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Eurythmy as Visible Singing
GA 278

IV. The Progression of Musical Phrases; Swinging Over; the Bar Line

22 February 1924

As you will have gathered from yesterday's lecture, a proper presentation of eurythmy has to take its start from Melos, from the melodic element, or we could also say, from the motif or phrase. [25] It is the progression of the motif, the musical motif in time, which indicates the path which eurythmy must take on the basis of the musical element.

Let us concentrate on this today. Here again you will see how necessary it is to pay special attention to the actual musical element. Now, the musical element makes sense in the progression of the motifs—that is, the musical element as such, not as it manifests in expression. And this sense has absolutely to be brought out in a presentation of eurythmy. The question, then, is how the progression of a musical phrase must be treated in eurythmy.

Usually in music itself, even when listening.to it, people fail to observe the musical sense progressing within the motif itself You all know that a motif frequently includes the bar line [American: bar]; indeed this is generally the case. The bar, the change of bar that is, interrupts the motif And when passing from one completed motif to the following formation you often feel that something like a ‘dead interval’ lies between them (musicians frequently even use this expression). It is further said that such a dead interval corresponds to the progression from the end of one spoken word to the beginning of the next. The matter is frequently regarded in this way. But this very comparison, as I said yesterday, demonstrates that people have no feeling for the fact that the true musical element actually is that which is inaudible. When the dead interval is spoken about, and is compared with what lies between two spoken words, the comparison is not valid. Anyone wishing to speak out of an understanding of art really should not speak of the ‘dead interval’ between two words, but on the contrary should place the greatest value upon the way the transition proceeds from one word to another.

Just think that in speech, in the treatment of speech, we can observe the following fundamental difference between good and bad treatment. You can treat each word separately, but this is quite different from a clear feeling that one word ends in a specific way and the next begins in a specific way. And you look for meaning between what is apparent to the senses (that is to say, between the end of one word and the beginning of the next), where the spirit lies, which you are endeavouring to express. The spirit also lies between the words. Furthermore, the sounds we hear in words are only the sensory impression; when we speak, too, the spirit lies in the inaudible realm. It is sad that people today have so little feeling for the inaudible realm, and are no longer able to listen between the words. A lecture on spiritual science can never be understood when you follow merely the actual words; you have to listen between the words, even listen into the words, discovering in the words what lies behind them. In this case words at all times are an aid to express what cannot be heard.

The question, then, is to find some means of differentiating in eurythmic movement the position of a bar line in a motif, and the transition from one motif to the next. This difference may be shown by holding the movement at the bar line, so that whoever carries the movement does it, so to speak, within himself, wherever possible indicating through the position of the arms and hands that he is pushed together, and especially in moving a form by contracting the movement of the form into himself—in other words, becoming stuck whilst in the form. Conversely, in the transition from one motif-metamorphosis to the next, we are dealing with a swinging-over (Schwung) from the one metamorphosed motif to the other. We swing in a spirited manner from one metamorphosed motif to the next; in the actual bodily movement itself we have a kind of upward swing. And where the bar line appears within a motif we aim for a rigidly upright posture.

Try to practise this until it becomes a matter of course when moving. This will be of great significance. It would be quite good to make sure that the matter is clear. Let us take the following to clarify this. (It is important to make a beginning with the very simplest of examples, and it is no matter if this simplicity is somewhat home-baked.)

Here, then, we will select as simple a phrase as possible to make clear to ourselves the real significance of what I have been speaking about. The phrase starts with a G and progresses to B, returns to G, progresses to F#, and so on. Thus we have the first motif, then the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, and the question is: How should this progression of motifs be carried out in eurythmy? In the first motif we hold ourselves back, in the second we boldly swing onwards to the next motif: the curve is first up, then down, and between we have the bar lines. The phrase continues (see Fig. 4) with holding ourselves back, boldly swinging onwards, holding ourselves back.

Figure 4

Fig. 4

Thus, if I draw the whole thing: up, down, up, down, up, down—we always find the bar line in between, and in the fifth and sixth motifs, two bar lines each. The progression is one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight restraining-ourselves, and one, two, three, four, five swinging-onwards. Try to be quite upright, but go together with the whole movement; to be upright at the bar line and boldly swinging onwards at the transition from one motif to its following metamorphosis. The bar line must be strongly indicated by means of a strong holding-on to yourself. This may never take place simultaneously with the notes, however, but must always occur between them.

This, hopefully, is clearly understandable. Always show the bar line, and its holding-on movement, very distinctly. This, of course, is something I ask you to ponder about, what it means for the various forms of phrasing. I wanted to show you this with as simple an example as possible. You see, the presentation of eurythmy reveals that the melody receives the actual spirit and carries it on. Fundamentally speaking, everything else does not add the spirit of the musical element, being at all events a more or less illustrative element. But in order to gain a real conviction of this for yourselves, I ask you to try first and foremost to seek the whole human being in the musical element. The eurythmist is really obliged to study the way in which the human being streams out, as it were, into the musical element.

It is a fact that when we stand with our physical form, whether slim or short, fat or thin (that part of us which is actually visible), this is really the very least part of us. It even remains, in fact, for a short period after we have gone through the portal of death. But yet how much of the human being is present in the corpse? When we look at the human being as he stands before us in the physical world it is only the corpse, or hardly more than the corpse, that may be seen. Now in music, the physical form of man corresponds to what may be called the least significant of the musical elements; it represents the beat. It is therefore quite natural that with the bar line there should be an emphasis of the physical form, a holding-on to yourself. [26]

When you pass over to rhythm, presenting the ‘short-long’, you already go beyond what is represented by the human bodily form. In rhythm you already show a very considerable part of the life of your soul. With beat in eurythmy, you always feel that a person's heaviness is the determining factor in its expression. When the beat is shown in eurythmy, you always feel (as you just saw from these attempts) that it becomes evident how heavy a person is. A heavier person will be able to mark the beat in eurythmy better than a lighter person. This is less apparent in the case of rhythm. Rhythm brings the human being into movement. And here already it is quite easy to differentiate whether the movement has artistic taste or is tasteless, whether the movement is permeated with soul: slow—quick, slow—quick. You see, here the etheric element in the human being makes its appearance. It is the etheric human being which is revealed in rhythm.

If, however, we turn our attention to melody, which conveys the actual spirit in the musical element, then the astral being of man is revealed. When you are active in the musical element the whole human being, with the exception of the ego, is brought into play. It is really true to say: ‘As physical human being I mark the beat; as etheric human being, the rhythm; as astral human being I am the evolver of Melos: it is thus that I appear before the world.’ And, you see, the moment when you pass over from the musical realm to that of speech, the ego steps in. Naturally, speech is then transmitted into the astral element and even into the etheric, but its original impulse lies in the ego. [27]

At the end of yesterday's lecture I indicated the hidden parallel between the scale and the vowels, and we even saw how the musical element enters eurythmically into the vowel element. Now we must also be clear about the fact that in singing the realm of the pure musical element is already exceeded. The pure and real musical element is expressed in the astral make-up of the human being. This is why singing becomes more essentially musical in proportion to the degree in which it holds to what is purely musical—the more it follows Melos. And indeed this following of Melos will be the most sympathetic in singing.

Passing from singing to speech (to declamation and recitation), we find marked disharmony between Melos and something that has also to be borne in mind by the reciter, namely the sense of the words. It ought to be emphasized that the musical element has to be active in recitation and declamation, but an inner conflict will always exist, a conflict which the singer can only solve in the musical element. The more musical a singer, the more he will enter into the sphere of the astral, into Melos, thus solving for himself the problem of how to remain musical in singing. Consequently it requires greater skill to remain musical in singing than for instance it is to remain musical in instrumental music.

But now let us consider the following. I think everyone must feel that a certain poem of Goethe's produces an extraordinarily musical effect. I refer to the poem:

Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh;
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch
. [28]

Let us take the principal words from this poem: Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh: Gipfeln, ist Ruh, Wipfeln, Hauch, auch, warte, balde.

If you enter into this poem with your feeling, you will find that what is appealing and musical (for it is extraordinarily appealing and musical) lies in the use of the words Gipfel, Wipfel, ist Ruh, Hauch, auch, warte, balde. It is in these words that the actual musical element lies. Now I ask you, what have we got here? Let us compare this with what I told you yesterday of the correspondence of the vowel sounds, with the scale. I always write the scale thus (naturally any note can be written on a C [i.e. tonic]) but I write C in the usual way, as the note from which the scale starts. Of course, the matter is not dependent on this way of writing it, but when you write in the way I did yesterday, then we have in the word Gipfel B G, BAG—a descending third. It has the effect of a minor third (Moll-Terz). It is the mirror image of a third. And it is the repetition of this mirrored third in Wipfel and Gipfel which initially renders this wonderfully subtle musical effect.

Going further, we have ist Ruh. In ist Ruh, according to the model I described yesterday, we first have a B, and the u [‘oo’] represents C: B C. We find the seventh relating back to the prime, and in this relationship we have an example of everything I said both yesterday and the day before. When the human being enters into the seventh he goes out of himself. There is a relating back when he returns from the seventh to the keynote; he regains himself, as it were. You can feel this in ist Ruh, because it is inherent in the words.

Now it is especially interesting that in balde and warte we have E G—once more a kind of third, but the other third which moves in the opposite direction; it is the mirror image of the previous third, a kind of major third (Dur-Terz). Consequently we have a marvellous correspondance here: thirds which relate to each other as mirror images and the descending seventh chord, seventh harmony, in which the human being is given back to himself.

And now we will go further. Hauch and auch are words in which the diphthong makes its appearance. What are diphthongs? Where may we look for them in music? Here, you see, we may reverse our usual process. We have often found a transition from music to speech, and now we will pass over from speech into the diphthong element, into the musical element. If you possess an ear for such things, applying the principle about which I have often spoken, you will ask: Where does the essence of the diphthong lie? - of ei, for instance, or au? Does it lie in the e or the i, in the a or the u?[1] No, it lies between them. The actual sounds ei, au, are uttered (Ausgesprochene), but the ‘essence’ (Ausgegeisterte, ‘spirited out’) of the diphthong lies between them, and for this reason we must look in the diphthong not for notes, but for intervals. Diphthongs are always intervals. And the interesting thing about Goethe's poem is that Hauch (au, that is to say) is truly the interval of the third. You only need call to mind yesterday's model Wipfel—B G, ist Ruh—B C, Gipfel—B G, Hauch—third, auch—third, warte—E G, balde—E G. In this way Goethe not only makes use of clear thirds and their mirror images, but in order to employ every possibility in this matter, he adds true intervals of the third in the diphthongs. Here you have what matters.

When someone reads or recites this poem of Goethes, it does not matter that he should think it contains intervals of the third and even the seventh. Of course he does not think about it! Nevertheless, when the poem is rightly felt, something of this will be expressed by the reciter. It will find its way through. But what have we here? What is it that is almost as spiritual as the meaningful utterance of the ego, and which yet remains unknown? It is the astral element. And so behind the meaning of the poem there is a deeper, unconscious meaning for the human being, which is the musical meaning to be found in the astral element; this is especially effective in this poem. In this poem Goethe has transferred the effect of the poem, as far as this is possible, from the ego back into the astral realm.

Now you will best express this poem in eurythmy when you actually manage to emphasize the separate sounds less, but rather to indicate them wherever possible, without finishing them. Thus the i (‘ee’) in Wipfel and Gipfel is not quite finished, but left hovering in the air. This whole poem is most beautifully expressed, both eurythmically and musically, when the movements for the vowels are left hovering, and the eurythmist pulls back before completing them.

These are the things I have in mind when I say that eurythmy should be studied with feeling. Feeling should not be allowed to disappear while you are engaged in eurythmy, but rather cultivated. For the onlooker can clearly differentiate (he is not aware of this, for it does not reach his consciousness, but unconsciously the onlooker can tell quite clearly) whether a eurythmist automatically goes through the motions in eurythmy, or whether feeling is poured into the forms he or she creates. And two eurythmists, one of whom is an intellectual, only presenting the meaning of what has been learned, whereas the other feels through everything down to the details of curved or stretched arm movements, feeling through the finger movements—two such eurythmists will really be as different as the virtuoso is from the artist. A person can know perfectly well how to be a virtuoso, but is not therefore an artist. These things, when brought to full consciousness, will be apparent in the beauty of your eurythmic movements. Consequently it should not be a matter of indifference whether or not you know the relationship that exists between a eurythmic presentation of music and a eurythmic presentation of recitation. Through a knowledge derived from feeling- experience you will assume the attitude which must be embraced if eurythmy is increasingly to develop into a real art.

Just consider how the sense of the words actually destroys melody. It might be said that the necessity of attending to the meaning of the words entails a certain fear lest the melody be destroyed. The result is that speech does violence, as it were, to the musical element. These words are naturally somewhat drastic, but speech does do violence to the musical element. Must this be so? Can it be confirmed anywhere in the world?

Yes, how this is confirmed in the world may be seen from the following: Speech consists, on the one hand, of the vowel sounds, which mainly serve to express what lives within. In the vowel sounds, as we have seen, it is easy to see that the musical element leaves its mark, whereas in the consonants this is very difficult to find. But you also know how often I have emphasized the fact that the vowels have been wrested from man's inner being. They are the direct expression of feeling, of the inner essence of the soul; wonder, amazement, shrinking back in fear, holding yourself in relation to the outer world, self- assertion, giving way, loving embrace—all this is clearly expressed in the vowels.

The consonants are entirely adapted to the outer world. If you study a consonant you will find that it always imitates some thing or process existing in the outer world. When someone speaks i [‘ee’], you can feel quite definitely that here someone asserts himself. Certain German dialects even use i instead of ich, and here the human being feels his own being the strongest, as I know, for until my fourteenth or fifteenth year I myself spoke in dialect: ‘Na, nit du, i!’ [‘No, not you, me!’]; I know how one's own being asserts itself when one says i [‘ee’]. When speaking this sound i, you first jump into the air and then you stand on the ground. This is what has to be felt.

Now for the consonants—let us take l—you can picture the sound, but i has to be heard; ah has also to be heard. At most they may be pictured astrally. But you can quite well picture l or r. L—if someone creeps along, you straightaway have l. The r. someone skips while running; you have r, which is a process. An ordinary wheel creeps along, it l’s, so to speak, but a cog-wheel r’s along! You can immediately picture it. If you have ever noticed a stake being driven into the ground with a hammer, you cannot picture anything else but a t; it is a t. An external process is a consonant. It is always an external process. Thus the consonantal formations of speech plainly point to the world outside. The vowels fit themselves into the consonants.

You know, of course, that in [certain] languages the consonants are interchangeable with the vowels. Every consonant has something of the vowel about it, and every vowel something of the consonant. We need only remember that in some languages the l becomes i; a consonant becomes a vowel. In certain German dialects, for instance, the final l is always pronounced i. When speaking dialect ‘Dörfl’ is always pronounced ‘Dörfi’, [approximately, ‘Dirfee’]. The sound is i, and the l is very softly indicated in it; it is the i which is really pronounced.

But this also brings the vowel sounds towards the outside, towards the outer world. Speech is something which comes into contact with the outer world; in a certain sense it may be said to be an image of the outer world.

This is why speech does violence to the musical element, and why great skill is necessary if we are to retrieve the musical element in recitation. Great skill is necessary in order to strive back to the musical element, and we will only find the melodic element in speech if the musical element in the poet comes to meet us; indeed rhythm and beat have to be taken into account when reciting any passage of poetic language. If we neglect this, we sin against rhythm and beat (which in the musical realm itself do tend, of course, more towards the outside), and this results in incorrect recitation. The nearer you approach the musical element itself, the more you enter into Melos. Melos is the musical element.

When you examine everything I have just said, you will find that in the world outside the human being, the musical element is only present to a limited degree. By proceeding from within outwards, passing from musical experience to the experience of speech, we ourselves retreat ever further from the realm of music. Why do we retreat ever further? Because speech has to lean on external nature. But external nature can only be laid hold of by speech when an element is introduced into speech which is really foreign. For nature scorns beat, rhythm, and indeed our melodic speech. And a purely naturalistic materialist deems poetic speech of any sort, that is, artistic speech, affected and sentimental.

I once knew a fellow student, for example, who regarded himself as highly gifted. This was at the time of certain lectures held by Schröer, of which I wrote in The Course of My Life. [29] The classes took the form of practical exercises in lecturing and essay-writing. This student arrived one day, saying that he was prepared with subject-matter of the very greatest, indeed world-shaking, importance. He went on to tell us what these world-shaking ideas were. They amounted to the following: All metrical, poetic language is fundamentally wrong. People write in iambic, trochaic rhythms; they write in rhyme. This, however, is entirely wrong, for it is not natural but artificial. It must all be abolished from poetry. Such was the discovery he had made. He declared that a new poetry must make its appearance—without rhythm, without iambus or trochee, and without rhyme. Later on I even experienced that such poetry is actually written. At that time my fellow student only put it forward as theory. We thrashed him so thoroughly that he never held his lecture!

You will see from all this that it is perfectly obvious that what comes from nature does not form the basis of the musical element, for the musical element itself is a creation of the human being. And if we examine the inner nature of music and speech, we shall realize why it is that the musical element is so far removed from anything naturalistic. It is the self-creating force in the human being, and imitating nature is an aberration of the musical path.

As I said before, I do not mean to cast aspersions on the imitation of ‘rustling forests’, soughing winds, bubbling springs, ‘a brook in March’, [30] and so on. It is far from my intention to criticize these things in any way; but there does lie behind them the urge to pass out of the actual musical element, to enrich music by the introduction of something unmusical. In certain circumstances the result may be very agreeable, for it is possible to enlarge the sphere of every art in every direction, but because eurythmy demands that music be taken still more musically than it already is, terrible difficulties will arise if attempts are made to express in the right way in eurythmy something that is not purely musical.

Yet another thing can be understood from this, and that is the beneficial effect of tone eurythmy therapy; for this must gradually be developed side by side with usual tone eurythmy. Why is this? Fundamentally speaking, a large number of illnesses are caused by the fact that people have an inward tendency to turn into nature in some way, instead of remaining human. We always turn into a piece of nature when we are ill. Now we are human beings through the very fact that we inwardly do not tolerate natural processes to remain as they are, but instantly subject them to an inner transformation; we instantly make them inwardly human. There is no process in the human being (with the exception of the dissolving of salt, the metamorphosis of salt) [31] which is not a transformation of some process of nature. We become ill when we are powerless against natural processes in this inner transformation, if we cannot metamorphose them (a process they have to undergo within the human being), and when they still run their course as natural processes. If in any part of the human organism a natural process preponderates over the human, and we then make the person practise tone eurythmy, this is a therapeutic factor; for by this means we lead the part of the body in question away from nature and back into the human realm. When we let someone do tone eurvthmy because nature in him is too strong, it is as though we said to the natural process in the organ: ‘Out you go!’—for these movements are solely human and have nothing of nature about them. The musical element belongs only to man, not to nature. [32]

In earlier times the musical element itself was recognized as a means of healing, and music in such times did bring about many cures. But because the musical element comes especially to the fore in eurythmy, so the therapeutic forces of the musical element must also come to the fore with an efficient therapy. This is what I wanted to tell you today. Tomorrow at the same time we shall continue.


1. For pronunciation of German vowels, see p. xiv. (Translator's note.)