1. EXPERIENTIAL: THE CYCLE/THE SEED
Dane Rudhyar was born in Paris, France, on March 23, 1895, into a middle-class family of Norman and Celtic ancestry. His youth was marred only by ill health, which led in 1908 to a life-threatening operation that removed his left kidney and adrenal gland, and the sudden, untimely death of his father in 1911. The period of convalescence following surgery permitted his nascent mind and imagination to develop in peaceful solitude. At the age of sixteen, shortly after his father's death, he had an intuitive realization of the cyclic nature of all existence — of all natural organisms and especially cultures and their artistic manifestations. He felt that the European culture was passing through the "autumnal" phase of its cycle and that the music of Debussy particularly represented the poignant but ephemeral and decadent beauty of such a phase. The outbreak of World War I was for him an "equinoctial storm" confirming his intuition.
From Rudhyar's point of view, then and now, any person living at such a time faces a basic choice. That is, symbolically speaking, he or she can identify himself or herself either with "the realm of the leaves" — with the glowing but soon decaying products of the ending cycle — or with the small, inconspicuous seeds that hold the promise of new life the following "spring." To identify oneself with the "realm of the seed" means to utterly dedicate oneself to the new life of one's species by condensing within oneself the "harvest" of one's natal but dying culture, to sever oneself from that culture and become self-sufficient yet open to a basic "mutation," and to work to lay the symbolic and conceptual foundations for a new cycle of culture when conditions for it are right.
Rudhyar's choice was "seedhood." In 1916, as soon as he became twenty-one, he left Paris, severed himself as completely as possible from his natal French culture, language, family, mental conditioning, and name, and came to America. He identified himself as "a seed blown across the ocean . . . to sow itself in the fertile, virgin soil of a 'New World."' In realizing the symbolic nature of his intuitions and acts, he also realized the significance of symbols: far from being "unreal" they constitute the root-reality affecting the mentality and behavior of human beings. In America in the 1920s and '30s he tried to promote the idea of a "new American civilization" — to which no one responded. The "winds" of prevailing opinion held against the "seed": there was only Civilization (with a capital C — Western Civilization), and it was what came at the end of the long, linear march of "Progress" having started with "barbarism." The "New World" seemed to offer only rocky, unreceptive ground.
Yet the seed, too, was unready. It contained certain innate faculties which could be used constructively only when their function and field of operation became clear. Rudhyar had to pass through periods of inner development, severe testing, and maturation. Ambivalent experiences could be used constructively, but of course they need not. He also had to find some connection with the new ground, America — a way to make an impression, to become known.
The initial way was music. Rudhyar came to America as a composer of orchestral and piano music and as a writer of books and articles about music. He wrote about the music and musicians of the time he knew and also about Oriental music, which then was totally unknown and unappreciated in the West. Later on, when his musical endeavors were made futile by the Great Depression, the Neoclassical movement, and World War ll, the field of astrology opened as an unsought avenue of contact with the American consciousness. Yet whether the means be music or astrology, what Rudhyar had to bring could be explained and understood only on the basis of a new philosophical outlook which took many years to mature fully. It started in 1917 with a daily study of books at the New York Public Library.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1983 by Leyla Raël
All Rights Reserved.
Web design and all data, text and graphics appearing on this site are protected by US and International Copyright and are not to be reproduced, distributed, circulated, offered for sale, or given away, in any form, by any means, electronic or conventional.
for full copyright statement and conditions of use.
Web design copyright © 2000-2004 by Michael R. Meyer.
All Rights Reserved.