Brigitte Armenier as interviewed by Charles Sepos, Doctor of Musical Arts
CS: Part of the proceeds from the sale of this CD go to non-profit Biodynamic Institutions, so anyone buying this CD is contributing not only to music but also to Biodynamic agriculture in the US. You are creating thereby a surprising link between music and agriculture!
BA: Then why not first ponder on the nature of money? For, in itself, money has no value. It acquires one only by virtue of its circulation, whether as trading currency, donation or loan. It allows then a sort of “Happening” and acts as an extraordinary revealer of intention. We also have the word “monnaie” in French, but we actually use the word “Argent,” which also means “Silver,” for silver was, during antiquity, the metal converted into money, a form of reproduction. And if you further think of how silver is necessary or ideal in the photographic processes or in the making of mirrors, then again what is found is this capacity of reproduction which reflects light. Now, you know that light is invisible, we can never see it. What we see are things enlightened. Same thing with our intentions which belong, as spiritual facts, to our inner life: we can only look at their reflection in the outer world, the physical world. So, what this donation reveals is a conscious and analogical process of identification between art and agriculture. A sort of “Happening” which reflects the link between culture and nature.
CS: But is there such a link? For they usually appear as a dichotomy, like science and spirituality, or spirit and matter.
BA: But dichotomy is actually a form of link! From which it can briefly be said that the qualitative element of “dryness” dominates. Now, we can of course choose to let the apparent disparity of our experiences act upon us as a blindfold. And from there on confidently declare: “I see nothing!” which is, by the way, quite remarkable! But whether this link appears as surprising or not actually refers to one’s own theory of knowledge. For there is no phenomenon we approach, including ourselves, which isn’t based on this theory. Even two very “practical” activities such as touching the soil or a piano imply a theory of knowledge! As for our very best, last, technological and “objective” instruments of study and action, they are but the results of our own quality of thinking, some objective reflections of our subjectivity and quality of consciousness: no matter what, how and why we observe, we, as human beings, are always part of the observation process! So maybe our first question should rather relate to the level and quality of awareness we bring to our own thoughts, feelings and actions. Or spirit, soul and body. What are the nature and methodology of our theory of knowledge? Which consciousness, which quality of touch do we bring, be it directed towards a piano, a soil or a question? For this is how we wake up to ourselves and to the world around us.
CS: Then how would you touch this question of a link between music and agriculture?
BA: But what is our purity of intention in the sphere of knowledge? Is nature merely a larder or a pharmacy? Is music merely a source of likes and dislikes? At best!... Is this greed that looks to “make use of” how we approach beings we want to know? Is this to be the foundation of our theory of knowledge? We have inherited from the nineteenth century a very materialistic, mechanistic and atomistic approach to and understanding of the living world. The problem is that this vision actually originated from the study of the inorganic world. And we can’t reduce the essence of life to a making of substances and mechanisms. What we observe in reality is a “be-coming” woven throughout movements and forms. As Wilhelm Pelikan wrote: “Dead matter derives from living and not living matter from dead.” So we can’t be but thankful to all modern physicists, astrophysicists and scientists who have had, over the past few decades, the courage and honesty to reconsider the old restrictive paradigms of science. Thus helping us to open our focused vision to a more peripheral one which embraces many possibilities. And helping us to develop the awareness that cosmos, earth and man happen and become, through time and space, as interconnected and interrelated events within one organic whole.
CS: But would you consider agriculture and music as “Beings”?
BA: Can they happen without man? Or what happens to them once they are considered as part of the inorganic sphere? For your approach of both phenomena will then depend on the values and tools of observation applied in the study of the mineral kingdom. Cold processes of analysis and breakdown of mechanisms. Just as a reminder, this is also where we find the electrostatic laws of attraction and repulsion, and our belief in the invisible forces of gravitation, electricity, magnetism and atomic power. For we never see them as such: What we perceive are their effects. So, the study of the protein for example will bring its breakdown into the basic elements of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and sulfur. Or the single note into its series of overtones.
CS: And these analyses are true.
BA: Yes they are, but as corpses are true to living bodies! The breakdown of the protein is actually a decomposition process since we first have to kill it in order to study it. And you won’t recreate life by bringing back together the elements found! In the living realm, the whole organizes itself in parts while, paraphrasing the quantum physicist David Bohm, fragmentation doesn’t bring us back to wholeness and life. As for our single note, what happened to the counter-series of undertones? I know that Paul Hindemith wrote about them in his Treatise on Composition: “I consider it absurd to admit the existence of a force capable of producing a mirrored arrangement of the partial series. Such a force would suspend the efficacy of the force of gravity which expresses itself in the series of overtones. (…) No evidence is found in nature for an apparent mirroring of the series of overtones.” No evidence in nature? What’s true is that a mineral is subject to gravity only. But living plants aren’t mineral: after the “gravity gesture,” the downward gesture of the roots directed towards the centre of the earth, all plants grow in the opposite direction, showing “levity,” an upward gesture. As Dr. Bott wrote: “Newton arrived intuitively at the idea of gravity on seeing the apple fall, but he does not seem to have asked himself about the no less mysterious matter of how the apple reached the end of the branch.” … Or are we asked to still believe that living plants do not belong to nature since nature is to be grasped only through its manifestation of death? Or that an “objective” study of tone is allowed to skip parts of what actually happens in space? But then again, although many levels of analysis can result from a piece of music, yet no tonal piece was ever born solely out of analytical theory!
CS: So, if we consider agriculture and music as part of the living sphere which you presented as “a becoming woven throughout movements and forms”…
BA: Yes! Now, Charles, we have what you will allow me to consider as a “valuable” angle of study, that is, what for example the philosopher Pierre Hadot, in the continuity of Goethe, has brought us back from his researches on ancient Greek philosophy: “le regard d’en haut,” or the “vision from above.” For when and where there is life, we can always observe a living web of movements in time and forms in space. When I say “time,” I am not talking about our usual linear representation of it, for again, this is reductionist and dead. But of time which is actually lived, that is to say, this permanent simultaneity, this contraction of past, present and future, yet expanded in its differentiation. As already described by Wolfgang Schad, the living time-sequence of a plant is not the mechanical succession of the four apparent stages: germination, vegetative plant, bloom, formation of fruit and seed. It is an always transitional state of being which includes, within each qualitative space of its own, some of the characteristics of the past metamorphoses and of the ones to come. When the bloom in its present shows the flower corolla, at the same time the vision of the past is offered in the formation of the sepal and the vision of the future in the formation of the stamen and pistil, the latter becoming, during the generative processes, the past of the fruit which shows its future in the formation of the seed… or the laws of movement, acting from outside inwards and perceived in the processes of growth and metamorphosis.
CS: Do you see the same phenomenon in music?
BA: Actually this qualitative gesture of time embodies the very essence of music with the melodic process. For a melody is not a linear and dead succession of audible notes. Our experience tells us that there is a link between them! To be heard in the interval, a physically non-audible transformative force which reveals, from outside inwards, the secret logic of each note. When thus linked up with one another, the 7 basic notes flow into the divine thread, the legato of the scales. They flow and grow into the horizontal melodic lines.
CS: I am understanding, Brigitte, that man is central to your connecting music and agriculture. What then would be the link between melody and man?
BA: Have you ever noticed how hard it is to think when a melody goes through your head? It may even “get on your nerves”! By contrast, isolated notes are like thoughts, data or information. Chaotic, they appear as nothing more than sense-perceptions and their nature is such that we can be quite passive as we take them in. While a melody is like a thinking activity: we must grasp the link, in Greek: the “Logos,” from one concept to another, from one note to another. This requires developing an interior and active sense of contemplation. It truly represents, from outside inwards, an effort of consciousness and of transformative faculty. And yet, it is only when we begin to actively think by bringing our thoughts together that we can slowly become aware of their significance, that we can make a whole of our different experiences. The effort we produce in such thinking is like putting a light in a region that was dark before: “I see!”
CS: This takes us back to the beginning of this conversation.
BA: Yes, but the other way round…
CS: You also talked of “forms in space.”
BA: Back to nature, what do we observe? That for example the spatial unfolding of a plant happens only through time-fixed forms. As for music, it is since Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Traite d’Harmonie published in 1722 that the melodic principles of intervals and scales have been “invaded” by the harmonic dimension of the chords and their triads of thirds. A vertical principle. In both cases, time shows how it also bears a tendency to become fixed into spatial forms, shapes and living bodies. We can only get forms when a choice has been made, when the laws of movement have given way to a principle of organization acting from within outwards. I said “given way” because we are not dealing here with a state of permanent war, but again with life processes, and time giving birth to space implies a principle of free sacrifice. On a larger scale, this is also how the predominance of the melodic principle of the ancient Greeks with 7 scales, 7 modes and 7 instruments has given way to the predominance of our harmonic principle of 12 keys.
CS: And what is the connection with man here?
BA: In contrast to the alert spirit activity of melody, harmony now touches our feelings, our soul. Dissonances and consonances, sorrow and joy are felt not in the head but directly within the heart, in a sort of dream-like consciousness. Just feel how we make our meaningful choices in life, those which shape our biography, with our heart’s forces. For this is where we find the courage and love they request.
CS: I perceive a connection between agriculture and the sense of vision, and music and the sense of hearing. And I perceive a polarity between agriculture and music, between vision and hearing. Is it possible to bring a common language to bear on both of them?
BA: Out of the kingdoms of life, nowhere else do we find such a profusion of forms than in the plant kingdom. For this is how their silent language sounds, vibrates. And regarding music, Novalis wrote in his Fragments: “Whoever sees musical sound, movements, etc. within himself, his soul is plastic, for the variety of sounds and movements only arises through figuration.” Therefore between plants and music, our journey might be an invitation to develop a “feeling in form,” born out of movement.
CS: Can you demonstrate this using the music on this CD?
BA: I’m not sure I feel very confident with this terminology, but yes, we could maybe consider the first two and half minutes of it, that is, the first two and half minutes of Schubert’s sonata which unfold the whole of its first theme. What do we hear? As opening phrase, a very contained melody of total internal meditation. A sort of inner journey, contemplative, which flows along a “molto moderato” pulse. Not the strong affirmation of a physical force—it does not even reach the Dominant which would bring an outward tension—but rather an expressive gesture of humility out of which the vast time proportions of the first movement will unfold. At the end of this opening phrase, the left hand falls all of a sudden an octave lower and the G-flat trill seems to drag us down toward a suspended center. G-flat being quite a distant key from our B-flat root key, this major-third descent has intensified the inward gesture of the melody… leading us to the mysterious experience of silence. Now, art is not the reproduction or illustration of any sort of physical perception, but rather a tangible expression of inner vision, of spiritual insight. Its language conveys aspects of the unseen, of the physically non-audible. What this opening phrase actually reveals is the drawing gesture of a force of contraction, of preservation and concentration of the energy. Acting from outside inwards, it has led us to the density and apparent inertia of silence. In nature, an expression of this force will be found for example with wheat. Erdmut Hoerner did a wonderful study on this. Following this plant through time, he describes how the main unfolding of it, actually the roots, stays hidden unseen in the earth, these roots simply reflecting in their downward verticality the forces of gravity of their environment. A similar gesture of renunciation for any sort of loud and outer affirmation characterizes also the stem, leaves and flower. The stem is hollow but not empty: full of air, it reflects the air and its forces of lightness. Just think that the ratio of diameter to height can reach 1 to 600, with the weight of the ear on top! As for the leaves, they reflect their environment of light and warmth: similar to the sun’s rays, they adopt the form and direction of isosceles triangles. Finally, wheat has no fully developed flower, it blooms for fifteen minutes only and there is no insect pollination: a very contained melody indeed… leading to the grain and its journey to maturity, from milky state toward a continuous process of mineralization and drying. For death comes up from the earth and will finally reach the ear. And the grain, now isolated from its environment and seemingly dead, has already entered the mysterious dimension of silence.
CS: In both cases, these silences appear as crucial moments, for it seems that the thread of music or the story of the wheat would end there, while we know by experience that they don’t. What allows the processes to continue?
BA: As you say: they are crucial moments. Meaning that because we deal with time, what matters here is no longer what we physically perceive as with space, but what we do not physically perceive… or the inwardly “suspended” quality of the melodic interval. From part of the essential oils of the summer flower into the fat oils of the autumn seed, it is the embedding of this process of metamorphosis which allows the seed to pass through winter without rotting. From outside inwards, it has endowed the grain with an inner cloak of light and warmth which preserves the link between the invisible story of the seed and its tangible matter. You see, Charles, we too are at this moment of the interview at a “crucial moment.” So far, we have only relied on links between nature and music. But now we can approach one of the fundamental gestures in agriculture. Just think for example how vine pomaces take years to decompose whether in the soil or in the compost pile. With what was just said, how could it be otherwise? But let’s go further: the result does not show any colloidal quality or oily character, which is supposedly what is looked for. So, we have introduced an oily substance and only get a dry result. By contrast the dry straw, devoid in its present of any oily substance, has the capacity to bring out and will indeed develop through time the colloidal quality of the compost: its link. How come? But then once again, what is our theory of knowledge, our own quality of thinking and touch? Do we heavily base it on a cold and static approach, a narrow-minded grasp of substances and mechanisms only? Some kind of abstract input-output models? Or do we look for the open dynamism of the processes and their living warmth? The fat oils of a seed are already the signature of a past metamorphosis and will only allow the seed’s own future. While the retained gesture of the straw will allow the future of something else, new, where man now can play his part: the compost. Or the “composition” if you prefer, for this is music. A compost is an act of “culture”: altogether you definitely have to think and will it, but you also have to feel it in its qualitative gesture. In other words, you have to touch it and let yourself be touched by it as with music. Only then can we lift matter up to a higher level of vibration and once married to the soil, to the musical instrument of agriculture, it allows the harmonic flow of life to expand in space. Nature has answers. But we, as human beings, have the faculty for questioning. Questioning how, whether for compost or music, how colloidal or legato our thinking gesture is. How artistic, how creative, for at the same time we lift ourselves up to the level of making visible the invisible.
CS: Farmer as artist! But doesn’t the modern farmer see life in terms of chemistry?
BA: But what is chemistry if not a world of numbers and numerical relationships? And what is music if not the same, a world of numbers, relationships, proportions, partials and intervals? Of course in both cases we need the support of the material substances and audible tones, but again: these appear as the static and visible results of the dynamic and invisible processes of life and music. Now, which quality of consciousness do we bring in our approach of numbers? Will it be the one which directs exclusively its interest toward their quantitative aspect? We can also look at human beings this way. But thi illusion of power doesn’t mean that we have embraced the wholeness of their being: we cannot reduce their reality to a mathematical formula. And so is it with numbers in regards to their quality, their essence. In chemistry, a dry and atomistic outlook will be trained to only notice the before and after of an experience. It will have missed its “drama,” the real unfolding of its three-act play: or the continuous flow of disappearance, chaos and creation… qualitatively a similar experience as the one offered in mathematics with calculus and chaos theory. And what about music: briefly, the number 7, for example, governs all things temporal and out of it, we can observe how the processes of growth and metamorphosis unfold the 7 notes of the scales—or our 7-year periods of life; while the laws of space are subject to the number 12 and bring the dodecaphony of the semitones in the octave. Let me quote here Anny von Lange who trained as a concert pianist under Emil Sauer, a pupil of Liszt: “A feature of the transition to present-day music is the fact that the world of the seven, the major/minor system in the classical sense, is gradually giving way to the predominance of the twelve. This reveals a law of life: time tends to become space.” Or Ron Jarman: “Music, concerned with the invisible and spiritual activities of number, is number in movement.” What we touch here, whether with calculus, chaos theory or musical sounding is the domain of “Inspiration,” seemingly born out of nothing… The link to the source of Inspiration. Ilya Prigogine, who received in 1977 the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, liked to insist on the fact that the scientific creativity exists in the same capacity as the artistic one.
CS: Can we come back to our first two and half minutes of music and see how the thread of the first theme develops?
BA: The second half of this first theme begins with a suspended instant on the threshold of a B-flat note. Then the rolling down gesture of the latter leads the movement to firmly “take root” in G-flat. And while the left hand offers its active, steady ad horizontal support, the melody livens up to its own singing, reaches the upper octave and “dynamizes” its rhythm from within outwards. The hard forms have dissolved and, after the “chaos” of the triplets, the initial B-flat melody comes back: but this time dynamically expanded and bearing an expressive character renewed. When compared to the gesture of the opening phrase, this second half sounds as a total reversal of experience. This time, the dynamic of the process acts from inside outwards and brings a renewal of form. First born out of darkness, it then gains a foothold on its own soil inherited from the G-flat trill, and dances, describing rhythmical curves and expanding toward a renewed quality of light, out of which a second theme can unfold. Don’t we find there a similar gesture as the one offered in spring by seeds? Following the wintry silence, all seeds become “demineralized”: their hard forms disappear, they pass through chaos and come back to outer life within aqueous and mobile forms, able to unite again with their environment. What should not be missed is the origin of the movement: when warmth comes back, water evaporates and the dry seed becomes “humid.” It then metamorphoses itself into a sort of “nourishing udder” out of which the new germ will draw on its first reserves. Again, there is nothing mechanistic here. It is rather the artistic and creative gesture of the time/melodic interval, which offers at once the present of this tender “miniature earth” inherited from the past autumn and announces the challenges of the hard soil to come.
Now, we can also observe in the plant kingdom an isomorphic quality of process similar to the one described in this second thematic half. We then have to “jump” from wheat to vine. For what we perhaps perceive at first from a vine is its definite tendency for horizontality, gravity and heaviness. A continuous search for the grasp of the earthly forces. Just consider how old a vine stock can be, or how structured the roots are, or how the canes give themselves up to horizontality. The whole plant actually twists and spirals, as if totally impregnated from the gesture of the tendrils which actively grope their way along and, trying to grab the earth, wind themselves round any sort of firm support. Even the calyx of the flower opens not to the sun but to the earth and small berry lies between corolla and earth. Finally, the leaves help the grapes to stay hidden from the direct action of the sun and the maturity process will emanate largely from the light and warmth “absorbed, transformed and reflected” by the earth (Hoerner). Meanwhile… the berries have already begun to liven up. Born out of darkness, out of the hardening forces of the earth, they have become increasingly able to dissolve these aging forces. Their melody has unfolded a continuous process of metamorphosis of the calcium, met by forms of sugar and droplets of oil. Finally and in contrast to the grain, the berries end their maturity journey in a state of total liquidity, tenderness and sweetness. The forces of contraction have given way to those of expansion and dissolution. It is worth noting that the ancient Greeks already opposed the “Apollonian forces” of the wheat to the “Dionysian forces” of the vine. In a polarity of expression similar to a breathing gesture of inspiration and expiration, of tension and release. Of sunset and sunrise.
CS: But Apollo was the god of light and of the sun itself: How do you associate him with a sunset?
BA: If you don’t mind, let us take again some observations as a thread of thinking.
Every morning, with little consciousness at first, we wake up to time and to the outer light. We then grab hold of our consciousness, of our inner light and wake up to ourselves and to the world around us, thus creating a world of relations, of “tensions.” We finally get up and will become fully active over the day. A “similar” movement can be noticed with plants which are in spring first awakened to themselves. They create then a world of relations with their environment, “get up” and become fully active over summer. So yes, this is Apollo as god of the sun, active in the realms of morning and day and of spring and summer, accompanied by a progressive process of complexity and densification.
Now by contrast, a soil is awakened to itself in autumn and becomes fully active in winter: if you then take a shovel and dig a hole, you will observe the full activity of the earthworms, the breaking down of the organic matter, in short the results of activity of the flora and fauna of the soi. If properly accompanied by plowing activities, this oxygenation of the soil will lead to its raising-up. On a daily scale, the same inspiration gesture will be noticed from 3:00 PM to 3:00 AM with the descending forces of the sun and the movements of retraction of the sunset which allow the raising-up of the night. A knowledge that the Greeks now conveyed with the Pythia receiving Apollo’s teachings not at midday but at midnight in the light of the moon… which reflects the sunlight. For whether soil, moon or Pythia, they all appear not as the creators themselves of life, light and word, but as the carriers and reflectors of Apollo’s autumnal and inner quality of light, the mirrors of Apollo’s sunset. Or: “Dead matter derives from living and not living matter form dead.”
So, phenomena can happen as polar opposites in time and yet obey the same quality of expression and directions in space. And a striking sound-image of this is offered in Schubert’s sonata when we consider that if the major-third descent of B-flat to G-flat from the first movement has been metamorphosed in the second movement into an other major-third descent, now C sharp to A, yet the time contraction of the former appears as polar opposite to the time expansion of the latter. Which itself, by the way, leads to the raising-up and the luminous inner warmth of A Major, a very Apollonian key. Don’t we tune the whole of the orchestra to A, as if we were turning it to the sun?
CS: And Apollo was the god of music, surrounded by the nine Muses...
BA: ... who could fill man with the soundind experience of the “Harmoniai”, with the Inspiration Principle of the Harmony of the Spheres. A physically non-audible force born out of the resounding cosmos. Think of the descending counter-series of undertones: how light is the very first high note?
And how do you understand Dionysus when linked to the image of the sunrise?
Every evening finds us more or less loaded with an accumulation of sensory perceptions, with a build-up of nervous tensions: we are exhausted, feeling “old” at some point. With the verticality of his rays, Apollo has endowed us with the strength of verticality, the capacity for speech and the capacity for clear thinking. But now we need the expiration of the night, the release of the tensions and the loss of consciousness. We need the flows of darkness and the tangent rays of the moon. We need to bring our spinal column to the rest and the silence of horizontality. We need to be healed and revitalized.
And so do the plants which know a “similar” journey or rest and sleep during autumn and winter. And so does a soil, but this will now happen thanks to the expanding quality of spring and summer which allows the microbic activity to withdraw from the upper layers. Spring makes the water of the soil evaporate and once the humidity is lost, the soil simply falls asleep. Did you ever observe a soil in summer?
Once again, what matters here is the origin of the movement which offers a key to understanding of the process. Id Dionysus, god of the night and of the inner world of dreams, was able to dissolve the tensions and bring the experience of Dionysus the Younger, Dionysus the Spring, and his renewal of life and light... it was because the god was born out of these tensions and had internalized them. In other words, to free oneself of tensions did not mean to avoid them outwardly, but on the contrary, required taking these tensions within in order to become able to release them: a gesture leading from the past, from its knowledge and integration within, then outwards, toward the future and its new possibilities, toward the consciousness and light of a renewed sunrise. Or, as Schumann described our sonata conclusion: “ready to begin again the next day.”
CS: You seem to describe a journey from past towards future. But how do we actualize the present?
BA: Well, we have already heard an example of its dimension and quality in the articulation between the first and second halves of the first theme. And I had described it then as the contraction of an instant, suspended on a threshold and expanded into chaos.
CS: In other words...
BA: ... the beauty of a square root! For example the contracted V2 = 1.414213562... expanded without repetitive pattern into infinity.
Or, between the ellipse as curve of deficiency, and the hyperbola as curve of exaggeration: the beauty of the parabola as the curve of equality. In other words: between the omissions of the ellipsis and the excess of the hyperbole: the analogy of the parable.
Or the present as an open interval, the abyss, the real chaos born out of the meeting of two opposite streams… such as science and spirituality, reason and transcendence. Because the journey “from past toward future” doesn’t mean the ignorant neglect of the past nor the schizophrenic gesture of staying stuck, more or less consciously, to the past while running after some future. Like the boring “science versus spirituality” debate which actually is a disastrous “truth versus meaning” war that closes any opening and real future between knowledge and understanding. The present is rather an invitation, while we are unceasingly coming from our past, to also face and let inwardly resound a stream of renewal which continuously flows toward us. If you observe any musician, you will soon notice that he actualizes his present by working in the consciousness and reality of two opposable thumbs, holding the dynamic balance between the matter of the instrument and the composer’s spirit!
Or the present as no longer the worlds and the pure expression of the gods themselves, but rather the divine song and earthly realm of the human being, for here comes Orpheus, son of Apollo and priest of Dionysus. Orpheus, at once archetype of the singer and musician, inventor of the lyre and teacher of the agriculture related to vine cultivation.
CS: Ah, so Orpheus epitomizes the connection between music and agriculture! What I know is that Orpheus was allowed by the gods to go to the darkness of the Underworld to bring back his beloved Eurydice. So how does this journey of Orpheus touch us now?
BA: Yes, or who was he, and who are we? For you then have to consider that Orpheus was the very first initiate of the Greek Mysteries, and as such, Eurydice was the image of his soul. As for us, aren’t we parts of the same humanity which keeps on unwinding, through time and space, the same thread of evolution of consciousness? So today, what is a soul held captive in the kingdom of materialism and death if it isn’t a soul held captive under the sole laws of gravity, in bondage to the realm of outer appearances, external stimulations and chaos of thoughts, a chaos now as abstract as the shades of the dead. It reminds me of this article by Lev Grossman in Time Magazine about our modern addiction to data. Here is the ending of it: “But I can’t help wondering if we’re underestimating the countervailing effect [of our addiction]: the cost we’re paying in our disconnection from our immediate surroundings, in our dependence on a continuous flow of electronic attention to prop up our egos, and above all, in a rising inability to be alone with our own thoughts—with that priceless stream of analog data that comes not from without but from within.” Don’t we hear in this a modern echo to Eurydice’s lament? And what did Orpheus do then? Well, he was so moved by love and courage that he started this journey to and through darkness, but also toward the most precious part of himself. And because Hades and the infernal attendants were in their turn so deeply moved by his music and art, they allowed the freedom and return of his soul to the world of light and inner meaning. But under one and only one condition: his purity of intention…
To and through darkness. And whether in music and science, agriculture and spirituality or life at large, it is this dimension of selflessness which is tested in the “present” of our quest. Now, which quality of awareness do we bring in the receiving of this gift? Well, that’s a good question. And I don’t sense a more valuable answer than to PRACTICE. For nobody else can achieve my journey but me. It is my loneliness and my freedom, the becoming of my Individuality as unique and creative. Yes, we all share with Orpheus the same human “condition,” yet we each bring our own quality of response to it. But perhaps what matters most is to remember that we also and thereby develop the specific responsibility which accompanies our response. Orpheus was the grand-son of Mnemosyne, the goddess of Memory, and yet, this he forgot. And lost Eurydice forever. What about us?
CS: Does music convey in some way this journey now from past, to and through present, toward future?
BA: Or from light—to and through darkness—toward new light. That is to say from outer light—to and through chaos—toward inner light. Since this is the plastic expression in music for its archetype of form in time, the three-part song form: A-B-A’. With A and A’ harmonically stable and B, as development, harmonically unstable. Like for example the pattern unfolded by Brahms in each of the seven Fantasies on this recording. Or the one made visible for the whole of humanity with Bach’s Apollonian light—to Mozart’s Orphean journey to and through darkness—toward Beethoven’s Dionysian new light. A journey from the spiritual forces of consciousness—to and through man’s Individuality—toward the renewal brought by the social forces; a journey able to free man from the dead grip of the habits of thoughts, uniformity of feelings and automatic gestures. A journey within the three Ideals of the French Revolution: Fraternity—Equality—Liberty.
CS: Isn’t it the other way round?
BA: Well, it’s always an excellent mental exercise to consider things from a reverse perspective. It’s like an antidote to the fossilization of our thinking! Furthermore, is there a specific direction in the term “Equality”?... The answer would help for example to renew the question of music and of its social implication, my feeling being that too much of a materialistic and outer approach during the past decades has reduced its comprehension to the level of a more or less incidental pleasure.
Which, monotonously - the worse in music - lives its own life on the fringes of our modern and social questions and needs. While the essence of music and the whole of the arts actually hold the key of Inspiration and can heal the atomistic separations of our society. We need to consciously bring the interval of the unseen, the present, into our lives.
And if you allow me a bit of professional lyricism, I will add that its quality of presence, breathtaking, finds its source in the human heart, its school in art and its domains of practice in the whole of life. For the artistic gesture is the healing force and Orpheus was the teacher of medicine... or between wheat and vine: the olive tree and its "substance of peace."
CS: Then what about agriculture?
BA: Agriculture received its seed of knowledge with Goethe's Metamorphosis of Plants. It is his methodology of observation which lies at the origin of the renewal of the understanding of the laws of the living. He showed us how to observe the living phenomena since they are the theory. While to produce at first an abstract theory and then analyze the phenomena according to this theory can but only lead us back to our own limited frame of vision. Narcissus! A sterile dream... a barren soil, cold, compact and untouched.
So yes, today agriculture also calls for a conscious awakening of our social forces. Through time we have learned how to receive the gifts of nature then learned how to take them. And now the time has come to learn how to give back and heal the waning forces of the Earth, which longs for the warmth of our will. This is the teaching and task of Biodynamic agriculture.
CS: What then is Biodynamic agriculture?
BA: At first sight, trying to grasp Biodynamics when not "doing" it is certainly similar to trying to grasp msuic without any experience of its first "doing": the hearing. But we all do have an experience of music. Which allows us to envision it as a living whole, organized in the threefoldness of melody, harmony and rhythm.
Now let me quote Hugh Courtney from the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics Inc. in Virginia: "Whether one speaks of chemicals, organic or traditional agriculture, there are three main factors within biodynamic agriculture that set it apart from these other more well-known forms of agriculture.
- In the first place, Biodynamic agriculture approaches the farm as an organism or individuality on and of itself. Biodynamics arrives at this concept because it starts from the premise that the Earth itself is a living being.
- Second, the biodynamic farmer or gardener also attempts to relate his efforts to the movements not only of the SUn and Moon, but of the other members of the solar system as well, all against a background of the entire cosmos.
- Finally, biodynamic agriculture also involves the use of nine very specially made herbal and mineral substances known as the biodynamic preparations."
Obviously, the topic is a bit too broad for the limits of this interview! Yet, thanks to the visible gesture of music, we can already sense how the phenomena relate to each other. And how the biodynamic farmer can make the Earth resound within the orchestra of the cosmos playing the Music of the Spheres. He is not the composer of the melody: Rudolf Steiner was. He does not live in the harmony of his listeners: all men he nurtures will. Who he is, is one of the interpreters. And to become a good musician, first one has to know what one does rhythmically!
Similarly, one first has to know what one does through time with the different qualities of rhythm of the biodynamic preparations, from the contraction process of their "making" - to their dynamization through chaos - toward the expansion movement of their spraying. For again: if rhythm is not the essence of tonal music and of life at large, yet it is the element which bears them within a constant process of hold and release.
CS: Could we at least name these nine preparations and bring out their analogy with the elements of musical rhythm?
BA: I am going to sound very pedantic again, because what comes first to my mind is how the Pythagoreans, out of the five Platonic Solids, already called the earthly hexahedron, the cube: the “Geometric Harmony,” with a 3x3 inner principle as the revealer of expression of Apollo’s “nine Muses” and how the Great Mysteries of Dionysus were held over a rhythm of nine days… However, we can understand the whole of the nine preparations as organized from the earthly forces of the horn manure preparation—to and through the harmonizing preparations of yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian—toward the cosmic forces of the horn silica and horsetail preparations. And in music, the ninefoldness of rhythm will unfold from the bodily activities of rests, consistent values and beat intervals—to and through the soul experiences of bar line, pulse and meter—toward the spiritual striving of rhythmic interval, free rhythm and form. But at some point, without practice, this will all sound unnecessarily intellectual. Which is definitely not what, as arts, Music and Biodynamic agriculture are! There cannot be of course any valuable artist without technique and knowledge. Or mathematician without arithmetic and algebra: whether in the domain of the particular for the first, or of the general for the second, both disciplines answer on different levels our experiences of the Finite. And so I have my technique and we share a common knowledge. But the true field of art is actually the practice of the Infinite and of the complex chaos brought for example in mathematics through the irrational numbers of calculus. Or the chaos brought in life through the irrational and complex feelings of the heart. Or the chaos brought in biodynamic agriculture through the processes of dynamization. In other words, the Inspiration sphere of the “in-between”: not a disorder, but a structural gap, an essential void. And whatever the field of experience is, we all know, as human beings, this domain of active reception, of creativity which exceeds the limited frame of logic and of imagination. Yet, it can only echo our artistic act, first and prior, of WONDERING! Or as you said: “But how…?”
September 29, 2008
Santa Rosa, California