“By cultivating a heuristic to retroactively assess the unconscious workings of music making, the rgms aims to excavate what lingers in the unconscious and bring it forth in the form of a conscious framework, from which new works may be born.”
Why, you might ask, shall we strive to excavate the Unconscious into the Conscious domain? And how does assessing the processes of music making achieve this? We will first need to explore the historical frame, one that perhaps may best be summarized as psychological Dialectic between Unconscious and Conscious, or Dionysus and Apollo, between and Soul and Spirit. The dialectical participants have many names, but they all descend from the same form, that transcendent realm, which pervades all ages. The energies are many, but the essence is one; herein we will address the Conscious and Unconscious, but know that so too do the Yin and Yang, Lunar and Solar principles play out the same Dialectic, Dionysus and Apollo clash to birth a synthesis in every aeon, every instant, every action, in every form.
“A culture that has no recourse to the underworld, nor to the wisdom of its ancestors, is a culture that has no capacity for regeneration.”
We live in the age of the Conscious experience, wherein the left brain still reigns supreme over the right brain of the Unconscious. Yet, it was not always this way, and thus it shall not continue to be, for nothing in this world is static. In fact, in recent decades there have been radical efforts to liberate the Unconscious from its cage of Conscious modernity. These attempts culminate most apparently in the counter-culture revolution, but there is an alchemical flaw in this approach, which aims to reclaim an Unconscious mode of being by diving straight off into the deep end, and we shall see why. First, we must go back – way back.
Ancient, primal man, as far back as seems imaginable to us, before the abstraction of institutions, existed in a wholly Unconscious manner. This does not mean that he was not ‘conscious’ as we speak of in modern day science, but rather, in his mode of being there was no difference between ‘thought’ and ‘deed’, for intuition streamed through his being, unadulterated, unquestioned. He was one with nature, and allowed nature to live through him; a true mirror for the environment, which he inhabited. Humbled by the spirits of the forests, plains, deserts, steppes, and glaciers, he revered all that passed through his being. There was of course evil in this day, but so too man had the freewill to tune himself to the benevolent forces of nature, which acted in his favor. However, man could not so forever remain in this state, for temporality insists on the flow of all things, changes of heart, the Dialectic. Enter stage left, a Conscious way of being, wherein man harnessed the power of the left brain to construct tools, great civilizations, and a language to articulate his mode of being. Now that thought could be partitioned from deed, man could generate blueprints to alter the environment to his liking. Yet, with this step forward, so too was a step taken back, for man now had the ability to question an intuition before it acted upon him. This introduced a skepticism towards the benevolence of the Unconscious, which houses the intuition. As energy cannot be created or destroyed in this universe, so too does this principle apply to the energies of Conscious and Unconscious; with the development of one, comes the diminishment of the other within us, a perpetual balancing act, but again the diminishing element is merely displaced, not destroyed. The transcendent energies of Conscious and Unconscious themselves remain unaffected, it is only those immanent manifestations, which flow through our material bodies that abide by this endless gravitation toward equilibrium.
What made primal man so attuned to his intuition was partly in due to his sensual, pure empirical experience encountering the full force of nature. As civilization develops, however, we have the introduction of sensual modalities, which do not spring forth from nature (Unconscious), but instead from the ingenuity of man (Conscious). This may be best considered in a modern day urban environment, where the sounds of combustion dominate. For here, what can man hear of his environment, but the occasional bird? Man hears less of his intuition and more of himself in this new environment. What of the talk amongst the trees, speaking a long forgotten language? Ah language, let us go back again to a time when man unearths one of the first profound heuristics to commune with the receding Unconscious way of being. The alphanumeric language of the Jewish peoples is often considered the first language to adopt a linguistic system, which dealt in syllables rather than ideograms such as those found in earlier languages such as the Egyptian hieroglyphics, or the Mesopotamian cuneiform. Whereas, literacy in the latter traditions was reserved for the select few, so much so that if one could read or write it was in fact their sole duty as scribe; now, literacy had become expanded to the many with the invention of the Jewish alphabet, for due to some unknown cognitive reason to your author, an alphanumeric system is much easier learnt than that of an ideogrammic one.
As mentioned earlier, the development of Conscious tools, results in the loss of Unconscious mechanisms; however, with language we have the first of tools which strives to compensate for that loss, a heuristic if you will. Now, by etching his experience into a static form of the past, man could reflect upon his experiences without relying solely on his fickle memory, which we know to be quite prone to error. Therefore, man now had a tool to combat self-deception, a raging byproduct of the separation of thought and deed. Whereas, when thought and deed are joined, self cannot be deceived by self since it is relegated to external forces. With self-deception, the self condenses into the individual (wherein it becomes ‘ego’), therefore the burden of examination of deed so too localizes itself in the mind. The separation of thought and deed does not only imply a questioning of deed before action, but after as well. The great Conscious pathology of every age is this self-deception, which attempts to rationalize its own existence. With every energetic development, both the positive and negative poles must come into existence; therefore, with the emergence of the Conscious so too comes its inherent pathologies. But wait, what of the language of the trees? Now that a syllabic system of language began to take hold in the West, language which had once resided in the environment and was born of mimesis had now also had been condensed into the individual, for syllables were human sounds. No longer did we possess the capacity to hear the trees speak of the coming storm or the way back home because language was no longer something which existed outside the ego: our innate aptitude to consort with the environment had been inextricably altered.
As the history of the West progresses, so too does the separation between thought and deed, and the balance of Conscious and Unconscious. Heuristics become more and more complex as well, as we see the development philosophy and the scientific method, the latter of which proposes a total extrication of self or ego from the paradigm. Recall that with development of Conscious forces comes both the positive and negative poles, thus with all the benefits of philosophy and science, skepticism begins to rear its head and brings all Unconscious processes to trial, which are historically swiftly condemned. Reverence for the ancients is now lost in this age, intuition has become a spook, the evolutionary progress narrative is crowned king. This proverbial king reaches its peak in the Enlightenment, wherein the Conscious content of man becomes the raison d’être for being, and reason, or logic, is now his highest faculty. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, best illustrates the onset of this pathology in the West, for Hamlet is driven by this very same skepticism all throughout the plot. Manically, he flits about questioning whether or not the ghost of his dead father truly appeared to him or was just a mere fantastical hallucination, the onset of madness. The imperial conquest of the left brain over the right is complete. All that is not emanated from Conscious energy, is now symptomatic of insanity.
Where then do those Unconscious energies go at a time like this? We know that they cannot be destroyed, only altered in appearance or displaced. They are forced underground, to the underworld; relegated to the collective subconscious through sheer repression. We have heard the case of the thesis (Unconscious) in ancient man and the antithesis (Conscious) from modern man, and now we await the synthesis – the dialectal third.
Born into an environment ruled by manifestation of Conscious forms, our Unconscious energies often become deeply buried within our psyches. These repressed Unconscious energies, not being permitted to play out their archetypal manifestations become frustrated and bent back upon themselves. It is just like a standing wave in a cubical room, a frequency, which was at one-point neutral perhaps even beneficial, begins to reflect into itself creating an amplitudinal echo chamber, increasing in volume to the point of disturbance. For as the age old adage goes, too much of a good thing is never good. It is in this figurative echo chamber, where our repressed Unconscious energies develop pathologies, complexes or ‘psychological cancers’. It is important to note that pathology is an inherent aspect of the immanent manifestations of Conscious and Unconscious, it exists as long as the equilibrium is unbalanced; however, it is when those pathologies obscure the benevolence of these energies wherein it becomes of concern. As the energy of these Unconscious forces builds up over time, the reach of Conscious’ control eventually is overcome and the Unconscious bursts forth in the form of the all too archetypal triggered response, lapse of judgment, fit of anger, even mid-life crisis, or physical ailment.
In this age, how then shall we recover the Unconscious forces? And how shall they manifest on this immanent plane? We know that buried deep under thousands of years of Conscious hegemony, the Unconscious energies within us have begun to develop all too unfavorable pathologies, therefore if we simply tried to revert back to the Unconscious, embracing it with open arms, we might so become blindsided and receive the good with all the bad. Not that this itself would be bad or evil in any sense, at least it would be something to rupture the seemingly ad nauseam trajectory we’ve been on. In fact, this was the counter-culture revolution, sparked by America circa 1960. In trying to free the West of its Conscious bondage, specifically that introduced by Puritanism, by reverting back to the romanticized Unconscious way of being (which was achieved, but only so fleetingly), the revolution instead awoke us to those pathologies which linger in the Unconscious and inaugurated the collective ‘shadow work’ necessary to integrate the Unconscious back to a state of benevolence. No revolution has ever been able to do away with the shadow of the past, both personal and historical. Here too, the environment in which the revolution takes place, is itself imbued and trapped in a state of pathological Conscious energy. Therefore, any effort to continue to exist in such an Unconscious mode will forever be undercut by the pervasiveness of the market, advertising or technological accelerationism, our modern Conscious manifestations. We will perpetually be drawn back into the state of being, which arises from the environment we were born into. If this be the case, then perhaps would not a total revolution of Unconscious forces over the environment be the antidote which we seek? Oh how I wish it were so my dear reader, for the romantic heart beats strongly in my chest, but if were such a thing to occur so too would our environments embody the complexes lurking in the depths of the Unconscious, and again the benevolence of the Unconscious would be masked and quickly yield a new skepticism.
Now we come hither to the great task of psychology, and by psychology I refer to the type rooted in philosophy and mythology, which aims to fulfill that ever poignant oracle of Delphi “Know Thyself”. To know thyself, is to become whole, to “See the world in a grain of sand / And Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour” to quote William Blake, and to see all things in this manner, always. To achieve this, we must first uncover the elixir to self-deception, for we cannot know thyself, if self is hidden to us. The power of pathology/complex is such that it masks what serves the manifestations, which appear out of alignment with our true selves. Our inner workings are the microcosm of the macrocosm. If we recognize the root of pathology, we may see it as it emerges on the horizon, before the dawn of manifestation, and thus prepare ourselves for its force, step out of its way, so as to dialogue with it rather than be overcome by it. Enough poetic rambling, yes, let us get down to the point at hand, which concerns the method rather than the ends, yet I am obliged to say the grail must be known to us before we can pursue a method, so do not think these poetics in vain.
Our method lies deep in our history, for it, like the source of Conscious and Unconscious manifestations, is transcendent, immanently repeating itself in all ages. We must seek it out through tradition and only change the manner of implementation, which suits our immanent state. This method is simple, for it is like the ‘Tao’, which only the immanent realm of man complexifies with all its beautiful nuance, and it must be simple, otherwise, it is not transcendent. It has many names, many manifestations all of which point to this ineffable transcendent principle. Our method is that of the ‘Middle Way’, the ‘Dialectical Synthesis’, the ‘Transcendent Third’; it is akin to ‘Nuit’ the Egyptian sky-goddess from whose breasts issues forth the dual, or the ‘Holy Spirit’ of the Trinity. For the purposes of this exploration of the immanent implications for this method, we shall furthermore refer to the ineffable principle as the ‘Dialectic’, since it is most appropriately situated at the root of Western philosophy. Simply understood, the Dialectic reaches truth through the reconciliation of opposites. The Dialectic has been subject to a great deal of complexification throughout the history of philosophy, but we shall adhere to its simplest form in crafting our methodology for union. There is thus, thesis, the first mode of being expressed, or the Unconscious in our historical outline, and thence, antithesis, or the opposite brought into existence by the thesis, which is the Conscious as explicated in this scope. The dawn of synthesis, wherein the thesis and antithesis clash to birth a unifying principle, or ‘dialectical third’ has long been upon us, however, there is another layer still.
The method of synthesis is again bifurcated, for in asking how Unconscious shall be integrated or synthesized into Conscious, we arrive at two possibilities, the proverbial fork in the road. On the left we have ‘Spirit’, in which Conscious forces function as the main agent of integration. Spirit is a column of fire, which ascends in an unwavering upward direction, it longs for a direct path, rejecting that which stands in its way of the higher aspiration. The tools of Spirit are reason, logos, objectivism, scientism, sublimation, abstraction – left brain. Spirit is the myth of the hero desiring glory, yet it is susceptible to an overbearing hubris. Just as the ‘Tower of Babel’ reached a great zenith by the Spirit of the people, so too was it cast asunder by their pride through which they assumed they had become like God. On the right we have ‘Soul’, wherein the Unconscious is integrated via the energies of the Unconscious itself. Thus, Soul, in pursuing the quest to slay the dragon, prefers a far more detourious journey than Spirit, often times forgetting what it set out to do in the first place. It is more so about the journey and not so much the destination for Soul, it looks for the archetypal significance in all its surroundings. Yet the destination is not of no significance for Soul, for with no destination it is doomed to wander forever, Purgatorially in the thickets of the psyche. Soul relies on intuition, magic, chaos, subjectivism, intoxication, paradox, pure empiricism – right brain. One of its greatest advocates of the modern age James Hillman describes it as thus:
It moves indirectly in circular reasonings, where retreats are as important as advances, preferring the labyrinths and corners, giving a metaphorical sense to life through such words as close, near, slow, and deep. Soul involves us in the pack and welter of phenomena and the flow of impressions. It is the “patient” part of us. Soul is vulnerable and a mermaid who beckons the heroic spirit into the depths of passions to extinguish its certainty. Soul is imagination.
To see these two paths in practice, we might best examine the realm of dreams and their approaches to interpretation. Dreams are now the most archetypal link to the Unconscious we have, for in sleep the Unconscious weaves symbols to communicate to our Conscious minds something about our reality. The true language of the Unconscious is beyond the scope of human language, for it is ‘trans-rational’, therefore it uses whatever is at its disposal as a form of communication, and in dreams the image and drama are most prominent. This trans-rational nature of the Unconscious is evident in experiences of war, although on a collective level rather than a personal one as with dreams. Men have often returned from battle possessing not the language to describe their encounter, for in war we witness the convergence of unfathomable and abstract forces, playing out manifestly, existentially, continuously and directly confronting our experience of death. With war we might recount the events, but can never truly capture the feeling of awe or horror they may have inspired within us, it is the Unconscious unleashed, just as in dreams, higher states of consciousness, or encounters with the numinous. But how do we know that the Unconscious is trying to communicate to us therein? And if so, how do we know it has any worthwhile meaning? The great dreamer, Pierre Grimes portrays it best:
In dreams, if there is a repeating order, then a pattern is present. If there is a pattern, then it is either static or dynamic. If the pattern is dynamic, then there is a theme. If the themes present are unified, then they are intelligent, and therefore meaningful. If they are meaningful, they are thus a benefit. The meaningful, through which benefit may be derived is the essence of the Greek notion of Art.
As one wakes from dreams, and a symbol coalesces in the ego, or an unfathomable experience unfolds, Spirit is quick to assign an interpretation, or extract significance from the event. The Spirit approach to the art of Unconscious interpretations can be found in the methods of Carl Jung. The dream itself strives to articulate the noumenal (or transcendent) in terms of the phenomenal (or immanent). This is evidenced by in its presentation of images and drama as phenomenal representations of transcendent forces; however, to our Conscious minds these phenomenal representations of the noumenal still elude us, for the phenomenal manifestations of the Unconscious in dreams if often irrational, non-linear, paradoxical. Therefore, in order to dialogue intelligently with the phenomenal image or symbol a method of ‘translation’ had to be developed, where we could come to understand these elusive phenomenal representations. This is akin to Quantum Theory developing a science to explain the phenomena of the superposition of light acting simultaneously as both particle and wave. Jung developed a heuristic, which essentially aimed to categorize these phenomenal representations as symbols, which could then be further classified into thematic characters, or ‘Archetypes’. The Archetype acts as an indicator of that which is transcendent, or collective, but plays out in the immanent, i.e. in our personal lives. With the archetype, we could begin to express the unfathomable forces, for now the transcendence within dream images had been given some semblance of form, and without form nothing can be comprehended by our Conscious minds. Not that this hadn’t been done before, for it was largely reprised from the tradition of myths, wherein unspeakable forces are often anthropomorphized or characters are portrayed as overly one-dimensional to illustrate an archetype of humanity. Yet since we had long ago departed from an Unconscious mode of being, these myths lost their archetypal significance. The myth had to be comprehended archetypally by the whole of the community in order for the transcendent to be wholly communicated, for without a shared cosmology one cannot easily see how the archetype acts beyond himself, and the power of the myth was so weakened by the many who deemed it mere fantasy or tall tale. Therefore, unable to communicate to our Conscious minds on a collective scale, the Unconscious re-manifested itself inwardly, now playing out in dreams (not that it wasn’t there before, but now appearing all the more), and thus its archetypal nature had to be rediscovered.
With this realization came the renaissance of the Unconscious for the Conscious mind. Spirit had leaped off the edge of Conscious being into the abyss of the long repressed Unconscious and returned with a Rosetta Stone to navigate the depths. Yet, in all its glory, this method of the Spirit was all too susceptible to itself, for to quote cognitive psychologist John Vervake, “the very processes that make you adaptively intelligent also make you vulnerable to self-destructive behavior.” Thus, Spirit, which is the progeny of Conscious, all too quickly began to assign literal and static meaning to the symbols it encountered, and in doing so gradually began to abandon the symbol itself in favor of the ascribed meaning. While the rewards of this literal interpretation still were apparent, it had ultimately all but deserted the Unconscious and would eventually reach a dead end, for the whole of the Unconscious could never be so encapsulated in a singular meaning. Recall that the Unconscious must be dynamic in order to elicit meaning, therefore it’s interpretation must be so as well.
Enter the way of Soul. The interpretation of the dream, or that symbolic realm i.e. Unconscious propounded by James Hillman arose in a polemical reaction to the pathology of Spirit, which had again reared its head. Here, the archetypes could still be reconnoitered, and unified themes extracted, but the language of the Unconscious was given due prominence. Again, since the language of the Unconscious is trans-rational, no thematic explication of the symbol could communicate its whole significance, not even a dynamic one, for the dynamic is still limited by the bounds of Conscious. Only the infinite could begin to express what it was the Unconscious desired to communicate, yet condemned to the realm of limitation, the infinite pattern lay outside our Conscious grasp. However, this does not mean there is no recourse for us to engage the Unconscious, for we can do so by remaining on the plane of the Unconscious via the tools of Soul. Instead of plunging to the abyss of the Unconscious and returning with a cartographic rendering, we might linger in the darkness of the abyss allowing our eyes to adjust so that we may experience the force therein playing out to our empirical senses. By not immediately extrapolating meaning from the dream image or encounter with the numinous, we allow the symbol to act on our psyches in all its labyrinthine tendencies. We ‘sit with the image’. It is a process of placing one’s ‘faith’ back in the benevolence of the Unconscious and its symbols, but not in the manner of abandoning all Conscious forms, rather trying to learn the Unconscious’ language instead of inventing a language which acts as an intermediator. Thus, we allow the full potential of the symbol to unfold and flower within our psyches through receptiveness, intuition, intoxication, empiricism.
In speculating the Dialectical Synthesis between these two approaches to the interpretation and subsequent integration of Unconscious forces, we ultimately come to a quantum necessity of engaging with the methods in superposition; that is, it is not so much a synthesis as it would be holding and utilizing both understandings simultaneously. How then shall we synthesize these methods of integrating the Unconscious? Our answer lurks in the realm of art, but not just any art, that of the most sublime quality, that of music. To begin with, all art contains a wealth of communications from the Unconscious. This is the reason the art history, musicology, etc. and their critiques/interpretations of great art are ever so poignant. Scholars attempt to unearth just what loomed under the surface of the artist’s Conscious intentions in creating such a work, and what historical implications these works have for the narrative of art. For instance, Clement Greenberg’s interpretation of Édouward Manet’s Olympia as the dawn of ‘Modernist’ painting, due it’s ‘flatness’, which as he explains marks the transition of the art away from it technical height of ‘perspective’ or 3-D-ness and into a reflection of the medium itself, i.e. its flatness or 2-D-ness. Surely, this is not what Manet had consciously intended in his rendering of the nude Olympia, yet by tracing the origins of the Unconscious evolution of art Greenberg makes a most compelling case. All in all, that is not to say that these ‘critical’ interpretations themselves cannot become pathological, but that subject is best left untouched here.
|Édouward Manet, Olympia|
Similarly, then, music composition is imbued with the same great force of the Unconscious for much like the dream we can retroactively assess dynamic patterns birthing themes, unintended by the Conscious mind of the composer, and subsequently extract both meaning and benefit. “The composer makes plans. Music laughs!” exclaims Morton Feldman, and that is the beauty of art. Therefore, the end result of composition will always turn out differently than what has been imagined or what’s on paper. Thus, we can recognize the language of the Unconscious and begin to identify its archetypal contents with a piece of music just as we would a dream, a higher state of consciousness, or numinous experience. However, now unlike the tradition of musicology, we make this process incumbent upon the composer himself. For who better than the one through which the Unconscious flows to grasp the meaning of it?
But, why music, and not any other art form such as painting? And, if we are focused on extracting meaning from music, how is this not the way of Spirit over that of Soul? All in due time of course, but firstly in order to answer these queries we must discuss the nature of music. According to Arthur Schopenhauer, art may be considered ‘mimetic’ or that is, a replication of phenomena. It relies on phenomena in the same way that the Unconscious does to communicate through dreams and experiences of the numinous. What often makes art a mirror of the transcendent is that fact that it strives to depict the phenomenal archetypically, that is, in painting a hand, the artist does not strive to paint any hand, but rather the transcendent form (Platonic Idea) of a human hand. This is true not only for what we traditionally refer to as ‘realist’ art, but also abstract, as the abstract manifests itself phenomenally in higher states of consciousness e.g. psychedelic experiences. Music, however, does not fall into the category of mimesis, for there is no equivalent phenomena which it strives to replicate. It may borrow from the sounds of the birds and nature, but it ultimately dwells in a realm beyond the material, or the immanent. This does not mean it is transcendent, for recall the transcendent cannot be experienced on this plane. We may use language to point towards the transcendent, but we may only engage with the phenomenal, or immanent substance, which proceeds from the transcendent. This is best understood through the metaphysics of the Trinity. Christ can be understood as the immanent manifestation of God the Father, the latter of which cannot be experienced phenomenally, only representationally through numinous experience, for none have seen the true face of God. In the Trinity, Christ and God are of the same ‘Essence’, but differ ‘Energetically’. Christ is our understanding of the immanent presence and energy of God, while the Father is our way of ‘pointing towards’ the transcendent energy. However, the two energies embody one essence, that which is truly ineffable, but that is beyond the scope of this excursion.
So if music is not immanent, and it can’t be wholly transcendent for us to engage with it as we do, then what then is it? Ah, here again we have path of the middle way. For when the transcendent energy becomes manifest on the immanent it simultaneous creates and makes us of another force in order to transfer from one realm to the other. This is what Schopenhauer identified as ‘Will’ or similarly the ‘Holy Spirit’ within the Trinity. Music, then not being a replica of phenomena, is rather the innermost soul of all phenomena; it is representational of Will. Now recall how one of the aims of the Unconscious within dreams is to imbue the transcendent (noumenal) into that of the immanent (phenomenal). This articulation takes the form of images and/or the drama. Alternatively, in music, the Unconscious communicates the transcendent through that which allows the transcendent to become immanent, i.e. Will, thus it is one step less removed from the transcendent. From here, we may then apply the method of Spirit to interpret the Unconscious content weaved into the compositions, and we may elicit symbols and archetypes within each piece of music we create. But wait! What of the way of Soul? This is what makes music so special, for it demands Soul more so than any other art or the dream. Music is the only art form which exists in time, and only in time. In order to engage with it one must take the time to experience it in its fullest form, that is, listen through it in its entirety or ‘sit with the music’. Whereas, the image may be recalled instantaneously for however long one chooses or the drama may be recalled scene by scene in a condensed form, music, on the other hand, cannot be condensed for to do so would make it not music. It requires the dimension of time as explicitly directed by the composer. Even so our imaginative capabilities of recollecting a piece of music in its totality are far lesser than that of recollecting a drama. This is due to our constant interaction with the realm of drama, for all of life is a form of it. Furthermore, this is best illustrated by harmonically rich music, which eludes our imaginative recreations of it with all its vertical complexities or layered elements occurring simultaneously in time. Music, unlike poetry or any other art, has a limitless bandwidth of vertical complexity wherein one can still experience it in its totality and process it coherently. It demands our total engagement and willingness to fly with it wherever it wishes to take us. I tell you my dear reader, there is truly nothing more fitting than such a thing as music to invoke the way of Soul. We become mystified by this most sublime representation of the Will, through which the Immanent is realized. Thus, music is our ultimate Middle Way, our Dialectical Synthesis, which takes the path not yet forged between Soul and Spirit. Our heuristic seeks to excavate the desires of the Unconscious as found in the compositional process: to both recognize patterns and themes to realize meaning, and to allow the Unconscious to flower within our psyches through a pure empiricism, a Gestalt. With music we shall integrate the Unconscious into Consciousness, yet - there is still more to say...
The great balance of the Dionysian and Apollonian forces, which also function as substitutional immanent terms for the Unconscious and Conscious dichotomy respectively, as Friedrich Nietzsche understood them culminated in the expression of the Attic (Greek) Tragedy, wherein the musical forces of Dionysus were balanced with that of the Apollonian drama. This is not to say that music itself is wholly Dionysus, for it too can embody either force, but in comparison the drama, which is representational of the Apollonian par excellence dream image, it is Dionysian. To reiterate, the Dionysian refers to those qualities of Soul and is also the force strives towards the ‘One’, that is disintegration of the self into the collective, whereas Apollonian refers to Spirit and is also the force which strives towards the manifestation of the individual. The balance of Dionysian and Apollonian forces is precisely what we strive for in our approach. Not only in the music itself, which is best explained by R. Murray Schafer:
There are two basic ideas of what music is or ought to be. They may be seen most clearly in two Greek myths dealing with the origin of music. Pindar's twelfth Pythian Ode tells how the art of aulos playing was invented by Athena when, after the beheading of Medusa, she was touched by the heart-rending cries of Medusa's sisters and created a special nomos in their honor. In a Homeric hymn to Hermes an alternative origin is mentioned. The lyre is said to have been invented by Hermes when he surmised that the shell of the turtle, if used as a body of resonance, could produce sound. In the first of these myths music arises as subjective emotion; in the second it arises with the discovery of sonic properties in the materials of the universe. These are the cornerstones on which all subsequent theories of music are founded. Characteristically the lyre is the instrument of Homer, of the epos, of serene contemplation of the universe; while the aulos (the reed oboe) is the instrument of exaltation and tragedy, the instrument of the dithyramb and of drama. The lyre is the instrument of Apollo, the aulos that of the Dionysian festivals. In the Dionysian myth, music is conceived as internal sound breaking forth from the human breast; in the Apollonian it is external sound, God-sent to remind us of the harmony of the universe. In the Apollonian view music is exact, serene, mathematical, associated with transcendental visions of Utopia and the Harmony of the Spheres. It is also the anahata of Indian theorists. It is the basis of Pythagoras's speculations and those of the medieval theoreticians (where music was taught as a subject of the quadrivium, along with arithmetic, geometry and astronomy), as well as of Schoenberg's twelve-note method of composition. Its methods of exposition are number theories. It seeks to harmonize the world through acoustic design. In the Dionysian view music is irrational and subjective. It employs expressive devices: tempo fluctuations, dynamic shadings, tonal colorings. It is the music of the operatic stage, of bel canto, and its reedy voice can also be heard in Bach's Passions. Above all, it is the musical expression of the romantic artist, prevailing throughout the nineteenth century and on into the expressionism of the twentieth century. It also directs the training of the musician today.
But, this balance is also sought out in music’s relation to our process and method of interpretation and integration of the music as we have seen in the comparison of the Soul versus Spirit approach. In writing The Birth of Tragedy, wherein Nietzsche identified the forces of Apollo and Dionysus and located their age of balance, he also employed this dichotomy in order to sing high praises for the Wagnerian Opera, which he initially claimed to be a reprisal of the balance found in the Attic Tragedy. However, Nietzsche later regretted this work as he began to realize the decadence and pathology of the Wagnerian drama as it fell out of accordance with his Attic model of balance. The inability for a true return of the balance found in the Attic Tragedy is akin that of the disappearance of myth and subsequent emergence of dream interpretation. The age of the collective or Unconscious having past, balance could not be restored through the external drama of tragedy, which is a collective experience, for the repressed Unconscious and all its pathologies will ultimately begin to play itself out therein. Therefore, like the dream, the tragedy must play out within us, within the individual, that hearth of where the unconscious became relegated to, for only there can it be integrated to achieve that ever so delicate and ancient Attic balance.
|Brygos Painter, Dionysus Surrounded by Satyrs|