Bulat M. Galeyev

Most people connect the name and theoretical works of Kandinsky with the problem of synesthesia. Moreover he is often called an artist-synesthesist. And indeed he constantly referred to the analogies between music and painting, compared concrete musical timbres with certain colors all the time. Further, it appears that he made special research of the synesthesia problem in the "laboratory of monumental art" (INHUK), founded by him after the Revolution, and then in the Bauhaus. These facts are known to many researchers, but, unfortunately, they disregard the main deductions of Kandinsky which are connected with his brilliant idea of "internal counterpoint". The idea appeared to be very fruitful and I have proved that Kandinsky had discovered the fundamental esthetic law, which is very important for modern artistic practice, for all arts, including the new ones too.

Thus, let us first recollect what synesthesia is. As a psychological phenomenon and as a product of culture, synesthesia is intermodal, intersensory (specifically-audio-visual) associations most actively formed and cultivated in human intercourse (language, and especially in art). I have already said at the symposium during the "Impakt-91" festival, that among audio-visual synesthesias it is possible to select the following most common for all people appropriate associations:

dynamics of sound,changing of music loudness dynamics of "gesture" (this is both its movement in depth and the changing of brightness);
melodical development dynamics of plastics, of picture;
music tempo speed of motion and of transformation of visual images;
timbre development colour development of plastics;
changing of tonality - development of colouring of the whole picture or of colour planes (during polytonality);
shear on registers changing of size and lightness of the drawing;
changing of modes changing of lightness of the whole picture. (major, minor)

Many artists and theoreticians of art consider, that in the new arts based on the audio-visual synthesis it is quite sufficiant to follow the "prompts" of synesthesia and to continually realize, model on the screen or on the stage these accordances, mentioned above, in order to obtain a highly artistic result. These tendencies are especially evident in cinema without a plot, abstract cinema, in animation (specifically in computer animation of recent years), where there is even a special term for it here in the Netherlands - "synesthetical film". In those films there is constant synchronism in the motions of music and complicated visual images, which is considered not only as a merit, but occasionally turns into an end in itself.

Yes, these films are attractive as a kind of "visual portrait" of well-known musical works (let's recall certain fascinating films of O.Fischinger, N. McLaren, the Whitney brothers). But the experience of other audio-visual arts prompts the notion that possibilities of the audio-visual synthesis are not exhausted by audio-visual synchronism (or, so to say, by an audio-visual "unison").

Stanislavsky in theatre, Fokine in dance, Eisenstein in cinema, Scriabin in light-music have all shown what great possibilities are hidden in the methods of audio-visual polyphony when, side by side with moments of audio visual "unison" (i.e. of synchronism of "audio" and "vision" by some mutual signs), the moments of premeditated, conscious digression from the "unison" are used too. I mean the moments of "audio-visual counterpoint", when "audio" and "vision" come into conscious (thought out) conflict. This conflict can manifest itself (be put into effect) in either "horizontal plane" (unsuperpositions in time structure) or in "vertical plane" (unsuperpositions in emotional and sensible influence). In other words, synthesis in these moments is put into effect purposefully against "prompts" from synesthesia, achieving by this the necessary feeling of contrast, conflict, distress, etc., finally forming thus a complicated dramaturgy of synthetical work (composition). But these propositions can also be considered as universally recognized by the theory and they will, I hope, introduced into practice of all the new audio-visual arts step by step.

The genius of Kandinsky is based on the fact that he went further, opened deeper regulations of the synthesis by turning his attention to phenomena of so-called "internal counterpoint", on the basis of which I have developed his ideas, having continued with research into the principles of the so-called "internal polyphony" (for all temporary arts, including audio-visual).

In connection with this I would like to highlight that, side by side with the usual known to all intermoda] synesthesias, there are also less evident, less appreciated, but equally important intramodal synesthesias. What I would like to touch upon are the psychological associations between the separate components inside one sensory material! Thus, for example, V. Kandinsky noted that the active yellow color is close by its emotional effect to an active sharp figure of a triangle, the calm dark blue color is close to a calm circle, and a monolithic square is close by its effect to the red color, etc. By analogy one can see the presence of "internal" synesthesia for hearing too: the timbre of trumpet is similar to an active melodical drawing, to the major tonality, and the timbre of cello is similar to a slow tempo, to an elegiac melody, etc.

If we follow the prompts of the "internal" synesthesia we shall reach a constant strengthening, duplicating of the effect (e.g. if we make a triangular figure yellow, a circle dark blue, etc.). This method can be called an "internal unison". But we have hardly considered the effect of constant strengthening a worthy artistic task. Because the drama, the final aim, the content of the art work may demand other methods too, where an artist consciously avoids "internal unison".

Leaning upon his experience as a painter, Kandinsky explained this term: "internal counterpoint", invented by himself, in the following way. He imagined the painting "Sudden grief", in which there is a woman, who has recieved a letter, informing her that she has suddenly become a widow. Kandinsky considers it would be banal to depict the "feeling of grief" with the "grief" plot itself and with the "grief" composition and with the "grief" drawing and with the "grief" colouring. He thinks that a much more powerful effect could be reached if against the theme of grief the widow's dress would suddenly become bright red, it would stress the suddenness of grief and the drama of the moment. If one looks attentively on Kandinsky's abstract pictures one would note that Kandinsky widely used the whole range of contrasts - from zero during internal unison (red square, blue circle) to the sharpest contrasts (yellow circle, green square), etc. All this lets us perceive his abstract pictures as a real symphonv, "music for the eye".

I have supposed that a similar situation is common for all arts, where, probably, it is also possible to discover the moments of purposeful, premediated "internal counterpoint" of various degrees of complexity in different periods of the development of these arts.

The most evident architecture examples: the outward appearance of Egyptian pyramids does not conflict with our habitual feeling of the ponderability, the solidity of the material used: namely stone (we are dealing here with "internal unison"). And on the contrary, in the structures of "flaming Gothic" and in whimsical, flowing windings of baroque, the visual image is synesthetically antagonistic to the material used ("internal counterpoint"), something that defines the aesthetic peculiarity of these styles.

In poetry, when unintentionally highlighting ("marking out") the phonic qualities of words in verses (onomatopoeia and alliteration), it is possible to make these qualities of sound continuously fall in "unison" with the meaning - as was sometimes done by the Russian Symbolist poets at the end of the 19th century. But it is also possible to interwine these two "voices" (sounding and meaning) in other, more complicated and different relations, dictated not only by a formal task, but by an internal artistic necessity. Brilliant examples of harmony of sound and meaning were given by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. And it was our contemporary poet Boris Pasternak, who filled the notion of "music of verse" with a polyphonic, but not a trivial flat content. He wrote: this "phenomenon is not acoustic at all and it consists not in euphony of vowels and consonants, taken separately, but in the correlation of the meaning of speech and its sounding". I should like to note, that the creative work of Pasternak himself proves that the character of these correlations in his work is not limited by a despondent "internal unison".

In another temporal art - in theatre, similar arguments were used by Stanislavsky, who violently opposed the method of "merry meriment", which is frequently used in actor's recitation, when "merry semantics" regardless of the authors intentions - whether it is necessarv or not - is presented phonically in a "merry" sounding.

And, finally, music, where it appears, even one-voice melody can be split into, so to say, "internal voices", if mental plots are made of the charges in every component (melodical development, loudness, tempo etc.). They can be parallel (i.e. follow the "prompts" of intramodal synesthesia - e.g., supposed to sound-pitch activity by loud sounding, quick tempo, buoyant timbre and mode) or remain in an antiphase (quick tempo in pianissimo, lyrical melodv in nasal timbre and so on). The Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov in his works on orchestration has made profound research into this problem. He dwelled on the necessity to apply both methods (according to our terminology the method of "internal unison" and "internal counterpoint" which, taken together, permit us to say, concerning the temporal art of music, about the existence of "internal polyphony" in music). By the way, according to my comparing analysis of music of different epochs, it is possible to note the following fact: a step by step change from the primary usage of the "internal unison" methods to wider turning to "internal counterpoint" methods is observed in music evolution (compare for example the music of Bach, Beethoven, Scriabin). To my mind in a most evident form it has become apparent in the "Klangfarbenmelodie" of Schonberg, where such a characteristic as timbre has also got an opportunity for independent development (although it was done within a purely formal method).

Probably similar evolution is common in the development of every art. Nevertheless we finally see that even the experience of non-synthetic art proves the possibility and necessity of deepest penetration of counter-pointical, polyphonical thinking in the structure of audio-visual, synthetic arts. These arts can now use, alongside the evident merits of audio-visual polyphony, the merits of "internal polyphony" of every art participating in the synthesis. This will let us reach the closest polyphonical unity of "external" and "internal" voices for the realisation of the most complex artistic ideas.

Such are the conclusions resulting from my reflections upon a subtle and profound observation made by Kandinsky on the problem of "internal counterpoint".

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Published in "Schonberg and Kandinsky: an historic encounter".
Edited by Konrad Boehmer. - The Netherlands: Acadimic Publishers, 1998, pp.89-93.