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and the Art of Music
by Dane Rudhyar

Chapter 12

The Rhythms of Civilization and Culure
Part Two

Summation and Conclusion

Because this book has presented complex philosophical and historical material the following condensation integrating its sequence of ideas may be valuable.
      The historical development of music follows and can be fully and objectively understood only in terms of the unfoldment of the human mind, which builds the systems of organization giving stable structures to the sounds the people of any culture need for communicating their collective needs and responses. The first chapters briefly stated the primordial need for communication that music (as an organization of audible sounds) fills; how sounds, when invested with meaning become tones; and how tones are used for magical purposes — that is, for the transmission of will and the subjugation of biological energies. Chapter 3 examined the transition from the magical to the sacred mind and from the animistic to the vitalistic stages of human consciousness. The different levels of mind activity these stages produce correspond to phases in the process of civilization and all-human evolution. Each phase, however, has to be embodied in a particular culture, and any culture can at least partially fail to provide an adequate vehicle (a particular set of interrelated institutions) for the new mind of that phase. Unfortunately, cultural institutions develop great inertia; they usually follow the path of least resistance and maximum convenience.
      Chapters 4 to 8 (inclusive) examined the great evolutionary change in human consciousness that became particularly focused during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. in Athens, in relation to the development of a new type of social organization, the East Mediterranean city-state. This evolutionary change began a most important and indeed crucial development in the process of civilization, though at that time the drive toward the individualization of consciousness and the rationalization and universalization of the human mind touched only a small minority of almost exclusively male human beings (barring notable exceptions). Moreover, the functioning of the city-state and the workings of its expansionary nature required the widespread use of slaves and frequent wars providing them.
      A basically new interpretation was given to the change in the direction of the musical flow (from descending to ascending progressions) which, though probably implied in the Pythagorean use of the monochord, nevertheless did not completely reorient the European musical consciousness until the Gothic age. As a result of this new interpretation, the traditional concepts of the harmonic series (as the "natural law" of music), of resonance, and of musical scales were presented in an unfamiliar light, altering their meaning.
      After the final destruction of the Western Roman empire, a new European culture began to take form with the growth of the power of the Papacy in Rome under Pope Gregory the Great (590-604 A.D.). The various types of Mediterranean church music were condensed into Gregorian plainchant. The development of a strict musical notation, together with Gregorian plainchant, provided the foundation for the polyphonic and folk music of the late Gothic period. These developments made possible and necessary a complex tonality system, the development of which paralleled the formation of modern nations autocratically ruled by kings "by divine right," each with its own language and way of life.
      Chapters 9 and 10 dealt with European music during the Classical and Romantic periods and with the profound crisis music has been experiencing since Debussy, Scriabin, Stravinsky, and Schφnberg. I discussed the process of deconditioning and dis-Europeanization particularly manifesting in avant-garde music — a complex and multidirectional process operating in every field of human activity, from science to politics. This led in Chapter 11 to an outline of the most basic ideas underlying an approach to music — and to a cosmic philosophy — which, if applied to the practical realities of the musical world, particularly to the creation of new instruments, would bring about a radical transformation.
      Such a transformation can only occur under the pressure and inspiration of the new mind — the mind of wholeness — in and through which the present phase of the all-human, planetwide process of civilization is now being focused. Many paths lead to such a radical metamorphosis. Yet on each path a strong resistance to fundamental change has to be faced. It can be fully and successfully met, I believe, only if the cultural and musical past is understood with an open and spirit-illumined mind and its inertia overcome. The present worldwide confusion and chaos are the direct or indirect results of choices of direction made not only in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but in Athens two thousand years before, also in an India dynamized for a time by the Buddha impulse, and in China during the Confucian Age — to mention only those cultures with which we are most familiar.
      One may speak of racial, national, and cultural karma, or of being "visited by the sins of the fathers" through many generations. The simple fact is that the present is always conditioned — yet not inevitably predetermined — by the failures of the past. Yet the present moment is also drawn toward the future by the momentum of human, planetary, and cosmic evolution. This momentum is ultimately irresistible, but the next step in the process can be delayed, sometimes for eons. Delays are caused by the unresponsiveness of the available sociocultural and religious material, by its inability to become an instrumentality fully resonating to the descent of a current of creative Sound (which may be interpreted as divine will).
      Nothing is inevitable, yet not everything is possible at any particular time — now. But "now" is forever balanced between the inertia of the past and the creative-transformative pull of the future. All one can do is to shift the balance toward the victory of a future which is not merely a repetition or surface modification of a past heavy with at least partial failures. To the truly free and open mind that understands these failures, the essential next step in the evolutionary process is revealed. This next step can only be taken from where one stands; yet there are places and positions — personal and social — from which movement in a new direction is difficult — thus the need for a transition stage of deconditioning.
      It is easy to react emotionally and intellectually as a resonator tuned to the fundamental vibration of one's culture, even if this vibration is a discordant roar of unrelatable noises. It is far more difficult to overcome the pull of the collective mentality of the culture that had formed one's personal responses or to keep from reacting against this ancestral past by allowing the fascination for an exotic way of living, feeling, and thinking to remake one into an alien form. It is easy to let one's ego-structured personality seek what is glorified as "self-expression;" it is far more difficult to subdue the ego-will and transmute it into the will to serve the process of emergence of a new humanity.
      For this reason a great variety of techniques called spiritual have been devised. Yet no technique is especially spiritual. A technique may be a specialized means to dissolve the stranglehold of a mind still bound to or obsessed by personal habits and the rigid patterns of a past tradition. A technique may also operate as a necessary scaffold while the deconditioning process goes on and the old mental and emotional structures are torn down. In such a case the materials used in the scaffold are raw and rough. They are joined together in simplistic juxtaposition and the process of tearing down they support requires repetitive blows. The music of the current avant-garde demonstrates such a harmony — a joining together in extended repetition sequences of simple, quasi-tonal modular units. This music is a means to decondition the consciousness, to free it from dependence on classical European forms and the dramatic intensity of Expressionism. It also can be a way of inducing much needed (and much appreciated) mental relaxation and concentration.
      Yet is its simplistic repetitiveness essentially different from modern advertising techniques and, at the extreme, from brain-washing? True, in Asia the repetition of specific mantrams and bodily gestures many thousands of times has been used for centuries, but one may wonder if the level of consciousness the practitioner is expected to reach does not usually remain permeated with the exclusivism of the culture and institutionalized religion having formulated the exercises. These undoubtedly were devised to meet the needs of a particular type of human being. Such a type certainly does exist today, even in America and Europe; but the new kind of mental development Western family life, education, and the pressures of modern technology have produced may demand a new approach. In the past the realm of collective psychism was the main field of activity for human beings bound to their traditional cultures. Today at least relatively autonomous individuals are eager to express themselves, and beyond the individualized mind the mind of wholeness is emerging in transpersonally oriented individuals whose activities are self-consecrated to the service of humanity as a whole rather than to a particular culture. Fully actualized at a transindividual level, these beings are the great civilizers. Their entire being is irrevocably attuned to the rhythm of the vast, immeasurable movement whose merely physical aspect constitutes evolution, but which they serve at whatever level of existence needs their service.
      Will the person eager to perform a creative act serve, in the name of self-expression, the wants of his or her ego-dominated and culturally determined personality — or will the activity be performed in the service of humanity, beyond sociocultural attachments and expectations of results, as a humble and transpersonal attempt to do what one simply has to do, because it is one's dharma, the central truth of one's being?
      Every issue in the world of music and the arts, around which arguments rage and coteries are formed extolling this or that procedure, can be reformulated in terms of this central and essential question. The answer is given by the quality of being the creative activity radiates and the character and scope of the consistent and sustained meaning that infuses and empowers the activity.

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

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