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- The Psychology of Beauty - 20/36 -
"the dual nature of music," while resting ultimately on the emotional-speech theory. "The most universal composers, recognizing the interdependence of the two elements, produce the highest type of pure music, music in which beauty is based upon expression, and expression transfigured by beauty."<1>
<1> D.G. Mason, _From Grieg to Brahms_, 1902, p. 30.
This usual type of reconciliation, however, is a perfectly mechanical binding together of two possibly conflicting aesthetic demands. The question is of the essential nature of music, not whether music may be, but whether it must be, expressive; not whether is has expressive power, but whether it is, in its essence, expression,--a question which is only obscured by insisting on the interdependence of the two elements. If music has its essential source in the cadences of speech, then it must develop and must be judged accordingly. Herbert Spencer is perfectly logical in saying "It may be shown that music is but an idealization of the natural language of emotion, and that, consequently, music must be good or bad according as it conforms to the laws of this natural language."<1> But what, then, of music which, according to Ambros, is justified by its formal relations? Is music good because it is very expressive, and bad because it is too little expressive? or is its goodness and badness independent of its expressiveness? Such a question is not to be answered by recognizing two kinds of goodness. Only by an attempt to decide the fundamental nature of the musical experience, and an adjustment of the other factors in strict subordination to it, can the general principle be settled.
<1> _On Educaiton_, p. 41.
The excuse for this artificial yoking together of two opposing principles is apparent when it is seen that form and expression are taken as addressing themselves to two different mental faculties. It seems to be the view of most musical theorists that the experience of musical form is a perception, while the experience of musical expression, disregarding for the moment the suggestion of facts and ideas, is an emotion. Thus Mr. Mason: "In music we are capable of learning, and knowledge of the principles of musical effect can help us to learn, that the balance and proportion and symmetry of the whole is far more essential than any poignancy, however great, in the parts. He best appreciates music...who understands it intellectually as well as feels it emotionally;"<1> and again, "We feel in the music of Haydn its lack of emotional depth, and its lack of intellectual subtlety."
<1> Op. Cit., p. 6.
It is just this contrast and parallelism of structure as balance, proportion, symmetry, addressed to the mind, with expression as emotional content, that a true view of the aesthetic experience would lead us to challenge. If there is one thing that our study of the general nature of aesthetic experience has shown, it is that aesthetic emotion is unique-- neither a perception nor an intellectual grasp of relations, nor an emotion within the accepted rubric--joy, desire, triumph, etc. Whether or not music is an exception to this principle, remains to be seen; but the presumption is at least in favor of a direct, immediate, unique emotion aroused by the true beauty of music, whatever that may prove to be.
With a great literature in the form of special studies, we must yet, on the whole, admit that we possess no general formula in the philosophy or psychology of music which covers the whole ground. Schopenhauer has said that music is the objectification of the will--not a copy or a picture of it, but the will itself; a doctrine which however illuminating when it is modified in various ways is obviously no explanation of our experience. Hanslick has but shown what music is not; Edmund Gurney's eloquent book, "The Power of Sound," is completely agnostic in its conclusion that music is a unique, indefinable, indescribable phenomenon, which possesses, indeed, certain analogues with other physical and psychical facts, but is coextensive with none. Spencer's theory of music as glorified speech is not only in a yet unexplained conflict with many facts, but has never been formulated so that it could apply to concrete cases. The same is true of Wagner's "music as the utterance of feeling."
But there is a body of scientific facts respecting the elements of music, in which we may well seek for clues. As facts alone they are of no value. They must be explained as completely as possible; and it is probable that if we are able to reach the ultimate nature and origin of these elements of music they will prove significant, and a way will be opened to a theory of the whole musical experience. The need of such intensive understanding must excuse the more or less technical discussions in the following pages, without which no firm foundation for a theory of music could be attained.
The two great factors of music are rhythm and tone-sensation, of which rhythm appears to be the more fundamental.
Rhythm is defined in general as a repeating series of time intervals. Events which occur in such a series are said to have rhythm. In aesthetics, it is the periodic recurrence of stress, emphasis, or accent in the movements of dancing, the sounds of music, the language of poetry. Subjectively it is the quality of stimulation due to a succession of impressions (tactual and auditory are most favorable) which vary regularly in objective intensity. We desire to understand the nature, and the source of the pleasing quality, of this phenomenon.
It is only by a complete psychological description, however, even a physiological explanation, that we can hope to fathom the tremendous significance of rhythm in music and poetry. Those treatments which expose its development in the dance and song really beg the question; they assume the very fact for which we have to find the ground, namely, the natural impulse to rhythm. Even those theories which explain it as a helpful social phenomenon, as regulating work, etc., fail to account for its peculiar psychological character--that compelling, intimate force, the "Zwang" of which Nietszche speaks, which we all feel, and which makes it helpful. This compelling quality of rhythm would lead us to look behind the sociological influences, for the explanation in some fundamental condition of consciousness, some "demand" of the organism. For this reason we must find superficial the views which connect rhythm with the symmetry of the body as making rhythmical gesture necessary; or more particularly with the conditions of work, which, if it is skilled and well carried out, proceeds in equal recurring periods, like the swinging of a hammer or an axe. But it appears that primitive effort is not carried on in this way, and proceeds, not from regularity to rhythm, but rather, through, by means of rhythm, which is made a help, to regularity. Again, it is said that work can be well carried out by a large number of people, only in unison, only by simultaneous action, and that rhythm is a condition of this. The work in the cotton fields, the work of sailors, etc. requires something to give notice of the moment for beginning action. Rhythm would then have arisen as a social function. Against this it may be said that signals of this kind might assist common action without recurring at regular intervals, while periodicity is the fundamental quality of rhythm. Thus this theory would explain a natural tendency by its effect.
Looking then, in accordance with the principle stated above, for deeper conditions, we find rhythm explained in connection with such rhythmical events as the heart beat and pulse, the double rhythm of the breath; but these are, for the most part, unfelt; and moreover, they would hardly explain the predominance of rhythms quite other than the physiological ones. Another theory, closely allied, connects rhythm with the conditions of activity in general, but attaches itself rather to the effect of rhythm than to its cause. Thus we are reminded of the "heightened sense of expansion, or life, connected with the augmentation of muscular movements induced by the more extensive nervous discharges following rhythmic stimulation."<1> But why should it be just rhythmic stimulation that produces this effect? We are finally thrown back on physiology for the answer that in rhythmical stimulation there are involved recurrent activities of organs refreshed by immediately preceding periods of repose. Here again, however, we must ask, why on this hypothesis the periods themselves must be exactly equal. For within the periods the greatest variety obtains. One measure of a single note may be succeeded by another containing eight; within the periods, that is, the minor moments of activity and repose are quite unequal.
<1> H.R. Marshall, _Pain, Pleasure, and Aesthetics._
Last of all, we must note the view of rhythm as a phenomenon of expectation (Wundt). But while we can undoubtedly describe rhythm in terms of expectation and its satisfaction, rhythm is rhythm just through its difference from other kinds of expectation.
All these explanations seem either merely to describe the facts we seek to explain, or to fail to notice the peculiar intimate nature of the rhythmical experience. But if it could be shown not only that in all stimulation there must be involved an alternation of activity and repose, but also that an equality of such periods was highly favorable to the organism, we should have the conditions for a physiological theory of rhythm. Now the important psychological facts of so-called subjective rhythmizing seem to supply just this need.
It has been shown<1> that we can neither receive objectively equal sense-stimuli, nor produce regular movements, without injecting into these a rhythmical element. A series of objectively equal sound-stimuli--the ticking of a clock, for instance--is heard in groups, within each of which one element is of greater intensity. A series of movements are never objectively equal, but grouped in the same way. Now this subjective rhythm, sensory and motor, is explained as follows from the general physiological basis of attention.
<1> T.L. Bolton, _Amer. Jour. Of Psychol._, vol. vi. The classical historical study of theories of rhythm remains that of Meumann, _Phil. Studien_, vol. x.
Attention itself is ultimately a motor phenomenon. Thus: the sensory aspect of attention is vividness, and vividness is explained physiologically as a brain-state of readiness for motor discharge;<1> in the case of a visual stimulus, for instance, a
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