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and the Art of Music
by Dane Rudhyar

Chapter 11

Dissonant Harmony, Pleromas
of Sound, and the Principle
of Holistic Resonance
Part Two

Two Concepts of Musical Space

There are two fundamental ways of thinking of space: as an empty container in which a near infinity of entities whirl, moved by a variety of conflicting forces — and space as fullness, a pleroma of being. This fullness of spaces focuses the near infinity of its aspects through a myriad of entities, each of which reveals one of these aspects. I, an individualized person, am one of these aspects of the universal whole, so are you, and so is every other being. In every unit, the whole becomes differently conscious of itself. The consciousness of the whole should not be considered the sum of the consciousnesses of the myriad beings that are merely its parts, because essentially no entities can be separate as parts. All these entities are the whole itself, defining in a multiplicity of ways the whole's nondimensional and non-numeratable wholeness of being.
      Until very recently Western civilization has been committed to the belief that space is an empty container within which a near infinite number of atoms and larger units move and relate to one another under the pressure of forces of attraction and repulsion. This view pictures each atom as a relatively solid billiard ball, hitting or missing, drawn to or repelled by blindly operating electromagnetic and gravitational forces. Some philosophers believed that these atoms, and their spiritual counterparts called monads, exist forever: that they are the givens of existence. Other philosophers felt that they originated in an immense explosion — which astronomers now call the Big Bang — scattering a metacosmic One into a myriad of particles which after a long process might be drawn back into oneness. Yet what these astronomers, totally committed to the concept of an exclusively physical universe, formulate as an explosive beginning, the vitalistically oriented mind sees as an organic process of birth out of a seed.
      The concept of space as fullness or plenitude of being can be characterized by the qualificative holistic; but this now fashionable term is often used imprecisely, merely as the opposite of analytical or atomistic. The holistic mind is said to deal with any situation as a whole; holistic medicine, for example, is medicine for the whole human being, not only for the person's physical body. The holistic physician not only attempts to cure specific symptoms or injuries but seeks to revitalize the entire organism. An organism is a field of functional activity — a life field. It is an area of space actually reaching beyond the physical skin. The aura (or auric field) of a human being is a space filled with vibratory energies, with sound as well as color, even if average human beings today do not perceive it.
      If one speaks of a life field, one can also think of a sound field. The sound field for present-day mankind is our musical space. For practical musical purposes it is represented by the seven octaves of the piano keyboard, a span which is also a series of twelve fifths. Musical space can also be thought of either as an empty container of single, essentially separate musical notes, or as a fullness of tone, a pleroma of sounds. The concept prevalent in Western culture is the first alternative. I am attempting to give a concrete formulation to the latter.
      For a human ear, sounds are only potential in the musical space covered by a piano; they have to be actualized by striking keys that set in vibration separate strings producing sounds to which the composer gives the meaning of musical notes, each having its own pitch. But the piano is not only constituted by a ladder of notes; what we hear is the resonance of the one sounding board. The whole sounding board vibrates. Sounds are produced by the strings; Tone is released by the sounding board acting as an agent for the concretization of the whole musical space defined by the piano structure and its limitations.
      Tone (capitalized) indicates or symbolizes the holistic resonance of the entire sounding board when a multiplicity of sounds are generated by the pianist's hands performing swift runs or striking chords. The pianist, however, selects certain notes from among all the possible notes the piano can produce. This selection obeys rigid cultural patterns if the pianist is performing a traditionally tonal kind of music. The selection is primarily conditioned, and to a large extent predetermined, by a collective tradition, secondarily by a particular school of music having its own technique of composition. But the selection can be strictly individual if the composer-pianist believes that all the sounds and all the combinations of sounds the piano can produce are to be used freely by the unconditioned will or emotional impulse seeking to communicate through the hands a state of consciousness (or by the ego to satisfy its desire for what is euphemistically called self-expression).
      Consider a sculptor about to work on a block of marble. Let us say that the hands of the sculptor are allowed gradually to release from the chunk of matter a form which the sculptor comes to realize has been held in latency by the stone-a form needing to be actualized concretely because it potentially fills a human need, even if the need is only for beauty. The sculptor fashions a significant artistic object out of the material fullness of space. There are, however, sculptors who impose a predetermined form on the material fullness of space or, especially today, who fasten together assorted pieces of material to make objects according to intellectual esthetic concepts.
      I have spoken of the truly creative artist as one who performs "the sacred operation by means of which the fullness of Space-substance would be differentiated into forms."(1) When I spoke of such artists as "tillers of Space . . . fecundating Space-substance toward the bringing forth of esthetic forms,"(2) I should have said of sacromagical forms, for later I spoke of the creative artist as "the magician evoking form-organisms out of Space, conjuring forth the progeny of Space realizing the interdependence of all that lives in and still more from Space, the great Matrix of all forms.(3) From such a point of view the relationship between the constituting parts of an organic form has to be interpreted as the "interpenetration and not the mere juxtaposition" of these parts within a whole.
      All these statements can be applied to musical space. When music is an assemblage of notes written down as a musical score, the music extends as an organized collection of notes — the musical atoms of classical physics — in the emptiness of a musical space represented by the sheets of paper of the score. This is the atomistic approach to music. Its horizontal and vertical series of notes — melodies and chords — can be analyzed and divided into their components. These components may be short, repetitive sequences of notes, musical themes and leitmotivs. Moreover, because the human mind finds itself lost amidst assemblages of seemingly unrelated units, if it cannot discover order relating these units it devises patterns of interconnections and what it calls laws of nature. In Western music the result of this devisal is the tonality system.
      The human mind is so conditioned by its need for order and for a system of laws and regulations that it asserts it has discovered them in nature and the physical universe. It is reluctant to admit that its discoveries may well be a projection of its own characteristic structure, thus of its limitations or the limitations of the sense data it is asked by the whole human organism to interpret. Because this human organism operates not only at the biological level but also at the level of collective psychism and personal emotions, the interpretation the mind is asked to formulate should provide sustainment, enjoyment, and expansion for the life functions and for the entire person.
      The Western world thinks of the order of nature and the cosmos in scientific terms that belong to the atomistic approach to reality — as extension. in three-dimensional space, and more recently in four-dimensional space-time. A truly holistic approach would instead establish the required sense of order on the concept of intention. Years ago I tried to trigger the realization of a spiritual kind of space in which where God intends to be, there He is.(4) This space is nondimensional; it has no measurable distances. It is not the kind of space in which a body has to be physically transported from one place to another in a way our senses or our machines can perceive, analyze, and define. It is not the kind of space in which two objects cannot occupy the same place at the same time (the principle of exclusion on which Western science is based). It is the space of undivided wholeness — pleroma Space.
      Having to interpret such a Space, the mind is still obliged to think of different centers or areas of activity and consciousness. They interpenetrate in the true philosophical fourth "dimension" which in reality is not a dimension because it is nonmeasurable. Every center within that Space can be anywhere if it intends to be there.(5) In such a Space there is no real distance to be traveled. What is required in order to be anywhere is a determined shift of intention-also of attention. The mind is being refocused from one locality-conditioned state of consciousness to another, every locality (in the physical sense of the term) being a concretized projection of a particular state of consciousness a projection which fulfills a basic meaning and purpose.
      Musical space can be considered from such a holistic point of view, and ultimately experienced. This holistic musical space has one fundamental quality, which I characterize by the capitalized word, Tone. Tone is the quality inherent in the musical space which the human ear perceives as sound and to which the human mind, developed according to a particular culture, can respond as music. Tone is brought to a focus by a process of musical organization giving rise to sequences or simultaneities of sounds, each of which has tone (that is, communicable musical meaning) because it is a focalized aspect of the Tone of the whole. (Similarly the wholeness of cosmic Space has one fundamental quality, consciousness. Consciousness focuses itself at various — levels through minds, some possessing a strictly collective character; others, at a particular level of human evolution and under specific culture-determined conditions, taking a myriad of individualized forms, each of which feels itself and claims to be "I, myself.")
      The crucial issue is whether the groupings of sounds organized by cultures into music are interpreted as focalized objectivations of a particular aspect of musical space for a particular purpose or as composite sonic entities having a separate physical identity as themes or leitmotifs susceptible of being developed, expanded, and transposed in a formal, culturally conditioned manner. Just as a particular society (and mankind as a whole) is prior to any person whose basic patterns of living, feeling, and thinking are formed and basically controlled by the wholeness (the collective psychism) of the sociocultural whole, so any particular piece of music is a product of a particular culture and of the system of organization dominating the culture. This system has a particular character and is inspired by a particular quality of collective living, feeling, and thinking. This quality is the specific Tone of the culture-whole. But a culture-whole is only one of the many, relatively fleeting phases in the evolution of humanity. Its tone is but one aspect of the all-encompassing Tone of the musical space which human beings can experience and to which they may respond creatively in terms of their individual temperament and destiny (dharma).
      Composers whose sense of music has been trained according to the rigid traditions of the European culture find it very difficult, if not impossible, to experience the wholeness of musical space available to the human consciousness and therefore to experience the quality inherent in the wholeness of that space, Tone. They experience Tone only within the limitations imposed by Western culture. Similarly, most individual persons can only experience Consciousness — the quality of the wholeness of cosmic Space — within the limitations imposed by, first, their culture and, second, the ego that defines their individual character and responses to their physical and social environment.
      The most creative and future-oriented musicians of the twentieth century — which does not mean the most famous and most often performed — have been attempting to expand their musical feelings and their approach to composing or performing music. The more or less conscious and consistent urge to dis-Europeanize and even deculturalize music has driven them to repudiate the organizational rules and patterns of their Western tradition (the European tonality system) and to try to free their musical consciousness from the exclusive use of traditional instruments that produce only particular qualities of sounds. They have done the latter by introducing many types of nonharmonic sounds and noises. These traditionally nonmusical sounds exist within the musical space experienceable by human beings. In principle they can be given a musical meaning, but this gift of meaning can be made neither by the intellectual mind, eager for novelty and fame-producing personal "originality," nor by an emotional revulsion against sounds or sound-combinations that have become banal through too much repetition, even though such a revulsion has become fashionable. In order to create a new sense of reality, the gift of meaning must proceed from a consciousness of the whole. It should develop out of the experience of the wholeness of musical space and the innermost realization of Tone as its essential quality.

1. Rudhyar, Art as Release of Power (Carmel: Hamsa Publications, 1930).  Return

2. Ibid.  Return

3. Ibid.  Return

4. "The Search for Ultimates," Seed for Greater Living (July 19, 1955).  Return

5. The American writer Paul Brunton stayed at the ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi in India and reported that one day, feeling anxious for his family in New York from which he had had no news, his guru asked him why he seemed so depressed. Told of Brunton's concern, Sri Ramana closed his eyes and after a few moments said, "I have been in New York. What do you want to know that is happening there?" The modern student of esoteric doctrines may speak of "astral travel," but this is still thinking in terms of dimensional space. To say that the Hindu holy man traveled in a body through an astral realm reveals the modern mind's inability to operate as the mind of wholeness.  Return

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1982; by Dane Rudhyar
All Rights Reserved.

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