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Eurythmy as Visible Singing
GA 278

I. The Experience of Major and Minor

19 February 1924

Speech eurythmy has been developed up to a certain stage, and it may be said that we have achieved something in this domain. Until now tone eurythmy has only been developed in its very first elements, and due to a remarkable fact which has recently come to my notice, I have been led to give this short course of lectures. From various quarters it is strongly apparent that people have frequently found tone eurythmy more pleasing than speech eurythmy and comparatively easy to appreciate, whereas speech eurythmy has seemed much more alien to them. This sad fact, that more significance is attached to something still in its infancy than to something more fully developed, is really a proof that at the present time the understanding for eurythmy has not made much headway. It is of the utmost importance that this understanding should be fostered, and therefore I should like today to begin with certain introductory remarks which in the light of such understanding may enable you to work for eurythmy.

If we try to develop tone eurythmy out of eurythmy in the more general sense, the opportunity will arise of speaking about this understanding at least in an introductory way. It cannot be denied that on the part of eurythmists themselves, much can be done with a view to increasing a right understanding of eurythmy, for above all what is perceived by the onlooker must be borne in mind. The onlooker not only perceives the movement or gesture that is presented by the eurythmist, he also perceives what the eurythmist is feeling and inwardly experiencing. This makes it essential that the eurythmist actually experiences something while engaged in eurythmy, and especially that which is to be presented. In speech eurythmy this is the portrayal of the sound, and in tone eurythmy the portrayal of the musical sound.

So far [1915–24], with the exception of the forms [Note 1] which have been created for certain pieces of music, this portrayal of musical sound has consisted of nothing but the bare notes, nothing but mere scale [Note 2] If in speech eurythmy we had no more than we have today in tone eurythmy, this roughly would amount to the range of the vowels ah, a, ee, o, oo.

Just think how little we would have achieved artistically in speech eurythmy, if until now we had only been able to make use of the vowel sounds, ah, a, e, o, oo! But so far artistically we have actually had no more than this in tone eurythmy. This is why there is something depressing about the kind of judgements about tone eurythmy that reach us, which I have mentioned. And this is also why I believe it to be necessary that now we should at least begin to lay down the foundations of tone eurythmy.

It is necessary, above all, that in eurythmy we should get beyond the mere making of gestures and producing of movements, and that in the realm of tone eurythmy, and in speech eurythmy too, the actual sounds should be really felt. You must permit me to make this introduction, for in our speech today, and especially in our writing, we no longer have any conception of what a sound really is. This is because we no longer give the sound a name, but at the most briefly touch it.

We say ah. The Greek language was the last to say alpha. Go back to the Hebrew — aleph. The sound as such had a name then; the sound was something real. The further back we go in language, the more essentially real we find the sounds. When we name the first letter in the Greek alphabet, alpha, and trace back the significance of this word alpha (it is a word which really encompasses the sound), we find that even in the German language many words still exist closely related to what lies in the sound alpha or aleph — as, for instance, when we say Alp, Alpen — Alp, the Alps. And this leads us back to Alp-Elf, [the] Alp, [the] elf [but see Appendix 7. Translator's note], to a being in a state of constant activity, of becoming, of coming-into-being, of lively movement. The ah sound has completely lost all this because we no longer say alpha or aleph.

If the alpha or aleph is applied to the human being, then we can really experience the sound ah. And how do we experience ah? A snail could neither be an aleph, nor yet an alpha. But a fish could be an alpha, an aleph. Why? Because the fish has a spine, and because the spine is really the starting point for the development of such a being as an aleph. It is from the spine that those forces proceed which embrace an alpha-being.

Now try to understand that the spine is the point from which rays forth that which constitutes an alpha or aleph. Then you could roughly experience it by imagining that, as a human being, you could not receive much benefit from your spine [alone], if there were no ribs that go out from it, forming the body. If you then picture the ribs as detached and capable of movement, you get the arms. And then, if you consider it, you arrive at the eurythmic ah.

Figure 1

Fig. 1

Now you must not think that anyone watching eurythmy sees only this forked angle; if this were so, instead of stretching out your arms you might just as well open out a pair of scissors, or the firetongs! You cannot do this, however, for the onlooker must have a human being before him. And the human being has really to feel the alpha, the aleph, inside. He has to feel that he is opening himself to the world. The world approaches him and he opens himself to it. How do you open yourself to the world? You open yourself to the world most purely when you stand before the world in wonder. All knowledge, said the Greeks, begins with wonder, with amazement. And when you stand before the world in wonder you break out with the sound ah.

When you have made the eurythmy movement for ah, you have brought your astral body into that position which is indicated by the angle formed by the stretched arms. But this gesture will not ring true if you have never tried to experience the feeling of this fork-like movement of the arms, as has already been mentioned in earlier instructions. Feeling must be in it. You actually have to feel that the sound ah is an abbreviation in the air, some sort of abstraction as opposed to the living reality which the human being experiences.

When, let us say, we encircle something with rounded arms, we encircle it with love. When we open ourselves in the form of an angle, we receive the world in wonder. And this mood of wonder is felt by the astral body (contained as it is within the physical body, within the whole human being). This mood of wonder must be felt in practising, once or even repeatedly, if the ah is to be true. The making of signs is not the essential thing, but the feeling that it cannot be otherwise (corresponding to a specific inner experience) than that the arms assume a forked angle as you stand confronting the world.

Let us pass on to the sound a. [Presenting this sound accurately] depends on being able to feel the a — which means holding yourself upright while facing something. In ah we open ourselves to the world in wonder; we let the world approach us. When we experience a we do not simply allow the world to approach us, but we offer some resistance; we confront the world. The world is there and we stand facing it. This is why the movement for a demands that we touch ourselves (crossed hands [in Austrian dialect die Hand can begin at the shoulder; consequently it can mean ‘arm’. Translator's note.]). We touch ourselves. We say, as we experience the a sound: ‘I too am here confronting the world’. And you will learn to understand the a when, in making the gesture, you feel: ‘I too am here confronting the world, and I want to feel that I too am here.’ The bringing of one limb into contact with the other awakens this feeling that I too am here.

Now I would have liked things to have developed so that first what we call the letters or sounds would have been given, and then the urge would have inwardly arisen to develop these experiences out of the letters themselves, for then you would get hold of it. And certainly this has frequently happened subconsciously with many people, though it is not always definitely apparent. But the study of eurythmy must proceed from such things as these, too.

Let us take o. In making the gesture for o, you form a circle with both arms. You must feel that while experiencing the o-gesture, you cannot experience a. With a you confirm your presence: I too am here confronting the world. With o you go out of yourself, enclosing something within yourself You embrace something. It is important in the a that that which you are addressing stays outside and you are inside, within yourself With o there is a kind of going to sleep while awake, in that you allow your whole being to go for a little walk into the space which you enclose with the o-gesture. But now that other thing you are addressing is also within this space. Thus, when experiencing the o, your feelings are such as these: I approach a tree; I embrace this tree with my arms, but I myself am the tree; [Note 3] I have become a tree-spirit, a tree-soul. There is the tree, and because I myself have become a tree-soul, because I have become one with the tree, I make this gesture. I go out of myself. That which is important for me is enclosed in my arms. This is the feeling of o.

The feeling of oo is that of being bound up with something, yet wishing to get away from it; following the movement you make and going somewhere else, leaving yourself and preparing your way. I run along my arms when I make the movement for oo. I am convinced of it, that in oo I stream away, away, away — away in this direction.

You see that this is speech. Speech poses questions. ‘How does the human being relate to the things of the world?’ Speech always asks: ‘How does the human being relate to the things of the world? Does the world fill him with wonder? Does he stand upright confronting the world? Does he embrace it? Does he flee before it?’ Speech is the relationship of the human being to the world. Music is the relationship of the human being, as a being of soul and spirit, to him- or herself.

When, in the way I have just indicated, you try to enter into what may be experienced in the vowel sound o, let us say, or oo, then you have a distinct going-out of the soul from the body. This is also expressed in the pronunciation. Think of the way in which the sound o is spoken, right forward on the lips and with the lips clearly rounded: o. Oo is spoken with the lips pushed somewhat outwards: oo = away. We have, then, in the gestures made in the air by speech, this going-out-of-ourselves in the sounds o and oo.

The musical element presents the exact opposite of speech. When you are going out of yourself in speech, the astral body and ego leave the etheric and physical bodies, even if this only occurs partially and imperceptibly. It really is a falling-asleep while still awake when we utter a or oo, or when we do a or oo in eurythmy. It is a falling asleep when awake. When you are going out of yourself in o or in oo, you really are going with your soul into the element of soul. And when I say that with the sounds o and oo I am going with my astral body out of my physical body, I am speaking in terms of speech.

When I say: ‘In what I am now experiencing I am going with my soul into my spiritual being’ (for in spite of the fact that I go out, I am entering into my spiritual being; just as when falling asleep I enter into my spiritual being too, while forsaking my physical body), this is just the opposite [of what happens in speech]. Thus when I say: ‘I am entering into my spiritual being in o or in oo, I am speaking in musical terms. [Note 4]

Now when I reflect upon the sound o or oo, I am naturally denying the musical element. But the point in question is: what is the musical experience in this going-out-of-ourselves of o and oo? What is it in music itself that corresponds to the out-going connected with o and oo? The musical experience which is contained in o and in oo is, in the most comprehensive sense, the experience of the major mood.

In speaking of the experience of the major mood, it is certainly true that we experience this in the sounds o and oo. I cannot say that we change our interpretation into an experience of speech, but we change the way we live in this experience. Whenever the sounds o or oo are uttered, or when a word is uttered in which either of these two sounds is predominant, then, underlying the speech, we musically experience the major mood.

When we reflect upon ah and a, where we may very clearly perceive the experience, underlying the sounds, of the astral body remaining within the physical body (indeed, we are here made particularly aware of the physical body), this produces a different musical experience. Pay attention, then, to this growing awareness of the physical body. When you speak the sound ah, or fashion it in eurythmy, you cause your astral body to sink down as much as it can into your physical body. This entails a feeling of well-being. It is as if you could feel your astral body flowing through your limbs like — I will say ‘sparkling wine’ for the less abstemious people, while for the more abstemious I ought perhaps to say lemonade’! Thus in uttering the sound ah you actually sense something like the flowing of some sparkling fluid through your physical body. What is the kind of feeling that now arises in the physical body? Ah — a feeling of comfort or well-being arises.

Let us take the other sound. You stand upright confronting your surroundings and say: ‘I too am here.’ Now it is as if, let's say, you were to shelter from the cold by means of a protecting garment. You increase the intensity of your own existence. This feeling of being aware of something outside yourself and defending yourself against it, this reliance on yourself in the face of some other element, lies in the sound a. In both cases, in ah and in a, the physical body is taken hold of by the astral body.

The same thing can be experienced musically, too. Musically this can occur in the experience of the minor mood in the most comprehensive sense. The minor mood is always a retreat into yourself with the soul and spirit part of your being; it is a laying hold of the bodily by the soul and spirit. You will most easily discover what is to be felt in the eurythmic gestures as the differentiation between the major and the minor moods when you draw the experience of the major out of the living experience of the sounds o and oo, and when you draw the experience of the minor, again with feeling, out of the experience of the sounds ah and a — not out of the sounds themselves, but out of the experience.

When you enter into these things you will feel how little people today know about the nature of the human being. It must be said that in our modern world the understanding for such things is remarkably limited. But without this understanding, absolutely nothing productive can be achieved in so many realms. Unless such understanding is acquired, we shall never be able to stand with our whole being within the realm of art. Something artistic which has not been permeated with the whole human being is nothing; it is a farce. Something artistic can only endure when the whole human being has poured himself into it.

But then we really have to feel the connection between the world and the human being; we must feel how speech brings us into a relationship with the outer world, and music into a relationship with ourselves; how, in consequence, all the movements of speech eurythmy are, as it were, drawn from the human being and transplanted into the outer world, whereas the gestures of music [eurythmy] have to flow back into the human being. Everything which goes out in speech eurythmy has to lead back into the human being in tone eurythmy. [Note 5]

Today, as you know, the whole world of thought is chaotically fragmented. There is no living picture of anything. Take a person of what we call a sanguine temperament, one who lives intensely in what is outside himself. A sanguine person pleases us, that is, he makes an agreeable impression upon us, only when he utters the sounds o and oo. We get quite a bitter taste in the mouth when anyone of sanguine temperament speaks the sounds ah and a; it doesn't quite work. But people today do not possess such vivid perceptions, and this is why contemporary people create so little from the depths of their being.

Now let us take a person of melancholic temperament. To anyone who has understanding for such things, a melancholic person seems to be an absolute caricature when he speaks the sounds o and oo. It only seems right when he speaks the sounds ah and a. Here we have the going over into the everlasting major mood of the sanguine person and into the everlasting minor mood of the melancholic person.

Now let us think of a person who is simply bursting with health, as we say. Such an overwhelmingly healthy person is in the major mood, and for the most part his astral body makes movements which correspond to o and oo. His step is light; that is to say, he lives in a continuous oo. He takes on everything, because it pleases him; he can endure anything. He is continually in the feeling of oo; he is the major mood incarnate.

Let us take a sick person. He is continually in a state in which, without the element of wonder, but through the very fact of his illness, he imitates the mood of ah or the mood of a — more especially the latter. A sick person is perpetually in the minor mood. And it is not exactly a metaphor or something of an analogy when we ask: What is fever? Fever is the sound ah transposed into the physical realm, which a eurythmist or someone who speaks the ah produces in the astral realm. The mood of the minor projected into the physical plane produces fever; it is the same process which takes place when you utter the sound ah, but in speaking this process takes place on a higher level — the level of soul and spirit. The sound ah is a fever. Either it is fever or it is tears, but it is always a process which the human being produces in himself.

These things lead to a true knowledge of the human being only when they are understood through the feelings. And because the human being is partially healthy and partially ill, the development of that which is superabundantly healthy (which must be inherent in art) and the development of movements imbued with the power of healing are closely interwoven. The latter exists in the case of ill people. This close relationship exists because, in reality, the major and the minor moods are, on a higher plane, the same as health and illness — that is to say, the experience of health and illness. Now we must not think that because the minor mood is [connected with] illness, it is therefore something bad or in some way inferior. Being ill in the soul-world always signifies something quite different from being ill in the physical world. From all this, you will see that the moods of major and minor, when developed eurythmically, may in time bring about therapeutic results.

So you see there is actually a bridge between speech eurythmy and music eurythmy. And when in speech eurythmy we experience the vowel sounds rightly, in the way I have described for ah and a on the one hand and for o and oo on the other hand, we really have something that leads us towards the experience of major and minor. But the important fact we could seriously bring home to ourselves is that we tend to push (schieben) the musical element more inwards, whereas the movements of speech eurythmy we have to push away (abschieben).

Imagine the following: Take a step forwards with the right foot, trying to feel this step as vividly as you can; do it in such a way that you also express in feeling the involvement of the head: you take a step forward (your head not too far back, but more forward). This is the first gesture. Now we carry out a second gesture. Try to accompany the gesture you have just made with a movement of the right hand, palm outwards, as much as possible in the direction of the foot taking the step. Now you have made a second gesture.

Take the first gesture: the stepping. Take the second: the movement. And now try to add a third gesture by making a light movement of the left arm, touching the right arm as if you wanted to push it away (left arm slightly pushing the right). You take a step forwards, following in the same direction with the right arm, and finally pushing the right arm with the left. Here you have a certain gesture in its most extreme form. You have the step and the movement, with what you add with the left arm bringing about a forming gesture — for when you follow on with the left arm, you arrest what you have poured into the movement in the right arm and hold fast the movement. We then have:


Here you are really involved in something threefold, and you are so much within this threefold occurrence that you will actually be able to feel this as a threefold occurrence. In the stepping you are in a position to discover an intimation of the outgoing of your astral body. In the following on of the movement, which you make with the right arm, this outgoing feeling is intensified. And in what I have described as the formation, you can feel how the movement is held fast.

Now if you really feel what I have indicated in this gesture, if you put yourselves into it, having no other wish than to enter with your whole being into this step, movement and formation, then you have something that is threefold. And you will easily realize that the step is the foundation of everything; it is the starting point. The movement is felt as the continuation, and must be in harmony with the foundation. And the formation establishes the whole process.

You must experience all this yourselves. You can experience it in the most varied ways if you take the notes into consideration; you can make the gesture in the upper, lower or middle zones. If you do it in such a way as to have C below, the E in the middle (thus beginning with the step, leading the movement over into E, and trying to confer the G in the formation) then in this step, movement and formation you have presented the major triad. Fashion the major triad quite naturally and objectively, and put the experience of the major triad into what you yourself present as a human being in the world. Just as in the gestures presenting the sounds of speech you have to feel the inner content of the sound, so here, in step, movement and formation, you have to experience the chord. This is a first element.

Step: C
Movement: E
Formation: G

Now let us try to step backwards with the left foot, allowing the head to follow [in the same direction]. And now try to follow this with the left arm. You must follow your backward step with the left arm, taking care to hold the palm of the hand inwards. Be really relaxed as you start. Make the backward step together with the movement of the head and arm (hand on the chest) trying to achieve completion by putting the right arm across. Try to hold fast this position. The whole gesture should be done in such a way that it can actually be seen how the left arm is led inwards towards the body, the left hand being brought to the body, and how the right hand is carried over towards the left hand as though to hold it fast [Hand is probably Austrian dialect for ‘arm’. Translator's note].

Here you have presented in the step:
C in the movement: Eb
and in the formation: G

You have presented the minor triad, and when you keep these gestures in view and have repeatedly tried to keep them in view, you will come to the conclusion that these basic elements of music, the major triad and the minor triad, can be presented in no other way. It is only when you have become convinced that there is absolutely no other way of expressing the matter that you will really have felt it. You may try as you like to find some other way of doing it; it is only when another method pleases you less than the gestures shown here that you can really be said to have realized what dwells in them.

Now you see, you have basically expressed in the realm of music what is expressed for the vowel sounds in speech eurythmy. If I ask you to produce an ah in speech eurythmy it is really the same (in speech eurythmy) as when I asked you just now to produce a major, or a minor, triad. It is simply doing vowels.

Now there is one thing which I have not yet characterized. I said that we can experience the major mood as such in o and oo, and the minor mood as such (which unlikely as it appears, is really the case) in ah and a, but I have not yet mentioned the fact that there can be something which lies between. Consider the transition. Try to experience the transition from the mood of wonder to the embracing feeling in the sound o, or, vice versa, the transition from the embracing feeling of o to the mood of wonder. Here you go from without inwards; you pass from the ‘going out’ of the astral body to a ‘diving down’ of the astral body. Here you pass from illness to health, from health to illness. This is the ee. Ee is always the neutral feeling of yourself between the experience of going outwards and the experience of being within — both in relation to the physical body. Thus ee stands between ah and a on the one side, and o and oo on the other side.

And now try (you can think these things over before tomorrow and apply them for yourselves) to pass over from the experience of minor to the experience of major by simply changing [direction]. You first produce the experience of the minor, then you change it by placing yourself forward. Simply incline the head somewhat forward (in the minor experience it lies in a backward direction), and incline yourself forward, thereby changing the whole movement of the muscles. Instead of the step backwards with the left leg, you would now have to step forwards with the right leg; you simply bring that which you have in front out of the minor into the major; that is to say, you pass out of the major into the minor mood, or out of the minor into the major mood. The experience underlying this transition corresponds to the experience of ee in speech eurythmy. You will already sense the interesting variety of life underlying this transition from the major to the minor mood if you really carry out what I have just indicated.

You see, the point is this. When we initially enter into the nuances which lie in the major and the minor moods and the transition between them, we are really entering into what, in the realm of music, corresponds to the vowel sounds. You must take deeply into your soul this first principle, as I have described it. The gestures you have made for the major and the minor moods and the transition from the one to the other are the musical way of doing the vowels. The starting point is taken from the major and the minor moods.

The musical realm carries the fundamental moods corresponding to the vowels throughout its entire tonal configuration, through tension, resolution, and so on. [Note 6] And just as we can pass over from the spoken vowel sounds into words, so we may also pass over from the understanding of the elements of music (as, for instance, the simple chordal nature of the major and minor triads) into eurythmic understanding of the musical realm, the inner musical configurations.

Tomorrow at this time we shall continue.