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Chapter 1
Communication:
Man's Primordial Need

THE MAGIC OF TONE
and the Art of Music
by Dane Rudhyar
1982

CONTENTS
Preface
1.Communication: Man's
Primordial Need
2. Sound as Carrier-Wave for Tone
3. The Magical and the Sacred
4. Number and the Quantification of
Tone Relationship
5. The Spatialization of the ToneExperience: Musical Notation and
Form
6. Descending and Ascending Musical
Progressions
7. The Harmonic Series
8. The Septenary Tone Cycle and the
Psychoactive Modes issued from Its
Fundamentals
9. The European Spirit in Music:
Pluralism, Tonality and Equal
Temperament
10. Music in Transformation: Avantgarde Music and the Deconditioning
Process
11. Dissonant Harmony, Pleromas of
Sound, and the Principle of Holistic
Resonance
12. The Rhythms of Civilization and

Organic life in the Earth's biosphere requires organisms to
relate to other organisms. Human beings are particularly
dependent on establishing enduring relationships with other
human beings, and thus on their highly developed ability to
communicate with them. The ability to communicate also exists
in animals, many of which use some kind of language for
communicating within their own species and genera.
When we think of language we tend to have in mind
communication based on the emission of sounds, specifically
vocal sounds. The word language etymologically refers to the
tongue (la langue in French, lingua in Latin). But sounds used
to communicate may also be produced by other parts of the
body, and there are languages of gestures (for example the
sign language used by some tribes and by deaf people).
The education of young animals, human infants, and adults
depends upon the imitation of gestures and complex modes of
behavior (for instance, playing musical instruments or sewing).
The term education, however, is not accurate here. Animal
young and human babies are not led out (e-ducere) in the nowfashionable sense of the term. If they are led out, it is out of
the psychic womb of the family to eventually take their places
in an open environment. This is very different from learning.
What occurs in childhood learning is that adults demonstrate
the effective use of the nervous system controlling the muscles
and sense organs. The adult's demonstration provides the
young child with an image to reproduce exactly. Learning is
thus primarily based on imitation, on images the learner
observes and either is made or spontaneously wants and tries
to imitate. These images and forms of behavior are memorized
when the young are repeatedly exposed to the examples of
parents or teachers.
Language, however, is meaningful speech and in order to
understand the kind of information it conveys, more than mere

a culture-whole is an organism. and eventually mental levels. and memorize "stories" in which different types of persons or entities act. and ritualistic gestures underline and convey the symbolic nature of the personages and their actions in the mythic story. In the broadest sense of the term. the level of psychism. who are presented as mythic personifications of different aspects of the all-encompassing and ceaselessly active power. understand. wakinya skan in American Indian tribes. Concerning My Musical Works The All-Seeing Eye knows if you haven't made a voluntary donation to to view this online book. sounds transmit a collective subjective psychodynamism acting directly upon the nerve centers of the people involved in the rite. and the Godhead in the terminology of the medieval mystic.com Honor System make's it safe and easy. in which a number of human beings participate. Notes on the Music of India APPENDIX III. A culture-whole is thus a complex web of interpersonal and intergroup relationships which operate at the biological. The Origin and Early Development of the European Approach to Music APPENDIX IV. These stories are myths. psychic. The development of what I call the "cultural mind" is required. These rhythms are said to reflect various phases of the creative activity of the gods. react. subjective (as in "a man of culture") and objective (as in the development of a particular culture). often spoken of as "the One Life" or the unfathomable "Mystery" (Brahman in India. It is a mind able to integrate nouns (names) and verbs into sentences through the use of connective words or modifiers.Culture APPENDIX I. Information is to be memorized and constantly held in mind. Their value is conveyed to every member of the social community (and at first perhaps of the family unit) by rites in which words give an objective kind of information concerning the significant activity depicted in the myth (the events of the story). Without these three levels of communication there could be no culture.psychism being for a culture-whole what the lifeforce (prana) is for physical bodies. but you may offer as little as $3 or as much as $50. They transmit to the young mind the feeling-realization that certain types of activity are of primary significance and are worthy of imitation. Arnold Toynbee) a society. or at least an organic system of activities. united by a common psychism . The Amazon. The cultural mind is the mind of relatedness. learning is required. (2) Toynbee distinguishes between primitive societies and . The Pythagorean and Chinese Approaches to Music APPENDIX II. (1) Activity needs to be cooperative and based on a close and constant attunement to the seasonal biorhythms of nature. This communication operates at three levels: the level of information. As culture has a twofold meaning. Psychism is a word I use to refer to the unifying force holding together the members of a community within a psychoactive field in which they experience their unity. The suggested contribution is $12. Myths thus communicated convey to the members of the primordial human community events of the most fundamental importance to successful living and feeling together. it deals with how to respond effectively to external physical occurrences or internal biological drives and feelings. and interact according to significant kinds of behavior. Meister Eckart). I use the term culture-whole when referring to what has been called (especially by the English historian. and the level of activity. It is a mind able to follow.

religious and esoteric traditions claim that these culture-wholes were ruled by quasi-divine kings or were taught by divine teachers who were remnants of previous kinds of humanity which lived on continents that have now disappeared. From the point of view I am taking in this book. which may have been guided by the progeny of a previous culture-whole. and pre-Colombian America. The psychism that had created a basic unanimity in the primitive community largely surrenders its integrative power to the intellect and reason. and nonbiological relationships — communication spreads beyond the closed field of a tribal culture-whole and acquires an intercultural character. symbolic sounds. or that they were beings who came to our planet from more advanced spheres. and they have appeared only within the last few millennia. it seems best to think of the development of a culture-whole as a process of natural growth. some relatively primitive societies are still operating. Although they have been studied by many anthropologists and ethnologists. symbolic activity (myths) — operating at the level of the culture-whole's psychism. between a relatively long series of generations. In primitive culturewholes communication remains intracultural. musical instruments. artistic objects of great beauty. As this occurs. In any case. it is nevertheless questionable whether these studies have truly grasped the psychic character and special quality of the stage in human development primitive societies manifest. presumably have been extremely numerous since the totally unknown beginning of the type of humanity still in the process of development today. most significantly. While hardly any trace of the earliest societies remains. The earliest societies which produced lasting records of their achievements in the form of architecture. what most specifically distinguishes the societies that have left records of their achievements from the ones that have not is the development of the kind of mind that established systems of communication not only between human beings living at the same time but. The beginnings of these culture-wholes (which Toynbee calls civilizations) are still practically unknown. Egypt. only members of the same culture-whole can totally experience what the gestures.societies in the process of developing what is generally called civilization. The latter have been very few in number. and mythic. With the development of the abstract mind — the mind making use of numbers. geometric forms. sacromagical words of its rites communicate. myths that established a spiritual-psychic . China. on the other hand. India. Primitive societies. philosophy. and manuscripts about religion. This communication requires the use of symbols — symbolic gestures. as far as modern historical records indicate. symbols become concepts. Historians assume they were once primitive societies that either contained the germ of dynamic growth or were spurred by special environmental challenges. On the other hand. and the operation of various social-political institutions are those of Sumeria. tones. science.

usually in socioeconomic circumstances favoring its spread. and formal arrangement and development. our intellectually developed Western culture-whole collectively and officially values communications requiring the specialized use of the highly developed abstract mind. Although many human experiences always have to be communicated at the more primitive biopsychic and feeling level. they continue to think in terms of the traditional meanings given to words they had learned in childhood. in terms of quantitative measurements. The mass of the people cling to the familiar biopsychic manner of living together and feeling together. To accept it. at least intellectually. When its collective abstract mind develops sufficiently. the exact reproduction of the appearance of objects and persons becomes the goal of artists. whose predecessors had been concerned only with sacromagical forms revealing not merely the ephemeral personality of people but their functional identity as participants in ritualistic and mythic activity.communication are replaced by an event-oriented history providing mental information. In the plastic arts (painting and sculpture).as semi-conscious agents of some mysterious evolutionary power rather than as individuals — displays an energy of its own. yet the transformation takes a long time to become entirely effective. Mental activity operates at the most valued . political. the mathematical ratios between the frequencies (the number of vibrations per second) of sounds in rigidly defined series (or scale) — tends to become a substitute for the direct experience of tones charged with psychoactive energy and used for sacromagical purposes. Here I wish to stress that the transformation involves a change not only in consciousness. and religious. Sooner or later the new mental approach becomes socially and culturally organized. a culture-whole reaches the stage of civilization. intellectual. Yet the transformation which a few inspired pioneers initiate . but also in the level at which human beings are expected to communicate when they transmit the experiences the culture considers most valuable and significant. then institutionalized. eventually becomes fashionable. Then also the study of exact musical intervals — that is. The abstract mind operates most significantly on the basis of number and form — thus. It is formulated in new words. then the belief that one is very special and part of an elite. integrated in terms of more or less new concepts loaded with new feelings — at first mainly feelings of rebellion against authority. One can interpret such a basic yet gradual transformation in the consciousness and activities of the participants in a culture-whole in several ways. At first only a few members of the culture-whole are affected. Such a change of consciousness and activity within a culture-whole eventually radically transforms it. statistics. even planetary and "cosmic" (or spiritual). economic. It has successive and simultaneous causes at several levels — biological. It then operates at three levels.

The Rhythm of Wholeness (1980).level as it leads to the perception of what is called truth. See my recent book. or rather to the purposeful use culture-wholes make of sound. it is tone-magic. This system is rooted in a particular type or level of consciousness. The music of primitive societies is not music in our sense of the term. Ritualized gestures serving specific collective purposes operate at the level of physical activity. As the stage of civilization is reached. Return For easily understandable reasons. all traditional and legalized modes of business. He sees society only as a "network of relations. nevertheless. All are rituals performed to keep the culture-whole functioning as an organized system. Everything stated so far can be applied to music. considering the academic mentality of the Western world. the results can be sterile — "elegant" perhaps in their simplicity and apparent universality (the ideal of modern science). Toynbee insists that a "society" should not be called an organism. These gestures include office work. government activity. and we may be quite wrong in thinking that cells are deprived of consciousness and of some degree of independence. which it also seeks to perpetuate and export. mind is essentially the servant of life. movements employed on assembly lines. we have to try to develop an empathetic kind of psychic resonance to the consciousness of primitive human beings and their instinctual responses to sound as a power of communication and creation. and the drive for expansion in space (conquest) and in time (progeny). but sterile. . Mind stabilizes life-energy and increases the effectiveness of life's basic drives: the drive for survival. In primitive culture-wholes. I say "sound" rather than "music" because the term music should be used only to refer to communication at the level of a culture's collective psychism." But a physical body is also a network of relations between cells. 1. Return 2. In order to understand what tone-magic means. and sports. But when a one-pointed and exclusive concentration on the development of the quantitative and analytical mind emphasizes measurements and form over the contents of the form. Psychism operates at the level at which emotional responses are communicated. mind increasingly draws energy from the life-force and psychism. the drive for reaching optimum conditions of existence making possible the maintenance of the essential characteristics of the species. Even then the word music does not usually mean what it does for at least relatively educated musicians and music lovers of our Euro-American society.

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