The Cosmic Corso & Recorso: Tones for Joan's Bones
[T]he deeper teaching of music concerns the nature not of 'psyche' but of 'cosmos.' --Zuckerkandl
Our personality is precisely that: the continuous melody of our inner life. --Bergson
I just wanted to wrap up this series of posts about music, because I want to move on to a couple of other topics, hopefully starting tomorrow. For this reason, it may have a bit of a rushed feel, but I need to finish this performance and go on to the next gig.
For reasons that should be bobvious, the following passage by Zuckerkandl caught my attention. It is a continuation of the idea that in a melody, one tone recalls the past and anticipates the future, handing it off to the next one:
"In the course of this motion, then, the departing becomes a returning. The direction of the motion at the beginning appears changed into its opposite at the end. Is it possible to determine a point at which the reversal takes place, at which 'away from' becomes 'toward'?"
In my book, I put forth the idea that there exist nonlocal "attractors" in the phase space of the human psyche. In fact, in the final analysis, you could say that man is suspended roughly halfway between two Great Attractors. You can call them "spirit and matter" or "being and non-being" or "heaven and earth" or "slack and conspiracy," but again, I prefer the more abstract and unsaturated symbols, which I unname O and Ø.
Faith is an absolute prerequisite when one is circling in the obit of the Ø attractor, and in the absence of faith, one will remain stuck there, cash to ash and lust to dust. But with patient surrender, a point is reached whereby faith is slowly transformed, either to knowledge, or love, or virtue, or being.
Afterwards faith is still required, as one must continuously "empty oneself" in order for the endless process to continue. It's just that now one is "moving toward" instead of "away from" -- like a rocket that has escaped the earth's gravitational pull. At some point the ascent from earth becomes a descent to the moon, and "motion and gravity point in the same direction."
Now, you might think that the point of the spiritual life is to escape Ø in order to flee toward O, so to speak. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that this purely ascending approach is one way of doing it, but I think it is only a half measure. Beware of spiritual mentors who only teach you how to fly but not to land.
Rather, the point is to come "full circle" back round to Ø, which then becomes infused and revivified, so to speak, with O. Darkness and death are resurrected in the Light of the return. This is how we can say that our end is in our beginning, and vice versa, and how we can thereby know the place for the first time. The Poet was not merely being poetic, but noetic.
The octave -- the completion of the scale -- is simultaneously an arrival and a return, like the prodigal son. Various paradoxes of physics -- "wherever we go, we return; start and goal are one and the same; all paths travel back to their own beginning -- are in the world of tone, simple statements of fact."
Now, just as the melody represents the reality of immaterial horizontal wholeness, the chord, or harmony in general, is only possible because of our ability to transparently grasp its transcendent vertical wholeness. Again, the melody is in time, the harmony in space.
As Zuckerkandl desribes it, "the basic chord," "the holy chord of our music, is the triad, the conjoint of three tones arranged in a definite pitch pattern."
Here I am reminded of the vocal harmonies of the Byrds, in which Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark would generally double each other, but David Crosby would provide the real harmony by moving around from note to note within that frame, altering its center of gravity and creating a kind of ascending and descending vertical motion. At one moment he might take the lower note, but then move to the higher note, giving the passage a dynamic and soaring quality.
This is very different from the distressing experience Ms. Joan had the other day in being subjected to new age musical pap while undergoing a much deserved massage. As she put it, the masseuse "had a CD of so-called music that was only one long sustained note with buzzing and tinkling bells all around it. It created the opposite of peace and tranquility in my Spirit, and told me volumes about her own. I couldn't explain to her in words what was wrong, but now I know that I was experiencing the nihilistic 'music' of nothingness. This confirms to me also, that eternal nothingness is not bliss. It is madness."
That is exactly how Zuckerkandl describes it: a "filling of the gaps between tone and tone, a sirenlike glissading up and down, does not produce the most perfect musical motion but no musical experience at all; it produces mere noise." Hardly the appropriate Tones For Joan's Bones.
The next series of posts will further explicate this idea of a vertical approach to spirituality, in which the individual harmonizes with the ultimate Other, vs. O-bliterating one's own melody within it.
More harmonic goodness: