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Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

The Inner Nature of Music and the Experience of Tone

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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The Inner Nature of Music and the Experience of Tone

On-line since: 15th March 2005


This volume contains the only two sets of lectures that Rudolf Steiner gave primarily on musical subjects. The first group of three lectures, given in 1906, explains why music has always held a special position among the arts. Music is the only art form whose archetypal origin is in the spiritual rather than in the physical world, as is the case with architecture, sculpture, or painting. Since every night during sleep man's soul lies in the spiritual world — essentially a light-filled ocean of sounds — it is understandable why music speaks so directly and powerfully to almost everyone. The creative musician translates what he has experienced in the spiritual world into harmonies, melodies, and rhythms of music that is physically manifest. Music, therefore, is a messenger from the spiritual world, speaking to us through tones as long as we are unable to partake in super-sensible events directly.

In the remaining lectures, given in 1922–23, Steiner discusses man and his experience of the world of tones, an experience that has undergone profound changes during the course of evolution. Before the Atlantean catastrophe, described in detail in Steiner's An Outline of Occult Science, man perceived only those intervals that were larger than the seventh; such intervals lifted him outside his body and made any musical experience a cosmic-spiritual one. In the early post-Atlantean period man's experience of the interval narrowed to that of the fifth; in our modern age, the period of the experience of the third, we now perceive the fifth to be empty. This feeling of emptiness actually is caused, as Steiner explains, by the withdrawal of the gods from man.

An extensive course for singers and other practicing musicians planned for the later part of the year 1924 could not take place due to the onset of Rudolf Steiner's mortal illness. The only other lecture cycle musicians can turn to is the tone eurythmy course, given in Dornach in February 1924 and published as Eurythmy as Visible Music. The collection of lectures presented here is thus an unusual treasure.

Erika V. Asten

The following lectures were given by Rudolf Steiner to audiences familiar with the general background and terminology of his anthroposophical teaching. It should be remembered that in his autobiography, The Course of My Life, he emphasizes the distinction between his written works and reports of lectures which were given as oral communications and were not originally intended for print. For an intelligent appreciation of the lectures it should be borne in mind that certain premises were taken for granted when the words were spoken. “These premises,” Rudolf Steiner writes, “include at the very least the anthroposophical knowledge of man and of the cosmos in its spiritual essence; also what may be called ‘anthroposophical history,’ told as an outcome of research into the spiritual world.”

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