The Symphonic Juncture

A [Symphonist]: "The one who is not afraid to raise the primal force."

- Boris Asafiev (1917)

Can Images be musical? The sounds of themes "unsayable."



After my walk yesterday through the backwoods of Dearborn's Ford Field, I had been stirred to thought about what it meant for a picture to have musical qualities and whether a stationary picture indeed could analogous to a whirling symphony? This integration of the sonorous spheres of creative manifestation and the unforgiving, even painful, facade of a moment long past is an interesting phenomenon and one that doesn't easily answer itself. For music, despite its temporal-defying ephemerality yet oxymoronic longevity through its 2-Dimensional form [although B. Asafiev would detest this assertion that fugitive sound is the same as its paper alternative], is but organized tones which have been colored by the conventions of the epoch in which they find themselves. Therefore, to 'translate' [another aphorism loathed by Asafiev] the sounding dimension to the non-sounding [silent] dimension is but to take the characteristics of A and identify them in B. What this means is that the picture itself is not musical but incarnates music in its compositional attributes.


What are those elements which the still photo captures in its visual ontology? The common attributes one thinks of are timbre, rhythm, pitch, dynamic, tempo. Some may also include articulation, lyricism [separate from tempo], emotionality [subjective], or even maybe verisimilitude [a quality quite striking when present]. In Musicologist Elena Viljanen's extended biography on Asafiev, she references the German Musicologist Karl Grunsky's conceptualization of the 'rudimentary of music,' his list being: 1) tone and noise [purposeful and accidental intonations], 2) mobility of music and timbre [compositional flow and sound quality], 3) melody and harmony, 4) rhythm, 5) content and form in the development of musical movement [the natural recursive gesturalism which entails a consummate whole], 6) polyphony [multi-voiced part-singing], and 7) construction of musical form with the world [musical 'speech' like recitative and songs]. But like Viljanen points out, Grunsky most importantly considered music to be a manifestation of mental health and thus, every musical gestation of self [intonation or tone] was resembling the very psychological fibres of the composer.


Without going too far down the rabbit hole, it's sufficient to say that Asafiev undoubtedly felt the same. He saw music as a emotive reflection of a composer's "will to creation," cultivated not from Academized mandates and regulated, formal processes [Glazunov and Dargomyzhsky] but a natural permutation of formless experientialism into sustained, functionally recognizable totality. Such a quality of "life-in-sounding," named "symphonism." This multi-faceted concept is theoretically defined as a work's motivic connection which defies cadential boundaries, in-turn sustaining the 'dramatic tension' which results in the conclusion naturally occurring as a result of continual integration of elements and their bodies (Mott, 2018). But it's philosophical definition which aids in understanding why the pictures below exude musicality, Asafiev's own clarification does the trick here. An amalgam of two [paraphrased] quotes is noted here with different colours:


"If the impulse [elan vital]...induced by musical movement, includes a simple endeavour: a continuous violation of balance...the core of symphonism looms in the recurrent stratum of the qualitative element of otherness and novelty...the essence of musical origin is in the comprehension and recreation of life in sounding --- a reality arises as concrete characteristics, from which being identified with their musical origin, rises music."



If we use this dual-sided concept to evaluate the images above, then what is experienced or more correctly, realized is the natural permutations of organic continuation ruled not by the sovereign Lord 'Theory,' met in council by its obfuscating parameters and discordances. No, what is not only seen but secondarily sympathized with is the formulaically formless synergy which, by its own credulity towards its relationship with its natural colleagues, expresses itself in images which seem to have no beginning or end, or in photographic terminology 'foreground' nor 'background.' Artificial echoes of living moments comprised of nostalgic echoes of movement encased in Art Nouveau-like undomesticated sinewism, while curvilineal foliage is met in-turn by both untampered and man-made angularity. Such a conglomeration of natural and post-natural gestating in its confabulational wake a dual-natured, creative tension whose arboraceous wondrousness merely hints at human intervention without speaking towards its transparent involvement. What's being at