Evidence In Regard To Musical Imagination

The question asked above, Does the experiencing of purely musical

sounds evoke images, universally, and of what nature and under what

conditions? seemed to me to enter a more general field--the affective

imagination--which I intend to study elsewhere in a special work. For

the time being I limit myself to observations and information that I

have gathered, picking from them several that I give here for the sake

of shedd
ng light on the question. I give first the replies of

musicians; then, those of non-musicians.

1. M. Lionel Dauriac writes me: "The question that you ask me is

complex. I am not a 'visualizer;' I have infrequent hypnagogic

hallucinations, and they are all of the auditory type.

"... Symphonic music aroused in me no image of the visual type while I

remained the amateur that you knew from 1876 to 1898. When that amateur

began to reflect methodically on the art of his taste, he recognized in

music a power of suggesting:

"1. Sonorous, non-musical images--thunder, clock. Example, the overture

of William Tell.

"2. Psychic images--suggestion of a mental state--anger, love, religious


"3. Visual images, whether following upon the psychic image or through

the intermediation of a programme.

"Under what condition, in a symphonic work, is the visual image,

introduced by the psychic image, produced? In the event of a break in

the melodic web (see my Psychologie dans l'Opera, pp. 119-120). Here

are given, without orderly arrangement, some of the ideas that have come

to me:

"Beethoven's symphony in C major appears to me purely musical--it is

of a sonorous design. The symphony in D major (the second) suggests to

me visual-motor images--I set a ballet to the first part and keep track

altogether of the ballet that I picture. The Heroic Symphony (aside

from the funeral march, the meaning of which is indicated in the title)

suggests to me images of a military character, ever since the time that

I noticed that the fundamental theme of the first portion is based on

notes of perfect harmony--trumpet-notes and, by association, military.

The finale of this symphony, which I consider superior to other parts,

does not cause me to see anything. Symphony in B flat major--I see

nothing there--this may be said without qualification. Symphony in C

minor--it is dramatic, although the melodic web is never broken. The

first part suggests the image, not of Fate knocking at the gate, as

Beethoven said, but of a soul overcome with the crises of revolt,

accompanied by a hope of victory. Visual images do not come except as

brought by psychic images."

F. G., a musician, always sees--that is the rule, notably in the

Pastoral, and in the Heroic Symphony. In Bach's Passion he beholds

the scene of the mystic lamb.

A composer writes me: "When I compose or play music of my own

composition I behold dancing figures; I see an orchestra, an audience,

etc. When I listen to or play music by another composer I do not see

anything." This communication also mentions three other musicians who

see nothing.

2. D......, so little of a musician that I had some trouble to make him

understand the term "symphonic music," never goes to concerts. However,

he went once, fifteen years ago, and there remains in his memory very

clearly the principal phrase of a minuet (he hums it)--he cannot recall

it without seeing people dancing a minuet.

M. O. L...... has been kind enough to question in my behalf sixteen

non-musical persons. Here are the results of his inquiry:

Eight see curved lines.

Three see images, figures springing in the air, fantastic designs.

Two see the waves of the ocean.

Three do not see anything.