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Contemporary Music Studies

A series of books edited by Nigel Osborne, University of Edinburgh, UK

Volume 1

Charles Koechlin (1867-1950): His Life and Works

Robert Orledge

Volume 2

Pierre Boulez -

Lev Koblyakov

Volume 3

Bruno Maderna

A World of Harmony

Raymond Feam

Volume 4

What’s the Matter with Today’s Experimental Music? Organized Sound Too Rarely Heard

Leigh Landy

Volume 5

Linguistics and Semiotics in Music

Raymond Monelle

Volume 6

Music, Myth and Nature

François-Bernard Mâche

Volume 7

The Tone Clock

Peter Schat

Additional volumes in preparation:

Hanns Eisler

David Blake

Stefan Wolpe

Austin Clarkson

New Music Notation: A Handbook

Rosemary Dunn

Italian Opera Music Theatre Since 1945

Raymond Feam

The Other Webern

Christopher Hailey

Edison Denisov

Yuri Kholopov and Valeria Tsenova

Cage and the Human Tightrope

David Revill

Soviet Film Music A Historical Perspective

Tatanya Yegorova

This book is part of a series. The pubhsher will accept continuation orders which may be cancelled at any time and which provide for automatic bilhng and shipping of each title in the series upon publication. Please write for details.

Music, Myth and Nature

or The Dolphins of Arion

English Edition, Revised and Updated

François-Bernard Mâche

Translatedfrom the French by Susan Delaney

harwood academic publishers

Switzerland • Australia • Belgium • France • Germany • Great Britain India • Japan • Malaysia • Netherlands • Russia • Singapore • USA

Copyright © I992 by Meridiens Klincksieck, Paris. Published under license by Harwood . MJ.3 )3 Academic Publishers GmbH, Poststrasse 22, 7000 Chur, Switzerland. All rights reserved.

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Originally published

in the French in J 983 as MUS/QUE,


DA UPHlNS D'ARJON by Meridiens Klincksieck, Paris.

© 1983 Meridiens Klincksieck, Paris.

Back cover text translated by Catherine Dale

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication


Mache, Francois Bernard. [Musique, my the, nature. English] Music, myth, and nature, or, The Dolphins of Arion I Francois

-Bernard Mache ; translated from the French by Susan Delaney.

p. em. -- (Contemporary music studies;

v. 6)

Rev. and updated translation of: Musique, my the, nature, au, Les dauphins d' Arion. Includes index.

ISBN 3·7186·532J-4

ISBN 3·7186·5322·2 (pbk.)

1. Title.

II. Title: Music, myth, and nature.

III. Title:

Dolphins of Arion. IV. Series.


780 dc20





No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in Singapore.


"Must we suppose that man carries within him a language of forms which transcends civilisations, just as he carries within him the seeds of

nightmares common to everyone?

archetypal if this were not too ambiguous a description. Let us call them primordial forms. They derive, like a fear of the octopus, from a quasi- biological domain much deeper than collective forces: they are of the nature of destiny."

Forms that we would call

Andre Malraux, L'Intemporal



Introduction to the Series






Music in Myth




The Universality of Sound Models




Language and Music


Chapter 4 Zoomusicology




The Model in Music






a •



The rapid expansion and diversification of contemporary music is explored in this international series of books for contemporary musicians. Leading experts and practitioners present composition today in all aspects-its techniques, aesthetics and technology, and its relationships with other disciplines and currents of thought-as well as using the series to communicate actual musical materials. The series also features monographs on significant twentieth-century composers not extensively documented in the existing literature.




The Dolphins of Arion

Preface to the English Edition

Nine years have passed since the French edition of this book, during which I have continued to contemplate the world of myth in compositions such as Styx, Lethe, Muwatalli, Eridan and Cassiopee. At the same time I have reflected on the continuing relevance of this reputedly archaic thought and

its contemporary significance.

translation generously commissioned by the publishers of Contemporary Music Review, this revision would certainly never have happened. The past decade has hardly proclaimed itself favourably disposed towards reflection which does not, directly or otherwise, take account of economic considerations. Moreover, strenuous efforts have been made to push artistic creation into line, and make it submit to the simple rule of supply and demand. If the cinema, literature and the plastic arts retain greater prestige today than do poetry, music or even the theatre, it is because the former do not affirm themselves to be so scandalously unsaleable.

Without the opportunity of an English

It is not so much a matter of differentiating between popular music and music which is more complex in its construction and aspiration, but rather of observing on both of these levels the radical difference between the limited value of commercial goods for immediate consumption, and the permanence of aesthetic experience in its fullest sense. The latter finds it increasingly difficult to survive and, paradoxically, this is so even though it reaches a public which in sheer numbers has never been so large: the reason being that it is increasingly submerged by substitute products offered



to - and often imposed upon - the public. A single radio broadcast affords

a contemporary composer more listeners on occasion than most of his

predecessors from 1600-1945 ever had in their lifetimes, for their entire output. But the new phenomenon of mass broadcasting tends to destroy this advantage immediately by burying the work of art beneath the accumulated weight of commercial banality and the encyclopaedia of history. Between the supermarket and the museum, the space for living creativity is shrinking ever faster, while the physical resemblance between those two places is emphasised to the point where it is difficult to tell them


In 1972 I had described this phenomenon

as the demise of the avant-

gardists, who had become paralysed by the very momentum of their

cause'. Today it seems to me that

of the secular idea of progress in music (embodied principally by neo- serialism) and the advent of a post-modernism, but primarily this enormous pressure which threatens to stifle all creativity, progressive or reactionary. Whatever the aesthetic choices - and they have rarely been so numerous and varied - it is the social position of musical creation which is in the process of radical change at the heart of our civilisation. For the first time since the dawning of the modern era - since Monteverdi, Lully or Purcell, let's say - it is no longer certain that society retains an interest in a music whose content is not limited to rudimentary and stereotyped emotions, and whose principal aim is not to reinforce social relationships or conflicts as they exist, without transcending them. There are serious reasons to doubt that the transformation of Vivaldi, Bach, Schumann, Mahler etc into common consumer products which are dropped into the shopping trolley along with the baked beans and disposable nappies helps to enrich the imagination and sensibility of the public. Decades of popularising the 19th century classics have led to further decades of popularising ancient musics, and to the launching of baroque music as a new product (even the label seems to respond to a commercial rather than an aesthetic imperative). Museography is stealthily replacing life by presenting restoration and

what was at stake was not the failure

redistribution as the ersatz of artistic creation.

So, an essay such as this, untimely as it seems, can only justify itself by the principal idea running through it, by the belief which sustains




it. Today, as always, and whatever fate is reserved by our society for the most complex musical practices, the function of our imagination (which is stimulated and exercised by music) is a given constant, existing outside historical conditions. As Antonin Artaud wrote: "We can burn the library of Alexandria. There are forces beyond the scrolls: they can take away our faculty for rediscovering these forces for a time, but not suppress their energy. "'. Among other things, these forces are embodied in music, and I would like to invite you to discover some of them here.



In Greece there was once a musician called Arion who, after a triumphant tour of Sicily, embarked at the port of Tarentum for his return to Corinth. The sailors were pirates who wanted to make off with the fortune the musician had earned, but when they attacked him, Arion (who had been warned by a dream in which his guardian Apollo appeared to him dressed in the long, embroidered tunic of a Citharan) begged them to allow him to sing his own funeral dirge before his execution. The pirates agreed to this idea of an improvised and free concert. Arion sang, standing at the prow of the ship, accompanying himself on his lyre. Then he hurled himself head first into the sea. Without the pirates knowing, the dolphin friends

of Apollo had come to surround the ship, attracted by the music, and one of them took Arion on its back, bearing him off in the direction of Corinth. Periander, the tyrant of Corinth, welcomed him. When the pirates arrived

turn declaring that Arion has perished by accident they were

terrified and bewildered to see him before them in his ceremonial attire. Periander punished them. Arion continued his brilliant career, and when he died his lyre and his dolphin were changed into constellations of stars

in their

which continue to shine close to the milky way.

One day Dionysus,


by the wicked King of Thrace

Lycurgus, was forced to jump into the sea to escape him. He climbed up onto a ship of Etruscan pirates and asked them to take him to the island of Naxos. But the pirates, tempted by the god's riches, turned the boat towards Asia where they were hoping to sell him as a slave. Thanks to his divine clairvoyance, Dionysus realized this and cast a spell on the ship. The oars became paralysed with growths of ivy and vines; the sails became



heavy with bunches of grapes; and violent music from invisible oboes could be heard accompanied by cymbals. Wild with terror, the pirates threw themselves into the sea where they were transformed into dolphins, and thereafter condemned to rescue shipwrecked sailors in order to expiate themselves. Dionysus reached Naxos without difficulty, where he fell in love with Ariadne, whom Theseus had just abandoned. Their bacchic nuptials lasted for eight days.

Again, once upon a time Britomartis, a young Cretan girl, was compelled to jump into the sea to escape the perverse King Minos. The

boat of the fisherman Andromedes luckily took her on board, and they set

off towards the north, far from Crete.

Aegina, the boatman demanded to be paid. Britomartis had no riches other than herself. To escape him, she threw herself into the sea and,

miraculously, came walking to the surface at Aegina, where she was worshipped as the goddess Aphaia.

Coming in sight of the island of

Similarly, Ino jumped from the top of the cliff of Leucades with the body of her son Melicertes in her arms. The marine gods, blowing on their shells, helped them, while the Thebans who were pursuing them remained petrified at the top of the cliff. A dolphin then carried Melicertes as far as Corinth, where he was worshipped as the god Palemon. Ino, who then became a Nereid, was thereafter known as Leucothea, meaning "white goddess", and helped her son Palemon to rescue shipwrecked sailors lost in the foam.

There was once a group of heroes navigating their ship the Argo towards Colchis, across the Black Sea. They passed close to the reef of the Sirens. These were birds with the faces of women, who sang to attract sailors in order to devour them. No-one could resist their song, and only Orpheus could sing more beautifully than they. By chance, Orpheus was

on board ship among the Argonauts, and his song captivated

companions much more than the Sirens.' Only one named Boutes - the herdsman - allowed himself to be attracted, and leapt into the sea towards

But Aphrodite, who loved him, came to save him, and the

the Sirens.

Sirens, infuriated, hurled themselves in frustration to the foot of their rock ,

where they remained petri fied.




Finally, a long ti me afterwards,

a certain Longus relates that

Daphnis, a young shepherd from Lesbos, was abducted by pirates, who had

also taken the bulls of his rival Dorcon. The latter was mortally wounded in the fight and Chloe, whom they both loved, found him in agony. He entrusted her with his flute so that she could play the air with which he used to round up his bulls. She played with all her might. Immediately the bulls made for the sea, drastically unbalancing the ship, which sank. The pirates, laden down with their armour, were all drowned, while

of his

Daphnis was taken to the shore by the bulls. beloved.

He fell into the arms

By bringing together several Greek myths it can be seen that the same images recur time and again. One could easily find many other myths from elsewhere that are analagous, such as that of Hina the Marquisienne who beats the drum to attract Tinirau, the god of the waters,

but only attracts a shark. However, the shark bears her off on its back and

In short: after an initial dive into the

delivers her to the god she loves'.

water the subject (not really "hero") accomplishes a dangerous crossing.

Perverse enemies try to thwart him. Musical magic then intervenes,

bringing about a decisive

The gods, or their animal

dive into the water.

servants, carry the diver to safety and he happily accomplishes the second half of his voyage. The wicked ones are punished, sometimes by

petrification, and the good are rewarded, on earth or in heaven.

I should now explain why I chose several Greek myths (of which two are not even explicitly linked to music) as a starting point for an essay about musical creation. Such references may seem aberrant in the context of new aesthetic orthodoxies. Thirty years ago, formalism became the official doctrine of music, succeeding traditional or expressive values. Although some individuals, like Jolivet, gave the mythic imagination an

essential place in the compositional

their works did not fully endorse this aesthetic perspective. The speedy demise of integral serialism at the beginning of the sixties did not by itself damage the credibility of this formalism, which it had embodied in caricaturist fashion. It took refuge sometimes in computers, sometimes in the game of historical quotations, usually without the music being

process (in opposition to neo-serialism),



envisaged other than as the shaping of sound materials, treated as both an artificial and neutral substance.

This "progressive" aesthetic has retained a certain authority because history, in music as elsewhere, has remained the dominant dimension in European thought for over a century. Composers for the most part are aware of having to choose between a tradition that they preserve, prolong or restore, and an evolution that they undergo, exploit or accelerate themselves. This is why in many cases problems of technological choice are confronted instead of aesthetic problems.

And yet, even Levi-Bruhl ended up admitting that "the primitive mentality is a condition of the human mind, and not a stage in its historical development". In other words (in music as in thought in general), the undeniable existence of this historical movement does not impose absolute hegemony. One discovers that after two centuries of historicism the immense evolution of concepts and values eliminates nothing of what has always formed the basis of the intellectual activity of the mind; that, for example, mythic thought is only seen to be a precursor of logical thought according to the misleading perspective of an all-powerful History.

If some facts put this power in doubt, it must be admitted that

mythic thought (without undue deference to its archaic origins) has always co-existed with more recent forms of thought which set out to eliminate it

in vain. In both senses of the word

it can be said that it is essential to

compose with it.

To be precise, I propose to put forward a concept

according to which music (more than any other exercise in thought) has remained close to mythic roots.

If musical compositions

can still be partly immersed in myth,

however, thought is always at a distance from its object. There is no way here of avoiding the translation of myth. Tools are known to exist for this

purpose which have produced results in the work of C. Levi-Strauss' and

P. Diel 5 . time.

For want of other models, I shall borrow theirs from time to



The first group of myths which I have gathered together above presents the image of submersion much more forcefully than the personality of the submerged character - man or woman, mortal or god, musician or

otherwise, aggressor

immersed, But it is music which is the motor (only the legend of Britomartis is different, but it presents gaps in other respects owing to the

incomplete nature of available sources.). The myth provides moral lessons or social information only in a secondary way. It is first and foremost the presentation of an image which imposes itself more as an hallucination than as meaning. Meaning only intervenes in the first translation, which extracts symbolic values from indefinitely repeated mythic scenes. For even if myth pretends to recount a story, it seeks neither to manage its

effects nor to link them to causes. The appearance of Apollo to Arion contradicts all temporal linearity. The future aggression is already present in him, and the "dream time" which is the key to Australian Aboriginal

or victim, no matter who is called upon to be

thought is here also the master of time of historical

Similarly, Arion is in a sense already brought safe and sound to Corinth as soon as he has jumped in among the dolphins. Temporal linearity is likewise ignored in the myth of Ino: Melicertes is dead before plunging to his resuscitation. One of the very senses of diving into water itself is this inversion of ordinary time. Where man believes himself to be plunging to

his death, he is plunging to his birth.


Another important characteristic of many myths is the doubling of motifs, which echoes the musical practice of reprise. It is not accidental that serial ism prohibited reprise: its ideal of perpetual variation could be interpreted as the symbolic expression of an adherence to the modern world of industrial development, and to its concern for perpetual innovation necessary for maintaining the cycles of consumption. By contrast, in mythic thought the reprise does not mean that the past is reproduced, but rather that there is only one eternal present. If the dolphins can just as well save the victim (Arion) as substitute for the aggressors (of Dionysus), it is because the Greeks are only aware of the image that they represent and which is favoured, but not determined, by a play on words between delphis, dolphin, delphys, the marine matrix where the diver returns to seek his safety, and Delphi, the navel of the world where Apollo reigns. Just as in Greek tragedy where there are no individuals but rather human



types, nothing happens to anyone in a myth, but scenes impose themselves on the imagination outside the conceptual frames which organise ordinary awareness of time and space.

Roger Caillois contrasts a mythology of situations determined from outside by historical events, with the mythology of heroes determined from inside by their psychic life'. But on this level he refers only to the presentation of images in the form of stories, which in themselves are more ancient than stories, not yet submitted to this kind of distinction. The level of consciousness on which they are born is still very close to the animal world, and this is perhaps why animal figures turn up so frequently in myth. Dolphins are the symbolic searchers of our depths; but the legend of Arion also has a solid biological foundation, taken very seriously by researchers in California and Hawaii who converse with dolphins through hydrophones and other technological means. This meeting of biology and myth is not due to chance, and later on we will have the opportunity to be more precise about this.

Of course, myth does not set out to give lessons in natural science any more than in morals or sociology. It is simply a point of departure for several interpretations which, while extraordinarily numerous, are not arbitrary. From antiquity, the evhemerist exegesis? was applied to capture and seize by force of reason qualities of thought, which eluded it on every side. If one observes, for example, that Periander (627-585 BC), the protector of Arion, is perfectly historic, one might amuse oneself by saying that Arion is a composer who puts himself at the service of personal power and that, wealthy and famous, he embodies for the proletariat who transport him the self-righteousness of the privileged classes. By attacking him, the "heathens of the sea" are merely making a case for the re- establishment of social justice through "individual recuperation". If nature and the gods are with Arion, it is to warn everyone of the uselessness of all revolt. Social order establishes its permanence on the illusion of a natural order: myth is disguised propaganda in the service of powerful individuals. What puts an end to this caricature of certain speeches from May 1968 is, among other things, precisely the fact that roles are not distributed once and for all in myths, as would be the case if they were a

variant of the idea of an "opium of the people".

If Arion is an



exceptionally clear-sighted person, Boutes is only a poor vagrant; they live the same experience, however, that of kataporuismos, the putting into water which is one of the main themes of all the mysteries of antiquity. This immersion is depicted at the centre of the underground basilica of Porta Maggiore, where the Pythagoreans of Rome probably gathered each

evening to contemplate

Greek in Paestum", He rescued Sappho, lover of Phaon the brilliant (who was also the avatar of the musician Apollo) when Sappho threw herself, like lno, from the heights of Leucades. And today, when we no longer know how to read myths without translation, how are we to translate this motif of immersion?

their salvation. It figures in the famous tomb of a

There are two important elements: the all-embracing power of music, capable of suspending aggression against Arion, of driving mad the pirates threatening Dionysus, of attracting irresistibly Boutes, the dolphins or the bulls of Dorcon; and on the other hand the irrational act par excellence, the dive by which a threatened person propels himself to a seemingly worse danger, but which turns out to be the higher reason by which he survives. Gods or animals who effect this salvation, be they Nereides or dolphins, inhabit the awesome depths of the sea, perhaps because they serve the same god of music. Like them, music rises from the depths of the unconscious, of which the sea is the image. Apollo and Dionysus share the power of sound: the former by embodying the generative action of development, of psychic balance, of illumination; and the latter by embodying its power of exaltation. Music represents the activity which most conforms to natural laws, which reconciles the wild innocence of the animal with poetic enlightenment against the sordid machinations of society, and which liberates us.

Although this exegesis is essentially inspired by P. Diel's book on Greek mythology, cited above, in reality we may call on all mythic traditions. It is sufficient to consider the Jewish myth of Jonah, which underlines the return to the womb in a way which is cruder than the Greek play of words on "dolphin". Jonah stays right in the stomach of the whale which is both hostile and protective. As for the Christian rite of baptism, loaded with the same general symbolism, it ranges in its representation of



the initiating plunge from discreet allusion to total immersion, depending on the church.

At the heart of so universal a theme, mUSICIS present in various

ways, just as established religions have attitudes to it ranging from the

closest ritual links to a fierce rejection.

forms, music is of the essence. Divine or heroic representations are only a presentation of the forces acting within us, and the great theatre of myths has only the human mind as its real setting. This is one of the meanings of the "know thyself" of Apollo at Delphi, and of the Sanskrit Tat tvam asi ("you are that"). What the pseudo-stories of Arion, Dionysus etc try to tell us is that in order to escape the perverse temptations of the desire for power, especially that which is conferred by socially-recognized talent, one must dare to risk the great leap into the primordial unconscious. Whether one calls this gesture initiation, psycho-analytic cure, meditation or something similar, it has always been represented as a necessary risk in order to exit from a severe psychic crisis. This difficult beginning of a quest for the truth, or for a truth, is like the beginning of a dangerous

voyage. The principal danger of this initiating journey is that the traveller may be prematurely tempted to divert the spiritual riches acquired to serve

But in the majority of mythic

ends just as erroneous and illusory as those he settled

pirates abducting Dionysus tell the same story as that of the Saddhu who, instead of continuing to meditate on holiness, exploits some of the faculties he has acquired to impress the public and exploit them as a simple fakir. In Christian mythology it is Simon the Magus. But in all cases, the mind alone is the victim of its own daimones, and the conflicts that the mythological imagery illustrates are intrapsychic. At this depth the other does not exist, consciousness has not yet constructed its boundaries in space

and time.

on before. The

Music is there already, however, and it is often music which offers the traveller a lifeline to what is essential. It is in this sense that Apollo, father of Asclepius, is the Healer par excellence. The musician confirms his complete commitment by diving, and attains salvation in the depths of primordial waters. The world responds to his true voice, isolation is conquered (Ariane rejoins Dionysus, Aphrodite is united with Boutes), the illusions of superficial desire are drowned, and only the deep and genuine



desire is fulfilled, If the only punishment of Dionysus' attackers is to be transformed into watchful dolphins, it is because the god of Dithyrambes, who twice braved the gates of death, exercises his powers of salvation even over his enemies: he puts even evil influence to good use by an unlooked for and undeserved change of sign, This is not very far removed from the Christian myth.

In all this music is indeed neither a decorative art nor even a tool of communication, although the latter features among the accomplishments of the true musician. Tiresias, Melampous in legend, and Aleman in history, understand the language of birds: Amphion and Orpheus are in direct contact with the entire, animate and inanimate world. Music is much more the means of discovering the (ruth (this "heavenly distraction" as Plato took pleasure in defining it by its Greek etymology"), since it hurls musicians into the water to rediscover themselves, so that they are helped by the very monsters they were carrying within.

It would seem that the two enigmatic formulae engraved on golden tablets with which certain initiates of the cult of Orpheus were buried,

mean the same thing. It is written: "From (he drum I drew food, and from (he cymbal drink", and again "Kid, I am fallen into the milk". One

possible interpretation

The second is perhaps related to the

immersion evoked in myths. It is also obscurely linked to the ritual prohibition in Judaism of "cooking the kid in the milk of its mother", to the mythic fantasy of the nourishing matriarchal sea (which exists even outside the "mer-mere" play on words possible in French), and to the sombre story of Melicertes. For it is through an unsuccessful attempt at culinary sorcery that he dies in front of his mother Ino, before being revived by his immersion. The god Dionysus himself is ritually described as a "kid". Digressing a little further, we find the milky way, next to which the lyre and dolphin of Arion preside eternally, both transformed into constellations

nourishment for the initiated.

of the first formula is that music is essential

after Arion's death.

As a secondary motif in the myths of Ino and Boutes, we have encountered one of the most widespread images in mythology, that of



petrification. Its link with music is more explicit in other narratives, which it is worth recalling at this point.

Aleathoos rebuilt the walls of Megara with the help of Apollo. Tourists of the ancient world who visit a sonorous stone in these ramparts are told that the god, wishing to put himself at ease in order to work, placed his lyre on it. The sound has impregnated the stone forever!",

In the history of the Dogon people of Mali, the seventh ancestor

received the knowledge of a word crucial to the progress of humanity and

revealed it through weaving. The oldest of the men,

devoured by this ancestor - who has taken the form of a serpent - and is then spat out as stones which symbolise the force of the eight ancestors. The serpent has devoured Lebe to imbue the stones with the essence of the primordial word. In spite of this degradation of the power of sound into material, the stone's inertness is only apparent".

named Lebe, is

Amphion constructed the ramparts of Thebes with his twin brother

Zethos. Zethos struggled to carry the blocks of stone, while Amphion had

the stones flew into

just to play his lyre. Attracted by the tuneful sound,

place by themselves. Made King of Thebes, Amphion married Niobe, who gave him a large number of astonishingly beautiful children. She was so

proud of them that she dared compare herself favourably to Leto, who had only two children, called Apollo and Artemis". One by one, Apollo the archer struck Niobe's entire progeny with his arrows - the sun beams of the healer who is also the bringer of epidemics. The bodies of the children remained unburied for ten days, since all the inhabitants of Thebes had been petrified by terror. Then the gods themselves took pity on them and

buried them, and the weeping Niobe was

Sipyle, from which the eternal waterfalls flowed. Tourists at Mount Akpinar in Turkey can still see the gigantic form of Niobe carved into the rock, although archeologists explain that it is actually a Hittite

turned into a rock on Mount

representation of the Great Goddess!'.

Orphe and Lyco were the jealous sisters of Carya, who was loved

The condition placed upon

by Dionysus,

Dionysus' love for Carya is that no one will seek to know more about him

the other god of music.



than he chooses to reveal. Although Lyco had received the gift of prophecy from Apollo, she did not know that Semele, pregnant with Dionysus, had for so long begged her lover Zeus to reveal himself to her in all his divine power that she had perished by a divine thunderbolt, the victim of her own curiosity; and that Zeus had been forced to complete the gestation of the god by stitching him into his thigh. Lyco and her sister Orphe paid for the same curiosity with immediate petrification".

Linos taught music to Herakles. Herakles, like the brother and rival of Amphion, Zethos, was more interested in muscle than in music, and

One day after a reprimand he

showed himself to be an indifferent pupil.

became so angry that he killed his teacher by striking him with a stone.

Orpheus, the most sublime musician of all, ended up being stoned

by the Bacchantes of Dionysus. Their raucous music of oboes and cymbals drowned out his voice, which had been moving even to the stones. They decapitated him, and his head floated down the Hebre river, then into the Aegean, followed by his lyre, both continuing to emit marvellous music in

spite of his death (in an analagous and yet contrasting way, the head

Medusa, decapitated and infested with serpents, continued to exercise her petrifying power). The head of Orpheus washed up on the shore at Lesbos, near Methymne, in the same area where Sappho, and later Daphnis, practised their musical skills. But sea serpents came to attack the sacred head. Apollo saved it by turning the serpents to stone. He therefore obliterated what represented the negation of his power, and thus restored it.


In all these myths, which ripple with recurring

images of the

serpent, the stone and sound (variously recombined like musical motifs), petrification represents the antithesis of music, or its enemy. The penalty that it represents does not result from a social convention, but from a natural law. The Greeks would have said that it was a matter of Themis, and not Dike. The metamorphosis is an internal process which is different from the spell cast externally, in stories, by a hostile sorceror. If the punishment is immanent, it is because the gods are also immanent in us. When the tale recounts the stone triumphing over sound, it refers to the spiritual death that paralyses us. Herakles striking Linos only murders the



musical instinct within himself (today there are still a lot of little Herakleses). The immortal musician's head of Orpheus was necessary to compensate, like a counter-subject, for the permanent menace of Medusa's petrifying head. The latter epitomises the baseness within us which we cannot contemplate with impunity. Apollo fortunately petrified the petrifying serpents - Diel interprets them as symbols of earthly vanity!' - and the music of Orpheus lives on.

Very occasionally, petrification is not a conclusive death of the spirit insensible to Apollonian or Dionysian music, and the metaphor is inverted. The ancients attributed to Memnon (son of Aurora) the statue of the pharaoh Amenhotep III which stands on the plain of Thebes in Egypt, and which was already something of fabulous antiquity for them. Today it is still covered with the graffiti of the pilgrims who claim to have been present at the daily miracle of the singing stone. Rapidly heated by the Egyptian sunlight, the cracked stone would expand and emit an intense sound which popular belief recognized- as the love song of Memnon greeting his mother.

The reversible relationship of desire and petrification is again illustrated by the story of Propoetos's daughters. Aphrodite rescued Boutes, who was led astray by music; but she punished the fundamental error of the daughters. For not having recognized her divinity (frigidity which would also be the end of Hippolytus) they were first struck by nymphomania, turned into prostitutes and then petrified, which symbolizes more or less the same thing. But shortly afterwards Ovid recounts the opposite and reassuring story of Pygmalion". A Cypriot, like Propoetos, he fell in love with an ivory statue which he had possibly sculpted himself. During a festival in honour of Aphrodite, he begged the goddess to grant him a woman who resembled this statue. Moved by the intensity of this passion, Aphrodite gave life to the statue itself: this is the stone which regains life and love.

The two groups of musical myths evoked therefore speak to us symbolically: the first tells us that the power of music is decisive and salutary for those who wish to complete life'sjourney successfully, and the



second that its universal power of reconciliation is as strong as the opposite principle which isolates us in stony silence.

It is likely that this teaching contained in the symbols of myths is peculiar to the my tho-logical level (that of systems of organized discourse) rather than to the mythic level (that of primary images). Only a religious attitude would interpret the latter as bearing a vital message - in fact, as being a form of revelation. Jol1es, in his work on Simple Forms (Einfache Formen, 1929) distinguishes between the optative mode of the tale, the imperative of the legend and the interrogative form which would be that of

the myth.

grammatical metaphor of the indicative mode. Mythic archetypes teach us

It seems to me in this last case that we could add the

I, , about the spontaneous functioning of our unconscious. Inevitably they

I reawaken the desire for a religious interpretation, just as dreams have for

I a long time appeared supernatural to dreamers. But their roots in instinct do not absolve us of the responsibility of endowing them with meaning. Their insistent and enigmatic whispering troubles us as it has done from the beginning of ti me, though this voice from nature does not restore to us a lost certainty. Here we find, in fact, their questioning function.

It will not be easy for me to persuade my contemporaries that these millenial tales have a real meaning. Their ancient or exotic dress, and a century of rationalist exegeses consign them to being thought of as nonsense dating from humanity's infancy. To allow the reader to observe their power I have tactfully chosen to recount them before suggesting little by little their continuing significance. But an essential aspect which casts doubt on the devaluation of the mythical - which, for example, has caused this term to be used pejoratively to describe fleeting fantasies of fashion - is the worrying universality that has been attributed to certain motifs since they first started to be collected throughout the world. In Japan one rediscovers a motif from the myth of Arion with the warrior Kiyotsune who, from the prow of the ship, plays his farewell song to the world on his flute before throwing himself into the sea. Other Greek myths from the Demeter cycle have their precise parallel in the same country, and P. Leveque, strongly committed to an historical exegesis of myths, struggles with the insoluble problem of how these stories would have travelled from Greece to Japan". Diffusionism is an even more unlikely hypothesis for



Oceania where, as we shall see, motifs identical in detail to Greek equivalents can be found. It is much more complicated to imagine, for lack of any evidence, that the followers of Orpheus recounted similar stories, or had their emulators as far as the Marquise Islands, than to acknowledge the simpler (and therefore in principle more scientific) hypothesis, even if it has a large area of obscurity, according to which my themes are universal mental images produced spontaneously by the still little understood laws governing the central nervous system.

It is not very likely that the Greeks had links with Japan and Polynesia", but it is not simply chance which causes myths to offer here and there certain resemblances. It must be admitted that among apparently purely cultural elements there are those which may not be completely accounted for in this way. Mythology (as a system of telling tales) and music are such cases, as we shall have the opportunity of discovering through other means.

Kena undertook a voyage to set


and the Argonauts

free his wife Tefio.


to bring back the

Kena was compel1ed to pass

through a dangerous strait: he had to thread his way between


together ceaselessly.




Kena managed to bring back Tefio's spirit in a basket. But he was forbidden to open the basket for ten days.

Golden Fleece.


compelled to slide between the Syrnplegades rocks, two reefs


ceaseless Iy.







Orpheus managed to bring

But he

was forbidden to turn round and look at her before they had left the underworld.

Eurydice back to life.

The same night, unable to bear






it any longer,

he opened the






basket and lost the spirit of Tefio.

nevertheless turned round, and lost Eurydice.



Kena must

voyage again before


the whole


being reunited with Tefio.

Orpheus will not have a second chance. He sinks into despair.

The Polynesian myth" brings together in a single story two motifs which the Greek one, whilst linking them to the musician Orpheus, has separated: one devoted to the expedition of the Argonauts, the other to the quest for the lost wife. Whatever the true symbolic value, the images of the rocks clashing together, and of the spirit lost for the second time, are of such precision that their similarity cannot be a matter of chance. In section 9 of Kojiki, a Japanese mythological anthology dating from the eighth century, Izanami is fatally burned while giving birth to the god of fire. Her husband lzanagi goes to search for her in hell; he finds her, and she tells him that she can return with him to the daylight on condition that he waits at the entrance without turning round. When he disobeys, like Orpheus and like Kena, he notices that she is nothing more than a corpse. Izanami is at the same time Semele, burnt during the first birth of Dionysus, and Eurydice, the lost wife. Or rather, it is more accurate to say that her name serves to reassociate two mythic images which elsewhere could be dissociated and named differently. If the ancients Hellenized or Latinized the divine figures belonging to other peoples so easily, it is because they were profoundly conscious of the universality of these necessary archetypes, far removed from the idolatry the Christians later supposed it to have been. Mythological stories were infinitely adaptable, reworkable and, as still in Bali today, all creation was first of all an arrangement, Lyrical arrangers (rhapsodes) were what poets were called during the epoch when mythic thought reigned supreme, and when their only task was to invent a canvas on which the images imprinted on their minds could be reassociated.

The resemblance of such motifs makes one wish for a method which would combine in a coherent whole the teachings of Levi-Straussian structuralism, which lays out the pieces of the puzzle, and those inspired



by the psycho-analysis of Jung and Diel (thanks to whom the symbolic code permitting the assembly of the pieces can begin to be deciphered). With the help of such a synthesis one could most probably demonstrate certain universal laws of the human intellect, which reside in its imaginative activities such as music, poetry, visual arts, dance, social ceremonies etc",

Unfortunately we are not there yet. Many of the most brilliant

efforts in contemporary thought incline rather to move in the opposite


When Roland Barthes affirms: "Myth is a word chosen by


It could not come from the nature of things", one is tempted to

contradict him point by point. Beyond words and stories, myth seems more like a psychic content from which words, gestures and musics radiate. History only chooses for it more or less becoming clothes. And these contents surge forth all the more vigorously from the nature of things when reason tries to repress them. Whatever the roles and commentaries with which such and such a socio-historic movement decks out the mythic image, the latter lives a largely autonomous life which continually fascinates humanity. To denounce archaism only makes sense as a function of a "progressive" ideology, which itself begins to show a certain archaism and an obvious naivety.

However, one should not too quickly confuse the myth, in the sense of this primary psychic image, with some kind of my tho-logy, or a system of words trying with varying success to ensure a certain coherence between these images. Not only are the principal mythic archetypes older than all mythological systems, but these systems themselves are still only accessible to a second signifying system, that of structural analysis, which rests upon

intellectual categories of a rational kind largely foreign to the categories of mythology. Whatever structuralism gains in precision it loses in evocative power. The thinking of Levi-Strauss does not determine socially specific behaviour, whereas the meaning of a mythology is solely that of experience. Here one meets the very limits of the scientific intellect and its postulate of distance in relation to the subject studied. Mythology can

be dissected,

it is perhaps because its scores can be played.

but not the myth. If Levi-Strauss was so fascinated by music,



The compatibility of structural anthropology and a psychoanalysis of myth, two approaches which this essay is trying to draw on, only appears impossible in music (in the momentary absence of all general theory on the transformational relationships between different signifying systems) if one confuses myth with mythology, if one sees only in the latter one of the signifying systems by which man organizes his relationship with reality, But if one is willing to see in myths not only words - this is only one meaning of the word - but also natural schemes that are supplied by the mind prior to all formalisation and systematisation", the relationship between analysis on a rational basis and myth does not reside between signifying groups on the same level. It resides, rather, on a vertical line which begins from a spontaneous thought and passes through the symbol, the metaphor, the rational consciousness, and ends perhaps at a hypothetical superconsciousness. Through this perspective, the musical work would be the place where the totality of these levels of thought would be recognized, while other systems like language or ceremonies would concern certain of these levels more specifically.

Myth therefore seems to choose history, rather than be chosen by it. It generates and informs history in the sense that history is a perpetual variation on themes imposed by our psyche such as we each have. Bergson went so far as to think that mythic representation, a quasi-hallucinatory image, is destined to provoke, in the absence of instinct, behaviour which

instinct activates within the confines of the animal psyche. As well as the examples provided by comparative mythology (in the work of Durnezil, for example), how can one understand without this the universality of so large

a number

Orpheus, Loth etc), the flood (Ziusudra at Sumer, Noah in Israel, Deucalion in Greece etc) or the divine twins (Africa, America, Europe)? Besides, if it was the rite which created the myth, as has been maintained,

how does one interpret the persistence of ritual gestures beyond the forgetting of the myths which accompanied them? The Islamicised Touareg

continue to coat certain Betyles with oil, without being able to justify this seemingly idolatrous practice. In the 12th century, Pope Calixte II had to issue interdictions against cults that were still being practised, probably since paleolithic times, "in the cave where images of horses are found".

The analogy of this behaviour

of my themes, such as the imperative not to turn round (Kena,

with that of instinct


in its



blinkeredness like that of the dog vainly burrowing into the pavement) allows one to think that the unconscious, collective or not, from which mythic images emerge, is the basis for cultural diversity rather than being the secondary expression of it. Evidently, a number of myths and a number of musics are almost entirely peculiar to this or that culture, but this does not prevent the existence of certain universals in music being a hypothesis worthy of consideration, just as much as the universality of certain generative thoughts of my themes. Schelling already had a much less summary view on the question than those of the Lumiere philosophers when he wrote in his Introduction to Philosophy and Mythology (Chapter 8): "Mythological representations have been neither invented nor freely accepted. The products of a process independent of thought and Will, they were, for the consciousness which underwent them, of an irrefutable and incontestable reality. Peoples and individuals are only the instruments of this process, which goes beyond their horizon and which they serve without understanding" .


specific, leads us indirectly to the appreciation of the current musical

The mortal music of the

situation - i.e. the myths of musical conflict.

Sirens is in opposition to the sublime music of Orpheus.

A third aspect of musical Greek myths, while perhaps

In his turn,

Orpheus is opposed to the music of the Bacchants of Dionysus. Pan and Apollo took Mount Tmolos in Lydia as the arbiter between the flute (the aulas is in fact nearer to the oboe) and the lyre. Perhaps it was also a matter of a conflict between the sedentary farmers and the nomadic herdsmen, the flute (vegetal) belonging to the former, and the lyre (made

of animal materials - turtle, goat etc) to the latter.

were punished, as one knows, for preferring the Phrygian flute and its passionate music, to the harmonious Greek lyre of Apollo.

Midas and Marsyas

If it was only a question of sublimating social, geographic or cultural conflicts (herdsmen-labourers, east-west, order-freedom) it is hard to see why myths would show Apollo himself playing on occasion, like Athena, on a double oboe. The goddess armed with intelligence rejects the

instrument of Marsyas

disfigures her, but she has been tempted, and it is the same inventor Hermes to whom Apollo lent both instruments, even if the lyre is his firm

when she realizes at what point her playing



choice, The choice between the Apollonian way and the Dionysian way does not represent one alternative: both lead to a spiritual accomplishment, one by meditation and the other through trance. But myths also warn us that meditation can degenerate into intellectual dryness, and trance into anarchic savagery. It is respectively the sense of the myths of Icarus, and of Pentheus or Lycurgues. Icarus believed it possible to approach the spiritual sun with artificial wings of the highest technical ingenuity, and he fell as far down into the marine depths of the unconscious as he wanted to ascend upwards. Pentheus and Lycurgues persecuted Dionysus, that is to say by rejecting the trance they were violently torn by the forces it had launched despite them. Psychoanalysts have called this phenomenon the return of {he repressed.

The aridity of serialism as a purely formal organization in the work of its most mediocre exponents, and the deafening, vain exaltation of most products of the music industry (where a makeshift trance is deprived of all real transcendance and where accomplishment merely equals comsumption) illustrates quite well the two rocks, the two Symplegades, between which only a few musicians come to navigate today, and who seem to have overcome certain heroes of twenty or thirty years ago. If the need for myth resurfaces once more in, for example, Diatope by Xenakis, the big electro-acoustic frescoes of Jean-Claude Eloy, or some of my own works such as Andromedes or Kassandra, it is because beyond the new socio- historic facts, like the power of the mass media and the omnipresence of computer technology, musical creation is in the process of experiencing a no less powerful return of the repressed.

It begins to be seen that there is in rationality a potential for alienation as dangerous as the conditioned responses of instinct or the caprices of emotion. I have always found the figure of Archimedes, continuing his calculations without realizing that the Romans had broken into Syracuse, as much ridiculous as sublime. From reduction upon reduction, myth has become a symbol, the symbol a mere allegory, and the history of the art has been substituted for the continually renewed present

of the rite.

It is time to resume the protest of Artaud against this

"senseless contraction", especially when the allegory itself tends to be


reduced to a simple causal statement, to a simple established fact.



more distance, no more metaphor, no more verve of the imagination beyond the now interchangeable themes. Form is identified with material, and the work with its form.

This notion of material in music must itself be reconsidered. A useful and sometimes inevitable pretence for the composer, it is increasingly at odds with the primordial importance of everything that the term "timbre" implies. The neutrality of the material has become fictive as soon as the choice of an instrument or a means of articulation is allowed to become more important than the choice of the notes. Attempts to treat timbre as a parameter have rapidly failed, without discrediting the 20th century taste for sound colours and their relationships. The fact that these relationships are in some way negotiated one by one, without an overall theory, without the laws of equivalence that intervals of time or pitch apply on pre-established scales, continues to irk a whole school of intellects for whom the purely qualitative is a weakness unworthy of music aspiring to the status of intellectual rigour. Irritated by the gap which separates their use of formal principles (completely arbitrary though they are) from their necessarily mostly empirical practice, they willingly denounce the theoretical void of the time.

Timbral resources were acknowledged in a surpnsing article by

Louis Laloy in 1908". In it he prophesied,

automisation and synthesis.

Varese, electro-acoustic music and all our contemporaries have each born out the majority of his forecasts. But the second half of the century has considerably accelerated an evolution which, before the second world war, remained balanced by very strong preoccupations with the dialectic between material and form (to borrow the terminology of Pierre Boulez). It will be some time yet, perhaps, before these resources appear exhausted when one observes that popular musics are adhering wholeheartedly, with the usual half-century delay, to the search for the typical sound and the particular colour which are often intended to compensate (more even than the words) for the stereotyped character of the rhythmic ostinati and the melodic or

harmonic formulae.

among other revolutions,

Since then, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok,



Another reason for reconsidering the formalist approach to musical "material" is the radical evolution that the idea of notation is undergoing

in dual relationship to the great oral traditions, on the one hand, and to the new technologies on the other. Without making a play on words, the laws of a raga which pre-exist its performance do not relate to it in the same way that a series or harmonic field relates to the graphic treatments which make up a score, Intervals, ornaments, motifs have no neutrality - each detail of them is loaded with an expressive and symbolic particularity that Indians define with precision. On the contrary, to treat intervals, permutations, interpolations etc as one does in the West is only possible by neutralizing to the maximum the elements which are to be combined, and

by reducing the reality of the sound to a sign, the note. The concept


material has its origin and its justification in the practice and cult of


But it so happens that new technologies of musical data processing are overturning the game of signs by restoring sound to its rightful status, without the loss of combinatory richnesses which has resulted from the strait jacket of notational organization. The sequencer, coupled with the synthesiser or the sampler, and the automatic transcription facility, make possible the immediate notation, in the form of tablature, of the most complex musical gesture, and this with a fidelity equal to that of sound recording itself. The work of composition can take place in real time, if

desired, by improvisation, and in time-lag by the modification

transcription of improvised elements. And the musician, instead of just working with the sounds, can henceforth work the sound itself, therefore considering as one thing what has traditionally been separated into form and material.

of the

This new situation not only puts the composer face to face with sound by returning the intermediary of notation to its primitive role of transmitting a sound idea (whereas it had become a quasi-autonomous system of signs), but also allows him direct immersion into his own unconscious, in contact with schemes of mythic thought which conscious activity contrives to avoid. What seems to me to legitimise the interest I have in symbolic translations of musical Greek myths is that the symbol as an overall idea mediating between the unconscious and the intellect is the



normal intercessor between the mythic source prior to all translation, and the conscious products (musical in particular) of the imagination. The symbol is essentially multiple and polysemous; its meanings, expressible in words, have not exhausted its different senses, which perhaps only music can show in their entirety. To the extent that music embodies the rhythmical infrastructure of phenomena, it is essentially symbolic. This consideration does not necessarily launch us upon mystic journeys, and with all due respect to the genius of Nietzsche (and, inversely, to that of Levi-Strauss) this common intuition can be illuminated differently. This essay will rather try to link it to the psycho-physiology of human beings and, more generally, to living beings, if one wishes to acknowledge that music immerses its roots in the furthest depths of the unconscious psyche.

I measure how far this approach goes by the opposite of the thought processes most accredited today. The reductivist approach to human

awareness, which consists of cutting through the


brought us to consider mythic thought according to these free (and thus even reassuring) perspectives. Too much convinced that rationality has historically supplanted the myth, and that the progress of humanity depends on it, we willingly forget that myth has already interpreted rationality and that it "sees it coming" from afar; this is very much what is meant by the "familiar looks" which observe us in the forest of Baudelairian symbols".

phenomena a few paths marked out with concepts and language,

vagueness of

It is not a question of defining reality as a vast semantic field to be opened up: the unformed has overtaken the forms we are making in

advance. We have to get rid of the belief according

been supplanted by rationality: the rational faculty is already rendered in images by myth. It is the meaning of the warning experienced by Icarus or Phaeton, who have both had the imprudence to believe that intellect

In Athena the weapon of

intelligence and the clear control of Medusa's head which she had made into a shield: the consciousness can arm itself prudently with the control of the subconscious. But Athena rejects the oboe when she realizes that it is disfiguring her: the intellect only produces music at the cost of an intolerable distortion. It is Apollo who symbolizes the spirituality of music. It is surprising that so few composers are openly polytheistic, when

alone can scale the heights of the mind.

to which myth has



monotheistic research into the formula has so manifestly failed today, giving way to a plurality of models, and when all musical creation provides more than ever the spectacle of permanent conflicts between the appetite for power and the exaltations of sound intoxication, conflicts which myths represent precisely.

When the aftermath of positivism and the excesses of historicism have been rejected we will see that the only anachronism in mythic thought



proclaims in advance the price to be paid for man's freedom without the gods: the anguish of the responsibility that he inherits gnaws at his heart, and enslaves rather than liberates him. One can only enlist the help of lung and Lorenz, to avoid presenting a similarly totally deterministic picture of human life, and to find a synthesis between traditional knowledge, which psychoanalysis has made presentable by freeing it from

dogma, and the lessons of ethology. Artistic activity formal convention relative to this or that culture,


beginning to end. The task of evaluating the weight of the myth and that of the invention is very difficult, but it could provide musicology with a possible escape route from the narrow, ancilliary role in which historicism has often helped to keep it.




the imagery,

the names,

the additional

But essentially Prometheus is still of our time. He

is neither a pure,


a simple

factor from

of mythic content which is the governing

The genial intuition of Levi-Strauss noting the structural affinities between music and mythology has opened up perspectives which are still far from being explored. But it has been somewhat obscured by a certain ethnocentricity which reduces music to notes and chooses from among them those of the European classical era. As Pandora Hopkins" and several other critics have already observed, one would need more than the authority of the naked man (Mythologiques IV) to persuade a musician that Ravel's Bolero is a kind of "one dimensional fugue". On the contrary, we will see that the obsessive ostinato of this work is in fact a possible sign of its belonging to the world of myth. The affinities of myth and music suppose a search for universals, of which the ostinato most likely forms a part, but in this area comparative musicology is only permitted a dialogue with comparative mythology.



However, a major obstacle crops up on this route which I am trying to signpost. Mythic thought operates through confusion between areas: in the midst of these areas, rationality tries desperately to erect the solid barriers of definitions and categories, the better to establish its own order. Everything in myth is ambivalent. Contradictions are reabsorbed within it, and an image and its opposite can constantly be interchanged by a simple switch of sign. Cause is mistaken for effect, as is born out, for example,

by the continual equivalence of the images"

Rational thought slices up, separates, distinguishes. After centuries of attempts, it has succeeded in dominating the 20th century by simultaneously generating the simplistic, proliferating geometry of serial formalism in music, and politically totalitarian regimes in Europe which were hostile towards it but which nonetheless proceeded from the same logic - a logic which reduces sound phenomena and individuals to simple, anonymous elements to be combined or dissociated at will, and which tends to make artistic creation into something approaching eugenics. The extreme centralisation of political decisions and- the single formula which would generate numerous works are two expressions of the same rational ambition. However, mythic thought (thank heavens!) always revindicates (surreptitiously, or explosively) its rights to multiplicity. It has reintroduced the number (the Trinity) even to monotheism. Its conflicts are uninformed by all dialectic propositions. In Bali, the Barong can never eliminate Rangda". Christ is recrucified over and over.

father of" and"

son of".

How can one make this compatible with a scientific approach, when

to do so requires the principle of non-contradiction,

it is neither capable nor desirous of

providing an exegesis of what it is offering. Besides, we know that the musician, asked to explain what he meant "deep down", can only resort to playing his sonata a second time. At what level is there common ground between the "revelation" of myth (and not just its structure) and structural analysis, also atemporal? And then between structural analysis and the creative impulse of the imagination? The difference between this essay and a scientific work is precisely that: it is not enough for the composer to be

able to analyse the myth, he must moreover believe in it.

this potential to be constantly recreated, a myth is only a tale, and as such

either a simple object for erudition or an infantile curiosity.

stance? The myth has no answers,

and an objective




We are not dealing with an alternative choice between original artistic creation and the simple emergence of archetypes at the conscious level (in short, between craftsmanship and inspiration), because it is precisely the essential task of creative originality to make coherent without misrepresenting them the many spontaneous appeals of mythic images. To achieve this, a constant communication between the deepest levels of the psyche and the most lucid consciousness is necessary, and it is by this aptitude for coming and going between the conscious and the unconscious that one identifies the genuine, waking dreamers known as artists.

The analyses which follow will try to demonstrate motion by walking, that is, trace the limits of conscious thought by delineating where its powers stop, what its tools come up against, and what the central notion of the model represents. The only example I know which encourages a similarly oblique approach is provided by R. Caillois, who has realized the profound biological similarity between instinct and myth even better than Bergson when he observes that myth "represents to the consciousness the image of a behaviour whose appeal it senses"".

to the relationships, and not the

definition, of phenomena. Like music too, it does not busy itself with

Like music, myth is attached

"states of mind", but only its processes,

its tendencies. Rational thought,

and particularly in music "parametric" thought, only recognizes temporal movement when applied to measurable values outside time, even if this means acknowledging some distortions in our imperfect or capricious perception. But if the motif of metamorphosis is so widespread in myths, it is not to show that the divine power is above its own natural laws: it is rather to make clear both the presence of the multiple in each appearance - and even almost any other appearance - and the action of indefinable and imperceptible forces according to our intellectual categories (whose frontiers are always temporary). A large part of music's charm (in the magical sense of the word) lies precisely in the continual presence of the marvellous, which music persists in welcoming, whereas other arts, like literature, have more or less eradicated it from their highest achievements.

But the marvellous only remains present in music to the extent that music consents to revive myth, and not simply to reflect it by "setting it to



music"; to the extent, therefore, where the inspired (prophet, vaticinator) has not totally given way to a practitioner, artist or thinker.

To understand this point is not on its own a recipe for success, as demonstrated by Stockhausen, whose music was very much charged with mythic intensity before he offered it as a message from Sirius. By contrast, if Xenakis (to my mind) remains one of the rare great creators of his generation who is still at the height of his powers, it is because his intense creativity succeeds in maintaining at the same level the exigencies of rationality and the fascination of myth, the chtonian myth in his particular case. His example proves that it is possible to bypass formalism without degenerating into fakirism.

In parallel, certain physicists today perceive that the concepts logically produced by their working hypotheses or intuitively thrown up by their experiences ultimately resemble mythic thought more than the ideas of Auguste Comte or Stuart Mill. Rationality itself contains the germs of a re-examination of its narrowest concepts. One glimpses a possible insertion of reputedly primitive thoughts into generalized thought, such as scientific rationalism can seem to do in a particular, privileged case - rather like Euclidian geometry became a particular example (that of a zero curve, suitable to the majority of our perceptual experiences) in a more general geometry whose use is required for astronomy. It would be especially ridiculous for the arts, and music, to have inferiority complexes in the face of scientific knowledge, and to lag behind it in the name of naive scientism, when modern scientific thought is showing itself to be infinitely more flexible and versatile than fifty years ago, less translatable in the current language, and in short more "musical".




1. Cultures, vol.I, no. I, Unesco et la Baconniere,


2. A. Artaud, Le theatre et son double, Preface. Gallimard.


3. cr. R. Poignant, Mythologie Oceanienne, O.D.G.E.,

Paris, 1968, p. 50,

4. Cf. C. Levi-Strauss, La Pensee sauvage, Mythologiques etc.

5. Paul Diel, Le Symbolisme dans la mythologie grecque, Payot 1966.

6. R. Caillois, Le mythr et i'homme, Gallimard


7. Evhernere, 300

of Panchaia ("Everything-Good")

inhabited by gods, who were simply men deified by popular naivety.

historicist interpretation him.


In his Histoire sacree he describes the utopian island

in the Indian Ocean which was supposedly

as far as Spencer,


can be traced back to

of mythology,


Cf. K. Papaioannou,

L'an gree, Mazenod,

Paris 1972, fig. 102.



421, b.



Artica, I, 41. 4.


G. Parrinder,

Mythologies africaines

ODEGE, Paris 1969, pp. 47-48


Lethaia commits the same hybris. and is turned to stone with her husband.

13. Iliade, XXIV, 599 sq.

14. Servius, Scholies a virgi!«, Bucoliques VIII, 29.

15. Cf. P. Diel, op. cit., Pl'. 93-103

16. Ovid, Metamorphoses, X. 243 sq.

17. P. Leveque, Colere, sexr, rire, le Japon des inythes anciens.

Lettres, collection


verite des mythes,

Paris 1988.


Les Belles


18. Krishna has certain traits in common with Orpheus,

but these are no more

precise than their equivalents

further afield: he cannot figure a landmark.

19. A myth of the Marquise

oceanienne, ODEGE,


Islands, mentioned 1968, pp. 64-65.

in R. Poignant's



dresses it up in the symbol's colourful attire. comes first, by virtue of reality, biologically,

into rational ideas only comes afterwards and remains an inevitable impoverishment of the text." Charles Baudouin, Psychanatyse du symbole

"It is a mistake to believe that one starts from the

idea, and that one then

In fact it is the symbol which so to speak, and its translation

religieux, Paris,

1957, p. 281.

21. Cf. Bergson, Les deux sources de 10 morale et de la religion, Paris, 1932,

P. 110 sq.



L. Laloy, La musique retrouvee, Desclee de Brouwer,

Paris, 1974,

Reprint of an article which appeared in Mercure de France,

1 December 1908.


I refer to the famous sonnet from Correspondences:

La Nature est lin temple oii de vivants piliers

Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles; L'homme y passe a travers desforits de symboles

Qui I 'observent avec des regards familiers.


24. P. Hopkins, The homology oj music and myth: views oj Levi-Strauss on

musical structure. Ethnomusicology,

XXI,2, May 1977.

25. The Barong is a mythical animal - a bear or a lion - which protects

villagers against the spells of Rangda the witch, the widow once wedded to

death who still possesses

terrible powers and embodies deathly spirits.


Cf. R. Caillois,

Meduse et Compagnie, Gall irnard,




To justify this idea that myth, as a spontaneous function of the human mind, is one of the sources of musical creation, and thus move towards a re-evaluation of the relationships between the "natural" and the "cultural", proof of the universality of the myth-music relationship would seem to be necessary. It is not enough to interpret musical myths and show a certain resemblance between them, one must also bring together "mythic musics" and try to extrapolate common characteristics which would constitute a basic repertoire of universals. This is not a new endeavour, and is obviously beyond the capacities of a single mind.

as a

theoretical basis for all European music from 1722 up to Schoenberg and beyond, owes a large part of its status to the universality attributed to it. Its limits have been necessarily redefined by the combined effect of

progress in acoustics, the discovery of other musical systems and the obsolescence of tonality. This disillusion has left an impression on our century to the point of discrediting in the eyes of many all research into universals, and of establishing almost as a dogma cultural convention as the only basis for music.

The rational undertaking

of Rameau,

which has served

It is therefore not a question here of trying to found all polyphony on the laws of resonance as before. lt is admitted that the composer cannot avoid taking these into account, as indeed he/she must consider all other aspects of sound; but to my mind there is a worrying disproportion between this scrupulous observation of acoustic forms and the aesthetic project which some, today as in previous centuries, intend to deduce from it. By




abandoning the cult of notation in order to enjoy a reunion with sound, one must be careful not to substitute a new acoustic formalism for the old formalism of signs.

To establish aesthetic approaches, it is certainly ontological and not technical information that is required, if they are to move the imagination deeply. Some kind of return to nature is indispensable, but the ambiguity of such a notion has facilitated the work of those who delight in defending the image of man as his own creator, and the belief in liberation through the indefinitely prolonged humanization of the world. This utopia of a weightless humanity is nonetheless discredited by the tedium of all aesthetic products which have only a technical raison d'etre. The meaning and the limits of a musical naturalism must now be made a little more precise.

For some years we have witnessed various approaches intended to demonstrate such mythic content in diverse musical forms. Eero Tarasti's book Myth and Music': for example, applies the methods of structural semiotics established by Greimas to the analysis of this content. His efforts are very much directed towards highlighting universals, but in a limited sense. It is all too easy to show that music is not a "universal language", since the learning of its diverse dialects is always laborious: it involves passing from excessive ethnocentricity to an accepted and perpetuated anarchy. No-one has ever imagined that all mythologies recount the same thing, or that all musics are alike. It is not essential for data to match up in every detail, without exception, for them to be qualified as universal. It is enough that they should appear in independent contexts, and that their functioning presents analogies too precise to be put down to chance.

It is not solely in western music that one may encounter the clearest proof of a correspondance between universal my themes and musemes, especially since this music has developed rationality as a particular feature which has gradually invaded the whole of conscious activity, and which has often simultaneously rejected the suggesting power of myth. From the 13th century musical notation anticipated the system of Cartesian numbers. In the 14th century, the formalism of Ars Nova was already the equal of our now unfashionable neo-serialism. It is better to begin with other musical systems, precisely those which European rationality ended up discovering



through its ethnomusicologists, and simultaneously destroying with its

musical industries,

collection of myths from all over the world linked to sound genesis, and thus to music as the sacrificial re-creation of the world'. My themes like those of the singing cave or the thread stretching from the earth to the sky appear in places which neither history nor geography have associated. We have here an absolutely remarkable collection of mythological universals.

Marius Schneider

has made a very convincing

The enterprise

remains to be completed by seeing if practices

confirm what comparative mythology proclaims. Comparative musicology, for its part, has been rejected by several generations of ethnomusicologists who, with good reason, saw the concept of music as an autonomous activity as being an ethnocentric view linked to European history. Their effort has centred on a global interpretation of musical facts inside a given society. But perhaps it is not necessary to adhere to this purely social framework, to these purely cultural limits (which cannot take account of

what precisely may lie beneath the social organisation itself) in order to know the more or less unconscious inspiration, of which mythic thought is the most important.

In the culture of the Bakundu tribe in Cameroon, and in Timor (between Australia and New Guinea) one finds the same drum mounted on anthropomorphic legs, and Andre Schaeffner has written: "Unless one accepts the idea of an extraordinary synonymy, we must acknowledge that

here we are confronted by two extreme points

of a diffusion whose

intermediary points are completely unknown to us. The fact that in Africa this drum is found not on the eastern coast but on the west, i.e. on the coast furthest from the Sunda archipelago, does not contradict the thesis of diffusion: the latter, on the contrary, will see in the isolated occurrence of this drum close to the Atlantic Ocean an indication of the ancientness of its existence, all proof of the route followed having been obliterated over time by successive migrations of other instruments. "3. In spite of his somewhat

desperate profession of diffusionist faith, it seems to me that the author has nonetheless been perplexed by this synonymy for a moment. Is it not more adventurous to find which route an eventual diffusion was able to take, while having no milestone at one's disposal, rather than put forward as a

common origin the same

mythic image, observed in both places, and




expressing itself in the same form of instrument? Similarly, even in the heroic hypothesis of a forgotten diffusion, it remains to be explained how this image has survived above all others. What was so essential about it that it resisted oblivion over thousands of years? At any rate, one is forced back to the hypothesis of there being a particular symbolism to these mythic images, and thus the difference between diffusionism and naturalism is not so great: anyhow, there are many cases where images of special status are encountered, and this status cannot be successfully explained by cultural convention alone.

One of the most universal practices of musical creation is the use of sound models. The imitation of animal sounds by primitive ethnic groups of hunters is likely to give us the most direct image of the common source of myth and of music. Before a distance is established between the desire and its object, between the hunter and his prey, between the propitiatory rite and the success of the chase, the sound image imposes itself with perhaps the same force as the vision which gave rise to the figures of Lascaux; elsewhere it can be accompanied by trance, particularly

observed signs of this

It is not

sufficient to say that this omnipresent ostiruuo in primitive musics is the expression of the magic belief in the power of desire ("at the seventh time, the walls fell"): it is also more profoundly an immobilisation of the psychic area where the sel f and the non-self are still confused. Pure fascination for this eternal present sustains in their original state spontaneous mythic images and sound motifs drawn from the environment by the perception. As in the psyche of infancy, at the age of repetitive swaying, the distinction between the dreamed and the perceived is not absolute. Obstinately to imitate the cry of the prey one is chasing is not only to pressurise it by

appropriating its "spirit", it is also to be already certain of possessing it by allowing oneself to be possessed by its voice. For the primitive, the actual efficacy of the calls confirms the correctness of this practice, but it is not

the basis for it. The immense success of Ravel's

in the case of the Shaman.

One of the most easily

force is the obstinacy with which the sound image is repeated.

Bolero is due to the

exceptional synthesis between primitive magic and the refinement of the orchestration: on each level of the psyche, the listener finds motifs of well- being. The function of generating tension which Charles Rosen attributes to the ostinati in Schoenberg (in Envartung) and in Beethoven does not



exclude this dive into the depths of the unconscious: after all, Erwartung is the first musical work to show the influence of psychoanalysis.

Despite this truly exceptional case in the music of the founder of dodecaphony, it must be noted that the aversion of neo-serialist composers to all ostinato has been very strong, while generally unjustified, and that it is this ostracism which has in turn given rise to the simplistic approach of the American minimalists. There is nothing surprising in this: linking all their activity to the discursive powers of the consciousness in the fifties and sixties, they apparently felt a kind of sacred horror before a profound force endowed with such a dangerous potential for stasis. It is their operative model of musical discourse and language which was directly called into question. When Schoenberg was already recommending to his students never to write what a copyist could put in its place, he was not only concerned to refine their capacity to invent variations, he also meant to put a defensive perimeter around his conception of note combinations, which was threatened by the works of composers such as Bartok or Stravinsky, in which the use of ostinato illustrated another means of escape from tonal routines.

It is not surprising either that this genre of forces, systematically held at bay until about 1960, re-emerged violently with the explosion of the "uncontrollable" sounds of musique concrete, angrily and vainly denounced at the time by Pierre Boulez"; then with the musical mobiles which ,

proposing an infinite number of similar discourses,

expressing a nostalgia for the non-discursive much more than the extension of the discursive and the combinative; and finally with American neo-

primitivism, which has rarely managed to endow

its ostinati with the

mythic authenticity of certain real, primitive musics, their sparkling superficiality most often proving to be a kind of sound-carpeting rather than an evolution of profound images.

were indirectly

What contemporary criteria will permit us to decide if a definable characteristic such as ostinato refers to myth time (to the urzeity or simply to a convenient procedure in a work fashioned according to combinatory laws, without the latter proceeding from any suggestion deriving from the depths of the psyche? One may contemplate two methods of approach.


" n



The first, analogous in principle to the automatic writing practised by Breton and Soupault in the Chams Magnetiqucs, would be an automatic musical creation designed to provide an authentic functioning of the mind beyond cultural cliches. The precedent of surrealism does not provide very solid guarantees of success, and the fairly general failure of improvisation groups created after May 1968 does not appear any more encouraging. But the new facilities of musical computers with automatic sequencers and

transcribers invite us to reconsider this route, which personally I have been

in the process of exploring for some years. It supposes the possibility of

some sort of verification by the sensation of the marvellous. Its evident

risk is an overwhelming dependence on subjectivity. But no aesthetic

practice of any kind has ultimately been able to do without this resource.


variant of this method is the study of universals in children's music. It


very likely that the order of learning musical characteristics reflects to


large extent the passage from the innate (mythic) to the acquired

(cultural). The works of Bruno Nettl since 1956 have provided important

information in support of this ideal.

The other method would be the proof, in adult musics, of sound figures and universal procedures of treatment, which are widespread in all

cultures and even, as we shall see, outside the human species. It is this route that I propose to explore a little in the short distance I have so far covered. It is acknowledged to some extent that throughout the world

people sing in octaves, four and five note scales are used,

structured in strophes, etc. But I will skip information which has already been the object of fairly developed comparative studies such as musical scales and the melodic archetypes which are linked to them (such as fanfares, possibly derived from the third to sixth harmonics'). It is possible that they are natural occurrences, but as this acoustic nature has already been well exploited, and often with the hindsight of maintaining western tonality as the norm, I prefer to tackle the area of sound forms or figures in the hope of managing to reassociate nature as result (a repertoire of sound forms) with nature as law and dynamic, which is besides the

songs are

etymological sense of the word.

If music at "degree zero" is to come closer to the outpouring of the mythic image, it is without doubt in the call of hunters and in their cries



of contact that one can hope to find a reflection of it, rather than in the tonal system where biologists like Joan Hall-Craggs have researched it

somewhat naively", Whether it is the Pygmy beaters" or the land clearers of Hanunoo in the Philippines', who preserve contact across the dense forest, their cries are in indissoluble unity an expression of a social function, also widespread in other primates, the imitative insertion in the milieu of the dense forest (Chappuis has shown that it imposes on all the sound signals a range of preferential frequencies) and a game which is already musical according to our perception, if not according to theirs".

In this, instinct and myth reveal directly to the ear the analogy which

theoreticians like Bergson and Caillois knew how to discover in other ways, One is still very close to this original identity preceding the distinctions of conscious mental categories with the calls by which hunters express both their desire for their prey and their psychic proximity to it.

The accuracy of these imitations fulfils both the practical function of attracting the quarry and the magical function of identification, One has only, for example, to listen to the Eskimos imitating geese or walrus".

This practice of imitation, which we shall see later is not especially a creation of human intelligence but a trait widespread among different living species, seems to lead to two logical paths, two different musics, by almost imperceptible stages: "pure" music, and "programme" music, the first term designating a semiotic system apparently autonomous and deprived of all reference, typical of scholarly musics, and the second a practice which acknowledges or revindicates its links with other phenomena, Of course, it is only a question of stages for the needs of analysis, and not in any wayan historical sketch or a hierarchical classi fication of aesthetic values.

In the first case, we will first meet the games of imitation by which children, transforming the daily activities of adults apparently gratuitously, prepare themselves at the same time for assuming these activities when the time comes. There is a narrow distance between the eskimo calls already mentioned and the katajjait games of imitation of the same Eskimos!', However, when it is no longer wild animals but instead mechanical sounds which are taken as the theme of these games, the gratuitous game play takes us a step further in the direction of what we call music!'. One




reaches the latter very quickly from here with practices such as the famous Balinese ketjak, both a stylised imitation of monkey cries and a musical orchestration of these imitations, Although this is an example of a recent practice, whose development is due in part to the instigation of W, Spies in the thirties and to tourist demand, its origin, which is founded in the rite of Sanghyang; returns it to a timeless tradition, A similar path to music

from imitation occurs

Southern Laos" imitating the moving off of a steam train, to arrive (just

in a programme piece such as the khene solo in

like Honegger's Pacific 231) at the euphoria of a pure, rhythmic


The second path, stemming from imitations realized by the calls of hunters, leads us rapidly to propitiatory rites which, instead of being oriented towards gratuitous game play, are keen to attain effectiveness by "sympathetic" magic, A Ngbakan singer in Central Africa" imitates the rain by onomatopoeia in order to invoke it. The marracas of the Tarahumaras people" aim for the same result by a more direct imitation. A hunter from the same Ngbakan tribe evokes in his incantations the turtle dove taking off, or the sand rustling beneath the feet of the Guinea fowl'". But whereas the picancala lithophones of Togo!8 summon the rain by a

fall of notes, we begin to move from the rite to a more aesthetic stylisation

- always according

at the same result indirectly, by imitating the bird whose song coincides with the rainy season!'. The metamorphosis becomes more precise with Suwa-Ikuzuchi, a traditional percussion piece from Japan", which was originally a propitiatory rain ceremony imitating a violent storm, and which has become successively a military march calling warriors to battle, and today an impressive concert piece. Its evolution is somewhat comparable to that of the ketjak: like it, it has gained in virtuosity and variety by becoming secularised, After all, the same phenomenon has affected

to our criteria - when a Zapotec flute from Mexico aims

Catholic masses set to music, from plain-chant to Beethoven and beyond.

At the end of this path, we will find programme musics, Some of

these are still close to their magico-rnythic

oryx evoked by an Afar flute in Ethiopia". Others tend towards simple

depictions, such as the "children's

sources, like the hunt for the

quarrels" represented by the jew's



Others are at the far end

of a stylisation in which the relativity of the code of cultural values totally

dominates the sound models from which they sprang up. All the music made known by H. Zemp from "The 'Are 'Are of the Solomon Islands"

is thus figurative,

recognize (were it not for the title) the nature of the model which the composer says inspired him". The same goes for all the music of the Kaluli people in New Guinea, and for the greater part of Chinese and

but stylised to the point of making it difficult to

harps" on the island of Lombok in Indonesia.

Japanese classical traditions. One can be certain of it when listening to the evocation on the Japanese shakuhachi of the lapping of the waves, the "far-

off calling of the stags", or the cry of the cranes".

for khene which, in Thailand or Cambodia, evoke the flight of the

bumblebee" with trills as lively as the figures used by Rimsky-Korsakov

wi th the same descri pti ve in ten t.

Or, again, the pieces

But is it really a question of description? The scorn which weighs very heavily on this kind of music, and which goes back to Plato, rests on the idea that such an enterprise must for effect divert the listener from the signifier towards the externally signified which is perfectly useless, while the only authentic thing musically signified can only be either human values, or simply music itself. Strictly speaking, this view only seems defensible to me if the imitation remains on the level of the purely picturesque, i.e. the tool of hedonistic aesthetics, a musical kitsch; and, furthermore, if one accepts the current idea that music is the only art free

of reference. But this last idea is only the expression of a repression which

systematically conceals a mass of indices showing something quite different: a large part of music from Europe and the rest of the world is actually figurative, to various degrees, and when it ends up obliterating references, it is through a movement of abstraction which is far from being the only basis of musical practice. Abstraction is probably the end rather than the beginning of music.

There is from this point a certain abuse in raising, as some have,

a simple hierarchy

ontological status of criteria of musical authenticity. From imitative magic to pure numerical combinations, all the degrees of abstraction are represented, without ever guaranteeing or excluding the quality of a work.

of cultural values (by definition


to an




An excessive valuing of cultural conventions leads to an overestimation of the final degree, which seems to confer on musical composition an autonomy without equal among other systems of signs; but this semiotic reduction is acquired at the expense of a stifling of this sort of "primal scream" which remains the important and active element, perceptible even in the most elaborate works, like the Monteverdian phrase, so often modelled on exclamatory schema.

The imitation

of sound models

is condemned

as futile


contemptibly burlesque, since one imagines it to be an excursion outside

what is properly musical (i .e. the

deviation is doomed to superficiality. If the superficiality actually dominates the mediocre "genre" musics, it is actually due less to the presence of a noticeable reference than to the quality of the imagination and

the code in which such musics present themselves. The non-descriptive music of Respighi is not superior to the rest of his output. And we will see that the abstract model can just as well be the result of a perception of a sound model as the result of an awareness of a psychic archetype.

area of abstract models), and that this

This practice is also condemned in the name of a post-romantic view of the opposition between the inner world, which would alone be worthy of the musician's attention, and the external world, hardly good for the painter or the romancier (we do not know exactly why). This opposition is illusory. Certain apparently abstract schemes return to the very origins of our apprehension of space and time in early infancy, and as such go back to a level of thought pre-existing the schism between the "self" and the "non-self", between the image spontaneously produced by the psyche and the image issuing from the environment, in short, between what is called dream and what one believes to be reality. It is even probable that the most universal schemes, mythic archetypes, are the product of psychic activity prior to birth. By following its inner routes - and its voices - authentic romanticism returns, both in music and in verbal or pictorial expressions, to such archetypes. In this sense, romanticism evidently has a meaning which is not historically limited to the 18th and 19th centuries. Varese would say that the artist must be romantic. Early

baroque music was already so,

in a particularly sensual way, and



Bouzignac prefigures Berlioz, just as Theophile de Viau anticipates Baudelaire.

I will give only one example of such a scheme, one of the most universal

in history and geography, at least on

the horse. Both an internal and external sound image throughout the

centuries in which the whole world was equestrian, its paces were from

infancy percieved by the ears and also by the body. horse have been a very abundant source of musics.

The rhythms of the

the Eurasian continent.

It is that of

It is nearly always the gallop which is the rhythmical model retained by the


is the most

frequent from the 16th to the 18th century.

features in the two cavalcades of the "Bataille de Marignan"; similarly Monteverdi in the Eighth book of Madrigals (Altri Conti di Marte, for example), Rameau in Act IV of Hippoiyte et Aricie (the hunters), and also Berlioz in the last movement of the Symphonic Fantastique,

Three principal variants of this gait are used, sometimes ~ ~

successively in the same piece. The most simple,

It is this which Janequin

A more agitated presentation of the same cell: [J features, for example, in the madrigal S'andasse Amor a caccia, from Monteverdi's second book.

But the more complicated variant: t, _: D or again :

also very frequent in the works of the last composer.

first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No 7 is based on this rhythmic cell, which features also in numerous pieces by Schumann", and in Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". Sometimes one passes in the course of the same piece from this allure to the fastest gallop, such as in the beginning of Monteverdi's Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. One then ends up with the formula r u or its variants. Schumann, too, employs it very widely, as much in tile overtly "equestrian" pieces like the Reiterstuck Op 68 No 23 from Album for the Young in the formula,~' D 1 as in other more abstract ones like the Humoreske Op 20 or the Novelette Op 21 No 5.


and LL'


The whole of the

It is very significant that, as one might expect, the musics of the equestrian peoples par excellence from Central Asia show a predilection for this wild gallop: listen, for example, to the various versions of the




traditional Mongolian air "Galloping Horse"?", played on the morinxuur

fiddle decorated with a horse head - the cell, sharper, is here realised as r 'd, The Ouzbeks analyse the subtle variations of the gal,lop's rhythm

more finely, realizing it in three principal ways: ~.



~ -l_


or agam








These few comparisons invite two remarks: firstly, beyond cultural compartmentalisation (Janequin/Beethoven, Europe/Mongolia), the same rhythmical pattern serves as a generative cell in diverse musics. Secondly, traditional discourse which only recognizes this similarity in order to erase it at the earliest opportunity in favour of single cultural differences, which it hastens to point out, can no longer be so easily adhered to since sound recording broke the habit of ethnocentric listening and, at the same time, allowed the parentage of musics issuing from the same model to affirm itself. Berlioz listening to the Mongolian cavalcade would only have heard the scraping of a primitive fiddle, without being able to perceive anything other than the cultural differences relating to the single norm of Europe, and would neither have thought to relate it to his own Course aL'abime, nor admit that one could do so to any extent. To be persuaded of this one has only to read what he wrote, in spite of his exceptional intelligence, on the Indian and Chinese musics he had heard in London". But this ethnocentricity has been weakened for some decades now, and cultural relativism inevitably highlights the perceptible invariants when they exist. The variations which history and geography perform on "given themes", such as the horse's gallop, appear henceforth for what they are, and not as independent systems in which music operates within its own criteria.

The point is not, however, to recreate the naive illusion of "music, universal language", in which cultural differences are dressed up in a wooly ecurnenism. Whatever the progress in the knowledge of other cultures, men remain attached to a system of interpretation which bears the mark of its origins. Cultural differences tend to revive conflicts which are all the more violent because they revolve around the smallest details. The Maghrebins often find Iraqi music disagreeable, even in the interpretation of the modes they have in common. Some exponents of baroque music are prepared to do battle over a comma. The task which falls to our encyclopaedic era, of broadening of the mind without losing one's own



personality in the process, remains very difficult. The reconstitution of comparative musicology is of vital importance to help us surmount two pressing and opposing dangers: first, the worldwide diffusion of the most mediocre cliches about each culture (western rosalies, Afro-American rhythmic mechanisms, etc) and secondly the creative sclerosis which affects museum cultures. A Faustian lassitude threatens the west while its curiosity and method still have much to do. Research into universals, far from being that of the smallest common denominator of cultures, should in the same movement disentangle the common natural bases, underline the different uses which derive from them, and assume from those uses what is specific to the investigator to prolong his creative dynamism.


Nor should we misunderstand the importance of different stylistic levels linked to the finality of these various imitative practices. If we are talking of descriptive musics, capable of awakening the memory and the desire of a previous experience, it is not without interest to know, for example, that the Ouzbeks do not react differently from listeners of the 16th century, whose bellicose passions (so they say) were excited by Janequin's "Battle"; or again a question of a system of symbolic representations in which the sign "horse" evokes by association the ideas of adventures, violence, death (it is perhaps on this level that the romantic works cited above are found); or, finally, a question of an image on the

mythic level, where the horse embodies

apparent nobility creates all the danger, as in the myths of Phaeton or the Centaurs: one will scarcely hesi tate in recognizing this level in Beethoven, Berlioz and Wagner.

impulsive transports whose

I will not pretend to have put forward a kind of internal criterion allowing one to decide if such a sound model refers to the most superficial finality or to the deepest source. But it must be made clear that no science has yet brought much enlightenment to this stylistic domaine. When E. Tarasti, in the book already mentioned, distinguishes categories of the magical, the legendary, the sacred, the fantastic, the primitive etc, by endeavouring to define the objective facts which would correspond to them, the attempt is very interesting, sometimes convincing. But it does not avoid proceeding through semantic associations, with the strong subjectivity that is implied by the absence in music of all verification (or of all




falsification according to Karl Popper). Perhaps it is hardly permissible to hope that musicology can do better than to Invoke a certam consensus around a corpus of well-chosen examples. It does not yet know .how to define a specific method or even agree on a specific finality '. Ultimately it is up to "musical sense", in spite of the annoying Imp~eC1slOnof this

completely relative notion, to judge questions of musical semantics. Structuralism, which Levi-Strauss willingly placed under the patronage of music has not delivered the precise services which might have been hoped for. Perhaps one must abandon all hope of demonstrating why the "little white donkey" of Jacques Ibert only trots along in the somewhat fnvolou.s domaine of the picturesque, and why Cesar Franck's Le Chasseur Maudit is based solidly in legend.

But conviction, provisionally at least, can certainly do without an actual demonstration; in as much as, whatever the stylistic level of the result, the proof of the two routes which lead there is no doubt the. most important thing. It has been seen that from the same mythic data (in the sense of a spontaneous psychic content, at the Junction of the innate and the experienced), the primitive magical imitation seems to diverge in two directions: one going via play and the other via the rite. The elaboration of the game and the secularisation of the rite converge once again towards the phenomenon called music. Whatever the extent of gratuitous gameplay ("pure" music) and of figurative content, (dramatic, programmatic, commemorative, symbolic, pictorial etc) of this phenomeno~, and whatever the distances taken vis ({ vis the natural sources, one can assign to the latter a priority (which is not historic but ontological) over cultural schemes which are liberated by progressive abstraction. MUSIC was not born out of formal conventions; the latter were disentangled from deeper sources,. to which they can still be more or less easily related, even when they claim to be entirely free. Beethoven's Seventh Symphony certainly does not profess a model, but there are too many points of convergence for It to be ignored.

Before arriving at an interpretation and definition of this notion of

it is still necessary to enlarge our file with several other

examples, 'to show on the one hand that sound and the innate are two faces of the same musical nature, and on the other to what extent the universality

the model



of sound model usage by musicians remains partly obscured by the mistrust in which this practice has traditionally been held. Each time in history that the infatuation of composers with the rediscovery of sounds has been largely shared, a censure has soon arisen against this realism, for moral, religious, philosophical or, much more rarely, aesthetic reasons. Plato's protestations 3 0against musicians who imitated the rhythmic sounds of work or of machines, the sounds of the horse, bull, dog, cattle or birds, the


sounds of the river or the waves, the wind, hail or thunder, instead

imitating virtue, prove that this practice was becoming very important in the country of humanism itself in the 4th century Be. But one can go back to Aleman, in the 7th century, to find traces of it: his choriambic rhythm is due, according to him, to his hearing partridges, and he maintains he knew the songs of all the birds.

If we consider that Aleman was the contemporary of Arion, we can understand better the epoch in which history is not completely detached

One can see in this fragment of Aleman the reprise of the

mythic theme according to which the poet is close to the soothsayer (himself a Greek version of the Shaman), and who thus understands the language of birds, messengers of the heavens. That is to say, he translates mythic thought into cultural values, into poetry. Aleman, a Lydian poet living in Sparta, would be the historical guarantor of the intemporal mythic figures of ornithological soothsayers such as Melampous, Tiresias or Theoclymenos. And if the inventor of ornithomancy is Parnassus, eponymous with the sacred mountain of Apollo, the patron of musicians and poets, it is because music-poetry is the authorized translation of mythic revelation.

from myth.

But while traditional exegeses locate the myth in the enclosed space

of a collective imagination,

it can be useful to relate it to sensory

experiences peculiar to the role of enlightener, or at least of catalyst. One could just as well investigate whether, for example, the sound of the partridge really has something in common with the poetry of Aleman, and

it is noticeable then that the cackle of the red partridge alectoris rufa Illustrates very accurately the Greek metre based on irregular succession of long and short accents, and in particular the rhythmic cell known as the choriambic ( - u u -). It is not absolutely impossible that the Alemanian





It is inany case likely that among all the rhythms produced by birds, the partridge's struck Aleman by its analogy with the prosody of the Greek language: his own genius was to dare to make the connection, and to make use of it. Aleman would thus embody a prototype of the musician who unites the mythic image and the perceived image closely, or rather who shapes his imagination both according to the suggestions of the deep psyche and to attentive listening.



uu uu figures occasionally in the partridge's song.

After Aleman, in ca 584, Saccadas of Argos imitated on the aulos the hissing of Python, which Apollo came to destroy in Delph i , the navel of the world. In 417, Timothy of Milet proudly revindicated the right to innovation in his Persae, of which, sadly, only the libretto has been found; here he exercised this right by imitating the noises of a storm. Theoreticians such as Chamaileon of Pontos had developed from antiquity the thesis of birdsong as the origin of all music". The poet Lucretius bears this in mind in the fifth book of Dr: Narum.

After antiquity, there is fairly abundant information demonstrating the resilience of this attitude. Notker of Saint-Gall (ca 840-912), for example, used in his sequence Sancti spiritus adsit nobis gratia, a motif inspired by the monotonous noise of a watermill, which would have been a new sound in the environment at that time". From the 13th century, the plethora of notated manuscripts was accompanied by a flourishing of examples of sound models consciously transposed into music (and this at a time when the sacred function of art was largely dominant, which clearly shows the insufficiency of a purely anecdotal interpretation of these borrowings from the acoustic world). Street cries already appear in an anonymous manuscript from Montpellier in the 13th century"; they cut across one another in the evocation of a fair in ca 1420 in the work of Nicolas Zacharias", then multiply, emphasized by the fashion for the

quoliber at the end of the 15th century. The quolibet (or fricassee or coq a l'ane, medley etc) is no different from what in antiquity was called a cento, and in the 20th century a collage. Noises and cries seem to be plucked out of the air and accumulated on top of one another for a


onomatopoeia and various patois gradually merging, as in the street". In


one comes


to an






the 16th century, the cries of Paris were transcribed by Janequin, and those of London by Weelkes, Dering and Gibbons. In the 19th century, again, J-G Kastner was to note meticulously the cries of Paris and those of his native city Strasbourg, and was to put into a collection all those he could bring together from areas of Brazil, Egypt, Spain, Italy and elsewhere. In 1848, 120 years before May 1968, he toured the streets of Paris in revolution and tirelessly noted down the "political cries" of newspaper vendors".

One could also follow the enduring model of the hunt, from the

Florentine works contained in the Codex Squarcialupi of the 14th century to Janequin and beyond; that of the battle from Grirnache's Alarme, alarme in the 14th century to the Barailles of Marignan and Metz set to music once more by Janequin, to the madrigals of G. Gabrieli in Sento un rumor for eight voices in 1587, to the baroque Batalllcs of Kuhnau or Biber, and finally to the Victory of Wellington at vinoria, celebrated by Beethoven in

that brought him a success as great as it was

1813 with a realism ephemeral.

As for animals, there is a practically uninterrupted line running from the cuckoo in the canon Sumer is icumen in from the 13th century to the present day". Alongside stars like the nightingale and the lark, the cat, donkey, frog, dog, cockerel, hen etc serve as models in works whose humour has often evaporated well before the rhythmic and melodic freedom that was created by the realistic desire for a break with ordinary discourse. What sometimes appeared as pure drollery in the beginning reveals itself, with the passing of time, as alive and inventive. The regenerative function of listening goes in tandem with the renovation of language, and contrary to what is generally said, that is the pre-eminence of cultural codes over the motifs that they are based on, it often seems that to one unprejudiced hearing corresponds an aesthetic without cliches. For the most part one remains inside these codes, though at their very limits, and with a special freshness of imagination, which means that a certain song by Oswald von Wolkenstein from the 15th century, or the famous chansons by Janequin in the following century, have aged much less than many more conventional motets from the same eras.




Besides, it is more often the intention than the result which comes under attack by those censorious of this development. The vulgar guests at the feast of Trimalcion, in Satiricon, indulge in imitating the sounds of animals because they are the moneyed rabble, regarded from above by the patrician Petroni us. A musician risking himself in the same exercise would suffer the contempt attached to a game of puerile, clowning drunkards. Over the centuries, civilisation (i.e. the practices of the cities) was to reject this contact with nature as an inadmissible past; except when, as a diversion, we are permitted to be moved by idealizing it. But such periods of idealisation - that of the ldylles of Theocrites under the Alexandrians, that of the Pastorales and the Solitudes from Gongora to Saint-Amant which gave the baroque era cause to dream, or again that of Fabre "of Eglantine" at Trianon - are generally short, and only confirm the general scorn in which Christian or Pagan humanism has held the animal world, and at the same ti me the works of such composers as Farina or Biber.

The aesthetic most opposed to the imitation of sound models is perhaps, far more than apollonian intellectualism, that which emphasizes the existence of an "inner" world by opposition to, and even hostility towards, a sensory relationship with the universe. Since Damon of Athens who devoted himself, in the 5th century Be, to establishing a sort of bilingual lexicon of melodic and rhythmic movements on the one hand, and "movements of the spirit" on the other, this theoretical temptation has persisted with as much constancy in the aim as diversity in definitions. Struggling against the vigorous sensuality which, from ca 1550-1650, gave rise to the work of Cl. Le Jeune, Monteverdi and so many others, a precise rhetoric obstinately held sway, and Pirro demonstrated its importance in the aesthetic of Bach a long time ago". To ensure control over this diabolical sensuality, it put two methods to work concurrently: it circumvented it by refining it to the point of symbolism; and it normalized it beneath an arrangement of semantic conventions. The same puritanism and the same tendencies have held sway in the 20th century from Schoenberg to Boulez.

It is interesting, for example, to see how the chromatic descent, surely derived from the natural sigh, already becomes in Luigi Rossi's Orpheus a sign unburdened of the realistic violence that a Gesualdo would confer on it (see a madrigal such as Languisce alfin), and simply a vehicle




We have passed from the symbol to a

rhetorical topos, christened as passus duriusculus. One step further, and It would be a cliche. When Bach regularly translates haste, flight, by immense vocal displays", we are dealing with a semantic sign far removed from its sensory source, but not gratuitous. It can only be interpreted as a sound symbol in a cultural circle capable of reconstituting implicitly the same mental operations of metaphor and generalisation: the consonants are in the spoken chain like obstacles, especially occlusives, from which the vocalise frees itself; and the rapidity of its movement illustrates in a particular way the same idea of rapidity in general. Thus the song which runs without hindrance functions as a sound ideogram, by contrast with the pictography of the madrigalisms. The passage to alphabetic writing, i.e. the complete detachment of the sign in relation to the meaning, would be the ultimate next step. It is this which formalist systems have gone on to exaggerate, and our century has seen painful excesses in this respect.

for a standard meaning, pain,

Before that we have a coded but not arbitrary art. The choir of the

of Act IV of Isis by Lully (1677) is


at the beginning

interpreted, 51 years after the Capriccio stravagante by C. Farina, and 14 years before the air from Winter in Act III of Purcell's King Arthur, as the institution of a trope of normative rhetoric. The human origin of the model renders it lawful, in contrast to the animal cries. The classical distinction of genres permits, and even advocates, the imitation of the storm in musical tragedy, the rustic musette in the pastoral divertissement, and the inflections of the voice here and there. But the rest is reserved for burlesque, a bad genre if one does not contain it within judicious limits. Bach may have a braying donkey in the air by Midas in the cantata Phebus and Pall. and Rarneau his croaking frogs in Platee, but make no mistake:

the grotesque episode is soon compensated by other, more worthy ones.

When the Theory of the Passions took over from this rhetoric


' elimination of sensory elements in



inclined to a still more determined

favour of the inner world, whose most complete realization was to be

provided by Romanticism. With


subjectivity almost entirely precludes all real listening. We only lend an

it, nature is almost no more than a

of the soul; overflowing

and the landscape

a condition




ear to the world to the extent that it speaks of us. The cavalcades, of which many examples have been given, are deployed in the world of

dreams, where only their echo is admitted.

haunting force from often relating them to the mythic level, when they are

not reduced

Romanticism. In his Letter on music, addressed to the French, Wagner defined clearly what is meant by the movement of the internalisation of the landscape, and implicitly identified it with being German, in opposition to the Latin sensualism that he caricatures:


This does not prevent their

to a procedure,

as in the work of some epigones

"Great melody must produce an effect on the soul similar to that produced by a beautiful forest, in the setting sun, on the city stroller. This impression, which I leave to the reader to analyse according to his own experience, consists in all its psychological effects of the perception of an increasingly eloquent silence. It is sufficient in the cause of art to have produced this fundamental impression, to govern the listener by it without his knowing and to dispose him to a higher design; this impression awakens spontaneously in him his higher tendencies. He who walks in the forest, overcome by this general impression, abandons himself thus to a more lasting contemplation; his faculties, delivered from the tumult and noise of the town, tighten and acquire a new mode of perception endowed so to speak with a new sense, his ear becomes more and more acute. He distinguishes with growing clarity an infinite variety of voices which awaken for him in the forest; they become more and more varied; some of them he hears as if never before; with their number, their intensity grows, too, in a strange way; the sounds become still more resonant; to the extent that he hears a great number of distinct voices, of varying modes, he recognizes nonetheless in these sounds which become clearer, swell and overwhelm him, the great unique melody of the forest: it is this very melody which, from the beginning, had seized him with a religious feeling. It is as if, one beautiful night, the deep blue of the firmament entranced him; the more he abandons himself without reserve to this spectacle, the more



the armies of stars in heaven's

distinctly to his eyes, clear, sparkling and innumerable. This

melody will leave an eternal resonance in him; but it is impossible for him to recount it; to hear it again he must return to the forest, to the setting sun. How foolish he would be to want to seize one of the gracious singers of the forest and take hi m home in order to be taught a fragment of

nature's great melody!

some tune in the Italian style?"

vault reveal themselves

What would he hear, then, if not

In spite of this apparent condemnation of all listening which is not powerfully oriented by subjectivity, Wagner (and all his symbolism with him) recognizes in the bird, the wind, the wave, the retention of a hidden meaning, of which Siegfried and Tristan would be the chosen confidants.

A phenomenological reading of this text is just possible, which would see

in the sounds of nature, entering into a resonance with a musical consciousness, one of the means of revelation on the mythic level. Fundamentally, Wagner struggles above all to disqualify bel canto and

simultaneously to qualify German opera, that is, himself. Undeniably, he has restored to mythic thought its omnipotence, but by trying to submit it


a system of thought which is alien to it: individualism, which was born


Europe, in the Renaissance.

. The Dialogue of V. Galilei, which in 1581 made a case for monody


against polyphony, was already returning to individual expression, which

III the French Chanson and Italian Madrigal had objective value, and from a great distance it opened the route which led from opera to the symphonic poem. Debussy would be the first to find the premises of an aesthetic which makes use of the sound model as opposed to cultural models, fresh

arr as opposed to the musty smell of the enclosed space (concert halls, chamber music, hollow reveries), and sound in real space as opposed to the

in an

abstraction of the note". His declarations have been interpreted

impressionistic sense; or it has been thought necessary to ignore them, rather like his chauvinistic declarations in the context of the 1914-18 war:,

or an attempt has even been made to eliminate them, the better to evaluate

what might just possibly seem like formal preoccupations in works such as

the Etudes or Jeux. But they have scarcely been considered seriously,






because they pose the same question I am posing here: where does music come from? For a whole tradition, this question is illicit, futile, and only a matter for mythic thought, which is disqualified in the same process:

History can only refer to History, culture to culture, arbitrary signs to other arbitrary signs, all the rest being of the same order as the old illusion of "cratylism", which pretends to found in nature the very essence of man, i.e. language.

However, it seems that Debussy, with his aesthetic of the fleeting intuitively bypassed the purely historical perspective, If he opens to the 20th century it is because he breaks with the system of


Romanticism, sustained as far as the works of Berg, had celebrated. To speak of the sea, the clouds, bells sounding through the trees, was first of

all to refuse to speak of oneself.

literature of the eye says as much about the observer as about the object observed, music of the ear necessarily speaks of the hearer of the model as well as of the model itself. It remains that Debussy's Nocturnes have little in common with those of Chopin, and that The Rite of Spring, Densite 21.5, Oiseaux Exotiques - three characteristic masterpieces by Stravinsky, Varese and Messiaen - are anything but personal confessions, which cannot always be said of the works of Berg or even Ravel. The role played by sound models in this revolution is besides unequal: cardinal in Debussy and Messiaen, important in Bartok, it remains unacknowledged in Stravinsky, challenged by Varese and very rare in the serialist school, where the tempests of Schoenberg's Op 15 No 4 and Webern's Op 14 No 2 are vague allusions.

the door




an individual




system which

It is secondary to notice that while

The few landmarks cited give an idea of the conscious use of sound

models by composers throughout history. One can also see in them the ambiguity of the schemes according to which such use is made. The descriptively picturesque refers to the possibility which a musical sign has

to designate a reference,

being sound), but it almost always ignores the elaboration of the sign.

Every time a musical semantic thus accedes to the conscious level, and draws the attention of the listener to an external object, it runs the risk of

whatever its nature (and it is far from always


in force and depth what it gains in precision. It must only reveal




what it is referring

The musical "programme" establishes the closest possible link between the

and that of the


common reference

via this


to like a watermark,

or else it will be merely banal.

with the composer



which has used it as a guide,

to communicate

who is supposed

(which at best can only be an external

Musical rhetoric as a language of the soul, if it is not purely and simply the

codification of a social conditioning,



hearts were already beating to the same rythrn.

music, "coming from the heart", will only return to it if the

it proceeds

begs the question:


the musical sign

and effect

a feeling


it, cause

But the movement to embrace

the reality of sound more and more


to embrace

the physical


pri mary to every



and absolute

source of music,

this path which starts from

Debussy and runs through Russolo, Varese and musique concrete, taking

very particular colorations

longer corresponds

and mixtures

from Bartok and Messiaen,


to any of the schemes and raises others.

For example:


there something specific

as the same kind of creative development? Is the sound model a simple

catalyst of the imagination,

it by the composer betray a profound analogy between "the latent

survives of real, raw sound in the musics which proceed from it? Is

about sound, or can all sensory experience


or does the investing of a musical meaning in

intelligence of sounds" (according to H. Wronski's

liked to quote) and musical thought?

of a model, organisation,

sound model and the ordinary practice which does without it?

formula which Varese

And finally, since, even with the use


as an autonomous


will be generally

what difference

is there between a practice which refers to a





I. Eero Tarasti, Myth and Music, Acta musicologica fennica, Suomen Musiikkitieteellinen Seura, Helsinki 1978.

2. M. Schneider, La musique dans les civilisations non-europeennes, Histoire

de la musique, vol I, pp.129-214, Encyclopedic de la Pleiade, nrf 1960.

3. Andre Schaetfner, Origine des instruments de musique, Mouton 1968,

p.354, quoting Sachs, Cdsr und Werden del' Musikinstrumente, Berlin,. D. Reimer, 1929, pp. 135-136: Die Musikinstrumente Indiens und Indonesiens, p.69; and Ankermann, Die afrikanischen Musikinstrumente, In Ethnologisches

Notizblatt, Mus. ethn. de Berlin, vol. Ill, 1901, p.57.

4. P. Boulez, article Concrete (Musique), Encyclopedic de la Musique, Vol I,

Paris, Fasquelle 1958.

5. B. Nettl, Infant musical development and primitive music, Southwestern

Journal of Anthropology, 12 (1956), pp. 87-91, and NOles on infant musical

development, Musical Quarterly 42 (1956), pp.28-34.

6. Cf. La resonance dans les echelles musicales, C.N.R.S., Paris 1963, and in

particular the studies of W. Wiora.

7. 1. Hall-Craggs, The aesthetic content of bird song, in Bird vocalizations,

essays presented to W. H. Thorpe, Cambridge University Press, 1969, pp.


8. Philips, (30) 6586016, AI. Mongombi, cries of the Moaka beaters.

9. Folkways rec., (30) FE 4466, A5.

10. For this distinction, see the very clear explanation of 1. 1. Nattiez,

Musicologie generate et semiotogie, ChI. Bourgois, 1987, p.88 sq.

11. Folkways rec., (30) FE 4444, B2 and B3. Philips (30) 6586036, AlIa.

12. Philips (30) 6586 036 lib and Ill'. (Hudson Bay and Baffin Island).

13. Folksways rec.,(30) FE 4444, A8. Baker Lake, imitation of the saw.




Philips (30) 6596 012, No 8, LOI jay tay lang,


Barenreiter, (30) BM L2310, No 5, Ma ne lakpe.


Ocora, (30)

OCR 76, B I.


Barenreiter, (30) BM L2310, No 5, Ngoto.


Ocora, (30)

OCR 76, A I, Kabiye music.


Ocora, (30) OCR 73, AI.


Philips, (30) 6586029, No 7.


Ocora, (30) OCR 75, B5.


Barenreiter, (30) BM SL 2560, A6.


Vogue, (3x30) LDM 30 104 to 30 106, Collection from the Musee de



Ocora, (30) 558.518, B2 and B4.


Music box, (30) BAM LD 112, B3.


Impromptu op 5 No 5: Erude Symphonique op 13 No 4; Kreisteriana op

16 No 8; Gcsange del' hiihe

op 133 No 3 etc.

27. Tangent, (30) TGS 127, Alb and A6.

28. Vogue, (30) L VLX 191, A3.

29. H. Berlioz, Les soirees de Forchestre, reissued Grund Paris 1968, '




Republic, 396 a-b.


Athenaeum, Deipnosophisies, lX,389.


Schubiger. Die Songcrschule 51 GailI'm, Einsiedeln, 1858, p.54, ex.23,

and Vanae preces ex liturgia rum hodierna cum antiquo collcctae. Solesmes 1896 p.156.




33. P, Aubry, Vieilles chansons francaises du Xlileme steele, La tribune de St-

Gervais, vol XlII, 1907, p.33.

34. Cacciando per gustar, caccia in 3 parts. Opera omnia, ed. G. Reaney,

Corpus mensurabil is rnusicae, XI/6, 1977.

35. La friquassee crotestyll onee, Rouen 1557. Re-edited in Rouen in 1867

(l00 copies of the only surviving specimen, itself a re-edition from 1604),

36. J-G. Kastner, Les cris de Paris, in Les voix de Paris, livre-partition,

Brandus, 1857.

37. W. Tappert, in his Musikalische SlUdien(Berlin, 1868), scrupulously

registered musical portraits of II mammals, 9 birds, and about ten other

assorted species.

38. A. Pirro, L'esthetique de 1-5. Bach, Paris 1907, reissued in 1973.

39. Cantatas BWV 49, 74, 148,202 etc

40, CI. Debussy, M. Croche, 4 November 1909, reprinted N.R.F., 1971:

"Too much importance is attached to the writing of music, to much to the

formula, the craft: we seek ideas inside ourselves, when in fact they should be

sought from outside. We combine, we construct

the countless sounds of nature, we do not sufficiently appreciate this immensely

varied music which nature offers us in such abundance

to me, is the new way forward. remains to be done is immense!"

we do not hear around us

And there, according

I have scarcely glimpsed it, since what



Before replying to the preceding questions by definins the notion of the model, I will next examine whether the widespread ~se of these sound models leaves sound traces which are similarly universal. Beyond the diversity of mythological discourse, natural constants of mythic thought eXISt. Elsewhere Chomsky has demonstrated the existence of linguistic universals beyond the Babel of languages'. May we not also find certain

constants in the music of the world as a whole? Where should we look for

them - in the deep structures underlying a variety of sound creations perhaps also in acoustic phenomena'?



Whatever the level and form of these universals, it is necessary to agree first of all on the extent of their occurrence. In language, certain categories like those of number or gender are not quite universals since some languages do without them: there are no numbers in the language of the Pitjantjara people in central Australia (though in the present tense there are fourteen modes in the language of their Arandan neighbours!), and no gendersin Sumerian or Elamite. On the other hand, the double articulation of Martinet, and the existence of phonological units (from 13 in Tahitian to 117 in Burmese) are confirmed without exception: everywhere units of mearung are constructed on units of sound, even if the definition of both ultimately rests on the same criteria.

In music, if one is content with a fairly broad generalisation, it can be observed that beyond the examples already mentioned above, response




r i U r i r ' and the symbolic

songs, polarisations

of certain degrees of a scale, rhythms


such as

clear-high and dull-low

(Europe, India, Japan etc) are everywhere. If one requires universals that are absolute, they can be found in the ostituuo, in a pertinent differentiation of pitches, and in the union of gesture and sound in dance. These three traits characterise all human and animal musics. One sees that all levels are involved here, and that it is most of the time impossible to dissociate

sound from structure.

To take possession of sounds one must first repeat them, then classify them: two registers in the song of the robin', three notes in the most rudimentary musics", and already one has a structure of pitch orders

As for the

which can lead on to modes, tonalities and counterpoints.

union of music and dance, it is no less universal, to the point that all musical emotion may be interpreted as a gesture, at least in sketch form'.

The response song is no less universal. If it is not found in absolutely all cultures, it nonetheless extends beyond the human species to appear in other mammals, primates or canidae, for example. In approaching more particular facts, but still extending historico-geographical limits very widely, it can be observed that alongside the examples already mentioned above, one finds pentatonic scales based on the octave, tetrachords based on the fourth, the round in which one group begins before the other has finished its phrase, the relationship of the flute and the drum and, more generally, the sexual symbolism of musical instruments etc. On the other hand, certain values have only owed their reputation of universality to incomplete ethnomusicological information. There are still some musicologists who believe that the tonic-dominant relationship is a universal norm, long after highly complex musics were discovered like that in Bali, where these notions have no relevance.

As regards the use in music of extra-musical references, and in particular that of concrete models, this too can be seen as a universal phenomenon. What varies from one culture to another is much more the value and the meaning attached to this practice than its actual existence. If the polyphonies of the Solomon Islands and the musics of New Guinea" reveal themselves as ingenuously descriptive, and if the high cultures of




Europe and Japan have a variety of contrasting altitudes towards real sound, it does not alter the fact that everywhere, consciously or not, musics betray their connections with the sounds of the environment, and with the most widespread of all these sounds, speech,

If the Swiss in the Alps, the Pygmies in the equatorial forest, the Melanesians and the Caucasians practice the yodel, it seems that this may be related to the reverberating sonority of mountainous valleys and the dense forest. If the most piercing oboe, from Mauritania to Manchuria, is often linked to the deserts and the steppes, this might be due to a dry and absorbent acoustic, at least as much as to the diffusion of an Islamic culture. Also, has not the appearance of elongated horns in the Andes, the Alps, the Carpathians and the Himalayas been induced by the mountainous terrain of those regions? The low drones of the pearl fishers in the Persian Gulf' may not just betray the advanced weakening of their hearing due to diving, but also the general tonality of the acoustic milieu where they spend half their lives.

However, the influence of the environment is perhaps less evident than that of speech, i.e. that of language considered primarily in its acoustic form. It is easy to perceive the global link uniting, for example, the rhythm peculiar to the English language with music such as Purcell's overture to King Arthur, or even with ragtime: one can see clearly, even in these instrumental examples, an influence of syncopations and iambic rhythms characteristic of English prosody. The emphasis of the accentuated penultimate syllables of Italian and their "melody" are in their turn found in the music of the country of bel como. The regular clicking of consonants of Tamil shows in the "tinkling" of the mridangam, in the Karnatic music of Southern India. The phrasing of plain-chant is closely related to Latin. The prosody of French governs the melodic contours of

Debussy, even after Pclleas".

importance of variations in timbre and glissandi in Chinese music had no

link with the tones of the spoken language, although the melodic movements of certain languages in sung tones (that of the Lushai, for example) are not always parallel to those of spoken tones.

It would be surprising,

finally, if the




If these observations

were correct, one could resume the well-


clearly related to the prosody and phonetics of a language,. instrumental music cannot escape the same influence, if only because of Its proximity. This seems to be borne out by the difficulty of singing Mozart in Chinese or Rock in French; but the formal proof is still lacking, and one might regard these perceived relationships as over-interpreting. the facts somewhat, were it not for the existence of a WIdespread practice: that of whistled, drummed or instrumentalized languages", From a phenomenological confrontation between these speech surrogates and the music made by the ethnic groups which practice them on the same instruments, we may expect precise indications, not so much about the laws which govern music and speech in terms of semiotic systems, as about the processes according to which musical figures, their constituent elements and their ways of being structured, emerge from the acousnc expenence.

position of J.J, Rousseau" and postulate that, if vocal music is

In addition to innumerable drummed languages, we know of at least

thirty whistled languages today: more than ten in West Africa, as many in Mexico, at least two in Amazonia, two in New GUInea, three Il1 ASia

(Turkey, Nepal,

France with the last of the Aas shepherds in the Bearnaise valley of Ossau. Sometimes hunters communicate thus in order not to startle their prey by

speaking, sometimes the shepherds converse at several kilometres distance to combat the isolation of their way of life.

Burma), one in the Canary Islands, and even one Il1

Coding principles are very diverse, like coded languages themselves. If the problem is easy enough with languages whose tones contain from the beginning rhythmic and melodic elements which already constitute a kind of music, it is more complex with Latin languages, for example, in which the essence of the information is contained in the consonants, which are precisely avoided by this type of coding. Without going into detail, let us say that in this case the vocabulary IS generally more limited and intelligibility less sure. In African languages, the numerous musical "homonyms" are generally expounded by a periphrasis which allows them to be distinguished without ambiguity. For example, the Kele language from the banks of the Congo river is a language of two tones, which one can whistle or drum. The spoken word lomata (manioc)



is represented by three low beats, Naturally, many words of three syllables will have the same schema, for example bolemba (demon), lokonda

(forest), likolo (above) etc.

drumming lomara orikala kondo (

' .), "the manioc which rests on the "

One is therefore '

specific each time by

'.'. '), "the demon son

of the spitting cobra and of the sun" etc. One thus disposes of unequivocal rhythmico-melodic figures, at the expense of a lengthening of the discourse, which is not so far from "epithets of nature" like Achilles of winged feet or rosy-fingered Aurora in Homeric poetry.

ground", or bolemba olongo la loola lokole (

This equivalence between words and instruments sometimes goes as far as a supercode in which a spoken word can imitate a drummed word:

this is the case with the Duala of Cameroon. The translation is always spontaneous and common to members of individual ethnic groups: it is neithera question of an intellectual fantasy nor an esoteric secret language, except in bygone colonial times and in the case of initiatory languages. In the same way, a young man from Thailand or a neighbouring country, playing on the jew's harp in the presence of young ladies, provokes their embarrassed laughter spontaneously: they understand perfectly certain phrases which decency would otherwise prohibit except when disguised in a musical game.

One may encounter

almost any kind of instrument

in these


instrumental kind) or the drum, which are frequently used. There are, for

example, the bells of the Baule people on the Ivory Coast!', with two

bells that "speak" while the third makes "pure" music; the xylophones of

the Senoufo people";

flute in the Upper-Volta (or Burkina-Paso)": a ghaira oboe in Chad"; a khene mouth organ in Laos etc.

encodings of language in music, not just the whistle (the labial or

the dialoguing flutes in Hutu in Rwanda; a Bisa

One might therefore wonder whether music does not derive largely

from language, since translations


so area seems even to

Thus we have in Greece and in


to the other



outlive the language which gave it birth.

traditionally Hellenized territory a rhythm called aksak (lame, in Turkish)

that persists, with which the Turks of central Asia are not familiar, but

In certain cases, a musical-cultural




which seems directly to derive from the old Greek metre, and now survives it. In modern Greek stress has long since replaced the ancient system of tones and syllabic quantities.

But in fact nothing really gives weight to such a generalisation. On the contrary, a whole group of musical substitutions for language functions

seems to translate the

music. This is the case with systems that can be defined as "ideogrammatical". The drummed languages of Oceania (New Hebrides, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, New Guinea) in fact use rhythms which

in such a way that it is rather the language which

are a kind of sound heraldry, with no relation to the spoken sounds which translate them. There are therefore actual sound ideograms whose origin is without doubt purely a matter of convention. The same applies to the

"instrumental songs" of the Tepehuas of Mexico":

The same type of

pure convention, ultimately, Bb,A,C,Bq.

as in morse or codes like B.A.C.H.


Classical rhetoric such as has been examined by Mattheson'", for example, reached a stage close to the semantic code just discussed. It even seems that a German organist in the 18th century distributed to the faithful before the service a list of the main musical figures and their meanings, to facilitate religious meditation. If they were apparently less gifted than the Tepehuas in the deciphering of musical messages, it is probably because they belonged to a civilisation of the written word. The west has known the temptation of the linguistic code, to the extent of dictionaries such as that of Sudre", but without ever obtaining spontaneous understanding on the part of the listener. For this it would no doubt have been necessary to renounce the drive towards the movement of abstraction (etymologically speaking, of uprooting; which moves from the perception of sound to the concept of structure, and then ends up with the forgetting of sound itself. The point of equilibrium represented by the ideal of the classical epochs is

of sound, having succeeded in

perhaps that in which the diversity

generating a rich and coherent system of thought, remains present in the background; in which a complex rhetoric functions without presenting itself as a new natural order, i.e. without losing contact with the perceptive sources of its structural schemes.




In order for language to be used as a musical model, grammar must not override speech, If music develops the suggestions of intonation, of articulative flow, by other means, it is because it brings a primordial attention to these secondary qualities of language, In the 20th century, Janacek is one of the composers who has worked most consciously at this transmutation, His statements and writings abound in proof of this method:

"When someone talks to me, I hear the intonations in his voice more

clearly than I hear what he is really trying to tell me, "'9,

From 1906 he

had even planned to compile a musical Dictionary of Czech, And the study of the language's inflections was not only the consequence of Czech nationalism, of romanticism in which the soul speaks through the voice, of traditional humanism. While attempting to discover passwords (as he called them) for penetrating the human soul, he also observed that in this way "a bird penetrates the soul of another bird"?", and his numerous transcriptions of natural sounds show the same intent well beyond humanist justifications.

I myself in 1959 used a text from Sappho, drawing from it both melody and accompaniment simultaneously". The Greek metre in effect provides a melodico-rhythmic schema of two pitches and two durations:

While the melody preserves the essence of this schema, the accompaniment rests on the following phonetic correspondances, largely a matter of convention, and often even arbitrary:


8"'- - - - - - --,






front vowels






back vowels






~- -



palatal stops hard

other consonants:








dental & labial stops



The result is a kind of sound cryptogram, in which the linguistic model has undergone significant distortions but remains central: it yields rhythmic formulae and partially determined phonetic relationships, The interest lay in this mixture of chance and imposed construction. Hardly less arbitrary than a "free" choice, the use of the chosen model returned to modulate the sound milieu defined above (instrumentation, attacks, pitches) by a natural structure (tones, rhythms, phonemes). It is to be noted that this process, consisting of modulating one kind of system of signs by another system, is always productive. What was special about this example was that it could place two sound systems in relation to each other, and not simply apply a completely abstract structure to an ensemble of sounds.

While advancing a few steps into unexplored territory,

sacrificing a lot to abstraction, since it is infinitely easier to construct without listening than to refine one's ear to the apprehension of unknown schemes.

I was also

Numerous other experiments with linguistic models, conducted during the course of the sixties (in parallel to those by Berio, although I did not know it at the time), combined in different ways perceptive references (to speech) and conceptual references (to language). Thus, for example, in Le son d'une voix" I used the sonograph to penetrate (with an acoustic microscope, as it were) the phonetic detail of a poem by Eluard, taken as a model and articulated. In Canzone 1Il,23 by contrast, it is the syntactical dimension which was first and foremost taken into account. At a level of language deeper than the phonetic level, grammatical elements of the model were treated musically, rather like in the "instrumental songs" of the Tepehuas which were to be discovered some years later. Whether the paradigmatic axis moves into the foreground, as in Canzone III, or whether the syntagrnatic axis predominates as in the two other works mentioned, no deciphering by the listener was either possible or desired.

This absence of communication, far from worrying me, is at the disposal of music such as it is conceived in the time and place where I happen to work. For if it is essential for ethnic groups practising linguistic substitutes that the sound message is immediately and correctly interpreted, it is just as important for the European listener that no verbal message interferes with the purely musical meaning of an instrumental work. The



concessions made to semantics, for example, when operatic libretti are translated, are often found to be a disaster musically,

Conversely, there is considerable musical interest in listening to certain voices speaking in unfamiliar languages. In France, teenagers willingly affirm their preference for songs in English because they don't understand the words very well. The confusion of the musical and the linguistic represents a state of thought from which Europe detached itself

a long time ago, except very occasionally in opera. Thus we hear as a

kind of music the calls mentioned above which, for Pygmies, are only cries of contact; and again as music drumming patterns which conyey proverbs

and messages. By default or through excess, our hearing systematically bypasses the linguistic, while declaring itself fascinated by speech as a sound phenomenon. For Europe, music is the experienced sense acquired counter to (and not in addition to) the (communicated) meaning. For everything to be clear, there must be no message to be deciphered.

For us, the use of a linguistic sound model can produce a music communicating no meaning, analagous or not to that of the model, since music's ambition is, like the poetry of Mallarrne, to give "the words of the tribe" this "purer meaning" of which the poet is rightly envious. But if Mallarrne meant by this the original authenticity beneath the film of lies

and errors, the musician can only hear the authenticity of the word and the grain of the voice outside the limitations inflicted by the social conventions which are necessary for the functioning of communication. Monteverdi insisted that in order to perform his madrigals one must take into account the local sound and meaning of the words, and not the general context. This exigency, which would surely be found shocking by actors who learn

to avoid this above all, delineates clearly all the distance there is between

the art of extracting music from words with a free imagination, and opera, in which the words keep the musical emotion under close surveillance. Monteverdi's successors, up to Janacek and beyond, deliberately sought to extract music from the phonetic rather than the semantic. The latter has won out, above all where humanism has put forward its pretensions to the point of isolating man from the universe and decrying his sensations as if they were diabolical enemies of some Christian idealism.




From the above one should neither conclude that music proceeds from language nor the other way round, If one observes that in France complex poetic forms like the virelai were born in the 12th century, at the same time as polyphony, one may wonder if this is not an example which demonstrates that the relationship between language and music is fraternal, and not an affiliation. In fact the plan of a virelai combines strophes of two lengths, of which one (the first) serves as a refrain, with two lengths of line (7 and 3 syllables respectively) and two rhymes:


Metres : 7 3 3 7 7 7


a a a b b a


Metres : 7 3 7 7 3 7 7 3 3 7 7 Rh ymes : a a b a a b a a a b a

The ear is therefore constantly beckoned both by the aperiodic combination of syllables and by two independent periodicities, those of metre and rhyme; and, additionally, in the refrain, the rhyme order turns out to be the recurrence of the metric order (or the other way round). This organisation is perhaps analagous on the one hand to call and response, and on the other to the combined independence of two structures illustrated by the practices of the talea (rhythmic ostinato) and of the color (melodic ostinato) of the 14th century. The invariants that are introduced into the language, and the modes of variation themselves, are analagous to those of a polyphony in two parts. Metres and rhymes grouped together in couplets, i.e. according to the scheme a a, b b etc, or wrapped around each other as in a b b a, force the attention to focus on two diachronic orders, as in music.


be noted that other cultures, those of Java and Japan, for

example, also practise polyphony and fixed poetic forms simultaneously, The link between music and these forms is particularly interesting: in Java, and also in Bali, the vowels of the poem correspond mostly to the degrees of the scale used (5 notes - 5 vowels). The Balinese pitch system

It may



designates these degrees by the syllables ding dong deng dung dang, and the vowel of the syllable sung coincides most often with that of the chosen degree, this coincidence usually being on the last syllable of a tembang":

Greek Gnosis used the equivalence: 7 degrees - 7 vowels, and has handed down to us long vocalises in its magic scrolls.

Here one can grasp the particular interest that the linguistic model may present, by relation to a general and neutral framework of "dimensions" or organisational structures. Metre, prosody and phonetics

offer a sound model on several levels simultaneously. If speech provides

the most fluent of the models (used

represents a system exactly half-way between the aleatoric quasi-disorder of certain natural sound phenomena such as waterfalls and winds and the rational, abstract order of scales, hierarchies, repetitions etc. The ' laws which govern it are supple enough to generate an infinite diversity of sound figures, and yet precise enough to guarantee them this unity of ensemble that is called the accenr, or the spirit of the language. In this sense, each phonetic system is like a specific music, and at the heart of this music there is still some margin left for specific timbres and phrasing, just as in music for interpretation.

consciously or not), it is because it


The case of Olivier Messiaen is particularly interesting with his dual concern of nature, loaded with a religious significance, and rationality, with the inevitable tension between the two: if the natural model offers sound schemes which Messiaen willingly describes as characters with all Its suggestions of uniqueness and theatricality, the theory tends on the contrary to return these characters to temporary, simple configurations of interchangeable and neutral elements. In fact, Messiaen has only ever called upon linguistic models that are already partly abstract. There is no perception in his work of the spoken word comparable with his perceptions of, birdsong. What he curiously calls communicable language, in the Meditations sur le mystere de la Sainte Trinite; is a simple, arbitrary sound alphabet comparable to that which I had used in Sofous Mele, but without the natural phonetic links between model and music, and the experiment has not been repeated. In a way, it is more like lerrerism or cryptography than the use of a model.






It is from Greek or Indian metric theory that Messiaen has drawn his most significant linguistic models. After first practising a combination of four organisational structures simultaneously in his Mode de valeurs et d 'intensites, he found here a kind of synthesis between extreme formalism and extreme naturalism which he revindicates elsewhere. That is, he practised on Greek verses and Indian Talas the same arithmetical operations, such as augmentations and diminutions, symmetrical or otherwise. For Messiaen the Greek metre is neither a simple binary system of durational values one and two, nor a simple repertoire of pre-organized rhythms. Just as he creates imaginary birds in the Sept hai-kai, he creates for the occasion imaginary but plausible Greek metres. For example in lle defeu no 1:

~J J ~ ~ ~ ~

This "non-retrogradable" scheme, as Messiaen calls it (i.e. symmetrical:

- u u - u - u u -) is probably not to be found in the work poets, but resembles a choriambic dimetre ( - u u - 1! - 1! -).

hand, the composer himself confirmed that he had not noticed, when writing in the tenth movement of his Turangalila-Symphonie (p. 364):

of the Greek On the other

that this was a true glygonic (- 1! - u u - 1! -).

therefore seems sufficiently assimilated to become creative once again. Chomsky would perhaps say that the comperence acquired permits this performance, but in reality the use remains largely foreign to the internal principles of the borrowed system, for lack of an experienced link with the word which corresponds to it. One example among others shows this well.

In the Messe de la Pcntecote the series iambe, trochee, spondee, cretic ( u - , - u, - - , - u - ) is interpreted thus:

The Greek system



That's to say, not only the value of the units, short and long, change from one foot to the other, but even, on the third foot, the value of the second long is not equal to the first. What survives here of the Greek rhythm is just a distant and subjective reflection. In the same way, what survives of the strophic form in Chronochromie (ABABC) is only the abstract principle of a permutation of 32 degrees, and not the concrete alignment of identical metres. Every time a composer calls on a sound model, this passage from the sensory to the structural is inevitable; the main thing is to know how it operates, and to what extent.

It may seem surprising that Messiaen has not sought to vary the

metres which he cites by the use of substitutions made available to him by

tradition. It is thus shown almost always

six different presentations according to the changes affecting the four other

syllables around the unvarying choriambic nucleus:

that the glyconic, frequently found in his work, is in its canonic form ( - - - u u - u - ), while it allows




u u -

u -


u -

u u -

u -


u u -

u -




u u -




u -

u u -