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THE REBIRTH OF HINDU MUSIC
by Dane Rudhyar
1928


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The Magic of Tone
and the Art of Music
by Dane Rudhyar
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Chapter Three
Seeds of Sound

In ancient Aryan books we find many symbolical references to seeds with the aim of conveying to the student by the method of analogy great truths concerning the origin of all things, of all cycles. As we have seen already, the philosophical concept of seed is necessarily bound to that of cycle. There is no cycle which has not a seed; there is no manifested life which did not originate in some sort of a seed, that is to say from an initial mass of substance having in itself the potentiality of all future developments, be it called egg or seed or whatnot.
      It is said that in the seed of the lotus a perfect though infinitely small model of the full grown plant is to be seen. The lotus cycle is found already completed within the protective walls of the seed. Growth will mean merely the coming forth of the full potentiality into a completed actuality, with the chance, however, that because of adverse conditions (improper soil or climate or care) the development of the potential into the actual may become hindered, the growth stunted, and the manifested type inferior to the prototypical model within the seed.
      But we have not only the manifested type, or plant, and the prototype in the seed; we must recognize also the existence of a spiritual archetype which in itself is the reflection of a mere abstract formula of relationship between specific characteristics. Every vegetable species is defined by a set of certain characteristics as to its form, color, modality of growth, etc; we could reduce all these into a certain complex formula which would be the abstract reality of the species, one special thought of Brahma let us say. The Creator has a thought; this thought produces an abstract form; this is an archetype. The archetypal form of the lotus is this image in the Cosmic Mind which is the ideal plan of all lotus plants, the mental layout of the set of specific characteristics thought of by the Creator.
      The next creative operation is the projection of the thought-image into a certain mass of substance, of prakriti, specially fitted to receive it. Substance had been evolving in its own way while the thought image was produced in the mind of Brahma. When the substance is ready to receive the thought image, Brahma by means of a twofold yet single, act of energy (by the use of ichchasakti or will, and of kriyasakti or image projection) shoots a ray of itself into matter (as Narayana). This ray is conjoined with the power of form-making and thus the thought image is stamped upon the mass of substance which becomes a fecundated egg or seed.
      This is more or less the universal process of creation, and it is only by understanding it with all its implications that the production and nature of tones can be fully grasped. The elements of the problem are basically the following; (1) Brahma or the creative Self — the Greek Demiurge — behind whom we may realize Brahman or the Universal Self; (2) the urge to manifest (or cosmic desire, the Kamadeva of archaic texts); (3) the thought image or archetype (essentially Mahat); (4) the projection of the will (ichcha); (5) the developing of the image by means of a certain technique. After these five acts are completed, the seed is fecundated and therefore contains either as an astral potentiality or as an actualized prototype the image which was in the mind of Brahma.
      Let us translate this cosmic process into musical terms. We shall have to consider both the evolution of matter and the involution of spirit. The former expresses itself musically in terms of the construction of a musical instrument. An instrument is in all respects similar to a womb. It is a womb of sounds; if you agitate or touch it, it resonates; the resonances produced thus, without the fivefold process mentioned above, are unfecundated tones, ova. The strings, if any, are like the ovaries; they have to be tuned up periodically. Those unfecundated tones may be full, vital and rich, or thin and lifeless. But in both cases they are merely resonances of matter, produced by the magic of prakriti. They are really resonances and not tones. The instrument-maker's task is to build an instrument whose substance will fully resonate when pervaded by the musician — Narayana. Both the materials and the shape given to them are of capital importance and very symbolical in meaning. In China musical instruments are classified into eight families according to the type of resonating substance used. The instrument-maker is the mother of tones. Instruments may be foolishly decorated, as women also, to seduce the eye of the spectator. This means sensualism and degeneracy. A perfect instrument is one in which every detail is functionally necessary and true to the function. A perfect instrument is like a Greek Venus. It is rich with the infinite potentiality of perfect living tones. It is a perfect seed of life. As the mystical Christmas takes place, as the seed becomes fecundated by the Soul of the species, its own Christos or Narayana, as the musician projects his thought-emotion into the muscular act(1) which will set the instrument resonating, the real tones are born.
      Such fecundated tones or seed-tones I will designate generically by the term "instrumental fundamentals," or merely fundamentals. I will use the same word but with a capital F, when referring to the thought image in the mind of the creative Self, to the archetypal tones. Spiritual Fundamentals are archetypal tones. Instrumental fundamentals arc manifested tones, or in a stricter sense still, as we shall see presently, prototypical tones — that is, really seed-tones before germination occurs.
      For tones are like plants or trees in many respects; they are triune; they are in a sense seed, sap and leaves —that is, fundamental, sonal energy and overtones. Every tone can be said allegorically to be the ashvatta tree, the very essence and symbol of Nature. To one who understands fully the complex nature of a tone the innermost secrets of our manifested universe are revealed. Useless to say that European scientists who have studied sound have only analyzed the outer shell of its organic entity. They know of sound only the rootless and dead trunk; nay, they fail even to recognize the unity of trunk and branches, and know of the tree only the boards which are used to construct our wooden symphonies. What they call fundamentals are hardly fundamentals at all, and the explanation provided to unriddle the mystery of overtone production are so un-satisfactory as to be practically meaningless in many ways; yet Helmholtz and his theories, which at best teach us only parts of the mere structural anatomy of sound or, let us say, of the skeleton of manifested tones, seem in great favor with several Indian musicians.
      This cause of the failure of Western science to grasp the real life of sound as a cosmic energy is a generic one which affects the entire scientific structure of European civilization. It is essentially its inability to recognize the substantial nature of all cosmic forces, and its reliance upon the vibratory or undulatory theory according to which light, heat, sound, etc. are merely rhythmical disturbances of either an hypothetical ether or atmosphere. In spite of the contradictory opinions of numerous great scientists, not only at the time of Paracelsus, but also during the last fifty years, in spite of the new theories of Einstein giving to light rays some sort of a substantial entity, the general trend of Western thought is still toward believing that both the sources of light and sound, whatever they may be, are not emanating anything substantial in the form of a light ray or sound ray, but merely setting their surrounding media in vibration, such vibration being transmitted to our senses from molecule to molecule (or etheric particle to etheric particle in the case of light) in an undulatory motion.
      If such be the case the phenomenon of overtones would be unexplainable. To say that overtones are secondary vibrations due to the fact that the resonating substance is not homogeneous, that therefore various parts of it vibrating singly add higher sub-sounds to the main sound of the whole is merely begging for the question: How is it that the series of overtones unfolds itself in a regular sequence of sounds according to a fixed arithmetical progressions? That whenever overtones are heard in any kind of substance, they always manifest in the same regular order of intervals? If there is such a definite and universal law of production of overtones (modified as the series may be in so far as the relative intensities of overtones and fundamentals are concerned), then such a phenomenon must be inherent in the nature of sound itself. In other words the Harmonic Series must be something like the phenomenon of the growth of sounds, the result of a vital process taking place in any tone whatever. Each tone has its own modality or morphology of growth, as every seed has; yet all vital tones, as all vital seeds, do grow. Let it be said more accurately that all instrumental fundamentals grow into fully manifested tones, including primary and secondary tones — as all seeds, in a certain sense which will become clearer as we progress, grow into plants with stem and leaves.
      If there is magnetic or organic growth there must needs be an homogenizing element and a circulatory system. This circulating and homogenizing element is basically water in every material organism: water proper (sea water or snow water) in the telluric organism of our planet, blood and lymph in the animal kingdom, sap in the vegetable kingdom. When we pass from the realm of organic matter to that of organic energy, from tree to tone for instance, we find that water becomes transformed into its dynamic correspondence, known for ages in India as akasha.
      Akasha has been called the "Great Waters of Space," and it is said also that the one essential property of akasha is sound. The sap of the tree and the akasha within the tone (what I called 'sonal energy') are fulfilling somewhat analogical functions. This sonal energy, as we shall see presently, manifests in several modes. It can be either descending or ascending energy.

But before we study these various modalities of sonal energy we must give more attention to the single tone and first to the act of instrumental tone-production. In a general and philosophical sense every tone originates in the setting in vibration of an instrument, be this instrument cosmic, animal or man-made. We saw that the instrument (the vahan of the tone) could be compared to the womb of tones, to the matrix of space or mystic chaos. The instrument must be struck in order to produce a sound (either a mere resonance or a fecundated tone). It is struck either by a muscular action (physical) or by will power (magnetic-spiritual). In the first case we have three essential modes of muscular action: striking, blowing, rubbing; which give us the three great classes of instruments: percussion, wind and string instruments.(2) In the second case we have what is probably meant by sounds in the mahata condition (in opposition to sounds produced by shock, ahata) or will-produced sounds. These belong to the higher forms or types of Vach or Sound and have to do apparently with the realm of mystical creation, which may be reached when humanity is fully redeemed or rather has fully regenerated itself from the thralldom of physical procreation.
      Considering only physical sounds we have seen that tone-production presupposes an instrument and a muscular action. The latter arouses in the former a sound. But such an arousal means really the dematerialization or atomic dissociation of a fragment of the substance of the instrument. As the ovum is a portion of the mother's body and will grow into a child by molecular accretion from the very blood of the mother, so the sound is the liberation as energy of an infinitesimal fragment of the substance of the instrument. If the sound is a real living tone fecundated by the will and imagination of the executant, then it will fully grow as a complete Harmonic Series toward its own spiritual Sun, towards the Color which is the psychic complement or soul of the instrumental fundamental.
      As demonstrated by the great yet little recognized French scientist, Gustave Le Bon (repeating unconsciously the ancient theories of India), matter and energy are two manifestations of the same substance, and all forces are products of the releasing of intra-atomic energy condensed in and as matter. He showed that every material substance under the impact of light, heat and other agents, begins to dematerialize itself, as radium does spontaneously: that it shoots off rays of energy which are the very products of atomic disassociation. Sound is no exception to the rule. Sonal energy shoots from the vibrating instrument as a ray, or collection of rays, very much probably as alpha and beta rays issue from a fragment of radium, and this sonal energy is nothing else, physically speaking, but the product of the disintegration of the very atoms of the instrumental substance taking place under the muscular action of the musician.
      Sound is one of the many types of substantial energy. It is matter liberated as energy, in its manifested aspect at any rate — very much as perfume or heat or magnetism are radiations or emanations from some substantial entity. Among the few scientists who have come to similar conclusions may be mentioned J. W. Keely of Philadelphia, the prophetic discoverer of a new type of energy, which he tried to harness by means of a motor of his invention, a motor which however could only work when he energized it by his own human magnetism. He writes (cf. H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, I:616):
I assume that sound, like odor, is a real substance of unknown and wonderful tenuity, emanating from a body where it has been induced by percussion and throwing out absolute corpuscles of matter, inter-atomic particles, with velocity of 1,120 feet per second; in vacuo 20,000. The substance which is thus disseminated is a part and parcel of the mass agitated, and, if kept under this agitation continuously, would, in the course of a certain cycle of time, become thoroughly absorbed by the atmosphere; or, more truly, would pass through the atmosphere to an elevated point of tenuity corresponding to the condition of subdivision that governs its liberation from its parent. . . In my estimation, sound truly defined is the disturbance of atomic equilibrium, rupturing actual atomic corpuscles; and the substance thus liberated must certainly be a certain order of etheric flow. Under these conditions, is it unreasonable to suppose that, if this flow were kept up, and the (sonorous) body thus robbed of its elements, it would in time disappear entirely?
In other words, the sound produced by a bell is the result of the disintegration of the very substance of the bell, and if the bell were kept resonating for millennia theoretically it would entirely disappear. It would have transformed itself into a continuous "etheric flow," a stream or ray of sonal energy — very much in the same way in which a seed transforms itself into a tree. That is to say, the cosmic power in the seed expands itself into the magnetic body of the plant for a certain cycle of time, and once this initial power is exhausted the plant decays and is no more.
      The same is true of any organism and of any cycle. The seed of any cycle or organism is in a sense a mass of concentrated energy which spends itself continuously as the very magnetic substance of the cycle. It is the never-ending Tone which is the beginning and the end, the Krishna or Christos, the Avatar whose will power and energy upholds the entire cycle from beginning to end. The Avatar becomes the cycle, and his Personality (which is the vahan of the spiritual Tone, i.e., the instrumental fundamental and at the limit the instrument itself) spends itself vibrating throughout the entire duration of the cycle. The Personality is the bell which sacrifices itself and becomes the etheric flow of never ceasing sonal energy; while the muscular agent which keeps the bell constantly resonating is the Will of the Avatar, who as the eternal Logos, or Brahma, is the Musician fecundating spiritually the tone of the cycle, that is the utterances of the Personality.
      In other words, the musical instrument, under the muscular impact of the musician, produces fundamentals which are then multiplied. Each fundamental is like a seed, a mass of condensed energy, winding itself out as sonal energy, radiating series of sonal offshoots which we perceive as overtones, and which exist in another sense as undertones. Thus as soon as the tone is heard we can no longer speak of its fundamental; the fundamental has become the tone, the Harmonic Series as a whole. It is only represented in the latter by the primary of the Series (exactly as what once was the seed is represented in a full-grown tree by a certain center of vital action), which is the point of demarcation between overtones and undertones. The level of the earth corresponds to the diaphragm in man (thus the importance of this muscular surface in vocal tone production).
      We have thus: (1) the archetypal Fundamental (the solar seed) thought of and desired by the creative soul; (2) the musical instrument produced by the instrument-maker, and its inherent though material capacity for resonance. The creative soul having selected the instrument which suits his own purpose, i.e., whose resonances are fit vehicles for the tones he has conceived, projects by an act of will and imagination the shadow of the archetypal Fundamental into the instrument by means of a complex muscular action. The shadow of the archetypal Fundamental uniting with the inherent resonance of the instrument, both constitute the instrumental fundamental which, as soon as produced, transforms itself into sonal energy of a certain type characterized by a certain formula of relationship between the component parts of the Harmonic Series (primary, overtones, undertones and other elements). This sonal energy expanding itself through air or through any other substance and causing such to vibrate in the form of so called sound waves reaches the ear, then the brains and further than the brains; a tone is then perceived by the human consciousness. A soul has heard the utterance of another musician-soul. A tone-circuit has been completed.
      I spoke of sound waves. Let it be well understood that I do not deny the existence of oscillations in the air when a sound is produced; but these air waves are not sound, only the result of the passage of sonal energy (an etheric flow) through the air — just as thunder is not the lightning but the result of it. Sonal energy is in a way like an invisible lightning passing through any substance and shaking rhythmically the molecules thereof into so-called sound waves. But while certain substances like air are easily shaken into sound waves, when sonal energy passes through a big mass of metal, sound waves proper exist no longer, at least not in the same way as in the atmosphere, It is indeed a curious paradox that sound travels more quickly through masses of compact and resistant iron than through plastic air. Modern acousticians have no logical explanation to show how a sound travels through a solid bar of iron miles long.
      To say that such an enormous mass of metal is shaken by a small sound which finds it easier to pass through it than through air is one of those explanations which explains nothing; and some of the best acousticians realize it. But they can offer no other solution and will not be able to offer any until they recognize that sound is really an etheric flow which passes through the molecules.

The next problem which we have to study is that of the very nature of Fundamentals, of the relation of tones to the living entities uttering them and expressing themselves through them; therefore the problem of the cosmic meaning and correspondences of tones. To this end we must differentiate at first between two great categories of tones: self-expressive tones produced by living creatures, animals and men; and instrumental tones proper.
      In order to grasp the meaning of the tones produced by animals, we must first try to understand what the term "animal" implies not only in its obvious but in its fullest philosophical sense. Anima in Latin means breath and soul. Anima mundi is the World Soul, the great Mother or Kwanyin in China, and in a sense Vach or Aditi in the Vedas. All ancient races had moreover their Sacred Animals, which were also zodiacal signs and gods. Still our physical plane animals arc truly creatures below the human race, symbols of instinctual emotions, of the desires of the flesh and of passions. How can these two meanings be reconciled? Why do we use in English the terms "animal" and "animistic" to describe two qualities apparently opposite?
      It is because both terms can be explained in terms of another, i.e., "animation" or essentially creative motion. Anima means breath, therefore rhythmical motion, therefore sounds. Sound is in anima, and the latter is akasha whose essential property is sound. Life expresses itself in many modes. Every one of these modes materializes into a kingdom of life. Every kingdom has its own specific function or dharma. The mineral kingdom manifests cohesion and its function is to provide a basis for the development of higher types; the vegetable kingdom manifests sensibility and serves as link between the heat and prana of the sun and our earth, as the universal food; the animal kingdom or mode of life manifests instincts and emotions. It provides a basis for the development of the higher type, man the thinker; that is, for a fully individualized consciousness, also for a life which is self-moving. It provides instinctual cries which are to human songs what instrumental resonances are to spiritually fecundated tones.
      In a very real sense the animal life is the matrix of the human line as the mineral life is the basis of the vegetable life; and what the vegetable life is to the animal life, so is the human-personal life to the higher spiritual modes of life. The difference between a crystal and a plant is that while the former grows within the bosom of the earth, the latter grows out of it and becomes transfigured by the sun, into the very avatar of the sun's energy. Similarly the difference between animals and human personalities is that while the former live within the psychic womb of Nature and are not self-moving but only racially instinctively moving, the latter can grow out of this psychic womb of Nature, be transfigured by the Solar Pitris or Archangels, and become the very avatars of the spiritual Sun's power.
      The animal life is thus the instrumental basis of the incarnation of the human tones. The cosmic Builders and Rulers of the animal species are truly similar to the instrument-makers who provide the musician soul with resonances, with the ova of the future tones. Those builders are thus form-builders; they are the Lunar Pitris, whose nature is watery while the Solar Pitris {Agnishvattas) are essentially fire. Water, as we know already, is the blood of the earth. Blood is basically sea Water. The Lunar Pitris are the Spirits in the blood, therefore the racial Archangels of Western religions, the racial gods, the many Jehovahs who rouse in the tribesmen patriotism, war-like emotions, religious fervor; who sound the key-notes of races and racial cultures; who, because they rule the blood and the muscular heart, rule instincts and instinctual emotions, therefore the animal nature of men, and their animal cries and resonances.
      On the contrary, the Solar Pitris are the descending Tones which incarnate in the human resonances or personalities and transfigure them into the likeness of the spiritual Fundamentals. They are the mighty Rudras, the eleven solar spirits, each double-natured (nilalohitas, blue and red), thus producing the twenty-two srutis of Indian music.
      The animal kingdom, like every kingdom or mode of life, can be subdivided into seven great types; as the human kingdom into seven great racial types — seven being the number of manifestation. These seven great animal types will express themselves in seven fundamental types of resonance, or cries. Each one of these will characterize a special mode of animal life, of anima, or breath, or psychic soul, or blood. At the same time each will characterize inductively one of those great groups of cosmic Builders, who are the Rulers of the animal kingdom, the Genii of the animal species, who also are, in a higher aspect, the racial gods who collectively constitute psychic Nature, the Anima mundi, Vach, in one of her aspects at any rate.
      Thus the zodiacal Sacred Animals — which many archaic races claimed as their progenitors, which degenerated tribe even today worship under the form of a totem. The totem is the symbol of the race-god or tribal god who is in the blood, one of the many lunar ancestors of mankind. And if we could go back into the past we would undoubtedly find that every race or tribe had its own distinctive cry, as every animal species has its own; that this racial cry(3) was the blood-cry of the race, the resonance of the psychic matrix of human Selves — the race. As musical instruments are wombs of tones, so are the human races wombs of human souls.
      The Sacred Animals, which are at the same time constellations, are thus symbols of the various aspects of psychic Nature. They represent fundamental emotions or life-resonances, various types of prakriti (cosmic substance), various manifestations of the "magic of prakriti," various powers of the great Mother — therefore various tones or rather various cosmic fundamentals of sound, the principles of akasha. These fundamentals number seven, one for each race and essential mode of psychic and animal life. They are the seven swaras which constitute the grama; not, however, mere notes of music as they have degenerated into, but fundamental modes of sound, essential life-resonances.
      Thus we find the reason why all archaic races have related the seven fundamentals to various animal species, why they have constantly repeated that those seven tones were virtually the essentialized cries of seven animal species.
      They began as animal cries; then the animals were turned into celestial constellations as man became more and more material, and the separation between "animistic" and animal in man (and in Nature as well, man being "the storehouse of all natural and animal types") became more and more definitive. Later, gods made in the likeness of men are said to have produced the seven fundamental tones, which thus became the seven aspects of the World Soul, seven centers of cosmic energy, therefore the tones of the seven Sacred Planets, constituting in their totality the Pythagorean music of the spheres. Then a perverted intellectual civilization made of them mere lifeless and toneless abstractions, mere musical notes which are nothing but conventional designations, absolutely disconnected from anything vital, conceived only in terms of the patterns which are made with them on our depthless brains.
      To explain why certain fundamentals were connected with certain animal species, gods and planets would be a long if not an impossible task. The correspondences given vary with races and with authors trying to record traditions more or less corrupted or deliberately veiled. Every Hindu musician may try to find for himself which of these records is true, if any, and to grasp the secret meaning of the correspondences. As we have seen already, in a really human sense, these seven fundamentals are not so much tones as complex modes of resonance, and therefore musical modes(4) which became in the course of time characterized solely by their predominating tone or hamsa (usually spelt "amsa"). The hamsa was the vahan or vehicle of the spiritual power of the mode.
      So we see all the great Hindu gods provided with a vahan which was some sort of an animal. The hamsa is the essential which explains further the higher meaning of the animal mode of life as the matrix of spiritual souls. The creative power of the solar Pitris, whose essence is fire, fecundates animal nature or animistic nature which is a watery essence, and out of this union comes the human soul — exactly as out of the union of the spiritual Fundamental and the instrumental resonance comes the seed-tone which is the incarnate Word made flesh, Man.

The seven tones of the Hindu grama are thus essentially the seven principles or souls of sound, the seven veils of Isis or Ishtar or Prakriti, seven layers or spheres of resonance. They constitute a grama or village: a brotherhood. Yet perhaps they should be understood rather as a hierarchy of functions. A grama is an archetypal form, a certain type of musical organization rather than a specific sonal substance, as the rags are. Therefore there are only three gramas whereas there are many rags, which are melodic cycles of one evolving tone impulse. The grama is like the abstract Chinese State, or in another sense like a series of university degrees, these being no mere abstractions but each representing a definite quality of knowledge, wisdom and power. It is analogical in fact to the series of initiations mentioned in occult books, to the totality of the seven paths. Each center in the grama is the beginning of a new world. It is a Portal. There are seven mystic Portals as there are seven centers in the grama, the seventh or synthesis being Nada in Sahasra, the Sound in the Light — of which the note Ni is only a symbol.
      This, when properly understood, explains for instance the difference between the seven "beginnings" (Ishi chi) and the five or seven "degrees" of the yum in Chinese music. The former correspond to the seven principles of sound (or as it is said to sky, earth, man and the four seasons) and are thus or seven fundamentals or Portals; the latter are conceived especially as a scale or sliding ladder (yun), as an invariable formula of relationship, as a series of intervals. The Chinese yun is in many ways similar to the European scales, and Chinese khyus and lyaos are not unlike Western tonalities. But, whereas in China degrees and lyaos had all a cosmological and social significance and were based on the cycle of fifths (as we shall see presently), in Europe notes and tonalities became, soon after they left Syria and even in Syria (cf. our former quotation of Bar-Hebraeus' words), entirely disconnected from their cosmic and alchemical valuations.
      In India, because of the essentially individualistic and subjective nature of music, such a differentiation between fundamentals and degrees becomes the differentiation between the tones of the gramas and the tones of a rag, or before the rags, of a jati; the third element being the strutis themselves. The difference is a subtle and philosphical one and may have lost all its meaning today, yet I believe that it is intrinsically a very real one, even though it may be the difference between spiritual and emotional realities. We should not be surprised to find some day some text proving that the tones of the original grama were called yamas and that the term swara or sur was connected with the first prototypes of the rags. The term yama used to mean the higher human soul in the, Vedas, and only later became linked with the idea of death.
      I believe that the seven yamas represented the seven types of human soul, or spiritual Rays from the one Center. They constituted, therefore, collectively a grama or brotherhood; and each opened a path, or mode of resonance, a marga. At first there was only one grama, which was the Gandhara grama, or perhaps the Gandharva grama,(5) i.e., the path of incarnation of the Gandharvas (also the incarnating egos of men in another aspect). This grama was a descending one as we shall see presently; later, two ascending gramas came into use, showing the paths of ascent of the soul out of matter. The three gramas correspond therefore to the three great margas of Hindu philosophy: Karma marga, the path of action and therefore of incarnation; Gnana marga, the path of knowledge (probably corresponding to the Ma-grama); Bhakti marga, the path of devotion (the original Sagrama).
      We will come back to gramas and rags in the following chapters and must return to the consideration of the various types of fundamentals conceived as seed-tones. We saw that animal cries should be interpreted as being psychic resonances. But there is a lower and a higher psyche, an animal and an animistic soul. So we have the psychic resonances of animal cries which are the outcome of a series of organic processes and emotions in the animal (i.e., roused by fear, joy, sexual desire, hunger, etc.), and also we have the higher resonances of cosmic entities, the music of the spheres, of the planets, which is the outcome of organic processes on a universal scale.

When we say that the tone of Nature on the Earth is F, or with the Chinese Hwang-tchong or Kung, we must realize that this tone which is the synthesis of all earthly sounds is an organic tone. It is the outcome of all the functional processes of the planet. It is the synthetic resonance of the prakriti. of our planetary system. On a still higher level we would find the synthetic resonance of the entire cosmos, and this too would be the voice of prakriti, a tone, single yet multitudinous. Yet all these tones, from the bellowing of a cow to the universal tone of the manifested universe, constitute only the Vaikhari aspect of Vach.
      But beyond this manifested universe there is the universe of spiritual energies which collectively constitute the Anima mundi or World Soul, and serially the many Celestial Hierarchies or Hosts personified in all mythologies under the name of this or that god. Each of these Hosts has also its own psychic resonance, which is the synthetic resonance of the brotherhood. These collectively constitute the Madhyama aspect of Vach, corresponding to the Sukshma form of the universe (cf. Subba Row's Lectures on the Bhagavad-Gita.)
      Sound, in these two aspects, is to be conceived as the resonance of prakriti. But there are other aspects in which Sound acts as creative power, as the Logos or Brahma himself, as the monad involving into matter, as purusha fecundating prakriti, as Narayana descending into the waters of space and re-emerging from them after the period of incubation as Brahma, as Fire. Sound then manifests, not as synthetic resonance, but as the descending and ascending Ray, therefore as the harmonic Series, the source of all melodies, as we shall sec presently.
      Abstruse as these matters may seem to many yet they are absolutely necessary to the most practical understanding of the various types of music and tones. They enable one to grasp fully the specific dharmas or natures of Western music and of Hindu music: the former being psychic music built upon synthetic resonances and the principle of tone-brotherhood, the latter being melodic (descending and ascending) music or monadic music, music of the individual soul in which manifests the creative power of the Self, i.e., swa-ra.
      The differentiation must be understood however really as a differentiation of focus; for melodies in a sense are composed of single tones, and the creative melodic Ray or breath, as it becomes substantial, works through or in combination with the resonance of the human body. We may put this in a different way by saying that the twenty-two srutis (the stages of the melodic Ray) focus themselves into the seven tone-centers or resonances of the grama (the brotherhood of tones); that is to say, the energy of the Self (swara) finds itself centered on seven planes, or prakritic functions, or principles, and becomes thus identified with the seven yamas of the grama. Atma or breath works through both the anima (or soul) and the animal nature; each being triple, this gives us six principles or six tones and a seventh as the symbol of atma itself (the "leading note" of European scale which represents the upward attraction of the tonal flow).
      We understand now the very complex and metaphysical essence of the seven fundamentals which constitute the grama. By instrumental fundamental we mean then the manifested resonance produced in the instrument under the impact of Life itself. By archetypal Fundamental we mean the higher psychic resonance, the cosmic Form of the celestial Hierarchy corresponding to the instrumental vahan, when the latter is an animated, living instrument — animal or man.
      What then of man-made instruments? They are collectively the vahan of an aspect of the creative mind in man, the aspect of mind which is connected with the mastery over and in a sense evolutionary guidance of matter. Such a mind being bound to matter can evolve but inorganic vehicles made of dead matter; whereas the higher creative Spirits of the universe working with Life itself find their vahan in some organic living entity.
      A musical instrument is composed of certain substances and has a certain specific form. By the combination of these two elements a definite type of resonance is produced, which is in a way the released energy of the substance used. Wood, metals, stone, strings, etc. express their elemental souls in the instrument in which they vibrate. The musician is the arouser of these elemental souls. He fecundates them, he gives them his own soul fire: he ensouls them. The great cosmic drama of soul birth is repeated on a lower plane.
      The two great creative centers of mental man, throat and hands (to which feet are added for some Western instruments), are used to animate the instrumental resonances. Breath is carried forth and differentiated by union with the qualities of certain substances. The fashioning power of the ten fingers sets in motion vast resonances, deep or strident tones which delineate in their span the sphere of magnetic action of man, the zodiac of sound to which we shall come later.
      Musical instruments become multiplied as spirituality diminishes and intellectuality develops in a race, as the vital magnetic forces of the human body are less and less understood and man considers himself more and more an entity of matter dealing with sensorial and material realities. At the same time the voices of most men and women lose their vital resonance, and become "clear" or "pure" which usually means devitalized — like white bread or polished rice. The fire of the Self is gone and nothing is left but the thin resonances of a more or less poorly functioning, demagnetized, body. Men having ceased to be Tones themselves, as human beings they can no longer bring forth living tones; and their psychic or even animal resonances being no longer fecundated by the descent of the fire of the Self become atrophied. Voices are then cultivated for nicety of expression, for delicacy of feeling, for virtuosity, in other words, to please the senses and astonish the intellect. Hot house tones they produce which no sun has energized, or rather brain-born musical notes which have no vital power, no rakti.
      Instrumental resonances then are needed to constitute the body of a music which is based almost solely on the magic of prakriti, on the resonance of matter. It is psychic or unified matter in the case of the sacred gongs or bells which reflect in the blending of metallic souls the homogeneous substance of brotherhoods of human or celestial souls. It is chaotic and unorganized matter in the case of many Western instruments and of Western orchestras as a whole which almost entirely lack unity of resonance.
      The basis of such a unity is not yet found or at any rate used, though it was foreseen by Scriabin, and probably taught by Pythagoras twenty-five centuries ago. To produce such a unity a new sense of music and a new system of harmony and polyphony conditioned by the search for full and vital resonances are needed. European music has been groping toward it; but it has been a mixture of this thing and the other, and thus it has lost the melodies of the Self and not yet found the resonant symphonies of the World Soul, the seed-tones of future universes as of the future race of Man.


1. It is clear that by the term instrument is meant primarily the human body as a tone-producer. The singer is the mother of his or her tones, it belongs to him or her to evolve the pure and vibrating bodily substance which is required; thus the importance of food to the singer (of the kind of food, not only the amount), the importance of developing by muscular control and otherwise the resonant cavities of the bodies; of seeing that the entire body vibrates, that the strings or pipes are well tuned, the nadis which produce the great tone of the Self.
      The human body is an instrument above all, because it is not made up of dead substance but of living matter, of matter which is conjoined with magnetic centers. In other words it is a much higher type of prakriti, as human nature is a much higher type of nature than vegetable nature or animal nature — if it is really human: that is, if it is made up of fire (pure fire) and not of water. Thus the relation of nada to kundalini.  Return

2. One might make these three classes correspond to the first three castes: Kshattriya, Brahmana, Vaishya. In the somewhat hybrid instrument, the organ, we see a combination of striking and blowing which might correspond to the Sudra caste. From the organ comes its degenerate progeny, the harmonium. The importation of harmoniums into modern India would take thus a highly symbolical meaning.
      The three instrument classes correspond also in a sense to the three Occult fires of the Puranas: electric, solar fires and fire produced by friction. (See also H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, I, p. 56:7.)  Return

3. Pierre Loti describes for instance the extraordinary cry of the Basque people in the Pyrenees, a very ancient race. This cry begins with a high yell arid dies down slowly. It is uttered in a moment of exaltation when the blood tension is high and its effect is said to be most stirring.  Return

4. Mrs. Kathleen Schlesinger whose deep studies of archaic music are revealing the true and long forgotten substance of Greek music, and of all pre-Pythagorean music gives the following correspondences for the seven Greek modes: Mixolydian: Moon, Lydian: Mercury; Phrygian: Venus; Dorian: Sun; Hypolydiar Mars; Hypophrygian: Jupiter; Hypodorian: Saturn. In a sense the modes are the mystery-names of the saktis of the planetary gods.  Return

5. l am glad to find that Mr. V. S. Aiyar has come, in his recent work on Indian music, to the conclusion that the true name for the Gandhara grama was Gandharvagrama. There may be a slight difference of meaning between the two terms, but the derivation at any rate is the same.  Return







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Copyright © 1979 by Dane Rudhyar
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