The Experience of Major and Minor
Speech eurythmy has been
developed up to a certain stage, and it may be said that we have achieved
something in this domain. Until now tone eurythmy has only been developed
in its very first elements, and due to a remarkable fact which has recently
come to my notice, I have been led to give this short course of lectures.
From various quarters it is strongly apparent that people have frequently
found tone eurythmy more pleasing than speech eurythmy and comparatively
easy to appreciate, whereas speech eurythmy has seemed much more alien
to them. This sad fact, that more significance is attached to something
still in its infancy than to something more fully developed, is really
a proof that at the present time the understanding for eurythmy has
not made much headway. It is of the utmost importance that this understanding
should be fostered, and therefore I should like today to begin with
certain introductory remarks which in the light of such understanding
may enable you to work for eurythmy.
If we try to develop tone
eurythmy out of eurythmy in the more general sense, the opportunity
will arise of speaking about this understanding at least in an introductory
way. It cannot be denied that on the part of eurythmists themselves,
much can be done with a view to increasing a right understanding of
eurythmy, for above all what is perceived by the onlooker must be borne
in mind. The onlooker not only perceives the movement or gesture that
is presented by the eurythmist, he also perceives what the eurythmist
is feeling and inwardly experiencing. This makes it essential that the
eurythmist actually experiences something while engaged in eurythmy,
and especially that which is to be presented. In speech eurythmy this
is the portrayal of the sound, and in tone eurythmy the portrayal of
the musical sound.
So far [1915–24],
with the exception of the forms
which have been created for certain pieces of music, this portrayal
of musical sound has consisted of nothing but the bare notes, nothing
but mere scale
If in speech eurythmy we had no more than we have today in tone
eurythmy, this roughly would amount to the range of the vowels
ah, a, ee, o, oo.
Just think how little
we would have achieved artistically in speech eurythmy, if until now
we had only been able to make use of the vowel sounds, ah, a, e,
o, oo! But so far artistically we have actually had no more than
this in tone eurythmy. This is why there is something depressing about
the kind of judgements about tone eurythmy that reach us, which I have
mentioned. And this is also why I believe it to be necessary that now
we should at least begin to lay down the foundations of tone eurythmy.
It is necessary, above
all, that in eurythmy we should get beyond the mere making of gestures
and producing of movements, and that in the realm of tone eurythmy,
and in speech eurythmy too, the actual sounds should be really felt.
You must permit me to make this introduction, for in our speech today,
and especially in our writing, we no longer have any conception of what
a sound really is. This is because we no longer give the sound a name,
but at the most briefly touch it.
We say ah. The
Greek language was the last to say alpha. Go back to the Hebrew —
aleph. The sound as such had a name then; the sound was something real.
The further back we go in language, the more essentially real we find
the sounds. When we name the first letter in the Greek alphabet, alpha,
and trace back the significance of this word alpha (it is a word which
really encompasses the sound), we find that even in the German language
many words still exist closely related to what lies in the sound alpha
or aleph — as, for instance, when we say Alp, Alpen — Alp,
the Alps. And this leads us back to Alp-Elf, [the] Alp, [the]
elf [but see Appendix 7. Translator's note], to a being in a state of
constant activity, of becoming, of coming-into-being, of lively movement.
The ah sound has completely lost all this because we no longer
say alpha or aleph.
If the alpha or aleph
is applied to the human being, then we can really experience the sound
ah. And how do we experience ah? A snail could neither be an aleph,
nor yet an alpha. But a fish could be an alpha, an aleph. Why? Because
the fish has a spine, and because the spine is really the starting point
for the development of such a being as an aleph. It is from the spine
that those forces proceed which embrace an alpha-being.
to understand that the spine is the point from which rays forth that
which constitutes an alpha or aleph. Then you could roughly experience
it by imagining that, as a human being, you could not receive much benefit
from your spine [alone], if there were no ribs that go out from it,
forming the body. If you then picture the ribs as detached and capable
of movement, you get the arms. And then, if you consider it, you arrive
at the eurythmic ah.
Now you must not think
that anyone watching eurythmy sees only this forked angle; if this were
so, instead of stretching out your arms you might just as well open
out a pair of scissors, or the firetongs! You cannot do this, however,
for the onlooker must have a human being before him. And the human being
has really to feel the alpha, the aleph, inside. He has to feel that
he is opening himself to the world. The world approaches him and he
opens himself to it. How do you open yourself to the world? You open
yourself to the world most purely when you stand before the world in
wonder. All knowledge, said the Greeks, begins with wonder, with amazement.
And when you stand before the world in wonder you break out with the
When you have made the
eurythmy movement for ah, you have brought your astral body
into that position which is indicated by the angle formed by the stretched
arms. But this gesture will not ring true if you have never tried to
experience the feeling of this fork-like movement of the arms, as has
already been mentioned in earlier instructions. Feeling must be in it.
You actually have to feel that the sound ah is an abbreviation
in the air, some sort of abstraction as opposed to the living reality
which the human being experiences.
When, let us say, we encircle
something with rounded arms, we encircle it with love. When we open
ourselves in the form of an angle, we receive the world in wonder. And
this mood of wonder is felt by the astral body (contained as it is within
the physical body, within the whole human being). This mood of wonder
must be felt in practising, once or even repeatedly, if the ah
is to be true. The making of signs is not the essential thing, but the
feeling that it cannot be otherwise (corresponding to a specific inner
experience) than that the arms assume a forked angle as you stand confronting
Let us pass on to the
sound a. [Presenting this sound accurately] depends on being
able to feel the a — which means holding yourself upright while
facing something. In ah we open ourselves to the world in wonder;
we let the world approach us. When we experience a we do not simply
allow the world to approach us, but we offer some resistance; we confront
the world. The world is there and we stand facing it. This is why the
movement for a demands that we touch ourselves (crossed hands [in Austrian
dialect die Hand can begin at the shoulder; consequently it
can mean ‘arm’. Translator's note.]). We touch ourselves.
We say, as we experience the a sound: ‘I too am here
confronting the world’. And you will learn to understand the a
when, in making the gesture, you feel: ‘I too am here confronting
the world, and I want to feel that I too am here.’ The bringing of one
limb into contact with the other awakens this feeling that I too am
Now I would have liked
things to have developed so that first what we call the letters or sounds
would have been given, and then the urge would have inwardly arisen
to develop these experiences out of the letters themselves, for then
you would get hold of it. And certainly this has frequently happened
subconsciously with many people, though it is not always definitely
apparent. But the study of eurythmy must proceed from such things as
Let us take o.
In making the gesture for o, you form a circle with both arms.
You must feel that while experiencing the o-gesture, you cannot experience
a. With a you confirm your presence: I too am here
confronting the world. With o you go out of yourself, enclosing
something within yourself You embrace something. It is important in
the a that that which you are addressing stays outside and you are inside,
within yourself With o there is a kind of going to sleep while
awake, in that you allow your whole being to go for a little walk into
the space which you enclose with the o-gesture. But now that
other thing you are addressing is also within this space. Thus, when
experiencing the o, your feelings are such as these: I approach
a tree; I embrace this tree with my arms, but I myself am the tree;
I have become a tree-spirit, a tree-soul.
There is the tree, and because I myself have become a tree-soul, because
I have become one with the tree, I make this gesture. I go out of myself.
That which is important for me is enclosed in my arms. This is the feeling
The feeling of oo is that
of being bound up with something, yet wishing to get away from it; following
the movement you make and going somewhere else, leaving yourself and
preparing your way. I run along my arms when I make the movement for
oo. I am convinced of it, that in oo I stream away,
away, away — away in this direction.
You see that this is speech.
Speech poses questions. ‘How does the human being relate to the things
of the world?’ Speech always asks: ‘How does the human being relate
to the things of the world? Does the world fill him with wonder? Does
he stand upright confronting the world? Does he embrace it? Does he
flee before it?’ Speech is the relationship of the human being to the
world. Music is the relationship of the human being, as a being of soul
and spirit, to him- or herself.
When, in the way I have
just indicated, you try to enter into what may be experienced in the
vowel sound o, let us say, or oo, then you have a
distinct going-out of the soul from the body. This is also expressed
in the pronunciation. Think of the way in which the sound o
is spoken, right forward on the lips and with the lips clearly rounded:
o. Oo is spoken with the lips pushed somewhat outwards:
oo = away. We have, then, in the gestures made in the air by
speech, this going-out-of-ourselves in the sounds o and oo.
The musical element presents
the exact opposite of speech. When you are going out of yourself in
speech, the astral body and ego leave the etheric and physical bodies,
even if this only occurs partially and imperceptibly. It really is a
falling-asleep while still awake when we utter a or oo,
or when we do a or oo in eurythmy. It is a falling
asleep when awake. When you are going out of yourself in o
or in oo, you really are going with your soul into the element
of soul. And when I say that with the sounds o and oo
I am going with my astral body out of my physical body, I am speaking
in terms of speech.
When I say: ‘In
what I am now experiencing I am going with my soul into my spiritual
being’ (for in spite of the fact that I go out, I am entering
into my spiritual being; just as when falling asleep I enter into my
spiritual being too, while forsaking my physical body), this is just
the opposite [of what happens in speech]. Thus when I say: ‘I
am entering into my spiritual being in o or in oo,
I am speaking in musical terms.
Now when I reflect upon
the sound o or oo, I am naturally denying the musical element. But the
point in question is: what is the musical experience in this going-out-of-ourselves
of o and oo? What is it in music itself that corresponds to the out-going
connected with o and oo? The musical experience which
is contained in o and in oo is, in the most comprehensive sense, the
experience of the major mood.
In speaking of the experience
of the major mood, it is certainly true that we experience this in the
sounds o and oo. I cannot say that we change our interpretation
into an experience of speech, but we change the way we live in this
experience. Whenever the sounds o or oo are uttered,
or when a word is uttered in which either of these two sounds is predominant,
then, underlying the speech, we musically experience the major mood.
When we reflect upon ah
and a, where we may very clearly perceive the experience, underlying
the sounds, of the astral body remaining within the physical body (indeed,
we are here made particularly aware of the physical body), this produces
a different musical experience. Pay attention, then, to this growing
awareness of the physical body. When you speak the sound ah,
or fashion it in eurythmy, you cause your astral body to sink down as
much as it can into your physical body. This entails a feeling of well-being.
It is as if you could feel your astral body flowing through your limbs
like — I will say ‘sparkling wine’ for the less abstemious
people, while for the more abstemious I ought perhaps to say lemonade’!
Thus in uttering the sound ah you actually sense something
like the flowing of some sparkling fluid through your physical body.
What is the kind of feeling that now arises in the physical body? Ah
— a feeling of comfort or well-being arises.
Let us take the other
sound. You stand upright confronting your surroundings and say: ‘I too
am here.’ Now it is as if, let's say, you were to shelter from the cold
by means of a protecting garment. You increase the intensity of your
own existence. This feeling of being aware of something outside yourself
and defending yourself against it, this reliance on yourself in the
face of some other element, lies in the sound a. In both cases,
in ah and in a, the physical body is taken hold of
by the astral body.
The same thing can be
experienced musically, too. Musically this can occur in the experience
of the minor mood in the most comprehensive sense. The minor mood is
always a retreat into yourself with the soul and spirit part of your
being; it is a laying hold of the bodily by the soul and spirit. You
will most easily discover what is to be felt in the eurythmic gestures
as the differentiation between the major and the minor moods when you
draw the experience of the major out of the living experience of the
sounds o and oo, and when you draw the experience
of the minor, again with feeling, out of the experience of the sounds
ah and a — not out of the sounds themselves, but out
of the experience.
When you enter into these
things you will feel how little people today know about the nature of
the human being. It must be said that in our modern world the understanding
for such things is remarkably limited. But without this understanding,
absolutely nothing productive can be achieved in so many realms. Unless
such understanding is acquired, we shall never be able to stand with
our whole being within the realm of art. Something artistic which has
not been permeated with the whole human being is nothing; it is a farce.
Something artistic can only endure when the whole human being has poured
himself into it.
But then we really have
to feel the connection between the world and the human being; we must
feel how speech brings us into a relationship with the outer world,
and music into a relationship with ourselves; how, in consequence, all
the movements of speech eurythmy are, as it were, drawn from the human
being and transplanted into the outer world, whereas the gestures of
music [eurythmy] have to flow back into the human being. Everything
which goes out in speech eurythmy has to lead back into the human being
in tone eurythmy.
Today, as you know, the
whole world of thought is chaotically fragmented. There is no living
picture of anything. Take a person of what we call a sanguine temperament,
one who lives intensely in what is outside himself. A sanguine person
pleases us, that is, he makes an agreeable impression upon us, only
when he utters the sounds o and oo. We get quite a bitter taste in the
mouth when anyone of sanguine temperament speaks the sounds ah
and a; it doesn't quite work. But people today do not possess
such vivid perceptions, and this is why contemporary people create so
little from the depths of their being.
Now let us take a person
of melancholic temperament. To anyone who has understanding for such
things, a melancholic person seems to be an absolute caricature when
he speaks the sounds o and oo. It only seems right
when he speaks the sounds ah and a. Here we have the
going over into the everlasting major mood of the sanguine person and
into the everlasting minor mood of the melancholic person.
Now let us think of a
person who is simply bursting with health, as we say. Such an overwhelmingly
healthy person is in the major mood, and for the most part his astral
body makes movements which correspond to o and oo.
His step is light; that is to say, he lives in a continuous oo.
He takes on everything, because it pleases him; he can endure anything.
He is continually in the feeling of oo; he is the major mood
Let us take a sick person.
He is continually in a state in which, without the element of wonder,
but through the very fact of his illness, he imitates the mood of ah
or the mood of a — more especially the latter. A sick
person is perpetually in the minor mood. And it is not exactly a metaphor
or something of an analogy when we ask: What is fever? Fever is the
sound ah transposed into the physical realm, which a eurythmist or someone
who speaks the ah produces in the astral realm. The mood of
the minor projected into the physical plane produces fever; it is the
same process which takes place when you utter the sound ah,
but in speaking this process takes place on a higher level — the
level of soul and spirit. The sound ah is a fever. Either it is fever
or it is tears, but it is always a process which the human being produces
These things lead to a
true knowledge of the human being only when they are understood through
the feelings. And because the human being is partially healthy and partially
ill, the development of that which is superabundantly healthy (which
must be inherent in art) and the development of movements imbued with
the power of healing are closely interwoven. The latter exists in the
case of ill people. This close relationship exists because, in reality,
the major and the minor moods are, on a higher plane, the same as health
and illness — that is to say, the experience of health and illness.
Now we must not think that because the minor mood is [connected with]
illness, it is therefore something bad or in some way inferior. Being
ill in the soul-world always signifies something quite different from
being ill in the physical world. From all this, you will see that the
moods of major and minor, when developed eurythmically, may in time
bring about therapeutic results.
So you see there is actually
a bridge between speech eurythmy and music eurythmy. And when in speech
eurythmy we experience the vowel sounds rightly, in the way I have described
for ah and a on the one hand and for o and
oo on the other hand, we really have something that leads us
towards the experience of major and minor. But the important fact we
could seriously bring home to ourselves is that we tend to push (schieben)
the musical element more inwards, whereas the movements of speech eurythmy
we have to push away (abschieben).
Imagine the following:
Take a step forwards with the right foot, trying to feel this step as
vividly as you can; do it in such a way that you also express in feeling
the involvement of the head: you take a step forward (your head not
too far back, but more forward). This is the first gesture. Now we carry
out a second gesture. Try to accompany the gesture you have just made
with a movement of the right hand, palm outwards, as much as possible
in the direction of the foot taking the step. Now you have made a second
Take the first gesture:
the stepping. Take the second: the movement. And now try to add a third
gesture by making a light movement of the left arm, touching the right
arm as if you wanted to push it away (left arm slightly pushing the
right). You take a step forwards, following in the same direction with
the right arm, and finally pushing the right arm with the left. Here
you have a certain gesture in its most extreme form. You have the step
and the movement, with what you add with the left arm bringing about
a forming gesture — for when you follow on with the left arm,
you arrest what you have poured into the movement in the right arm and
hold fast the movement. We then have:
Here you are really involved
in something threefold, and you are so much within this threefold occurrence
that you will actually be able to feel this as a threefold occurrence.
In the stepping you are in a position to discover an intimation of the
outgoing of your astral body. In the following on of the movement, which
you make with the right arm, this outgoing feeling is intensified. And
in what I have described as the formation, you can feel how the movement
is held fast.
Now if you really feel
what I have indicated in this gesture, if you put yourselves into it,
having no other wish than to enter with your whole being into this step,
movement and formation, then you have something that is threefold. And
you will easily realize that the step is the foundation of everything;
it is the starting point. The movement is felt as the continuation,
and must be in harmony with the foundation. And the formation establishes
the whole process.
You must experience all
this yourselves. You can experience it in the most varied ways if you
take the notes into consideration; you can make the gesture in the upper,
lower or middle zones. If you do it in such a way as to have C below,
the E in the middle (thus beginning with the step, leading the movement
over into E, and trying to confer the G in the formation) then in this
step, movement and formation you have presented the major triad. Fashion
the major triad quite naturally and objectively, and put the experience
of the major triad into what you yourself present as a human being in
the world. Just as in the gestures presenting the sounds of speech you
have to feel the inner content of the sound, so here, in step, movement
and formation, you have to experience the chord. This is a first element.
Now let us try to step
backwards with the left foot, allowing the head to follow [in the same
direction]. And now try to follow this with the left arm. You must follow
your backward step with the left arm, taking care to hold the palm of
the hand inwards. Be really relaxed as you start. Make the backward
step together with the movement of the head and arm (hand on the chest)
trying to achieve completion by putting the right arm across. Try to
hold fast this position. The whole gesture should be done in such a
way that it can actually be seen how the left arm is led inwards towards
the body, the left hand being brought to the body, and how the right
hand is carried over towards the left hand as though to hold it fast
[Hand is probably Austrian dialect for ‘arm’.
Here you have presented in the step:
C in the movement: Eb
and in the formation: G
You have presented the
minor triad, and when you keep these gestures in view and have repeatedly
tried to keep them in view, you will come to the conclusion that these
basic elements of music, the major triad and the minor triad, can be
presented in no other way. It is only when you have become convinced
that there is absolutely no other way of expressing the matter that
you will really have felt it. You may try as you like to find some other
way of doing it; it is only when another method pleases you less than
the gestures shown here that you can really be said to have realized
what dwells in them.
Now you see, you have
basically expressed in the realm of music what is expressed for the
vowel sounds in speech eurythmy. If I ask you to produce an ah
in speech eurythmy it is really the same (in speech eurythmy) as when
I asked you just now to produce a major, or a minor, triad. It is simply
Now there is one thing
which I have not yet characterized. I said that we can experience the
major mood as such in o and oo, and the minor mood
as such (which unlikely as it appears, is really the case) in ah
and a, but I have not yet mentioned the fact that there can
be something which lies between. Consider the transition. Try to experience
the transition from the mood of wonder to the embracing feeling in the
sound o, or, vice versa, the transition from the embracing
feeling of o to the mood of wonder. Here you go from without
inwards; you pass from the ‘going out’ of the astral body to a ‘diving
down’ of the astral body. Here you pass from illness to health, from
health to illness. This is the ee. Ee is always the
neutral feeling of yourself between the experience of going outwards
and the experience of being within — both in relation to the physical
body. Thus ee stands between ah and a on
the one side, and o and oo on the other side.
And now try (you can think
these things over before tomorrow and apply them for yourselves) to
pass over from the experience of minor to the experience of major by
simply changing [direction]. You first produce the experience of the
minor, then you change it by placing yourself forward. Simply incline
the head somewhat forward (in the minor experience it lies in a backward
direction), and incline yourself forward, thereby changing the whole
movement of the muscles. Instead of the step backwards with the left
leg, you would now have to step forwards with the right leg; you simply
bring that which you have in front out of the minor into the major;
that is to say, you pass out of the major into the minor mood, or out
of the minor into the major mood. The experience underlying this transition
corresponds to the experience of ee in speech eurythmy. You will already
sense the interesting variety of life underlying this transition from
the major to the minor mood if you really carry out what I have just
You see, the point is
this. When we initially enter into the nuances which lie in the major
and the minor moods and the transition between them, we are really entering
into what, in the realm of music, corresponds to the vowel sounds. You
must take deeply into your soul this first principle, as I have described
it. The gestures you have made for the major and the minor moods and
the transition from the one to the other are the musical way of doing
the vowels. The starting point is taken from the major and the minor
The musical realm carries
the fundamental moods corresponding to the vowels throughout its entire
tonal configuration, through tension, resolution, and so on.
And just as we can pass over from the spoken vowel sounds into
words, so we may also pass over from the understanding of the elements
of music (as, for instance, the simple chordal nature of the major and
minor triads) into eurythmic understanding of the musical realm, the
inner musical configurations.
Tomorrow at this time
we shall continue.