Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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responsively, thus producing sound. So be-
gins the oboe or violin as well as the drum.
There falls the outer blow upon the material
like the blow of fate, though it be but the
breath upon the wood of the flute. In this
sense percussion may be said to give the
first beat (intimated possibly in the beat of
the conductor) which starts every orchestral
instrument. Again we observe that the per-
cussion instrument is the primordial one,
underlying all the rest, and suggesting their
common percussive point of departure.

So much for the first stage of the psych-
ical process of the Orchestra — the germinal,
the implicit, the potential, the unorganized
becoming organized.

II. Wind instruments. These comprise
the so-called woods and brasses; why put
them together against the ordinary usage?
Still further, why place them second in the
total order of the Orchestra? In our judg-
ment the proper comprehension of these in-
struments both separately and in their total-
ity is pivotal for grasping the orchestral
character in its deepest process and mean-


We are, accordingly, to take up and un-
fold the second stage of what we have called
the orchestral Psychosis, the Orchestra's
soul in its deepest movement corresponding
with that of man. In some general terms we
may designate this stage as separative, indi-
vidualistic, self-assertive; from the highest
point of view it correlates with the uni-
verse individuating itself into the separated
and bounded forms of existences. Still it is
a rounded, well-ordered society of instru-
ments and their sounds, whose common tonal
quality, however, springs from the psychical
character of the present division.

As a whole the instrumental unity of this
state or division is indicated by the fact that
it is entirely composed of wind-instruments,
which means they are played through the
agency of human breath propelled from the
lungs. The careful student will not fail to
observe that this primal act has its meaning
for the present stage. Every breath is al-
ready an individuation from the total mass
of the surrounding atmosphere; we have to
specialize the air and make it our own before
w^e can use it even for our bodily need.
Now that separated mouthful or lungful of
air we employ for playing the so-called
wind-instrument. Such is the pre-requisite ;
a specific bit of air cut off from the atmos-


pheric mass and thus put under human will
to be propelled outward — all of which fore-
shows the significance of the present stage.
Watch a horn-blower or a flute-player, how
he catches breath- — particularizes the uni-
versal medium — and shoots it like a ball into
his instrument ! That may well be taken as
the typical act preluding this whole second
part of our subject.

The next salient fact which is common to
all these instruments is that they are tubes.
The already individualized breath of air has
to be caged, confined, verily prisoned, to keep
its own individuality from vanishing back
again into its primal element, as is the case
Avith our ordinary expiration. Thus this
whole second stage of instrumentation is
tubular in shape and character, and therein
forms a striking contrast to the first and
third stages (percussion and strings). It
may be conceived as one vast ideal tube, of
which each wind instrument is a specialized
form taking its place in the social totality
of this second stage. So we may say the
musical tube as a whole has also to be indi-
vidualized into various instruments, that
each may produce its peculiar quality of
tone and thus become a member of the or-
chestral society. And this is not the end of
the process. Each of these entire instru-


mental tubes is, still further specialized into
its own system of lesser tubes, which takes
the name of vents, valves, keys, and are in-
serted into its tubular body. Thus the clar-
inet tube is pierced with numerous holes
along its side, open and keyed, and the huge
brass tuba (the biggest tube of all) has its
three valved pistons and sometimes more,
while the trombone with its slide becomes a
series of shifting tubes within a tube. So
each wind instrument is a larger tube differ-
entiating itself into smaller ones that it may
voice the various notes of the scale, each of
which is thereby distinctly separated from
the rest with its own interval. The mean-
ing of this recurrent system of tubes cannot
be mistaken, along with its corresponding-
psychical effect. This is that of separation,
singleness, perchance isolation of tones we
might think, were it not that these tones, so
decidedly made particular, are still associ-
ated into an order, which is, however, their
own. Indeed just this character so distinctly
individualized is what gives them their nec-
essary position in the completed Orchestra,
which must have such a strongly separated
part or stage in order to possess really a
soul, or to be the finished psychical process,
which is, as already stated, its ultimate es-


There is another fact which must not be
omitted in this connection. The player of
the wind instrument is compelled, in order
to adjust himself to his part, to make a tube
of himself in a certain degree. First, he em-
ploys the tube given by nature, his wind-
pipe. But when his breath has reached the
passage outwards, he has to make of his lips
a variety of tubes to suit the mouthpiece of
his instrument. Notice the difference of the
labial outlet into the flute, the oboe, the cor-
net. Thus each wind-instrument has its own
lip-tube, popularly called the pucker, which
the performer has to learn to make out of
the sphincter muscles around his mouth.
Why is it worth while to note all these little
details? Because this opening fact is char-
acteristic of the entire second stage; we ob-
serve that the player has, so to speak, to tube
himself and thus to assimilate his organism
to what he plays on; he starts with special-
izing even his lips that his breath may enter
his special instrument.

Nor is this the end of his bodily adjust-
ment to his Avork. Having propelled a con-
fined stream of air into the entire instru-
mental tube he has to tap it and turn it off
into smaller streams through the various
vents or little tubes, thus producing the par-
ticular notes, which must be kept distinct.


This part of the task is performed by the
hand with its fingers which open and close
the many sound-producing jets from the one
general stream of air confined in the instru-
ment. Again we observe the process of
specializing into its separate notes the spe-
cial wind-instrument, which belongs to this
second division of the Orchestra as a whole,
the stage of separation, division, specializa-
tion. We have followed out the process till
we have reached the particular note of the
particular instrument of the orchestral
group whose character is reflected in all
these acts of separation even down to the
smallest. The bodily extremes, the lips and
the fingers, as we have seen, are specialized
in accord with each instrument, which is
itself strongly differentiated even to its
mouthpiece. «

The outcome is the single individualized
note of the wind-instrument, which has been
formed out of human breath driven through
a series of tubes, organic and material, or
living and dead, each of which tubes has
helped to give shape to its character. The
result is that such a note is intensely indi-
vidualized, though it be sweet and tender in
quality. In the rightly balanced Orchestra
there is but one first flute to twenty first vio-
lins or more, also but one first clarinet and


one first oboe. You can hear the soft tones
of the one flute through a mass of many
strings, so separate does it keep itself amid
a multitude of sounds, so incisive and as-
sertive is its individuality. In general each
wind-instrument, wood or brass, furnishes a
single separate note of the same character,
hence one is enough of that sort, quite as
much as the Orchestra can manage. To be
sure a second and even a third is sometimes
added for playing lower parts and for other
effects. But herein lies the chief reason why
the number of wind-instruments is so strik-
ingly smaller than the number of stringed
instruments in the orchestral organism.

But the most obvious as well as the most
significant fact of the present stage is its di-
vision into two almost equal halves — the in-
struments of wood and the instruments of
brass. In the normal Orchestra the number
of each is about the same, and there is be-
tween the two a kind of symmetry of half-
ness, resembling the two sides of the human
body. But the psychical suggestion is the
deepest, and recalls, j-ea images the separa-
tion of the Self into subject and object. The
wood-wind instruments have more of the
subjective, of the inward and emotional
strain, while the brass-wind instruments
have more of the objective, more of the out-


ward turn and appeal to the Will. Such is
the true separation here, the soul's separa-
tion involved in these sorts of instruments.
Already we have called them tribes, not
families, because each of the two parts is so
deeply separated from the other, being dif-
ferent in shape and tonal character, though
they are kinned in their common employ-
ment of the tube and of the human breath.
So they are conjoined in relationship though
it be not close — ^we have called it tribal. Fur-
thermore, as was noticed, the members of
the same tribe are so distinct from one an-
other that they cannot be called a family.
For instance the wood-w4nd instruments are
not of one family though they are of one
tribe, being of the same material in the main
and thus similar in resonance, and being
of the same general tubular form, straight,
not bent or coiled like the brasses — all of
which subtly differentiates their tone qual-
ity. Still we must note that each leading
member of both tribes is inclined to have a
distinct family of his own; the clarinet has
four or possibly five members of his domxCS-
tic circle; the oboe quite as many if we lo-
cate here the somewhat recalcitrant English
horn; the flute counts two or sometimes three
members. The brass wind-instruments show
something of the same domestic character,


even if less pronounced or less developed in
the Orchestra.

In all these details we observe the decid-
edly separative individualistic character of
this entire instrumental section which we
have designated as the second stage of
the Orchestra psychically considered. That
single breath of the player is wrought over
through the various kinds of tubes manipu-
lated by the fingers which thus mould the
plastic air into a peculiar form of musical
tones; these constitute finally the work of
Art. We may compare the sculptor who
takes as his material the block of marble
which by stroke upon stroke (also accompa-
nied with a puff of breath) he shapes into a
statue fixed in space and thus contrasted with
a musical product moving in time. The piece
of air has plasticity like the piece of clay or
stone, in the artist's hands, and is sent vi-
brating upon its own element, till it too be
rounded out to completeness. In this way we
can conceive the last of the Sense- Arts, Mu-
sic, interrelated with the first one, Sculpture,
though the one appeals to sight and the
other to the ear.

It is of prime importance that the student
learn to discriminate not only the forms but
especially the tone qualities (timbres) of
these various instruments, each of which has


its own individualized voice. When tliey are
all singing together, can you detect the spe-
cial note of each singly! In the case of the
wind-instruments you may, after some expe-
rience, for they are all sharply particular;
on the contrary, the stringed instruments
co-alesce without marked boundaries. De-
scriptive adjectives will help out a little,
though they cannot take the place of hearing
the note itself.

The flute is the most sentimental instru-
ment of the Orchestra ; it is the most imme-
diate in its appeal to the feelings, yet super-
ficial; its voice touches not deeply but very
readily and nimbly. Moreover it is rather
easy to learn, and a little skill already
pleases; quite different is the violin in this
regard. Hence we may see why it is such a
popular instrument. Musicians are inclined
to dislike it and to discredit it, as lacking
depth and strength; one writer has even
called it soulless, which it is not, otherwise
it could not have a place in the Orchestra's
soul. Of all the instruments it has the most
simple note and direct in its touch of the
heart, yet not deep-stirring or lasting. A
momentary pensive throb is its best, though
it can be hilarious too. Strangely the octave
flute or piccolo has the opposite character,
being the shrill storm-wind, when the mu-
sical tempest comes on.


Tlie oboe (English hautboy) is much more
reserved in tone, introverted, self-sup-
pressed, indeed muffled in voice and char-
acter. Its lighter part is pastoral, it has a
soft idyllic note which it shares with the
flute (a good example is found Rossini's
overture to William Tell). But its deeper
trait is its reflective tinge, the inward turn it
gives to the soul, being self-occupied and sol-
itary, often melancholy, which mood is in-
tensified in the alto oboe known as the Eng-
lish horn (the rememberable instrument in
Dvorak's symphony on America). The pe-
culiar trembling tone of the Oboe arises from
its mouthpiece of two thin narrow reeds
closely fitted together, yet with a slight aper-
ture between them for the breath to enter,
which is made to vibrate by the lips. Thus
w^e see a triple vibrational means, that of the
tw^o lips, of the two reeds in response, and
finally of the vibratory element itself, the air,
not to speak of the wood. Hence comes the
shrinking, tremulous, self-surrendering voice
of this instrument, which voice so emphatic-
ally individualizes it though easily swal-
lowed up in an orchestral swell. In this fact
too lies its striking limitation : it easily be-
comes nasal, whining, as if fault-finding.
Herein too is noteworthy its contrast with
its next neighbor, the flute, whose tone, even


if small and shallow, is open, nnmnfflod,
turned outward, unsnarling. Yes, the oboe
can pout and pule to downright nasality.
For this reason in our opinion it can never
be a popular instrument — just as little as any
other sulker, whatever be his talent. Mu-
sicians praise it highly and, as we have no-
ticed repeatedly, have a bent to disparage
the flute in comparison. But the people turn
away from the oboe and play the flute, which
has no jealous snarl in its tone. For the
Orchestra, however, the oboe is indispensa-
ble; it gives a strain of character which
makes a total society and which is not else-
where obtainable. One writer has called it
''a most lovable instrument;" anything but
that when taken by itself, yet most needful
to complete the orchestral organism. Who
would not miss it there, but who would play
it in his room for his own self-attunement,
or that of his friends? We knew a skillful
oboe-player who quit the instrument, be-
cause, as he said, it made him moody and
carping. As artist he wished to live his in-
strument, and he could not stand it, espe-
cially since he had recently got married.
The bass oboe (in present English usage
called the bassoon) is also double-reeded as
to its mouth-piece, but is of a totally changed
character through having its register low-


ered; it becomes the clown of the Orchestra,
the funny man of the society, whose deep
voice turns grotesque, and often seems to be
mocking in a kind of boorish mimickry the
peculiar whine of the oboe, whose nasal vi-
bration it has by nature, but turns to ridi-
cule. Still the bassoon has other uses, espe-
cially in connection with different instru-
ments. There is also a still lower contra-
bassoon, but not much used.

The third family in the tribe of wood-wind
instruments, is the clarinet, the youngest
and strongest member of the three. It has
but one reed, which is fastened on the under
side of the wedge-shaped mouth-piece, and
imparts to its strong note a moderate vibra-
tion. The clarinet is a masculine instrument,
compared to the flute or oboe, and in its
strength is interwound a throb of feeling, of
native sympathy. Hence it makes the transi-
tion from the wood-wind to the brass-wind,
from emotion to will, fraternizing equally
well with either side, and hence being em-
ployed both in the outdoor military band and
in the indoor Orchestra. On the other hand
the clarinet affiliates easily with the strings
through its subdued resonance sent from its
single reed, quite akin to that of the violin.
Moreover the clarinet may be called a popu-
lar instrument; that is, w^e find players of it


scattered among the people, though they
number not so many as the flutists. This is
a good showing, for the clarinet is declared
to be barely a hundred years old, while the
side-blown flute runs back to old Egypt.
There is also a bass clarinet whose charac-
ter is more dignified than its compeer, the
bassoon. Thus the clarinet is more friendly
than the other wood-wind members, is more
sociable with the rest of the orchestral in-
struments, and hence is often invoked to their

So much for the wood-wind instruments,
the first tribe of the second class or stage of
the total orchestral organism. We may re-
peat that in common with the whole class
they are tubed and played with the human
breath. Three families belong to the wood-
Avind tribe — flute, oboe, and clarinet, which
unite to produce their own peculiar musical
association of sound. Moreover the three
can be seen to make a triune process .of the
Psyche, each of them constituting its own
special stage therein. That is, the triple
notes of the flute, oboe, and clarinet form to-
oetlier a unique trinity of sound stimulating
a corresponding movement in the Psyche,
which is, in general the object of all these or-
chestral combinations.

But now we have reached the brass-wind


instruments, the other tribe of this class or
stage, which as before indicated splits into
two symmetrical halves, each of which con-
stitutes what we call a tribe with its several
families. Again we are to note the corres-
pondence with the wood-wind tribe, though
here are more families even if less impor-
tant. This division in twain is psychically
significant since it shows the primal separa-
tion of this second or separative stage of the
entire orchestral process. Moreover such
separation indicates the character of every
instrument in this entire class of w^ind in-
struments which are self-sufficient, individu-
alistic, much less social than the strings.

So we are now to take up the brass-wind
instruments of the Orchestra, passing to the
hard metallic material from the soft pene-
trable wood — out of emotion and sentiment
we move to power and outer action. We
might say that within limits the two tribes
designated represent Feeling and Will, those
two primordial forms of the Self.

It may be further remarked of the brass-
wind tribe that its members are of consid-
erable number and variety, old and new ; to-
gether they form the Orchestra for the open
air, known as the brass band, which has a
strong military character, and marks its time
with a will, giving the beat for the march.


Indeed the marching band has a feeling of
the onset and the determination to conquer
with its "sonorous metal blowing martial
sounds." The regular Orchestra requires
closed space, the reflection from walls and
roof, the return of the sound, which is thus
not the immediate vibration, while the brass
band in open air throws out sound in a direct
attack. Energy is its note, the rude will,
even violence, not the soft persuasion of
strings and wood, which turn the feelings
back upon themselves ; it belongs to a cruder,
less developed stage of the Ego, ready to
smite in case of provocation. Political cam-
paigns, which are a kind of mimic war, at
least a great vent for pugnacious feelings,
employ the brass band and rouse the con-
testants. Fife and drum are still cruder,
yet popular; they show already a fierce con-
test of sound between themselves, the shrill
fife fights and pierces the deadening drum-

The brass-wind tribe, like the wood-wind,
divides into families which are usually five
in number, and whose several members are
differentiated by their higher or lower key-
note. The Orchestra, however, employs gen-
erally but one form of most of these brass

The French Horn may well be put first


since it is a reconciling instrument, ttie least
wilful and noisy of its tribe, agreeing well
witli all its neighbors — the violins, the wood-
winds, and its own brassy set. We may re-
gard this horn as the politest of the whole
company, like its namesake the Frenchman.
It can undoubtedly be used for a solo, but
its deeper character is to help some other
instrument. This character we may hear al-
ways in its gentle conciliatory voice, which
is smoothed and rounded by being passed
through a series of coils terminating in a
large bell shape, into which the hand of the
player is thrust to regulate both the quality
and pitch of the sound. The op'^n tone, in
which the hand is removed, has a distinct
pastoral character, suggesting mountain and
valley by its peculiar note. It is never bras-
sily harsh, but mellow, subdued as if'by dis-
tance. The stopped tones are quite differ-
ent in quality from the open ones; they are
muffled, forbidding, and become uncanny,
suggesting the demonic (dragon scene in
Siegfried). Weber's treatment of the horn
in Der Freischilfz is probably the most na-
tural to the instrument, calling up associa-
tions of the woodland and the hunt.

On account of this less pronounced char-
acter, having less of will and more of the ro-
mantic and the far-away in tone, it blends


easily with the strings; in fact the French
horn may be deemed tlie transition of the
brass into the wood and the string instru-

Tlie Trumpet displays in contrast to the
French Horn a long narrow tube which has
a tendency to throw the sharp sound to a
distance, outside of the immediate orchestral
periphery. It has the note of the military
bugle, which resembles it, and whose ob-
ject is to project sound afar; this idea of a
far-sounding summons connects it with its
religious suggestion, being blown to an-
nounce to vast multitudes some grand event,
as the Last Judgment. The bugle note in
the mountain land sways over valley to peak ;
"Blow bugle, blow" has properly the trum-
pet's echo. It is connected with the ceremo-
nious announcement of royalty, or the rapid
blast which says. Fall into ranks to the sol-
dier. The ancient trumpet survives to a de-
gree in that household horn which used to
call our fathers to dinner from a remote part
of the farm, and on which there was some-
times a touch of rustic virtuosity.

Tlie Cornet is allied to the trumpet in shape
and character, yet it is different. Its body
is short, is bunched, concentrated as much as
possible; the result is it makes more noise
than the trumpet near by, but does not reach

cxvi music AND THE FINE ARTS.

SO far — lias not the carrying power into the
distance. It fills the immediate orchestral
periphery, is for the audience at hand, not
being adapted to throw its sonnd. The cor-
net has pistons or cylinders, and uses a com-
plete chromatic scale; not so the trumpet
which, unless transformed, employs the na-
tural open scale. Hence the cornet is a solo
instrument, showy, noisy rather, with a me-
tallic ring, capable of a brilliant display of
bravura, which titillates the surface wonder-
fully, but does not reach to the depths.

The Trombone is a peculiar instrument
working with a slide, which gives quality and
pitch. Thus it has a resemblance to a string
instrument in making a sliding note; it has

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 6 of 32)