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and the Art of Music
by Dane Rudhyar



1. Communication: Man's Primordial Need

2. Sound as Carrier-Wave for Tone

3. The Magical and the Sacred

4. Number and the Quantification of Tone Relationship

5. The Spatialization of the Tone-Experience: Musical Notation and Form
      Part One
   »Part Two

Chapter 5

The Spatialization of the Tone-Experience:
Musical Notation and Form
Part Two

The distinction between entities moving in empty space and the movements of space differentiating itself into whorls of energy can be applied to the problem of form. A painter usually thinks of placing forms and masses of color inside a space defined by some kind of frame. The forms are, as it were, projected by the painter's mind and hand into the empty, blank space of a canvas. From the point of view of dynamic symmetry the forms should be born out of the parceling of that particular space. (1) The space is first conceived as a fullness of potential forms. It is then divided according to universal geometric principles of proportion within which the drawing unfolds its meaning.
      The forms being drawn therefore have meaning at two levels: a cosmic, geometrical level and a personal, expressionistic or representative, interpretive level. From this point of view a human being is not only what he or she is as a particular person, but also is the space defined by the human form — the archetype Man — within the life field (the biosphere) of the earth, and, at super-physical levels, within fields of metabiological (psychic, mental, spiritual) activity. Stated more simply, any motion or gesture can be considered a cosmic movement determined by archetypal rhythms or, especially in human beings, as an existential mode of activity characterized by the particular nature of the existent (the living being), and thus by his or her emotions (biopsychic responses).
      This also applies to the movements of the vocal muscles that produce tones, including the cries of animals. The latter have an almost exclusively archetypal character, because there are but small variations among the members of a particular species, each species having a single archetypal biodynamic structure. Human beings, however, operate in terms of different cultures conditioned by local and racial features. Each culture constitutes a collective whole with its own characteristic vocal tones. Vowels, consonants, inflections, accentuation, and pitch of the voice are characteristic forms of existential motion. As human beings become individualized their vocal tones differentiate further — they express personal emotions.
      Yet underneath the collective cultural and personal emotional differences, an archetypally human tone quality remains. It represents the universal foundation of human vocal tones — the archetypal form of human beings as tone-producers — in the same way that the human skeleton and the organization of biological functions in the species homo sapiens represents the archetypal "pattern of Man" to which esoteric doctrines often refer.
      According to such doctrines, however, Man (archetypally considered) is a combination of all animal species. In human beings the natures of all animals are latent in a partly existential and partly transcendental manner. Man, in a still larger sense, is the microcosm of the universe, and a reflection or condensation of the fullness of the cosmo — "image and likeness" of Elohim (a plural noun in Hebrew), the many-in-one power of creation that communicates its will to the ocean of potential energy and, through Sound, to the undifferentiated matter of precosmic chaos.
      When Pythagoras spoke of the "music of the spheres" he undoubtedly was referring to the complex nature of this creative, cosmogenic Sound (which in India has been spoken of as nada, and in its several levels of manifestation as vach). It seems that in most relatively recent religious mythologies of which we have records (recent meaning within the last 3000 to 4000 years) the creative Sound is said to have a sevenfold nature.
      This means that the creative act in a cosmic sense operates at seven levels, each level constituting a field of activity especially adapted to the operation of one aspect or mode of being. These seven levels were primarily considered levels of differentiation of the original, or rather originating, release of kinetic energy — the act of creation. The first of these levels, however, referred to a state of pure metacosmic unity — a subjective state which "precedes" the creative act, if one can speak of precedence when time does not yet exist. (2)
      With this release of energy, what we call time begins. The release operates in and through the decomposed waste products, karmic remains, or humus of a previous universe — the "dark waters of space" mentioned in Genesis. This undifferentiated precosmic matter poses an enormous resistance to the creative movement. Because of this resistance (or inertia) it will "take time" for this matter to fully respond to the creative will. The speed at which the cosmic process operates — the time it takes for a complete change to occur — depends therefore on the relation between the strength of the creative act (or, in human terms, the willpower) and the resistance to change (inertia) of the material that is to be reorganized.
      In the esoteric philosophy of music, a level of creative activity is symbolized by the octave-relationship — by the interval between two vibrations whose frequencies are in the ratio 1:2. Seven levels mean therefore seven octaves — the archetypal "spectrum" of sound and the whole range of the piano keyboard. We will return to the concept of levels of sound and octaves in subsequent chapters, but we have first to deal with an important issue which has long been ignored. We must think of Sound in two ways: as a descending as well as an ascending type of energy.
      One of the basic myths found in the recent great religions, especially in Christian-Gnostic mysticism, is that of the "pilgrimage of the soul." The soul leaves the realm of pure divine unity to descend into matter where it takes on a human character; then it has to rise from the state of bondage to material conditions and ignorance back to the condition of perfect union with God. In a more cosmic sense, this pilgrimage of the soul simply refers to the involution of energy into a multiplicity of material forms (or organized fields of activity) and the subsequent evolution of formally defined life-energy toward a state of "Perfection" in which all essential aspects of what had been released (or created) in the beginning of the cycle of being are actualized and fulfilled in harmonic interrelationship and interpenetration. This fulfillment is possible only within the "perfect form" in which the fullness of space is vibrating.
      This perfect form is the supreme manifestation of the Beautiful. It reveals the True proportions of cosmic and human being; and the realization and contemplation of this perfect form impel human beings to relate to one another in terms of the harmony it reveals. This is the life of the Good — the life of plenitude and harmonious relationship, the life of divine love (agape) or, for the Greeks of the Pythagorean and Platonic eras, ideal friendship.
      The next chapter will discuss the descending (or involutionary) and the ascending (or evolutionary) aspects of sound, and what I believe was Pythagoras's attempt to relate the two movements within a condensed septenary musical form, the so-called Pythagorean scale — an archetypal image of the "music of the spheres." But first I would like to stress that the concept of musical form can be given two meanings. One can speak of form in music, or the form of a particular musical work. Form in music refers to the quality of the organization and the consistency (in a sense the inner necessity) of the flow of sounds in time. The form of a musical work is an evolving cultural product related to the style of a particular period and the character of the culture's collective mind.
      This collective cultural mind evolves. We can consider the classical period of a culture as its "flowering," in the sense that the most characteristic features of the culture achieve a formalistic and concrete solidity; but what is most characteristic is also the most particular and exclusivistic. Thus, for example, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, musical works assumed the forms of the motet, the fugue, the suite, and eventually the sonata, which symbolize and exteriorize the particular character of the European culture in music. The fugue, the sonata form, and the symphony can be considered attempts to develop perfect form under the limitations and the specific character of the culture's collective mind and its basic Weltanschauung.
      For the collective mind of Western civilization, form is a pattern of development projected upon the emptiness of space. It derives essentially from the centralized system of organization we call tonality and from the application of this system to musical notes whose abstract character makes constant transposition possible, but also precludes a vital flow of sonic energy between notes. Notes are related to one another only by mathematical pitch ratios. They operate in empty space as a network of exact geometrical relationships. The forms they describe in classical or baroque music are like arabesques painted on a blank wall.
      These forms are best perceived by looking at the musical score and analyzing it. The score is the music and its development is followed and appreciated by the eyes and the mind, rather than psychically experienced through the ears. We speak of "musical works" and "pieces" of music, placing emphasis on space as a factor. It has been said that "architecture is frozen music;" conversely, a musical work is an architectural construct with a recognizable shape. This is not to say that classical music has no power. It has the power of the psychism of the European culture-whole — an intensely dynamic and "Faustian" kind of power, to use a term popularized by Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West.
      European culture is the product of a society which has been operating at two levels — one determined by the geography of the European subcontinent, the other dynamized by an intense, restless drive toward universal values and world hegemony. This drive, operating within the geography of Europe's shoreline, has produced a constant fascination with sea adventures. We speak of the "seven seas" but there is in fact only one ocean — and Pythagoras knew it. He also apparently realized that the earth is a globe revolving around the sun. Any culture which accepts such knowledge must, in one way or another, be moved by the drive for universality.
      This driving force is the fire of a mind trying to free itself from the local and racial limits, from the exclusivistic psychism, of a particular culture-whole. This, will to freedom tends, however, to operate initially as a will to conquest, a will to destroy local and relatively static forms of cultural organization. This will justifies its destruction by upholding an ideal of constant transformation. The spread of industry was a result of the need for more material to burn, more substance to transform and "universalize," up to the point of atomic radiation. The ultimate choice, then, is between the reduction of all particular forms into an undifferentiated ocean of power-releasing radiation and heat, or the organization of the "perfect form," in which all elements relate in a spirit of interpenetration of feelings and minds. The choice is between reductionism or plenitude of being, cacophony or the music of the spheres.

1. Hambidge's discoveries led him to a profound philosophy, but the few people who have been influenced by his teachings seem to have retained only the technical, practical application of his philosophy to design.  Return

2. See Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, I:432.  Return

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1982; by Dane Rudhyar
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