GRADATION, ABRUPTNESS, TRANSITION, AND PROGRESS IN POETRY AND MUSIC
Gradation and its relation to principality, central-point, and massing
Abruptness, transition, and progress
Connection between these methods and those already considered
Gradation in the sounds and colors of nature
In its outlines
Abruptness in nature
Difference between continuity and progress
Gradation in the thought and form of poetry
Gradation in music
Continuity in poetry without progress
Continuity and progress in music.
A REFERENCE to the list of methods on page 131 will show us that the next ones claiming our attention are gradation, abruptness, transition, and progress. By the first of these is meant an arrangement causing one form to differ from a second according to the same method, and sometimes degree, in which this second differs from a third, between which and the first the second is situated. In consonance, as we have found, forms are never exactly alike; and if, in order to secure the effect of unity, we try to arrange them so as to seem alike, we arc necessarily led into gradation, a method sustaining, for this reason, the same relation to consonance as principality to comparison, central-point to congruity, and massing to repetition. Each of the latter of these pairs has its origin in an attempt to bring together into one organic form many factors characterized, respectively, by each of the former.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 266]
As will also be observed, gradation is necessary to the completeness of the arrangements begun in principality, central-point, and massing. The first two of these could exist without gradation, but in the degree in which a form is a distinct unity, subordinate features and radiating lights and lines diminish gradually in prominence and intensity as they move outward from the principal feature, or the centre. The same is true of massing. Things that are brought together by way of repetition are more alike and less alike; and the way in which they are graded, according to the degrees in which they manifest differences, measures the unity of the general results. In other words, without gradation, the principal, central, and massed factors might seem to belong to one product, and everything else to another product.
As is the case with all the methods to which it corresponds, gradation in art does not exist without its antithesis, which may be termed abruptness. By this is meant a sudden, unforetokened change from one theme, key, shape, shade or color to another. Of course, a composition in which there are many of these changes can have but little unity. Yet, even in connection with them, through the method of gradation, a nexus can often be formed between what precedes and what follows, of such a nature that, in spite of the abruptness, everyone can perceive a connection of the one part with the other. This nexus is called a transition. Finally, consonance, dissonance, interchange, gradation, abruptness, and transition, all together and in different ways, when, on the whole, there is a continued forward movement, result in artistic progress.
Corresponding to what has been said of gradation, it may be as well to add, but without explanationswhere none are neededthat as methods of arrangement, abrupt-
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 267]
ness is related to the general conception of dissonance, just as is subordination to contrast, setting to incongruity, and interspersion to alteration; and that transition is related to interchange as balance to complement, parallelism to comprehensiveness, and complication to alternation. Progress, again, which may be said to influence primarily the outlining of movements in time, is related to continuity very much as symmetry, which has a corresponding effect upon outlining in space, is related to that which has been termed organic form.
Like the characteristics hitherto considered, all these to be treated now are exemplified in nature. In listening to a bird singing, to a wind whistling, or to a surf breaking, we usually notice a gradual increase and decrease in the blended sounds. It is the same when observing color. Any ordinary lawn reveals an almost infinite number of shades of green, and the most of these coalesce, but show scarcely a trace of when and where they do it. A clear sky at dawn or sunset exhibits between the horizon and the zenith every color of the spectrum from red to purple, yet no boundary line between any two colors. Among the maple trees in spring, when just beginning to show their leaves, one can clearly see hues as different as red, yellow, and green, yet it is wellnigh impossible to find in any given cluster just where one color stops and another starts. It is the same with a majority of the hues of nature, whether seen in the flowers beneath us or in the clouds above us. In fact, it is one of the most common laws of sight, that when different colors or different shades of the same color come together, the line of demarkation between them is indistinct.
The same fact of gradation is observable also in outlines. The very laws of perspective often necessitate this.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 268]
As we look at the successive arches of a bridge, or of an aqueduct, we see them gradually becoming smaller and smaller. If we look at a row of trees that is sufficiently long, we see it pass gradually into a narrow stretch of green. Two parallel outlines, if we continue to trace them when carried up toward the zenith, or toward the horizon, appear gradually to converge. Sometimes, if they ascend a hill, though themselves perfectly straight, they seem gradually to pass into curves. A similar fact is still more evident in the outlines of forms not so influenced by the laws of perspective. Think of the innumerable curves and angles and straight lines that make up the contour of every mountain, tree, bush, fruit, flower, bird, beast, and man; yet often, not even with a microscope, can one tell just where one form of line ceases and another begins.
Abruptness also is a characteristic of nature. We are familiar with it as illustrated in the sudden cry of fright, call of command, crash of thunder, or flash of lightning; in the blue or gray of the sky against the green of the trees or the brown of the cliffs; in the dark of shadows when they fall against an object made bright by the sunshine; and in the angles that connect the limbs and bodies of every p1ant and animal.
At the same time, there are more instances in nature of transition than of abruptness. In the notes of the same bird, the conversation of the same man, the colors of the same flower, the outlines of the same hill, abruptness here and there usually introduces merely more sudden steps in transitions, which, on the whole, are in harmony with the requirements of gradation. As a rule, even the green of the sea turns chalky in the shallows, and is churned to foam before it breaks upon the white cliffs, and the blue
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 269]
of the zenith clouds into gray before it reaches the gray hills on the horizon.
The arrangement of the methods on page 131 shows that progress is related to consonance and the methods associated with it just as continuity is to repetition. Consonance, as we have found, is repetition with an increment. Just so, progress is continuity with an increment. The former necessitates change; the latter does not. At the same time, there can be no progress without some continuity. A song or speech that did not appear to be the development of some continuous melody or story, might have movement, but it could have no progress. So with an object of sight. When, after an interval of time, a tree or a man, once seen, is seen again, we can know that either has progressed only so far as we can recognize that the one is the same tree or the other the same man. That is to say, progress is the movement of something, or, possibly, merely some one form of a movement that is clearly revealed to be a unity. Gradation is a help to this conception, but occasional, especially intermittent, abruptness is not inconsistent with it. The thunder and lightning of an approaching storm, or the cries and footsteps of an approaching mob, are abrupt enough, yet they make progress. They do this, however, only when that which is abrupt is clearly recognized to be a part of a transition from one phase of the same movement to another.
Now to illustrate these characteristics: In poetry, gradation, like the other methods considered, is exemplified both in the sense and in the sound. Of the former, we can all recall instances in the gradual unfolding of the plot which characterizes even ordinary novels and dramas. Of the latter, we have illustrations in all the elements that enter into sound, namely: time, force, pitch, and quality.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 270]
We notice it wherever we find great regularity of time or rhythm, with the gradual swelling and sinking and rising and falling of the accent and pitch which necessarily accompany such a rhythm. Of the same nature is an effect in quality, not hitherto recognized as an essential element of poetic form, but to which the ears of our foremost poets in almost all of their most popular passagesmade popular often solely because of itseem to have been unconsciously guided. It may be termed phonetic gradation, and is produced by an arrangement of vowels and consonants such as to cause their sounds to follow one another in the order in which articulation necessitates the opening of the vocal passages of the mouth more and more from the lips and tip of the tongue backward, or else more and more from the back of the mouth and tongue forward;more and more, that is, as in the series of vowels in the words meet, met, it, ate, at, care, but, kite, are, got, aught, out, foot, lute, boot, bucher, ooze; and as in the series of consonants represented by b, (p), m, n, w, v, (f), d, (t), th, z, 1, r, j, (ch), g, (k), h; or else as in series of vowels or consonants the reverse of these. In the following lines the gradation of vowels on the emphatic syllables is from what we may term, as thus explained, the front tones to the back tones:
Here where never came, alive, another.
By the North Sea: Swinburne.
'T is better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
In Memoriam: Tennyson.
Kind hearts re more than coronets
And simple faith than Norman blood.
Clara Vere de Vere: Idem.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 271]
And in these, both in vowels and consonants, from the back to the front tones.
Ghostless all its gulfs and creeks and reaches.
By the North Sea: Swinburne.
Tho' lost to sight, to memory dear.
To shoot at crows is powder flung away.
Epistle to Hon. Paul Methuen: Gay
The empathic sounds arc graded from the back to the front tones in the first of these lines, and from the front to the back tones in the second:
Odors of orange flowers and spice
Reached them from time to time.
The Quadroon Girl: Longfellow.
As distinguished from gradation, the following may illustrate abruptness with transition both in the sense and sound:
I marched to the villa, and my men with me
That evening, and we reach the door and stand,
I sayno it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe my hand upon the latch.
The Ring and the Book: Browning.
And the following shows abruptness in the sound, but without transition:
Just writes to make his barrenness appear.
And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a year.
Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot: Pope.
Poetic expression, when most in accord with gradation, involves merely the use of those ordinary connecting
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 272]
words and phrases with which we are all familiar. Here is a transition, with some abruptness too, in the thought:
Is wisdom to the children of this world;
But weve no mind, we children of the light,
To miss the advantage of the golden mean,
And push things to the steal-point." Thus the courts.
Is it settled so far? Settled or disturbed,
Console yourselves: t is like . . an instance, now.
Youve seen the puppets, of Place Navona, play,
Punch and his mate,how threats pass, blows are dealt,
And a crisis comes.
The Ring and the Book; Tertium Quid: Browning.
And here in the sound or rhythm:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep,
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong:
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every beast keep holiday;
Thou child of joy
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy shepherd boy.
Ode on Imitations of Immortality; Wordsworth.
Gradation, as a musical term, is most commonly associated with a regular increase or decrease of force. But as in poetry, the essentials of the method may be exemplified either in theme or development, and, in the latter, either in time, force, pitch, or quality. Besides this, they may characterize either the melody or harmony. What their effects are, however, seem to need to be illustrated,
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 273]
only so far as they relate to harmony, or to melody as connected with this. It was said in connection with interchange that, in passing from one chord to another, especially if to a different key, it is customary to have one of the notes in both chords the same, so that the ear, recognizing it in both, can feel, notwithstanding other differences between them, that like has been put with like. Wherever we find series of cords, or a melody that can be harmonized by series of chords, that follow each other in this way, there we find illustrations of gradation. Notice the successions of chords in the examples of transition given on page 275.
Abruptness results, of course, wherever there are sudden interruptions and changes in either theme or form, and these in either time, force, pitch, or quality, and in either melody or harmony. Here is an example of harmonic abruptness taken from Marx's Musical Composition, chap. vi.
[click here to enlarge image or click here to play music sample]
In this, as will be noticed, the passage is immediate, i.e., without any form of transition from the key of C natural to that of E flat. In explanation, Marx says that this continuation is a phrase by itself, as it were; a new piece which takes up the thread of the previous phrase at a different place, and perhaps in a different sense. And it is exactly because the continuation in the third measure is considered as a new phrase that we consider the new chord Eb-G-Bb at once as a tonic chord, though the key of Eb is only indicated by the dominant chord Bb-D-F-Ab which occurs three notes later.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 274]
Transition is a passage from one key to another. It sometimes necessitates using a series of chords in which there are effects like those of interchange illustrated on page 250; and it always necessitates some application of the principle of gradation. But besides this it necessitates using certain chords in the new key, and these too, in a certain order, either that of the dominant seventh (see music on page 254) followed by the tonic, or, if the transition needs to be unmistakably emphasized, that of the subdominant followed by the other two. The reason of this is that the ear has become so accustomed to the order of the notes in the musical scale and of the chords that harmonize them, that it is only when one hears these latter in succession that he can recognize in what key the music is, or, if there has been a transition, to what key this has been made. The following illustrate common methods of making transitions from the major key of C natural to all the other keys. It will be noticed that every chord in the transition carries out the principle of putting like with like by containing at least one note which is the same as one in the preceding chord. In order to fulfil this condition, it is necessary, as a rule, to strike some chord between that of C major and the new keys dominant seventh. But when this latter is reached, the tonic of this key is suggested at once, and it would be a disappointment to the ear did it not follow.
continued on next page.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 275]
[click here to enlarge image or click here to play music sample]
Now let us glance at the influence, upon these arts, of progress. As already intimated, this needs to be distinguished chiefly from continuity. The latter in poetry may be manifested in the onward flow or sweep of any details, however connected with the story or the style; but progress is manifested in the fact that these details are all directly connected with the development of the main plot.
Here is continuity without progress:
On his bold visage middle age
Had slightly pressed its signet sage,
Yet had not quenched the open truth
And fiery vehemence of youth;
Froward and frolic glee was there,
The will to do, the soul to dare,
The sparkling glance, soon blown to fire,
Of hasty love or headlong ire.
His limbs were cast in manly mould
For hardy sport or contact bold
And tho' in peaceful garb arrayed
And weaponless except his blade,
His stately mean as well implied
A high-born heart, a martial pride.
The Lady of the Lake: Scott.
And here is continuity with progress:
A stranger I, the huntsman said,
Advancing from the hazel shade.
The maid, alarmed, with hasty oar,
Pushed her light shallop from the shore,
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 276]
And when a space was gained between,
Closer she drew her bosom's screen,
Then safe, tho' fluttered and amazed,
She paused and on the stranger gazed.
Continuity in music is manifested wherever, with or without variation, there is an apparent continuance of the theme or themes from which a composition as a whole is developed; but progress, whenever in connection with continuity, there is also an apparent advance in the unfolding of the musical idea, In a symphony continuity is manifested in the separate movements considered merely by themselves rather than in all the movements taken together considered as parts of one whole. Exactly the opposite is true of progress.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XVI, page 277]