(Evolution of the "gravitational" synesthesia in music)


The concept of synesthesia in its psychological aspect can be characterized briefly as "intersensory, intersensual association". It is an ability to "see" just associatively, in imaginative juxtaposition the plastic of melody, the coloring of tonality and, conversely, to "hear" the sound of colors etc. Synesthesia is a generally significant affinity of human psychics, so far as everyone of us conceives synesthetic transfers in poetic and common language ("bright sound", "dim timber" etc.). And, as I have pointed out before, synestheticity is an essential feature of language, and more widely - of all figurative, including, of course, artistic thinking (for all kinds of art, including music) 1.

Fig. 1.

Fig. 1.

From epistemological and, as its base, psychological point of view, the process and result of synesthesia is a reflection in conscience, in human psychics - of interrelationships of various modal characteristics of " sensual world" that is being "sensed" systemly, complexly - by sight, hearing etc. We want it to be emphasized particularly that not only exteroceptive sensations ("external sensations"), as it is usually taken into account at the analysis of synesthesia (see fig.1), but also " internal", interoceptive and proprioceptive sensations (in fig. 2 - points O1 and O2).

Fig. 2.

Fig. 2.

The interoceptive receptors, as it is known, register the state of internal organs, i.e. man's well-being, and proprioceptive - the position of a body in space, including muscular and, what is of interest for us, weight sensations.

The investigators of this phenomenon paid little attention to the role of "internal sensations" in the original of synesthesia; whereas just there is a genesis of the most deep, ancient, precocious and, therefore, most powerful - but "hidden" in the unconscience synesthesias (that makes them hard of access for an immediate analysis).

But this kind of intersensory relationships, to be concrete, gravitational- audial, gravitational-visual synesthesias, nevertheless, come into the " light" of conscience, for example, appearing in common language by way of the trite metaphors, "customary" circumlocutions, based on such intersensory transfers as "barytone" (i.e. "heavy sound"), "light music", "heavy accord", "hard rock" etc. In its original all it is close to that I.Sechenov called "blear gross feeling", connected with the protopathic component of sensations and showed itself in way of the most common emotional reactions forming such "partial", latent verbal synesthesias as "loaded mind", "light sorrow" etc.

Accordingly, the more noticeable is the contribute of such synesthesias in arts that is, as it well known, a "global circumlocution" expressed namely in the sensual-figurative form. In this case it goes for all kinds of art, not only those which material is really "loaded" (architecture, sculpture, dancing) but also for graphic arts and even music that is of our research interest.

So, apparently, just the manifestations of gravitationalvisual synesthesia assign to a great extent the laws of compositional balance in the static visual arts - in architecture, in ornament... In painting there is a noticeable contribute of synesthetic perception of colors as "heavy" or " light" (analogously to the existence of synesthetic by nature " warm" and "cool" coloring, "soft" and "hard" drawing etc.).

On a particular place in the row of this kind of manifestations of associative perception of weight there are those gravitational synesthesias that are formed mediately through the perception of motion, through " motor feeling" (kinesthesia). Man's experience of motion in the Earth's gravitational field forms a representation of "ponderability" of metric accents even in the verbal arts (in poetry, first of all), i.e. in purely temporal arts. And the both components of synesthesia (spatial- associative and kinestheticassociative) take part in the perception of audiovisual arts and, the more, in the formation of their language (ballet, cinematography) naturally, in addition to that in ballet, also as in architecture and sculpture, there is real gravitational effect that contribute to the "material"means of an art. This fact determines complex (counterpoint) interrelationships between the real and associative, synesthetic concern of gravity in the formation of specifics of all these "material" arts (architecture, sculpture, ballet).

Less apparent, of course, and specific is manifestation of gravitational synesthesias in the most "ephemeral", the least "material" art - music. Engaging the concrete stuff from musicology literature we may state the following: the analysis proves our original hypothesis that the mediate, synesthetic perception of gravity contributes to music, also as to other arts. Moreover, on the strength of well-known analogy of B.Yavorsky "modal gravity terrestrial gravity" 2, it is obvious that it is not a trivial and not an arbitrary metaphor, it has real genetic bases, and that the synesthetic perception of gravity contributes to music more substantially, in fact, penetrating all the texture of " sounding matter". And not only manifestations, not only a degree but also functions of this synesthetic "gravity" change in the course of musical art, that can be represented conceptually in brief in the following articles:

1. The basic psycho-physiological manifestation of synesthetic " gravity" in conformity with "sounding matter" is the generally significant, mediated by nature of acoustic world itself, intersensory association "low pitch - heavy", "high pitch - light", that is fixed in the languages of many peoples and in the standard musicologic terminology.

2. Unique is the manifestation of synesthetic "gravity" in existence of the phenomenon of timber. Objectively, from the physical point of view, any natural musical sound is "polyphony" - together with the basic tone the overtones, multiple in frequency to the basic tone, sound synchronically. Subjectively, man's ear hears a single sound that is exactly only on the pitch of the basic, i.e. the most low, the most "ponderable " tone, and the existence of overtones with a certain distribution of energy in everyone of them is fixed by hearing as certain qualitative characteristic (so called timber coloring). "Polyphony" composed of harmonics can be characterized as an ideal natural consonance, in which gravity of the multiple harmonics to the basic tone produces a sensation of confluent, according to K. Stumpf, one and single sound. 3  In this case any real musical ( that is organized in pitch) sound takes in itself two conjugate but heterogeneous components: properly pitch (characterizing a certain "ponderability" of sound) and timber coloring (qualitative characteristic also connected with "ponderability " but more mediately yet). In connection with it, let us remind that for characterizing of the register peculiar qualities of any instruments psychologists bring in the notion of "brightness" of sounds precisely as a register "timber quality" (i.e. by implication, also a degree of its "lightness"). It means that for a high register the both components are fused naturally: "light" is always "light" (notably in English).

3. The regularity of mode, harmony and, accordingly, chords' building (vertical) and also of melody (horizontal) in the majorminor European music - is genetically closely connected with naturally specified relationships of harmonics to the basic tone of timbercolored sound (the original matter of music). In the "sounding matter" unwinding in the time the analogous functions of "gravity center", to which the rest tones gravitate, are intercepted and implemented by the tonic (in conformity with the horizontal and the vertical).

Mode is an abstract concept, it does not exist in music all by itself. If the discourse concerns about music of the New Ages, the real embodiment of mode in sounds is realized, as it is known, by means of a certain tonality. If we adopt B.Asafiev's treatment of tonality as a "timber phenomenon of mode", in the treatment there manifests, besides functional regularity, also the effect of "coloring" (phonism of chords; let us recall a metaphor "tonal coloring" that has already become a cliche). In this case, the differentiation of "colors", "coloring" by the criterion of lightness also exist ("Major and minor. Light and shadow", according to N.A.Rimsky-Korsakov).

4. The generally known musicological concept of "perceptual" (in this case - "Audi") space is also consistent with the existence of synesthetic "gravity"; along various invisible trajectories there moves a "sound body" (a curvilinear character of these trajectories, also as in physics, can not be explained out of "gravity"). E.Kurt's well known conception, that endured the melody with "kinetic energy" and the chords - with "potential energy", also assumes " gravitational moment".

5. The character of motion in the "horizontal" comprises the metrorhythmic structure of music, that in the European major-minor system is closely connected with the functional-mode relationships prevailing on it. To the extent that the tonal gravity showed itself in music, the same " gravitational" sense was facilitated by regularity of metrorhythm of the European classic music, characterized in our context as "dance feature ", that originally supposes its dependence upon gravity, - of course, synesthetic for music but real for the dance itself (with which music, as it is known, is genetically and eternally closely connected - this moment, by the way, assigns one more, besides the natural-acoustic, the social-human determinant of fatality of music to have synesthetic "weighting" characteristics).

6. A "depolarizing" of major-minor system, a "fight" with tonal gravity, a negotiation of it, an escapement to the system of new modes - all this happens in the historical aspect synchronically and in parallel with an "emancipation of rhythm", with overcoming the dictate of "bar" that acknowledges our assumption about nature and evolution of the music "gravity" (modal and metric, connected with mode)as a synesthetic model of evolution of human sensuous notions about the earthen gravity and the overcoming of it. 4

7. Synchronically and in parallel with this there happens a congruous evolution of the colorific, "antigravitational" properties of " sounding matter" of music. Together with increasing attention to the orchestration, an evident medium of coloring, gradually there also comes to life the potential of the colorific properties of the "vertical" (the "timber qualities of mode") - the music of Wagner, Debussy, Rimsky-Korsakov, Messian. Also there on a more high level an opportunity of cultivating of the "lightness" qualities of the new coloring is formed. The synesthetic "lightness" of these phonic "colors " (and by that means their "lightness, easiness") is embodied in its most bright form at the transition to the new modes - in the special complex "lightbearing chords" (being constructed according to a special formula from the large, "enlarged" intervals). The unique case of a concentrated, purposeful strengthening of the "antigravitational" tendencies in music, when a negotiation of the gravity by the mode attributes, a transition to the flying, free from a strict metric accentity, rhythm go together with a special "lightness", "weightlessness " of the luminous polyphonies themselves is Scriabin's creative work. 5

8. The synesthetic negotiation of the gravity is a general tendency in arts. The most vivid example is a birth - from the genetic sources of dancing -of a new "art of an instrumental choreography", that is the light-music with its originally weightless material light (the negotiation of the synesthetic gravity is an essential property of the other, visual "part " of the light-music synthesis abstract painting that has got a real "weightless" motion in this synthesis). 6

So, we do not claim unambiguousness and certainty of the natural sciences, nevertheless, within validity of the study of art and psychology, we may consider that the scattered but multiple and private confessions of the personalities 7 about associative, metaphoric, synesthetic effect of gravity in music - are drawn up into a fairly integral concept in our analysis. Of course, it is possible to make further specification of the analytic research from the point of view of aesthetics, art study and psychology (and we are going to do this work and publish the results of these concrete analyses in our prospective articles, books). But, nevertheless, a moment of assumption still persists here, so that optionally claiming for an unambiguous answer to the question: " Does the perception of gravity really take in music (let it be mediatively, by means of synesthesia)?" - it would be necessary, perhaps, too turn in future to biologic-psychological experiments, to a study of interactions between organ of hearing and vestibular system and, in a full scope, to practical experiments with comparative examination of the effect of "weighty" music (for example, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven) and "weightless", "colorful" music (Scriabin, Shoenberg, Messian) in the conditions of real weightlessness on spaceshipboard. Let us wait till the Kazan conservatory has its own musicological cosmodrome...

  1. Community of Senses and Arts Synthesis. - Moscow: Znaniye, 1982; Man, Arts and Technology (Problem of Synesthesia in Arts). Kazan: Izd. KGU, 1987 [in Russian].
  2. We first paid consideration to it in the book: Stock of the III Conference "Light and Music". - Kazan: KAI, 1975, p. 214.
  3. About gravity forces in the world of sounds see in the work: Stoyanov S.F. The Dynamics of Musical Space. - Thesis. - Kiev, 1982.
  4. See about this in: Konen V. Theatre and Symphony. - Moscow.: Musyka, 1968.
  5. Synesthesia and Musical Space. - In: Music, Culture, Man., issue 2, - Sverdlovsk, 1991.
  6. See about this in my and I.Vanechkina's article: The Real Sources of Scriabin's Conception of the "Light Symphony". In: The New Technologies in Culture and Arts (Ref.). - Kazan, 1995.
  7. See in detail in: Kandinsky and Scriabin: Myths and Reality. - In: The Multifaceted Word of Kandinsky. - Moscow., 1998 (also in cooperation with I.Vanechkina).