Some thoughts about Bach and the music…
The whole world has been “infected” with the incurable need of music! Why is music so important for us? What kind of an experience is it, which the music evokes in the human beings all over the world, so that it plays such an extraordinary role in our all day life? In the following lines I would like to share my opinion, which represents of course only one point of view on that subject. Because such an opinion, or the lack of one, defines from my point of view the artist as such and also gives the audience a clearer idea about his attitude to the process of making music. But before I can begin discussing this issue specifically, I would like to envision us some general thoughts.
In general about the arts
From immemorial times the people were dividing themselves in two groups: spiritualists and materialists. The first group of people believes in a world, that you cannot perceive with the five senses, a spiritual world, which is supposed to be the real one; the second group of people believes only in that, which can be perceived with the senses- everything outside this perception is an illusion of the humans mind. The first group claims, that everything is spirit, and the second one– that everything is matter. In my opinion those two points of view are the main reason for many of the existing contradictions in social life and in the lifes of the individuals today. Spirit and matter are two principles, which need each other, so that they can get manifested. Life is just a result of their simultaneous interaction. The idea of the vase cannot be realized without the clay, and from the clay cannot be made something reasonable without an idea. Theoretically this is easy to understand, but there are difficulties in the practical life, which arise because of their simultaneous working. For example, every human being has thoughts and wishes, which are very often in contribution with his body. Arts reflect from one side those two points of view, but on the other side, in my opinion, they represent also a method to combine them. Making art is a great pedagogical way to harmonize, to adjust to each other body, feelings and thoughts. In the architecture, in the sculpture and in the painting the art-experience is being perceived through the physiological senses (seeing). But in the poetry the art-experience is only through the imagination possible. But this imagination can arise in our minds, only after we have heard the spoken word or have seen the written word physically and also when we have built from previous physical perceptions in our minds a world of imaginations, which gives us the needed pictures for the current one. This can also be expressed in the following way: the physical perception – a building, a sculpture, a picture or similar- before it can be lived and enjoyed as a work of art, it must enter our world of imaginations, to be categorized and be compared with similar perceptions from the same category. Then we are able to see the unique on this certain perception and to evaluate it as being something meaningful to us or not. And it is only after that possible to live them as art works and only then they could work of us as such. So we conclude that if we want to have an art-experience, the physiological perception and mental imagination must work together. So that we can say, that in the arts there is a simultaneous working of sensory perception and imagination, a simultaneous working of spirit and matter in way to get combined in the human beings and bring something to them. Therefore, I allow myself to consider the art as a method, invented to conciliate the contributions in personal and social life, achieving it through its influence to the humans, which harmonizes their thoughts, their feelings and their physical activities. The only difference is that in some of the arts the physiological sensory perception plays the main role and the spiritual idea serves only as a supplement (architecture, sculpture, painting) and in other arts it is exactly the opposite (poetry). In which of these two groups belongs the music?
About the music
The power of the music is in its unintermediate influence of the listener. The sound produces in the human being a live imagination, which lightens in him the art-experience. But that could be also caused without the imagination only by the sound, which has been physically perceived. If we look at a painting or a sculpture only with our senses, without the active participation of our thoughts and consciousness, the art-experience will not be realized in us; in the poetry it is the same. But if we just “switch on” our consciousness, then we can enjoy also the physical perception of a painting or a sculpture as an art product. And in the poetry the last one is not working. The pronouncing or reading of words by itself is not bringing any pleasure in an artistic sense. All these conditions do not exist, when we talk of music- as soon as the musical sound reaches our senses , the art-experience in us is getting immediately created and we don`t need to involve our consciousness about that (only by live played music). But if we do, then the art-experience is just getting stronger. Is this only in the music so? If it is so, then what distinguishes music from the other arts?
I distinguish four carriers of an artistic idea – the solid substance, the movement, the colour and the sound. I also distinguish in the human being four layers, in which the art-experience is being lived and enjoyed- the physiological senses, the feelings, the thoughts and the consciousness. In my opinion, there is a correlation between these two groups. What makes a person, when he would like to manifest himself in front of someone else? He could just stay still in front of him, he could make certain movements or he could point something from the surrounding, so that he can express his idea to the watching person. Finally he can also try with the sound. The “stay still” position is corresponding only partially with the physiological perception of the observer. The movements express first of all an emotional condition – some movements say “Stop, I ‘m afraid of you “or “Come, I would like to know you better “, etc. They correspond first with the feelings, with the emotion world of the observer and only after that can also appear certain thoughts in him saying: “Oh, he means this or that”. With pointing something we activate first the thoughts – first of all the observer asks himself what might be meant by pointing this or that and only when he answers for himself, his thoughts will be also “coloured” with certain feelings (except showing something written, which directly expresses the idea). With sounds and noises like “Oh!”, “Oooh”, “Hey!”, “Aaah”, “Hush”, “Hmm” or even through a single word – we reach directly the human consciousness. In the other three expressing ways we observe several steps before the observer is being reached. And very often there are even time intervals between each step, so that we have something as a delay in mediating certain idea. That happens so, because they reach first the sensory perception, the feelings and the thoughts. These three can be observed by us- the “I-creatures” with self-consciousness. Every mentally healthy person can “observe” his sense perceptions of a meta-level “Now I see a house”. Every mentally healthy person can observe his feelings – for example, “Now I feel happy”. Every mentally healthy person can “observe” his thoughts – “Now I think of my children”. This shows us, that those three layers represent something that is not identical to our beings. They are something, which is somehow out of us, otherwise it would not be possible to observe them. Senses, feelings and thoughts are like “windows” through which we are observing life, learning life and also taking part on its development. And after they have been observed from us, only then we can conceive certain idea. But then appears the question: What is that, which observes them? This, which observes the physiological senses, the feelings and the thoughts of a meta-level, is the human consciousness itself. So, I allow myself to build the following correlation: the solid substance correlates to the physiological senses, the movement correlates to the feelings, the colour correlates to the thoughts and the sound correlates to the consciousness. Because the sound reaches directly our consciousness, which means ourselves or our I, the delay in conceiving an idea does not exist – it is immediately comprehended by the observer and simultaneously arise in him also the appropriate thoughts and feelings. Yes, not only the world outside of us, but also our consciousness can evoke thoughts, feelings and even sensory perceptions. And that is the special about the music- music does not act from outside to inside, but it brings us in a condition, in which we bear thoughts, feelings and even create subjective sensory perceptions from our inside. Of course, all these processes, which were described above, run more or less unconscious. However, the human beings feel that music brings them one very special experience, an experience, which they need, which awakes their soul from the sleep and invites it to the beauty of life. The musical experience is an embodiment of that life, which represents the deepest entity of man. Is this always happening with every piece of music and with every person?
The polarization mentioned above can be observed also in each of the arts and music makes here no exception. For every musical piece there is a physical or a spiritual reason, a physical or a spiritual inspiration for its creation. Since people write music, they have always divided it in two main branches – entertainment music and serious music, also called sacred music. The motivation for the creation of the first one is the satisfaction of the senses and the well-being of the mood. The motivation for the creation of the second is the expression of a certain idea or the enlightening of the consciousness. According to the motivation of creation is the influence of the music to the listener also different: the first one brings pleasure for the senses and the art-experience works mainly on the emotional level; the second one brings pleasure for the consciousness and the art-experience works mainly in the thoughts. The examples on that place are numerous. I will mention just some obvious. Music of senses and feelings: almost all current pop songs as well as almost all popular music from the 20th and the 21th century, including blues, jazz and all their subdivisions; music of thoughts : twelve-tone music and most of the works of the modern composers, which strive to discover new musical experiences through new compositional methods. In my opinion the works of Anton Weber are a perfect example for “music of the thoughts.” He is a genius of thinking. The musical form, the structure, the different ways to group the notes and many other achievements of the human intellect can be purely mental enjoyed in such music. But, according to my experience, this music offers no pleasure for the mood, gives no “food” to the heart. This is in general about those two branches of the music and of course there are always exceptions. Under the common term classical music, which means renaissance, baroque, classical and romantic music with all its subdivisions, hides in my opinion (of course with exceptions) that music, which has in itself both sides – the emotional and intellectual- and involves them simultaneously in the art-experience. This is the music, in which we find the healthy balance between the well-being of mood and senses and the enlightening of consciousness and thoughts. This is the music, which, in my opinion, has the most elevated influence to the listener. I say elevated, because through this music people receive a true understanding and a true sense for the essential and valuable in life. Because life consists of both sides- it consists of day and night, of spirit and matter. Music consists also of them. That’s why every music, consciously or unconsciously for the listener, evokes in him some understanding and a certain sense about the essential and valuable and so influences in general his attitude towards life. There is music, that evokes in the listener aggression; there is music, that evokes the be cool; there is music, which praises high the enjoyment of eating, drinking and the property of material stuff; there is music, which leads to an pointless understanding of life; there is music, which drives to fall in love; there is music, that evokes a living of a sorrow; there is music, that evokes the living of a joy; there is music, which praises the nature; there is music, which gives a pessimistic point of view to life; some music puts the listener in a state of mind, so that he sees the perfection of life and enjoys it, etc. Music is a great preacher, is a power, which has an incredible influence in the development of mankind! Strong words, sounding certainly exaggerated for those, who have never been concerned with that subject. But if one really thinks seriously about it and observes that fact, than they seem to be true. This common called classical music contains also in itself the polarization mentioned above, but one more step subtler- only in the frame of balanced interaction between both levels. Here I distinguish music, in which the idea has the leading function and the emotional side of the peace comes as a supplement, and the opposite. This reflects, in my opinion, in the two main musical components- melody and harmony- as compositional method. The melody is the spoken word, which is correlated with the thought, and the harmony leads the emotional development in certain peace. Through a melodic phrase is getting expressed one thought, like a written or spoken sentence, and the harmony puts each note of the melody in certain tension conditions, determines its character- whether consonant or dissonant, whether carrier of pressure or relaxation, etc. The harmony determines the feeling, which a certain note shell express. The leading factor in classical and romantic music is the harmony. That means, the harmonically thinking has played the leading role in the construction of the works of that time. In Renaissance and Baroque music we observe the opposite- the polyphonic thinking and all the possibilities for making something with the melodic line has been the structural principle in composing at that time. In my opinion in the writing of Renaissance and Baroque the main inspiration has been a certain idea and the extending of the consciousness. And in this part of the entertainment music of that time, which was not inspired by the mentioned above, was not or really less influenced from the church music and we observe in it the first examples of accompanied melody with chords, which is representing somehow the roots of the harmonically thinking of the later time. So the rule above is mainly for the polyphonic music. In the writing of classical music the main inspiration has been the sensual well-being, the beautiful sounding of the notes, and in the romantic music – the emotion, the feelings, which are being expressed through it and respectively lived from the listener. So, we can observe in the history of musical development a transition from the thought and the idea to the sensual wellbeing and the passion. And today in the modern serious music there is again a tendency to return to the thought and the idea, but its results, in my opinion, exclude the sensual wellbeing and respectively the feelings, which such music evokes, are not really to enjoy. What is the point of this development, of all these transitions in music? What should be achieved at the end? The point is, as always, the perfection and the highest art-experience. In my opinion perfection in music can be only then achieved, when the order of the musical notes expresses one absolute balance and harmony between idea, thought, feeling and sensuous wellbeing. And also this highest art-experience can be realized, when such music is played by a performer and enjoyed by a listener, in which these four are also existing and brought in balance. So there are three components for the realization of the highest art-experience- composition, interpreter and listener. The last one and the life, which is getting evoked in him through such a musical experience, represent the point of this whole process. But before the performer and the listener can experience that, first has to be created the appropriate composition. Is there already such music or we have to wait until it be discovered? Formulated at that way is this question hard to answer, that’s why I will pose it differently: Is there such music, in which the melodic development and the harmonic functions, polyphony and harmony are in absolute balance? In my opinion- yes! The only music in which is really difficult to determine whether the horizontal or the vertical (harmony or counterpoint) leads the musical development; the only music in which both points of view are equal believable and yet not sufficient, because they complement each other; the only music, in which development thought and feeling, idea and senses are in absolute balance and unity, is the one of Johann Sebastian Bach. In my opinion, with Bach’s works have been created the most perfect forms of music, given to the mankind until today. I mean forms in the common sense of the word and not in the musicological. And now is the time in which the content and the meaning of these forms (basically of the entire classical music, not only these of Bach`s works), must be discovered by the performer and the listener and experienced on another level. I consider the search of new forms, of new ways for musical expression as a waste of time and energy. Of course, without the attempts for making such music I would probably never be able to come to this conclusion today. Everything which happens has always a reasonable purpose. But concerning the perfection and the highest art-experience is my opinion already said in the lines above. Now is the time, in which we have to work on the idea, the thoughts and the feelings which have inspired and caused the creation of a certain work- we have to rediscover them and let them live in our consciousness, in our mind and in our hearts. In this case the sensual wellbeing is going to be even more satisfied, then any perfect performance just of the form (the music notes). Then, in my opinion, is accomplished the task of the creation of a certain musical work. But how can interpreter and listener find a way, a method to recreate in themselves the content and the sense of the music, for example of Bach`s music? How can they get revealed to them? I would answer with Bach`s words and conclude with them: “In basso continuo plays the left hand the written notes, the right hand takes consonances and dissonances to it, in order to be achieved a well-sounding harmony for the glory of God and a proper delight of the mood. If this hasn`t been attended, then there is no real music but only a diabolical blubbering and droning.” (Philipp Spitta “Johann Sebastian Bach”, sixth band- The last period of his life, citation from Bach’s basso continuo instructions; translated from german by myself, original text says: „Im Generalbass spielet die linke Hand die vorgeschriebenen Noten, die rechte greift Con- und Dissonantien dazu, damit dieses eine wohlklingende Harmonie gebe zur Ehre Gottes und zulässiger Ergötzung des Gemüths. Wo dieses nicht in Acht genommen wird, da ists keine eigentliche Musik sondern ein teuflisches Geplärr und Geleyer“). This is Bach`s understanding about music- no more, no less. On the one hand there should be the materially “delight of the mood” and on the other- the spiritual “harmony for the glory of God“. The last of them represents in my opinion the key to the content and the sense of this music, which have to be discovered and lived by the interpreter and the listener. The word “harmony” in it must also be understood in the common sense and not as a musical term.