movement of the
universal institution or of the whole institu-
tional world. But what is the source of this
movement which lies underneath even hu-
man association and is its ultimate forma-
tive power! It can only be man's last es-
sence, his very Self or Ego, which is his pure
psychical process (the Psj^chosis), and which
has built his social home wherein he dwells
as a spiritual being. Moreover it is also this
Self of his which has unfolded the Orchestra,
vea into the Orchestra, for the latter must
now be seen springing in its deepest origin
from the ultimate form of man's soul, which
is just the before-mentioned psychical proc-
ess. So we are making the attempt to psy-
chologize the Orchestra, which means that it
is to be correlated with our profoundest self-
hood, with the pure act of personality. In
other phrase we are to find and set forth the
orchestral Psvchosis.


It has been already intimated that the or-
ganism of the Orchestra has in its way a soul
with the voice thereof which speaks to the
souls of the auditors. Not articulate speech
is this but something deeper and more ele-
mental, and which also underlies the spoken
w^ord. The one simple process of the soul
it is which is common to all men and the uni-
verse too, and which Music utters more dis-
tinctly and unalloyedly than any other Art.
In such an intimacy the w^ord and even the
image becomes an intrusion. The sound-
form fuses with the soul-form, and stimu-
lates the same to its own primal inner activ-


The present object, then, is to set forth
and to illustrate that the total Orchestra is
a psychical process — such being the creative
essence of it. The orchestral organism with
its array of instruments and their sounds,
all of which have been designated in their
external appearance, is now to be shown in
its innermost movement, in its soul's own
process, for it too has in its own right a soul.
The three stages of the Orchestra as psy-
chical will be specially unfolded.

I. Percussion instruments. The primal
immediate, implicit, undeveloped stage of the
orchestral Self (or Psychosis) is found in
the significance of the percussion instru-


ments. The tuning-fork is properly a per-
cussion instrument and can be taken as the
first one, since out of its sound may be de-
veloped the entire science of Music (with its
melody and harmony), and the whole Or-
chestra (with its manifold timbres). When
it is struck we can hear and even see its os^
dilations to and fro, forming a succession of
sound cycles ever repeating themselves till
thev become inaudible, in a continuous self-
separation and self-return, which movement
we have alreadv named the sound-whorl, and
observed its close relation with the soul-
whorl (Psychosis). Still further, these vi-
brations of the tuning-fork keep rising in
pitch, and form a long line of overtones or
harmonics till they have produced the chords
of the scale and finallv its successive notes
with their intervals. And yet further, the
various combinations of these overtones pro-
duce the diverse timbres (clang-tints) of the
Orchestra (Helmholtz's discovery).

Or we may take the single stretched string
or monochord as the first percussion in-
strument, which when struck produces sim-
ilar vibrations, though of a different quality
of tone. Still there lurks within it implicitly
the entire Orchestra. Later we shall see that
the primal fact of the violin family is that of
percussion, or rather of many percussions


brought about througii the rosined bow, and
fused together into one stroke with its cor-
responding sound for the ear. Thus the Or-
chestra retains the percussion instrument as
a part or phase of its own inherent process,
as the first potential stage of itself, in which
all the other stages are present in germ. The
stretched string, vibrating to the single blow
given to it, may be deemed the genetic em-
bryo which directly produces the whole vio-
lin family, the largest and most important
division of the Orchestra.

Perhaps the most permanent group of
percussion instruments belonging to the or-
chestral organism are the drums. That sin-
gle, rather dull, but penetrating thud with
its more or less regular recurrence or roll
seems to well up from the deeps out of which
the Orchestra has risen, and thus to be a re-
minder of its origin. There is something
elemental, primordial, as yet formless in the
sound of the drum, even when keved to a
sort of scale in the tympani. Moreover, the
drum always brings to the surface Time, the
primal substrate of Music, and enforces it in
thunder-like tones througii the wild and
whirling Orchestra, which might otherwise
forget its hoary presence. Old Time with
his steadying beat seems incorporate in the
drum, though he subtly interwinds in every


measure played by every instrument. Thus
lie is an implicit, yet fundamental factor
everywhere. So we may conceive primeval
Cronus in person to strike tempo on the
drum, and thus to make himself a member of
the Orchestra also. He represents the rude,
elemental will-force of Nature in that stroke
of his, which compels men to step to his beat ;
hence the drum is the lord of the military

The external world breaks into the Or-
chestra through the percussion instruments
which suggest the collision between the two
sides in various ways. The cymbals have
the power of suggesting the inbursting crash
upon an ordered world, especially when
united with the furious storm-whistle of the
piccolo. Gentle, on the other hand, and more
insinuating are the tones of the bells, often
charged with reminiscence, sad and glad, yet
capable also of stern command. In the Or-
chestra the bells constitute a large and va-
rious family including curious devices of res-
onant metals, such as steel bars and the tri-

We can hardly list the number and names
of the percussion instruments, they seem
continually coming and going, they form no
closed circle like the other two groups of
the Orchestra. Their nature is to be the in-


definite, the unformed, whicli enters from
the outside and is wrought over into the or-
chestral form, this being otherwise some-
what exclusive. What a weirdly colored
thread Saint Saens has woven through his
Danse Macabre by means of a rather un-
usual percussion instrument, the xylophone!
The staid Orchestra is brought to play its
sweet measures for the rattling skeletons
who are executing their dance of death in
harmonies which thereby turn grisly and
ghastly. It is an instance of how a single
percussion instrument may not only color or
rather discolor, but overwhelm the whole

Every piece of matter has its own individ-
ual sound when struck; it utters its cry of
individuality, for it too, though a dull clod,
has been individuated from the One-and-All.
These separated, discordant cries of the
finite world may yet be somehow organized
to concord in the universal Orchestra, where-
of we can catch a remote intimation in the
percussion instruments. At this point also
we may uplift our thought to the view that
the Orchestra is the transformation of an
orderless sound-world into a realm of order,
the creation of a new cosmos out of chaos.
Such a premonition it seems often to start
far down in our emotional underself.


It is to be noted that percussion gives the
primal stroke which sets to work every in-
strument of the Orchestra. It designates the
impact upon some cohesive body which trem-
bles and thereby causes the air to vibrate

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 5 of 32)