Reflections on Art: A Source Book of Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers

By Susanne K. Langer | Go to book overview

The Concept of "Tonal Body"

HANS HEINZ DRAGER

WHEN JAQUES HANDSCHIN, in his book entitled The Character of Tone (Der Toncharakter; Zürich, 1948), distinguished between "central" and "Peripheral" tonal properties, he furnished a key concept to the psychology of tone and music.1 His central properties are pitch and "tonal character" (by the latter he means "the systemic being of the tone," "its essentially musical being"), and his peripheral properties, duration, intensity, and timbre.

This distinction implies an evaluation in the spirit of the old "musica," hence a perfectly justifiable groundwork for occidental musical conception. It should be noted, however, that musically central and musically peripheral do not necessarily mean primary and secondary in respect to the technique of composition. When Schönberg, in the third of his Five Orchestral Pieces, opus 16, introduces a constant chord with ever-changing instrumentation, the musically peripheral property of timbre has become primary as a means of expression. Something analogous is found in Alban Berg's "Wozzek," where all the instruments, entering successively in a crescendo, sustain the same tone.

____________________
1
By "tone" we always mean, as does Handschin, the musical tone, including the vibration devoid of overtones.

-174-

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Reflections on Art: A Source Book of Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • Beauty as Feeling 3
  • Art and Feeling 10
  • Beauty and Significance 37
  • The Paradox of Aesthetic Meaning 62
  • On the Problem of Artistic Form 71
  • The Aesthetic Problem of Distance 79
  • The Nature of Dramatic Illusion 91
  • Music and Silence. 103
  • Time in the Plastic Arts 122
  • Bergsonism and Music 142
  • Music and Duration 152
  • Notes on the Superposition of Temporal Modes in the Works of Art 161
  • The Concept of "Tonal Body" 174
  • The Essence of Rhythm 186
  • Morphological Poetics 202
  • A Boston Criticism of Whitman 229
  • Modern Ballet 234
  • Art and Craftsmanship 240
  • The Eye Is A Part of the Mind 243
  • On the Problem of Musical Hearing 262
  • The Image in the Rock 298
  • Problems of A Song-Writer 301
  • The Histrionic Experience 311
  • Sketch for A Pychology of the Moving Pictures 317
  • Music and Myth in Their Mutual Relation 328
  • Modern Architecture: Toward A Redefinition of Style 342
  • Index 357
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