How Does the Tone of the Lyre Move in Us?

by Sheila Johns, Cuenca, Ecuador

Movement is one of the most basic aspects of life. Everything living expresses its life through movement between the polarities of evolution and involution, expansion and contraction, and between birth as a passageway to becoming, and decay as a passageway to death.

Movement and musical tone are deeply related to each other, but what is the nature of this connection? How does music support, influence, and enhance movement, and vise versa? How does tone actually move in the space around us – and does it also move within us? This pathway of discovery requires the true attentive inner activity of listening.

We begin by bringing our inner listening to the phenomenon of the movement of the single tone. From there, we can explore interval (the space between two tones), and finally, the movement of a sequence of tones and intervals – a sequence we call “melody”.

In his book The Space Between Us, poet John O’Donohue writes that true listening is worship. He states that “true listening brings us in touch even with that which is unsaid and unsayable.”

So why use the lyre for such listening? The tone of the lyre is unique in all the world. It is a tone designed to come about when a specially designed combination of resonant wood and strings allow it to be released from those physical materials that birth it into audible space. For a few brief moments, it is possible to experience a tone that has become completely freed to move, which allows it to express its true nature as a living spiritual phenomenon.

Our ultimate goal together is to discover how tone moves in US! We can explore outer movement entered into with intention – the deliberate and purposeful movements of Spacial Dynamics and Eurythmy – that will guide us in opening vistas for how we relate our own movement to outer tone. We then explore the inner movement of the lyre tone as well as other examples of free tonal movement through the medium of the Bleffert gongs, the Choroi flute, a Weidler bowed instrument, and Werbeck singing. Through this palate of tonal sounds, we can discover “red threads” of sound as well as the color spectrum of qualitative sounding differences with traditional instruments.

We began with physical movement in space – a eurythmy form created by Rudolf Steiner for the Chopin Etude #2 for piano in A-flat Major, Opus Posthumous. We can also experience eurythmy movements with the lyre. This allows us to discover how the freed tone of the lyre expresses itself differently in the eurythmy movements. In addition, we can explore the tonal movement of the gongs in Spacial Dynamics. It is our hope through these experiences to come to a deeper awareness of how this tone is actually moving in us. Through directing our awareness to the sounding of tone, we can learn how to “listen in,” so that we may begin to experience the reflection – the after sounding which arises from the tone. Such a gesture of “listening in” can then allow for a consciously penetrated “sounding out.” This kind of inner activity has the potential to reconnect us with the life forces that are always moving in and around us – life forces that can inspire a re-cognition of who we really are as human beings and the soul transformation that can result. Why? Because the Threshold is crossed in both the art of movement and in the art of music.

Concluding with the words of Cate Decker, our facilitator for Spacial Dynamics: “Supported by the intentional movement given to us by both Eurythmy and Spacial Dynamics, we will be better able to appreciate the fullness and the rich dimensions of the Being of Tone as it lives both within the interiority of ourselves as well as out in cosmic space. With reverence, we can engage with the gift of the tone and the gift of movement and gesture as we move into the space that surrounds us.