The independence of the comets
The music of the cosmos has no sound. When Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling faced the question of the music of the world, he gave potentially the most convincing explanation possible. His observations on the subject were collected in Philosophy of Art, a work posthumously published in 1859 but which contains the lectures he delivered at Jena and Würzburg between 1802 and 1805. As a result of this it is possible, to some extent, to listen to and experience the tone of one of his classes.
The music of the cosmos has no sound. With their movements, the celestial bodies do not make music but are in themselves music, because a movement’s order is to be music. This music is independent of sound. There is, in fact, a music that makes a sound and one that does not. Inaudible music is superior to the audible. The rhythm of the alternation of the seasons or of the balancing between dawns and sunrises is music beyond sound. And so, the music of the celestial bodies is rhythm liberated from sound. The celestial rhythm is a music of planetary bodies who are indifferent to the expression of sound. Compared to the definite nature of rhythm, every other musical parameter is both indeterminate and not truly a musical dimension.
The turning of the seasons, the cycle of the days, the alternation between sunsets and dawns: these are the dimensions of the universe’s dependence on music, they demonstrate the musical obedience of the world.
Through rhythm, the music of the world is realised without any need for sound, because neither waning nor rising emit sound. Rhythm, in its absoluteness, is all the music of the world, but to grasp it in its entirety it is necessary to abstract from sound and contemplate the world. Therefore, rhythm is not music for the ears, but for the eyes. Visible music is superior to audible music.
The harmony of the world does not have to be understood acoustically, as if the planets were making music, emitting sounds. In fact, the harmony of the world – that is, the order of a reality that can move – is found in moving away from its clamorous origins. No sound in the universe belongs to harmony, because harmony is silent; it is extinct music. The world’s harmony has transcended the sonorous origins of its formation and tends to reduce all the world’s residual acoustic animism to silence. Harmony is a music that has already been completely uttered. In it, all the music is already set to music. Harmony is not a living sound, but an extinct one. In order to be perfect, the harmony of the world has to extinguish all the sounds of the world. When all the sound has been uttered, harmony is manifested at its most concrete. The reason for the universe’s proportions is its striving for harmonic liberation from the physicality of sound. Harmony serves to distance the music of the world from the animal nature of sound and to lead it towards the ideal of rhythm, which neither manifests itself acoustically nor excites with auditory events. The materiality of an audible sound has been surpassed by harmony, which is music that has become contemplative. Harmony is a relationship unrelated to sound. If an acoustic phenomenon is produced, however sublime, it belongs in the arena of bestiality, even if it is performed by the stars. Every audible sound is by its very nature animal. All music that pertains to sounds is analogous to cry of an animal.
The whole system of ancient music is expressed in the harmony of the world, an essential form, closed off and concluded, circumscribed in all directions. Schelling compares classical art to the perfection of the solar system – that is, the regularity of the movement of the planets – whilst modern art, romantic art, is akin to the roving of comets. If rhythm is the movement of the stars, then music is capable of expressing laws. The forms of music are the forms of the celestial bodies, which become manifest in those celestial bodies, so there is one music that conforms to the music of the planets and one that conforms to the music of comets. Compared to the discontinuous and indeterminate motions of the comets, planets are not independent, they never get lost in the sky, never venture into other skies, they have closed orbits and regulated cycles. The modern sound is an incidental sound, the evanescent, unpredictable and fantastic sound of the comets. Comets are independent from the harmony of the world, so they are modern. Their movements express an approximation to harmony that lacks uniformity, whose indifference affirms only itself, with the eccentric enthusiasm of a pure wanderer.
Fallen stars and luciferins come within the music of the comets, and therefore all modern art comes from fallen origins, is devilish.
The rhythm of the stars stays faithful to the natural determination of music, of being an art of succession. The music of the comets would ideally prefer to suppress the succession.
The music of the cosmos is rhythmic, and therefore it expresses the real, the essential, the necessary, whereas modern art is ‘armoniaca’, it expresses the imaginary, the inessential, the exceptional. Rhythmic or ancient art (in the sense of pertaining to old skies) is that of the perfect form, the complete form, the objective form. Modern art is subjective, accidental, and suggestive. All modern music tends to produce the music of comets, so it is music that is independent from the harmony of the world. The most sensational acts in the world are similar to comets, in whose wake it is possible to produce the expression of a phenomenon dominated by an indifference of information, that is, an infinite expression set within a finite phenomenon, and which is perceived as an uninterrupted flow, undifferentiated, without uniformity, like the trail that follows the movement of a nucleus or a flowing head of hair.
Do natural constellations actually have no future, and will they be surpassed by stars in new skies? Then, as if in a supplementary firmament, will the comets occupy the place of fixed stars at the moment in which the old sky is surpassed? Will the planets be dismissed when faced with the renunciation of the modern, the solar system being accepted as a category of totality?
The entire history of art, in one way or another, is subject to the stars. There are attractive forces that proceed from ancient firmaments and astral influences that depend on luciferin stars.
If music entrusted to the harmonic rhythm is an expression of the classical satisfaction of the world, the rambling music of comets is related to the modern dissatisfaction of the cosmos. The first remains faithful to the purpose of music, which is to be an art with an established order; the second tends towards the end of the world, the independence of the world. Comets represent the aspiration towards harmony being independent from the world when all the other planetary realities are, instead, obedient to it.