By David Eaton
From time to time, I’ve been asked if I believe in the concept of a “cosmic chord” or a universal “chord of nature”; Klang, as it’s referred to according to Schenkerian music theory. Is there some Aeolian harmony of the spheres that evokes a secret, metaphysical understanding of the laws that govern physics and music? Imagining that cosmic vibrations exist in the universe has been a part of the mythology surrounding music for eons.
When the late singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, wrote his iconic song, “Hallelujah,” he referenced a “secret chord”:
“Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord.
That David played, and it pleased the Lord.”
Could a single chord actually please the Almighty? St. Paul in Romans 1:20 asserts:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
We understand from Divine Principle that the natural world possesses various dual characteristics that maintain their existence and develop by way of harmonious relationships: male/female, stamen/pistil, cation/anion, positive valence/negative valence, for example. Ontologically, the created world reflects the nature of God’s being and essence, and this comports with Paul’s assertion. We can extrapolate that within the Godhead there exists the harmonious union of original masculinity and original femininity, and an original positivity and an original negativity. When examining the theoretical basis of tonal music we find several prominent polar paradigms:
- Consonant intervals/Dissonant intervals
- Major modes/Minor modes,
- Major chords/Minor chords
- Tonic chord/Dominant chord
- Primary dominant chords/Secondary dominant chords
- High pitches/Low pitches
It can be said that when these various polar opposites arrive at a harmonious junction they are an aural manifestation of godliness. Therefore, I submit that it may not have been when David played an isolated chord that the Lord was pleased, but rather, the Lord was pleased when David played several chords (at least two) resulting in a harmonious sonic occurrence because the resultant sound — if based on the polarity paradigm — embodied the Heavenly Parent’s deity.
The cosmology of music has been expounded upon by numerous theologians, philosophers and theorists — Pythagoras, Damon, Aristotle, Boethius, Rameau, Luther, Kepler, Schopenhauer — hence there are numerous theories regarding this mysterious topic. Pythagoras’ contention that numbers were the primordial constituents of the universe was a revelation in his time, and his explications regarding the production of pitches and intervals in Nature (vibratory energy in motion), are the basis of virtually every important treatise on sound production. Regardless of the musical genre or place of origin, Pythagorean theory is always in the equation (no pun intended).
The Greek concept of the quadrivium— the four realms of study as outlined by Plato, namely, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy — has been considered the necessary foundation for a comprehensive liberal arts education. Attaining an enhanced understanding of various truth claims through multiple disciplines, including music, was very much at the heart of Albert Einstein’s forays into the realm of theoretical physics. The speculations of Einstein and Pythagoras coincide in significant ways and are in accord with Divine Principle.
In his book, The Elegant Universe, Dr. Brian Greene asserts that Albert Einstein “was driven by a passionate belief that the deepest understandings of the universe would reveal its truest wonder; namely, the simplicity and power of the principles on which it is based.” As Greene and others in the realm of theoretical physics sought to understand the deeper aspects of the complex principles that govern the universe — string theory with its 11 dimensions, for example — Einstein seemed to have been working under the premise that it may all be rather simple.
Einstein also speculated (as does Greene) that through the realm of the arts, where creativity and imagination are paramount, epiphanies regarding the mysteries of the universe might be revealed with greater efficacy. It’s intriguing to note that Einstein possessed a lifelong affinity for music and once stated that had he not pursued physics he would likely have become a musician. He began studies on the violin when he was six and also played the piano.
Einstein’s son, Hans, elaborated on his father’s reliance on music in the context of his work: “Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.” Einstein would say, “My discovery was a result of musical perception.” As a physicist, his relationship with the violin must have been especially meaningful due to the instrument’s sonic properties vis-à-vis the overtones series in which natural harmonics (overtones) are especially evident in the production of sound on string instruments.
Einstein’s assertion that “imagination is more important than knowledge” points to the importance of intuition in relation to cognition and perception in the process of our epistemological approaches in ascertaining truth. Because imagination is linked to the subconscious, the cognitive procedures we normally rely on to perceive information and data may not be as refined as needed in order to achieve a more comprehensive or “cosmic” understanding of the polar relationship of the corporeal and incorporeal realms, for instance.
Examining the simple truth of polarity, a concept the Chinese and Greeks espoused eons ago, we begin to understand that polarity lies at the heart of the natural world. Pythagoras believed in a “cosmic polarity” as it pertained to complimentary opposites. In their book, The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, Kevin S. Guthrie and David Fideler allude to Pythagoras’ thoughts regarding cosmic polarity:
“We have seen that for Pythagoras philosophy represents a “purification,” the aim of which is the assimilation to God. The universe is divine because of its order (kosmos), harmonies and symmetries which it contains and reflects… Moreover, as certainly as the principle of polarity underlies the world of phenomenal manifestation, so to the mind depends on dualistic typologies, such as the Table of Opposites, in order to make intellectual progress.”
Guthrie and Fideler note that according to Pythagorean theory, the principle of resonance was an important factor in understanding polarity in terms of the “harmonic attunement” of mind and body as well as the incorporeal and corporeal worlds. For Pythagoras “man is a microcosm,” therefore the investigation and utilization of the principles of harmony in the physical realm could “activate those same principles within.” Aristotle’s Table of Opposites that Guthrie and Fideler allude to is as follows:
- At rest/In motion
Einstein believed there was beauty in the mysterious and that was likely why he gravitated to music. As any artist knows, having an active and probing imagination is essential to the creative process. One may possess copious knowledge and well-developed craft, but imagination is the ingredient that can transform knowledge or data into art of originality, beauty and meaning — art the touches the soul. Though the way that music affects our soul, our psyche and our being remains somewhat mysterious, the underlying principles that govern the relationships of musical components in the realization of musical art are quite simple.
Leonard Cohen singing “Hallelujah” in London in 2009.
One of the failures of modern avant-garde modes of musical composition (“new music”) in the 20th century has been the rejection of beauty as a primary rationale of creating in favor of scientific, complex, formulaic, and decidedly left-brain methodologies that resulted in highly dissonant and indeterminate aural properties. The so-called “emancipation of dissonance” created a chasm between modern composers and their audiences, and for good reason. The polarity paradigm was subjected to an evisceration of sorts due to the predominance of mathematic procedures being applied to musical composition. When the aural relationships between the aforementioned musical polar opposites are obscured in ways that we can no longer perceive the differences between them, cognitive constraints will occur resulting in music that is neither satisfying nor pleasurable.
Unification Thought proffers that there are “dual purposes” in artistic activity: namely, creation and appreciation. These dual purposes are but another aspect of the polar paradigm and “are carried out in order to fulfill the dual desires to realize and seek value.” Furthermore, the artist, in the position of object, manifests value (beauty) for the subject, namely, God and humankind, “whereas appreciation is the activity whereby an appreciator, in the position of subject, finds and enjoys value (beauty) in an object, namely, a work of art.” Because the abstract compositions of the 20th century avant-garde failed to take the appreciator into account, it can be said that this music is not in accord with Godism.
For Einstein, insight did not come from logic or mathematics. It came, as it does for many artists, from intuition and inspiration: “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.” Elaborating further, he added, “All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration…. At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.” But how, then, did art differ from science for Einstein? Interestingly, it wasn’t the content of an idea, or its subject, that determined whether something was art or science, but how the idea was expressed:
“If what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the language of logic, then we are engaged in science. If it is communicated through forms whose connections are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively as meaningful, then we are engaged in art. Common to both is the loving devotion to that which transcends personal concerns and volition.”
Einstein worked intuitively and expressed himself logically. Perhaps that’s why he considered science, religion and the arts as being related in the same manner as Divine Principle, stating, “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.”
The second verse of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” begins, “Your faith was strong but you needed proof.” In our epistemological pursuits the transcendent attributes of beauty, whether experienced through nature or art, can be effectual in our attempts to validate various truth claims. I imagine that our desire to achieve cosmic order in our chaotic world will require surrendering to the simple truth that without the concept of “loving devotion” in our social equation we’ll never “transcend” the “limitations of our personal concerns” to find our personal Elysium.
Elder Unificationists may remember a book published by HSA-UWC in 1975, titled A Prophet Speaks Today, a collection of short quotations from Rev. Moon’s early sermons in America. One quote (p. 57) is especially relevant here: “The highest spiritual gift is intuitiveness.” Alluding further to the polarity of mind and body, Father says, “Unless you find unity within yourself, it will be of no use to try to encounter Divinity.” A profound, yet simple truth.♦
David Eaton has been Music Director of the New York City Symphony since 1985. In addition to his conducting career, he has been an active composer, arranger and producer with 64 original compositions and over 800 arrangements and transcriptions to his credit. One of his recent compositions, “70 and Counting!”, was performed at the United Nations as part of its 70th Anniversary concert in 2015. Another recent composition, “Sing Praise, Halleluia!” was recently performed in Korea. In 2016, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by UTS.
Photo at top: Professor Albert Einstein playing his violin in 1932.
This is very advanced. I have been learning from it.
I propose reordering Plato’s four realms of study, based on Mark 4:27, in which a farmer plants a seed, the plant grows first the stalk, then the ear, then the grain in the ear, and then the farmer harvests it. The three stages of the growing period (surrounded by God’s initiative and God’s direct dominion) we call – in my translation – forming, growing and completing.
In my comment on Dr. Noda’s 2017 post “Interpreting the Principle…”, I applied the three stages to Euclidean geometry: first, a line; second, a plane; third, a rectangular solid. (I also suggested that the human mind is so constructed that everyone, consciously or unconsciously, thinks according to the pattern in Mark, and in Dr. Noda’s recent post I seek to determine the validity or truthfulness of that statement.) I consider the third stage (third dimension) to be an extension in space. Plato’s realms would then be arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music as the fourth dimension.
It’s an article well worth considering, I think.
Yet in citing DP there are moves underfoot to reconsider and rewrite that publication. One central problem lies in the fact that the feminine is ill-considered in the original. And it is the feminine which is central within the self and in creativity in giving birth to creative works in the field of the arts. Within the self dual-characteristics such as David mentions are essential for any creative postulate so that we commonly have in the arts, a dialogue lying between rational conscious and whats called the irrational unconscious. However from the German Idealists onwards, it is the unconscious which ties us to creative ideas (Platonic to archetypal), then it is also the unconscious which ties us to a connection to God intuitively. So the unconscious, intuition and then heart can become a root dynamic where inchoate, yet remarkable ideas, can take shape consciously and then be further considered as an idea worthy of artistic expression.
I confess I am not a musician but one graduated in the fine arts so Euclid is strongly evident in the visual arts starting with Greek sculpture and Divine Proportion which is mathematical and geometrical by nature and evident in the works and thought of Polykleitos (4th Century) informs the fine arts. Here we can talk of the Golden Ratio, the Golden mean the Golden section and Fibonacci, which runs through sculpture, architecture and painting at a later date; such a foundation creates a healthy ‘canon of art’ which remained important until deconstruction thinking which arose in the 20th Century seemingly put an end to it. Nevertheless Euclid seems to be the first to mention this canon in his body of works. Pythagoras gives us his universal “Music of the Spheres” which posits another important element of the arts that being harmony or proportion then his five regular solids, again important in the visual arts, make an appearance in Renaissance art with Leonardo and Durer for starters. However Pythagoras’s life and works are largely clouded by legend and obfuscation where even his mathematical roots may have begun in Iran or perhaps Egypt or perhaps included both. Yet, it might be wise to mention that the great cathedrals from Gothic times take mathematical proportion and harmony from the Greeks but also refer to biblical numbers just as much, even more so.
Related to the vibratory rhythms tied to math and universals is color which also holds to vibratory sequences. However color takes its lead from Goethe who supported emotional resonances (thus meaning) and where Isaac Newton gave us the hard science. Again Leonardo for one advanced something of a color theory in similarity, so that today from all we have a color wheel and mixing of colors which are also tied in to how light and the structure of the eye functions. There are therefore hues, values, brightness and retinal concerns to consider; what happens to yellow surrounded by a substantial field of blue for example is a case in hand.
But what of perception; how do we read any of these complexities? That takes us back to the psychology of the self and how far any artist has advanced to wholeness or authenticity or not. This issue is perhaps our ‘spanner in the works’ and when taking account of music, fine art, sculpture and mixed media, there we have before us the good, the bad and the ugly. George Hagman in his ‘Aesthetic Experience’ takes a chapter to explain why ugliness surfaces in the world of art. Leonardo da Vinci likewise gave us drawings of the ugly which lie in his portfolio, so ugliness is nothing new. What is also evident is Michelangelo’s works which offer brilliance and aesthetic difficulties. This artist was homosexual and irrascible as his contemporaries and the Pope confirmed and he is understood to have brought the High Renaissance to an end, introducing Mannerism instead. Mannerism gives us peculiar anatomy, idiosyncrasies and oddities, rather than the arguable perfections, ideals and dreams of the Renaissance period. Likewise Michelangelo offers us the male nude in shifting perspectives some of which are not normative; see the Battle of Casino now lost but described by many as being akin to a homosexual bathhouse image. Michelangelo goes on to paint himself as being flayed and judged on one of the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Touchingly however he also paints himself in his usual exaggerated form, alienated from his God who endeavors to embrace him anyway; hands are outstretched empathically towards each other in his ‘Creation of Adam.’ God despite Michelangelo’s nature was indispensable to him.
To make a long story short it frequently matters not, whether universals exist or not. The problem lies in how they are perceived and how they are authentically considered and then applied in one or the other forms of art, to our satisfaction. Art theory or music theory is one thing but does it come to ground in a meaningful way? In the past, epochs have presented us with sparks of brilliance but not always. Individuals have presented us with such brilliance and sometimes soon fall short themselves. This history of art shows that personality here, matters, and as much as we try to engage in universal theories we need to engage in what the original self might be and reveal it as a working proposition. This original self is vital to perception and to the processes of creativity modeled by his or her creator. Ideals need best be put on the ground just as theology suggests, now with recent revisions so that such ideals (vertical propositions) clearly need their horizontal counterpart (earthly realities). A father without a mother is not a creative proposition. Artists without the virtues and ethics of a true and authentic nature often miss the point in their creative propositions so self needs work just as art does.
What finally lies before us? Well process theology does. This meaning, the classic world lies behind us now. It may hold to more advances but living systems generaly move on; they are re-imagined. So as with the fine arts which eventually lept over its deconstruction age, from Renaissance classicism to multi-media works in our times, so I think, should music grow, develop and transform itself into more beautiful and complex expressions which might continue to dazzle us rathe than hold us to the past.
I agree with Derek on the need of “the feminine” aspect of Heavenly Parent’s nature to be considered more seriously. I’ve maintained that beauty and creativity is akin to the feminine aspect of the Deity. I also believe that True Mother’s recent emphasis on art and culture is a step towards understanding and valuing feminine attributes with greater alacrity.
German musician and theorist, Joachim-Ernst Berendt alludes to Chinese philosophy when he posits: “The eyes constituted a yang type of sense organ; male, aggressive, dominating, rational, surface-oriented, analyzing things. The ears, on the other hand, are a yin sense: female, receptive careful, intuitive and spiritual, depth-oriented, perceiving the whole as one.” Interesting assumption.
With regard to Derek’s statement “that it frequently matters not whether universals exist or not,” I’m reminded of Dr. Young Oon Kim’s comment on beauty:
““It is in the transmoral dimension of aesthetic experience that beauty approaches God. All the laws from and within God—give and take, polarity, harmony—connect beauty from all cultures. And to the extent that they clearly amplify and substantiate God’s nature they evoke a response of love and appreciation from man. Since God represents absolute love and freedom, beauty is never confined.”
She gives the example of a Ming Dynasty vase having an appealing aesthetic that delights our senses and in so doing allows for the possibility of transcendence to occur. Yet we know nothing of the morality of the artist who created it. (Could the artist have been an ax murderer?) Moreover, she cites certain “universals” (give and take, polarity, harmony) that “amplify and substantiate” God’s nature, precisely because they are (!) universal. Kant couldn’t easily explain the experiences we have when we encounter beauty, either from nature or art. Still, he intuited that these experiences were valid (real) and innate (everyone has them).
On another point: why equate complexity with beauty? There has been copious research done in the realm of music and cognition (the psycho-acoustic studies of Fred Lerhdal and Ray Jackendoff, e.g.) that reveals that complicated musical utterances have the effect of diminishing aesthetic pleasure due to cognitive constraints in human hearing. One of the most alluring aspects of music is that when it is free from any visual connection, our imagination creates its own poetic visions that can be quite stimulating in their own right.
Berendt again: “Whenever God revealed Himself to human beings, He was heard. He may have appeared as light, but in order to be understood, His voice had to be heard. ‘And God Spoke’ is a standard sentence in all Holy Scriptures. The ears are the gateway.”
(I understand that we have a pronoun issue here, but you get the point).
On complexity. Or reframed, “Is there a pronoun in the House”? 🙂
We do approach from different disciplines but advancing complexity is hallmark of the history of visual arts. One can read Hegel on his stages of art or consider A.N. Whitehead who says more simply there is “an advance into novelty,” which he covers in his book, “Process and Reality.” Perhaps the term complexity needs further discussion but we also have the terms process, higher synthesis, and so on which say something similar along with ‘zeitgeist’ which says an epoch presents difference, if not higher forms in the arts, to cultures.
In the fine arts drawing and painting advance through the ages in complexity yet not in fragmentation or confusion. Early forms equated with Egyptian art give us ‘flat’ images. Through the pre and Renaissance period we have again flat human presentations with little regard to anatomy either. This would be Medieval art perhaps best illustrated by work in illuminated manuscripts. There are other epochs but in the Early Renaissance we find the beginnings of anatomy and tone and shade which begin to give us three dimensional figures. The mid-Renaissance begins to offer better anatomy and perspective then the High Renaissance presents fully anatomically defined figures with accurate perspective. We approach realism here. In Titians work in particular the next stage adds more complexity which relates to psychological and emotional presence in his portraits (one could add spiritual presence here also) but the full psycho-spiritual effects tend to come in a little later with the Romantic period.
Hegel has this advance into complexity written up as his three stages of Symbolic, Classical and the Romantic where he then presents his “End of Art” lectures which meant art forms were now complete to his way of thinking. He did not say art was over but quite a few take it that way and are left mystified. Arthur Danto however, picks up on this and takes the arts further to more advances and more complexity, which comes through as advances into multi-media. Again there is deconstruction forming in the arts, in music, literature and fine art, around the turn of the last Century but there are significant advances too, which should not be ignored and are presented to us today in rich forms. Hence we come to a higher synthesis or greater complexity where coherence and often deeper references to nature also marks these advances.
What is also common to recent works is studies in pschological,neurobiological works in support of aesthetics and how more than mere cognition permits a more complex response and resonance with such higher forms of art. In The Good, the True and the Beautiful Jean-Pierre Changeux says, “Consensus partiumis is the coherence of the parts to the whole.” However he is specific in relating such neural correlates to ethics, music, visual arts and other cultural expressions. Regarding neural correlates there are other works which I’m sure you are aware of David, but Stuart Hameroff’s studies in quantum consciousness (Orch OR theory) suggest the neuron, as a Unification Thought article suggests, connects to field consciousness and it is from that function mind can connect further to field consciousness, aesthetics and universals. Of this CG Jung had already said the brain itself, fails to offer us the complexities we see in the field of human endeavours and creativity but mind can when opened to and in participation with the innate depths of consciousness found in the created order of the universe. Perhaps here I have explained complexity and understand that world is still expanding and offering more by way of the arts and aesthetics as it always has and always will do.
To my way of thinking complexity is a creative and advancing proposition just as process theology is. Confusion by over-complexification (and meaninglessness) however, is completely different and like cognitive dissonance, belongs to the order of pathologies, and or dysfunctions; not the arts.
I think I get your point about modern avant-garde and their disregard for the appreciator, but along with that we can see a general dumbing down of the ability of the “appreciators” (general public) to perceive beauty of higher dimensions. “You don’t care for music much now do’ya?”
I personally don’t find most of modern popular music too pleasing even though they might be applying the +/- principle according to the book. A pretty vase with nothing in it.
I’m not trying to defend avant-garde, I don’t even like it, but I think I understand the need to try to break free of certain constraints and easy solutions. Explore the whole landscape. To quote another famous philosopher “to infinity and beyond”.
I guess until we truly reflect the image of our creator there will always be something lacking in the art we make. Although curiously, even bad characters have proven to produce great art when they have allowed themselves to be channels of the higher realms.
Yes, it’s true…there have been some really bad actors who have given us wonderful art — the transmorality of aesthetics that Dr. Kim mentions. Richard Wagner is a case in point. The “dumbing-down” issue (“knowing-down” as William Safire put it), also plays heavily into all this.
Breaking free of constraints can be beneficial or deleterious — it depends on what constraints we’re talking about and motivation. In social terms, is breaking free from the constraints of sexual purity or monogamous marriage a good thing (as Nietzsche thought)? Or breaking free from the constraints of syntax, semantics and grammar in language (Potato wallet will street nor river?). You get my point.
Many composers in the early 20th century were attempting new things but the ones who maintained some syntactic fealty to the principles of tonality (Bartok, Prokofiev, Barber, Britten, Hindemith, Stravinsky) wrote some amazing music — music Mozart or Brahms might have found befuddling.
BTW, where are you from?
Thanks for your thoughtful response. All true.
With sexual morals it’s quite clear cut; no sex outside marriage. The boundary is clear and healthy. But “Potato wallet will street nor river?” can be a set of words loaded with emotion and meaning to one person or a group of people, that just doesn’t open up to outsiders. I’m thinking for example of North Korean refugees with their particular experience of suffering and escaping under great danger. I’m sure some words that mean nothing to gangsta-rappers could touch the very heart of those poor souls. I’m reminded of Solzhenitsyn and the story of prehistoric fauna in the frozen tundra.
Plus, random words can be humorous too. “I am the walrus!” Humor is also a part of art, is it not? Imitating animal noises can potentially be great fun in a composition. And then there’s Pink Floyd with machine noises…
So, like you stated, Dr. Eaton, it matters which constraints and most definitely, motivation. My feeling about avant-garde music (free jazz too) is that it’s kind of navel-gazing. It’s all about “me”, the composer. But maybe it’s just me. : )
It’s a huge topic, and I still may have managed to veer off of it. Anyway, I hope you understand I’m not arguing here, I’m just endlessly curious about music and arts in general.
Oh, and BTW, Finland.
I have to apologize for waxing lyrical over the fine arts in David’s musical post. There are few if any fine artists around to engage with and I tend to think the course of fine art and music follow similar trails. Anyway, I hope I was not being too diversionary. David’s work is usually quite enjoyable and stimulating to my way of thinking.
I was in a meeting with Father in South America (1983) when he said that certain kinds of Jazz are “anti-social.” He was spot on! Certainly there are styles of “art music” that are all anti-social in that they don’t easily allow for engagement or reciprocity on the part of the listener. In fact, in the 1980s many “serious” composers started to move away from the crabbed mannerisms of formulaic modes of composition, so it wasn’t just the public that railed against it.
As for Derek, I welcome the commentary. It made me think more deeply about these issues. There is a fine line between appreciating the past and looking ahead. In musical composition it’s very easy to become imitative or derivative. Finding one’s own voice is important—and a challenge. Composer Arnold Schoenberg got many things wrong, IMO, but he got some things right, especially when he said:
“Whether one calls oneself conservative or revolutionary, whether one composes in a conventional or progressive manner, whether one tries to imitate old styles or is destined to express new ideas – one must be convinced of the infallibility of one’s own fantasy and one must believe in one’s own inspiration.”
I submit that “believing in one’s own inspiration” is the starting point for any meaningful work of art. Just before I joined UC in 1974 I has an epiphany that proceeding out further into the abyss of experimentation and innovation while rejecting the legacies of the past wasn’t going to be the way of the future, but rather a re-assessment of the past would be of greater value. The modernists rejected the legacies of the past largely due to their aversion to bourgeoisie (Christian) culture. The “liberation” vibe of “Young Hegelians” was in their ethos.