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Eurythmy as Visible Speech
GA 279

XI. How One May Enter into the nature of Gesture and Form

8 July 1924, Dornach

My dear Friends,

We shall now see how many of the difficulties with which we are faced in eurhythmy are bound to arise if we do not work out of a deep and inward understanding of the gestures and movements as we learned to understand them yesterday. These difficulties present themselves when, for example, it is necessary to pass over from one consonant to another, or from one vowel to another; and you will have seen, from what has already been said, that as far as the spiritual element of language is concerned, what lies between the sounds is of paramount importance, just as in music that which is truly musical lies between the tones. The tones are the physical, as it were, the material element; the spiritual element of the music lies in the inner movement leading from one tone to the next.

In just the same way the spiritual essence of language is to be found in the transition from sound to sound. If, for instance, I am conscious of the existence of spirit in matter and on the other hand, am conscious that the sound as such is a physical, material, means of expression, it will not be difficult for me to perceive that the spiritual element must necessarily lie in the transition from sound to sound. Yesterday we learned to know the spiritual significance, the spiritual reality underlying certain movements and postures. Today we must try gradually to link up all that we learned yesterday with what we already know as the eurhythmic formation of the sounds.

With this in view, we will begin as follows: First of all, I must ask those eurhythmists who represented the Zodiac to take up the same position on the stage as they had yesterday … and now we must add those who represented the planets. You know already from the previous lecture which of the animals in the Zodiacal circle each one of you represents, so that now I can ask you to note carefully what follows. We shall connect each of the signs of the Zodiac with a different consonant:

Aries: v
Taurus: r

These are really half vowel sounds, and should be thought of as vowels into which there enters a consonantal element. (Both are related to the vowel sound a.)

Gemini: h
Cancer: f (in the German language v also)
Sagittarius: g
Capricorn: l
Aquarius: m
Pisces: n
Leo: t (Tao)
Virgo: b
Libra: ts
Scorpio: z

(It is essential, my dear friends, to take careful note of these correspondences).

Now we will take the inner planetary circle:—

Sun: au
Venus: a
Mercury: i
Moon: ei
Mars: e
Jupiter: o
Saturn: u

At this point I must ask each of you to take up your own position, that is to say, each one of you must make the movement or gesture that you made yesterday. Now you must pass, over from this movement to the corresponding sound, and from this sound return once more to your original position or movement.

In this way you get a gesture corresponding to the sound, both preceding and following the sound itself; and it is from these gestures that you should seek to discover the transition leading from one sound to the next.

You will, of course, have to work out all this in detail later on, so that you do not lay undue emphasis on what lies between the sounds. Today we have in the first place to see what can be drawn out of the constellation we have formed already, and which we now have standing before us. You each of you know your own sound, and must make it whenever it occurs. In this way the whole poem will arise out of a combination of 12 plus 7, and we shall see how a poem can be interpreted in eurhythmy by making use of such a constellation. As a preliminary you must each make your own gesture or movement, and continue to make it while I begin to read the poem quite slowly. As the sounds follow one another you will each make your own particular sound as it occurs, passing into the sound from your previous movement, and returning to this again. (But you must all be as alert as terriers, because it is from out of the whole complex of sounds that the poem takes its shape.)

Edel sei der Mensch
Hilfreich und gut!
Denn das allein
Unterscheidet ihn
Von allen Wesen,
Die wir kennen.

Heil den unbekannten
Höhern Wesen,
Die wir ahnen!
Ihnen gleiche der Mensch;
Sein Beispiel lehr’ uns
Jene glauben.

Now I shall continue to read the poem, and you will make the same movements you made yesterday—movements that correspond to the zodiacal and planetary circles. At the same time, while still holding the gestures, you will move round in a circle, each of you making your own sound as it occurs in the text. You will see that the effect is now much more beautiful:

Denn unfühlend
Ist die Natur:
Es leuchtet die Sonne
Über Bös’ und Gute,
Und dem Verbrecher
Glänzen, wie dem Besten,
Der Mond und die Sterne.

Wind und Ströme,
Donner und Hagel
Rauschen ihren Weg
Und ergreifen
Vorüber eilend
Einen um den Andern.

Auch so das Glück
Tappt unter die Menge,
Fasst bald des Knaben
Lockige Unschuld,
Bald auch den kahlen
Schuldigen Scheitel.

If you are careful to keep at exactly the right distance from one another, you will see how, by this means, by allowing the whole thing to develop out of a reality, out of the living movement of the circle and out of the spiritual gestures, each separate sound stands out against a background suitable to it, a background which imbues it with a new spirituality.

What I have said in this connection is of the very greatest importance for those of you who have already learned the elements of eurhythmy and are far enough advanced to be able, for instance, to express in eurhythmy such a poem as Goethe’s ‘Zauberlehrling’. This marks a quite definite stage in one’s eurhythmic development, and is, up to a point, a stage that may be regarded as complete in itself. But once having reached this stage it becomes necessary to work very intensively along the lines I have just indicated. For, by practising the gestures that you were shown yesterday, and by studying the why in which these gestures may be made to lead over into the individual sounds, an unusual, and at the same time most necessary flexibility will be brought into the fashioning of the sounds themselves.

See how beautiful it is when the eurhythmist representing Capricorn frames her sound in such a way that, before and after the sound, this gesture makes its appearance. The sound, the letter, must be drawn forth from the gesture, and must be allowed to sink back into the gesture once more. In this way you obtain gestures that provide a frame for the sounds. In other words: a sound is correctly expressed in eurhythmy only when—well, shall we say at any rate, to some extent—it is consciously made to grow out of this gesture and to return to it again. It is, of course, obvious that these gestures can only be touched upon in passing.

You will also gain very much—not as yet with regard to public performance, about which I shall speak later—but for the actual learning of eurhythmy, when you introduce these things into solos, duets, trios, etc. Let us take the case of a single individual, the eurhythmist who represents Capricorn, for instance, and let us suppose that this eurhythmist were asked to express a poem by means of consonants only, leaving out the vowel sounds. She would then have to choose the shortest possible way of getting to the place of the particular consonant in question, forming it only when actually reaching the spot. Then, passing on her way from this consonant to the following one she would have to make the gesture corresponding to the latter—and so on, throughout the poem. These things are of the very greatest importance. By such means eurhythmy can gradually be led over into the very nature of man’s being, for the gestures are of such a kind that they are actually based upon the being of man. Thus we gain the possibility of building up the whole form, the eurhythmic form of a poem in such a way that it expresses not merely the inner judgment of the individual performer, but in addition to this the living relationship between one eurhythmist and another, when several are taking part, and a living relationship with space.

Now today you will naturally not be in a position to do more than carry out the particular movement, the particular sound each one of you has been given. At this point, however, we will for once permit ourselves to stand, not facing the audience in the usual way, but turned towards the centre of the circle, so that you can all watch the eurhythmist who is making the consonants, each in its appropriate place. This eurhythmist, after making a particular consonant—for the moment we will leave the vowels on one side—moves towards the place of the next consonant, and makes the movement expressing this towards the eurhythmist representing it in the circle … You see how well it is going already, and how beautiful it looks.

The twelve eurhythmists forming the outer circle have, therefore, to pay due attention to their own sounds. The first sound that occurs must be made by the eurhythmist to whom the particular sound belongs; then the one who is running the form must be on the look out for the next consonant, and must move towards the eurhythmist representing it. The latter must likewise be ready, and must make the consonant also. Thus both will make the same consonant face to face. You will see that in this way we get a very beautiful movement.

At a later stage the same exercise must be practised without the circle actually being formed. Then one eurhythmist does the whole thing alone, as though surrounded by a phantom circle, and seeing in imagination each movement being carried out by a phantom eurhythmist.

I will now read a short poem, and you will express it in the way I have indicated. Everybody must remain standing with the exception of Frl. S... whom we will ask to undertake the moving part.

Ach (now begin to move) ihr Götter! grosse Götter (the r is here similar to a)

In dem weiten Himmel droben!
Gäbet ihr uns auf der Erde
Festen Sinn und guten Mut:
O, wir liessen euch, ihr Guten,
Euren weiten Himmel droben!

In this way it will immediately become clear to you that the forms which one makes, need in no wise be arbitrary, but should always be built up on a sound and reasonable basis. Nothing obvious or trivial should be allowed to enter into form. If, for instance, the word “Bauch” (stomach) should occur in a poem, we should be going to work in quite the wrong way were we to try and express this word by means of a realistically shaped form. What we have to do is to base our forms on language as such; we have to make use of the forms hidden in the sounds and in the spiritual gestures which we studied together yesterday.

And now we will see how beautiful it looks when we express the same poem by means of the vowel sounds. Frl. H... will you take the principal part this time? The others join in with the vowels.

You know the relative position of the letters towards which you have to move.

Ach, ihr Götter! grosse Götter

Be careful to make no intermediary movement, but stand still when no new vowel sound occurs. When the same vowel comes twice running one should remain standing quite quietly on the particular spot one has reached in the form. In this way a very beautiful effect is obtained.

Ach, ihr Götter! grosse Götter
In dem weiten Himmel droben!
Gäbet ihr uns auf der Erde

Just think what a splendid exercise you can make out of these few lines; they provide you with an example in which, having arrived at a certain spot with a vowel sound, you must stand quite still when it is repeated.

You can, however, only experience such an exercise in the right way, if you have developed a true feeling for all that lives in speech. I will take these first three lines as an illustration of my meaning. I cannot say that I will recite these lines; I cannot say that I will declaim them; but I will intone them in two different ways, so that you can see what really lies in speech, and what is absolutely necessary for the eurhythmist to feel if the content of a poem is to come to expression.

a i ö e o e ö e
i e ei e i e o e
ä e i u i au e e e

You must realize how entirely different the feeling is when we have: der Erde—e e e, compared with the feeling that arises when one vowel sound follows another. If you practise such exercises you will become very sensitive to these things.

Something similar is to be found in the consonants also, and it is upon this that the beauty of the poem largely depends. It is, moreover, fundamentally true that one has in no way mastered speech if one does not prepare a poem in some way such as this: To begin with, the vowels should be made to ring out while the consonants are barely indicated, and then the vowels should be allowed to fall into the background while the consonants resound in their turn. Just imagine the mood, the character you get by taking the consonants:

ch hr g tt r gr ss g tt r
n d m w t n h mm l dr bn
g b t hr ns f d r rd
fst n s nn nd g t n m t

In this way you have entered into the feeling of the vowels and consonants, one after the other. And it is this which the eurhythmist must make a point of practising; then the body will become supple; it will actually be what it must become if it is to be used as an instrument. You must have a certain reverence for eurhythmy if you wish to be eurhythmists. This reverence must become conviction. If you are actually to imitate all the movements made by your larynx when you say even a moderately complicated sentence, then indeed you have much to learn. You have learned it already in your pre-earthly life.

In earthly existence we have some slight repetition of this in the response made by the larynx to the sounds heard in the environment, for the larynx imitates such sounds. In the spiritual world, however, knowledge of this kind is never acquired intellectually, but is of such a nature that it is intimately connected with feeling. By means, therefore, of exercises such as those we have been practising here, the feeling life is intensified and stimulated.

The point is not so much that we should immediately think of performing this Dance of the Planets (Planetentanz); for then, having decided upon this dance, for which one requires 12 plus 7 people—thus 19 people in all—we are liable to be told by those for whom the performances are to be given: You must please bring only seven eurhythmists (including dressers), for we cannot possibly afford more. So there you are; what is one to do? If the matter is rightly understood the point will be not so much the actual performing of such a Dance of the Planets, but rather the making of one’s own all that has been given in, these two lectures dealing with the transition from the spiritual gestures to the gestures expressing the sounds. If you do this you will have done much towards making your bodies supple and you will develop a fine and delicate feeling for what is essential in eurhythmy.

In this course of lectures we wish not only to go once more over the old ground, but also to consider everything that is likely to further the progress of eurhythmy.

Now this progress is often hindered by the belief frequently held that it is not necessary to study eurhythmy in order to be able to do it. Certain people have even gone so far as to wish to be teachers of eurhythmy after having watched eurhythmy performances for a matter of two or three weeks. Imagine how ridiculous such pretensions would be considered with regard to music or painting! We must gain sufficient insight into these things to know that eurhythmy is something that makes man, in accordance with the possibilities of his organism, into an instrument, a means of expression. This, however, can only be achieved if those things are also practised which are not necessarily intended to be shown, but which, nevertheless, help to develop that suppleness of movement essential to performance. Consider for a moment all that is done by those specializing in other arts. You have probably all heard of the famous Liszt piano—very likely other composers have made use of it also—a piano having keys but no strings. Liszt practised on this piano; he always had it with him, and practised on it constantly. He naturally did not do this in order to make music, but in order to acquire technical dexterity. His neighbours heard nothing of it; thus it is good for other people also when one practises in this way! The neighbours are not disturbed the whole night long; one can practise throughout the night without disturbing a soul. It is only there for the purpose of bringing about organic flexibility.

What we have been studying in these two lectures is absolutely fundamental to eurhythmy in that it brings into the organism a eurhythmic technique of movement and posture.

After this digression we will go back to the last lines of the poem:

‘Festen Sinn und guten Mut:’

Think of all we have here, of all that we absorb into ourselves with these words: Und gu (you must remain quietly in u) ten (you return to the previous place): Mut. The gradual finding of one’s way into the movement which one feels to be natural when passing from one vowel to another, or which one feels to be natural when the same vowel occurs more than once in succession, this it is which creates the right mood and impression.

‘O, wir liessen euch ihr Guten
Euren weiten Himmel droben!’

By this means it is possible to experience the vowels and consonants in their juxtaposition. In this connection I must expressly point out that it is not a question here of absolute position; I might just as well have asked the eurhythmist representing t (Leo) to stand somewhere else, in which case the others would then have grouped themselves accordingly… In any case, you come to different places when the whole circle moves. It is not a question of absolute position, but of the relative position each has to the other. On reaction you will see how great are the possibilities of form to be obtained in this way. These possibilities arise when one takes one’s start from a particular spot: for instance, we might begin a poem with t... and obtaining thus a definite starting point, something to hold on to, we can proceed to make the form accordingly, for we know in what direction we now have to move.

Thus the main thing is to understand that by studying the content of the lectures given yesterday and today it is possible to find one’s way into the essential nature of gesture and form.