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Eurythmy as Visible Singing
GA 278

II. Experience and Gesture; the Intervals

20 February 1924

Gesture which is to be used for the expression of music must be gesture rising out of actual experience, and this can only be an experienced gesture if the underlying experience is there first.

You will understand this if you once more place before your soul the origin of music and speech in the human being. [7] Music and language, that is to say, the sounds of music and of speech, are connected with the whole human being. When the human being sings or speaks, the experience of the singing or speaking is in the astral body and ego.

Now everything that lives in the astral body and ego has its physical manifestation in air and warmth. Let us suppose that someone is singing or speaking. Imagine to yourselves as vividly as possible how the sound-formation of speech or music comes about. The formations of speech and music live purely as soul-element in the astral body and ego. Along with the astral body and ego they are then imparted to the air, to the organs of breathing and everything connected with them; they are imparted to the air and the organs of breathing by and through the astral body.

But you know that when any body, [like] a volume of air, is compressed, it becomes warmer. It becomes inwardly warmer. Compression causes an increase of inner warmth. When such a body expands, it uses this warmth again in the process of expansion. In the oscillating air, that is to say, in the alternation between condensed and rarefied air, there are continual fluctuations of temperature: warm, cold; warm, cold; warm, cold.

Thus there enters into the stream of singing or speaking the element of warmth. The ego lives in this element of warmth, and singing and speech gain their inwardness through this. Musical sound and the sounds of speech actually acquire their inner quality of soul from the warmth that, as it were, is carried on the waves of this air (which form the sound purely outwardly); warmth is carried on the actual flowing waves of the air. The astral body is active in the flowing air itself, and the ego lives in the warmth which flows on the waves of the air. But the astral body and ego are not only present in the air and warmth, they are also present in the fluid and solid elements of the human body. When a human being speaks or sings, the astral body and ego are partially withdrawn from there, and limit themselves to the air and warmth. Singing and speaking do in fact entail a withdrawal of the astral body and ego from the structure of the human body, but not completely, as in sleep. This is a partial withdrawal from the solid and fluid elements of the human body, which then remain behind. From this you will see that when someone speaks or sings, something takes place in his whole body.

We will now try to become aware of how the human being perceives what is taking place here. We know that the sounds of speech and of singing are activated by the larynx and all that is connected with it. The human being perceives by means of the ear. Here we have two organs clearly placed at the periphery of the body. Feeling is poured into these organs. In the senses there is the actual active feeling, active feeling of the soul. We feel with the eye; we feel with the ear. But it is also feeling which stimulates activity in the larynx and its neighbouring organs. Feeling is at work here. The imagination (Vorstellung) is merely pushed into the feeling. It is feeling which is at work. The human being, as it were, is specialized in the organs connected with hearing, speech and singing when he sings or takes in what is sung, or speaks or takes in what is spoken. Hence the actual experiences remain in the ear and larynx, and do not really enter into consciousness. [8]

Everything that can be laid hold of by the senses, and everything that can be expressed through the organs of speech, can also be expressed by the entire body, by the entire human being. In the movements of eurythmy, the whole human being becomes a sense-organ. The whole range of feeling, as it streams and strongly pulsates through the body, becomes incitement and an organ of perception—the whole range of feeling with the human being as the instrument. And so what otherwise remains an experience of the ear or larynx only, now has to become an experience of the whole human being. When it becomes an experience of the whole human being, it quite naturally becomes gesture. Once the experience is understood, is laid hold of, then the experience becomes gesture. Let us make this clear with a few examples. Think of a musical sound as such, and in order to have a starting point, take any note as keynote.

The connection of the sound with feeling will become clear to you when you recall that the animal (which is of a lower order than man) breaks forth into sound as the result of a sensation of well-being, of pleasure, or of some sort of pain. Now pleasure, comfort and pain are experiences of feeling. Ultimately every sound uttered by the human being originates from some such basic source. When the human being experiences pleasure or well-being, he feels impelled to utter sounds. Why? Why does the human being utter sound? You might say he could also remain silent. Why does the human being break out into sound when he is overcome with delight?

What does a feeling of pleasure imply? To be overcome with pleasure really means that we lose ourselves in our surroundings. Everything which induces pleasure means that the human being is losing himself. And everything painful means an excessive awareness of himself. You are aware of yourself too strongly when you are in pain. Just think how much more aware of yourself you are when you are ill, or experience some kind of pain, than you are when the whole body is free from pain. When we are in pain we are too strongly within ourselves, and we are excessively aware of ourselves. In pleasure, on the other hand, we nearly, or even utterly, are losing ourselves. Harmonious feeling is brought about by the balance between pleasure and pain, by giving ourselves up entirely to neither the pleasure nor the pain.

Why does the human being give vent to sound when experiencing pleasure, pain, or any other nuance of feeling—each of which in the last resort leads back either to pleasure or pain? Why does he produce sound? He does so in order to keep a hold on himself when he is at the point of losing himself in pleasure. The sound enables him to keep hold of himself; otherwise in this pleasure his astral body with his ego would leave him. By giving vent to sound he is able to keep hold of himself. This is at the root of all phenomena in which sound is produced by a living being. (For instance, the moon works very strongly upon certain creatures, such as dogs. It threatens to tear away a dog's astral body. And the dog barks at the moon because by this means it anchors its astral body.)

When the human being gives vent to sound for itself (and any note may be regarded as the keynote) it means that he is resisting this tendency to lose himself in pleasure. He is holding fast to his astral body.

And when the ego and astral body sink down into pain, then, because the human being is too intensely aware of himself, he quite rightly tries to tear himself away from himself by the utterance of some note or sound. In the plaintive sound of the minor mood there is an effort to tear free from an excessive awareness of self.

When we think of it, by saying this we are already speaking in gesture. There is not the least need to interpret anything artificially, because we speak in gesture. We need only to understand what occurs here, and we speak in gesture. If I say: ‘I have sunk too deeply into myself and must tear myself out of myself- then indeed it is beyond doubt that some sort of gesture which proceeds from me is a natural gesture, and is the actual expression of what I experience. It expresses what the experience is. And so the understanding of such an experience already indicates the gesture. You cannot do otherwise when describing the experience than to describe the gesture. For this reason the movements of eurythmy are not arbitrary, but actually reveal what is experienced.

Now let us suppose that someone, either in pleasure or pain, has produced a sound which we will regard as the keynote. The underlying mood is unfinished; it cannot stay like that, for if it did, the person in question would be constantly obliged to sing the keynote or to utter a sound. When experiencing pleasure he would never be able to cease uttering this sound; he would have to sustain it forever if the sound itself did not exert a certain calming influence. The human being cries out into the world as a result of pleasure or pain, and here is an incomplete condition of human experience, an unfinished condition of soul for human experience.

Let us now take the transition from keynote to octave. In the transition from keynote to octave, the octave simply falls into the keynote. It is as if you stretched out your hand and came into contact with an object. Through this external touch the longing you felt for something outside yourself is satisfied. In the same way the octave comes to meet you from the world in order to calm the prime within itself. That which was unfinished to begin with is now complete. When the octave is added to the prime, a wholeness is created again. In the course of these lectures you will see how the gestures come about by themselves if we penetrate to a true understanding of the underlying experience. [9]

Let us consider [the interval of] the fifth—the fifth which is united in some way to the keynote. It is essential here truly to acquire the experience of the fifth. The remarkable thing about the fifth is that when the human being holds the keynote and the interval of the fifth from it, he feels he is a completed human being. The fifth is the human being.

Naturally such things can only be expressed in the language of feeling—nevertheless, [we can say] the fifth is the human being. It is exactly as if the human being inwardly extended as far as his skin, as if he laid hold of his own skin and enclosed himself off within it. The fifth is the skin as it encloses the human being. And never, in the realm of musical sounds, can the human being feel his humanity so strongly as he does when he is experiencing the fifth in relation to the keynote. What I have just said may be more intelligible in the following considerations.

Let us now compare the experience of the fifth with that of the seventh and the third. The experience of the seventh (sounding either harmonically or melodically) involves those sounds which were especially favoured in the world of ancient Atlantis; it was the interval that gave them special delight. [10] Why was this? It was because in the epoch of ancient Atlantis, people's experience of going outside themselves was still a positive one. In the seventh we really do go out of ourselves. In the fifth we go as far as the skin; in the seventh we are outside ourselves. We leave ourselves in the seventh. Indeed in the seventh as such there is absolutely nothing soothing. It might be said that when a person cries out in the keynote because he is being hurt, and then adds the seventh to it, he is really crying out about the crying, in order to escape from it again. He is quite outside himself. Whereas the fifth is experienced at the surface of the skin, and the human being feels his humanity, in the seventh there is the feeling of breaking through the skin and going into his surroundings. He goes out of himself; he feels he is in his surroundings.

In the third there is a distinct feeling of not reaching as far as the skin, but of remaining within yourself. The experience of the third is very intimate. You know that what you settle with the third you settle with yourself alone. Just try out how unfamiliar the experience of the fifth is compared to the experience of the third. The feeling of the third is an intimate one which you settle with yourself in your heart. In the fifth you feel that other people too can see what you experience, because you go as far as the skin. It is only by means of feeling that such things can be experienced. And in the experience of the seventh you are outside yourself.

And now recollect what I said yesterday. The gesture which characterizes the keynote is the step. This step gives us the position. The third is characterized either by an accompanying or a following gesture of one arm, indicating an entering into movement, while following in the direction of this gesture. The direction of the gesture is followed in such a way that if it is the major third, you still remain within your arm. You remain within it. I have characterized the fifth as something that you form. You return, just as the skin forms the human being on all sides. In the triad, regardless of whether it is major or minor, we have:

Inner activity: the step
Remaining within yourself: the movement
Closing off what is outside: the formation

Now the point is this: When trying to give clear expression to the remaining-within-yourself in the third, it is possible to vary the movement. In order to introduce some variety, you might, for instance, stretch out your arm and, while continuing the direction of the gesture, move in some way such as this (right arm stretched out, the hand moving up and down). Now you are within yourself. Thus the interval of the third is well expressed when you first take up the position, and then make the movement—continuing, however, to move within the movement. Now you have inwardness.

Suppose that you are dealing with a major third. Then you will show inwardness by making the arm movement go away (out) from yourself. If you express the minor third, you remain more within yourself, which you indicate with your arm back towards yourself (inwards). You have a gesture that really expresses the experience of the third. [11]

If you want to experience these things you must repeatedly practise the corresponding gesture and try to see how the experiences of the intervals actually flow from the gesture, and how they are within it. Then the corresponding experience will grow together with the gesture, and you will possess that which makes the matter artistic. The experience will grow with the gesture. Only then will the matter become artistic.

In the experience of the seventh this is especially apparent. With the seventh, the essential thing is that you go out of yourself, for it is a going-out-of-yourself. Somehow the gesture has to show that you go out of yourself (you stretch out the arm, turning the hand while shaking it). The natural expression of the seventh is a movement which you do not follow, but in which the hand is allowed to be shaken. And when you compare the experience of the fifth with that of the seventh, you will feel in the fifth the necessity of closing off, of giving it form, of making so to speak an enclosing movement. This is not possible in the experience of the seventh, for in the seventh it is as if your skin disappears while experiencing the seventh, and you stand there as a sort of flayed Marsyas. [12] The skin flies away and the whole soul goes out into the surroundings. If you want to introduce the other arm as well into the movement to support the seventh experience, you can do so, of course, for there is never a question of pedantry or retaining something schematic. In such a case you would have somehow to indicate the seventh with the other hand. Of course this must be beautifully done.

Thereby you will experience, when you enter deeply into the matter in this way, that the experience itself becomes gesture. And eurythmy will only prosper when the experience itself becomes gesture.

A eurythmist must become in some respects a new human being compared to what he or she was before, because in general, through the fact that we speak or sing, we have brought about a certain attentiveness to what we actually want in the gesture. We lead over what we want in gesture into speech and song. When we retrieve it, gesture arises. And a professional eurythmist (if I may use such a philistine expression)* has to feel it absolutely natural to translate everything into gesture. Indeed, when mixing in ordinary, polite society, a eurythmist cannot help feeling a sense of restraint and restriction at not being able to eurythmize all sorts of things in front of people. Isn't it true, that just as the painter itches to paint when he sees something and is unable to (for he would like to paint everything but cannot always be at it, and thus has to restrain himself), so too a tired eurythmist is actually something terrible? A eurythmist cannot manifest fatigue as something natural. It is really dreadful to see a eurythmist sitting down tired during a rehearsal, for it is exactly (isn't it?) as if someone suddenly became rigid or got paralysed. I have sometimes observed in eurythmy rehearsals that eurythmists sit down when there is a little pause. Such things do not, I believe, happen in Dornach, but here and there it does occur. I probably turn quite pale, for my blood runs cold at this quite impossible sight of a tired eurythmist. There is no such thing! In life, of course, there is such a thing, that is the paradox, but you must sense that this is so. So I do not say you must not sit down if you are tired, but I do say: If you do, you must regard yourself as a caricature of a eurythmist!

These things must be said in order that the fundamental mood of the artistic process may be brought into the matter, for art has to be based upon the mood, upon that which runs through everything like a connecting thread. And especially such an art as eurythmy, where the whole human being is involved, can never prosper if this mood is lacking, if this mood does not permeate everything.

When these things have become real experiences, you will simply and truly feel eurythmy as you do speaking and singing. You must accustom yourselves, however, just as you experience the sounds of language, to experience singing too for the activity of eurythmy. It is quite true to say that the eurythmist must experience the musical element in a fuller sense than, for instance, a singer does. With a singer it depends upon his entering right into the musical sound, taking hold of it, being able to hear it, and living in an element in which his body comes to his assistance to a marked degree. The body does not come to the assistance of the eurythmist; for in eurythmy it is the soul which must engage in the gesture what the senses or larynx have to do in singing and speaking.

It is necessary to preface the description of the actual movements by this somewhat lengthy introduction, for these things are especially important for the whole feeling of the eurythmic element. The eurythmic element will not be understood if such things are not entered into with intensity. An understanding must be acquired by the eurythmist for all that I have stressed when giving introductions to performances, but which in the present time is rarely correctly understood. I often say that the prose content of the words do not make for the poetical element, the artistic and poetic element. There are people today who read a poem as though it were prose. You do not have the poem there. The prose content does not constitute the poem. The poem is what lives in the musical, sculptural and pictorial element of the words, in their melodic motifs, rhythm and beat, and so on. Anyone who wishes to express what should be expressed in poetical form, must be vividly aware that the words must not be used merely on account of their meaning, but arranged according to the beat, the rhythm, the melodic motifs, or that which is pictorial in the formation of the sounds, and similar things.

We have, consequently, to go one stage beyond the mere content of language, for in so far as its actual content is concerned, language is inartistic. It exists for prose. This is the inartistic element in language. Not until language is fashioned, not until it is given shape and form, does it become artistic.

What has been said here about language is quite obvious for singing, of course. We can see that our age does not care much for real artistic creation, for it happens that modern music [1924] too exhibits the tendency that does not allow the actual music, the progression of notes, to speak for itself, but tries to express something quite different by this means.

Now you must not misunderstand me, for it is not my intention to make any anti-Wagnerian propaganda. Time and again I have emphasized Wagner's significance in the culture of our age. This, however, is not because I regard his music as being ‘musical music’, but rather because we have to admit the demand of the present age for ‘unmusical music’. It is apparent to me that unmusical music has its justification in our age. Fundamentally speaking, Wagner's music is unmusical. [13] And it is really necessary in an age like ours, when music should also become gesture, to point the way to musical experience as such, when musical experience is to be expressed in gesture, and to show how the interval of the third represents inwardness, and the fifth a boundary, the seventh a going-out-of-yourself. And what is it that gives the feeling of inner satisfaction in the octave? The inner satisfaction in the octave is due to the fact that here, I would like to say, we get away from the danger inherent in the seventh. We escape from this danger inherent in the seventh and re-find ourselves outside.

With the octave it is like this, as if—with the seventh—you had become a flayed Marsyas, without your skin, the soul departing, the skin flying off and is getting away; but now you feel in the octave: ‘I am stripped of my skin, but it is coming, returning, I'll have it in a moment, it is about to return, it is there approaching and yet it is still outside.’ You have indeed grown somewhat, you have expanded and become fuller. It is as though you grow while experiencing the octave.

Obviously, then, the movement for the experience of the octave is not the same as that for experiencing the seventh. The experience is attained by turning round the whole hand outside yourself. The interval of the octave is expressed by turning the hand, starting with the palm facing outwards. If you wish to give full expression to the octave, you can of course make the same movement in this way too (in the same way, but carried out with both arms and hands). Here again it is self-evident that these things must be practised so well that they become second nature. Just as the musician has to get the producing of the notes into his fingers, so the eurythmist must get the corresponding gestures into his or her whole body.

This is why it is so necessary for the basic elements of eurythmy to be repeatedly practised. Such elementary movements as those I have briefly indicated (and shall develop further in the course of the next few days) must become second nature so it is no longer necessary to think about them, any more than it is necessary to think about the letters of a word that is spoken. If we say the word ‘letter’ we do not need to think, for we know quite well how its component sounds have to be pronounced. And so we have to reach the point where the movements for the intervals, triads, and so on, are produced out of ourselves quite naturally. You will then see how easily the other things arise. And above all you will increasingly realize how the experience passes over into gesture.

In order to understand this, let us deal with the difference between concords and discords. As you know, triads are concordant or discordant; a four-note chord is actually always discordant.

You will have realized yesterday from the movements for the triads, that in order to give expression to the experiences of the triad, the assistance of the whole human being must be invoked. In the first place we have what I characterized as the step. The step essentially entails the use of one leg. Then, with both major and minor chords, we have the movement with one arm, and the forming with the other. You may say: ‘I have nothing else to use.’ Well, as you do have two legs, you have a means of expressing a chord of four notes. And now you may say: I really cannot step forwards with one leg and backward with the other, simultaneously. And yet you can do this if you jump. You see, we arrive at this quite naturally.

There is no other means of presenting a four-note chord than by jumping somewhat, moving one leg forwards and the other backwards. This is how a four-note chord is presented. But think for a moment what happens here. It would be difficult, as well as not looking particularly beautiful, to jump without bending the knees. You cannot jump easily with totally stiff legs, quite apart from the ungraceful appearance. In jumping you must bend at the knees, so that in the jumping movement necessary for the four-note discord (because of the nature of the body and its relation to the environment) you really get the bending of the knees as the gesture for the discord. The natural movement for a discord is the bending of the knees entailed by jumping.

From this, however, something else arises. If you have a discordant triad you can again apply the same principle. With a concordant triad you take a step forwards; with a discordant triad you must also make a bending movement. There is no necessity to bend as with jumping, but you can bend. And so you express the discordant triad by moving with bended knees. You can discover this from the fact that a four-note chord (which is always a discord) can only be done by a jump in order to set both legs into movement; for you just do not have four members of your body in order to express a discord of four notes, so you have to jump, coupled with bending. This gives us, therefore, bending as the expression of the discord.

Now just as a musician has to practise his exercises, a tremendous inner liveliness is attained by practising the alternation between discords and concords, passing from one to the other simply with a view to experiencing in their gestures the change of mood, the change in the actual feeling.

If you think of all I have just said, you will find the experience of the fourth of particular interest. In the third we are intimately within ourselves. In the fifth we come just to the boundary of the body. The fourth lies between. And the fourth has this striking characteristic, that here the human being experiences himself inwardly, although not so intimately as in the third. But he does not even reach his surface. He experiences himself beneath this surface. He remains, as it were, just beneath it. He separates himself from the surrounding world, and creates himself within himself. He does not form himself, as in the fifth, where the external world also compels this forming, but he forms himself out of the needs of his own soul. The experience of the fourth is such that the human being feels his humanity through his own inner strength, whereas in the fifth it is through the world that he feels his humanity. In the fourth he says to himself ‘You are really too big; you cannot experience yourself because you are so big. Make yourself a little smaller, yet stay as important as your size.’ In the fourth you make yourself into a snug, comfortable dwarf Thus the fourth demands a very strong relation to yourself. You can achieve this when, instead of simply going outwards or inwards as in the third, you draw the fingers sharply together as if to concentrate the strength of the hand in itself In this way the fourth is expressed and revealed.

These, then, are the principles which have to be considered before entering more deeply into the gestures of the musical element, for without the experience of these principles no truly artistic gestures can come about. I am sure you will have plenty to do when you come to work through all these details. It is better therefore not to give too many gestures in one session, for what has been given must first be assimilated. So we shall continue tomorrow.



1. It has a bourgeois ring in German. Translator's note.