3. Dalcroze and People
Dalcroze´s background as a Swiss composer shows a profound understanding of the people, his surroundings and his country as a collective entity. There is a historic Swiss love for singing: “It is a singing of a happy people, with unanimous sentiment in group singing.” At his time, National Festivals, with performances in open-air and in large number of participants were very common.
Also at his school in Hellerau (1910 – 1914) one of the focal points was the concept of community, of society, where people worked and lived in harmony. As a garden city, Hellerau would be created on the “principle of togetherness, of performance as well as spirit.”
“All music was done in the solfége class. The school had no orchestra, no choir or soloists, for Dalcroze wanted none of these – only music and persons”. (Spector , I – Rhythm and Life, The work of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze)
Dalcroze’s musical instruction would begin at the body, which should become an instrument of art (E. J. Dalcroze – “Address to the International Congress on Physical Education, Paris, Easter 1913”, in The Eurhythmics of Jaques-Dalcroze). The aim of this education would be a musically developed human being, through the “awakening of the sense, natural though often latent, for the ultimate bases of music: tone and rhythm” (Ingham P, “The Jaques-Dalcroze Method”, in The Eurhythmics of Jaques-Dalcroze)
Even though Dalcroze did not leave a lot of written materials for the next generations of music educators interested in his method as to what directions to be followed exactly, the Eurhythmics teachers of today still carry on the same concepts of a dynamic and personal experience which leads to a better understanding of the musical subject.
The Dalcroze Eurhythmics lesson is at the same time an individual and a group experience. Each person is working on his or her own skills, feeling and internalizing the musical ideas and concepts. However he or she is always in contact with the other fellow students. Usually, the collective instruction creates a welcoming environment for the whole experience. The teachers nurture this group behavior as well as the individual progress of each student by watching carefully the body movements and improvising for (and with) them.
Therefore, the group identity reinforces the educational process in its ensemble learning, ensemble moving, and ensemble playing and singing.
In my earlier essays about the Dalcroze method, I wrote that this work would bring together all my previous experiences. I now believe in that statement more than ever. I recently discovered that I really like the “group” concept, the idea of the “collective”, of “togetherness”. Since my school days, besides arts and literature, my favorite topic was “urbanization” in geography. This was something that also came up in my Architecture days, culminating in my final under graduation project. My favorite painting is the “Dance”, by Matisse, where he explores human figures in an endless dance around the world. In Music, working in a choir setting, I can experience different stage formations with the singers and sounds in the vocal arrangements.
(Henri Matisse – Dance, 1910)
The Dalcroze training has showed me new ways of dealing with all these aspects in a creative and artistic way. I feel I am one step closer to the definition of architecture as frozen music. A common element for all fields of art is Rhythm, a “closely allied to life” and the “greatest appeal for all senses” (Spector , I – Rhythm and Life, The work of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze).
In her book Dancing in the Streets – A History of collective Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich notes and speculates the adaptive value of music and dance in the subject of evolution. She writes that early humans would probably have “ faced off predatory animals collectively – banding together in a tight group, stamping their feet, shouting, and waving sticks or branches”, appearing to the predator as “ not a group of individually weak and defenseless humans, but a single, very large animal (…) When we speak of transcendent experience in terms of ‘feeling part of something larger than ourselves’, it may be this ancient many-headed pseudo creature that we unconsciously invoke”.
(Madrigal CorDaVoz – Brazil – 2002)
The Dalcroze work deals with the human being, first and foremost. From one’s own organic and natural movements, music is made, is understood, and is experienced. As a society, we learnt from the beginning of times, the power of art, of music and movement. They help us to understand and express ourselves through history. The Dalcroze Method is definitely an education through Rhythm connecting mind and body, not only in music, but in other areas as well. Experiencing Dalcroze is experiencing music, art, joy and life.
- ALPERSON, Ruth – “A Qualitative Study of Dalcroze Eurhythmics Classes for Adults, 1995
- DALCROZE, Emile Jaques – The Eurhythmics of Jaques-Dalcroze, Bibliolife, Third Revised Edition, London, 1920 (Reprinted in the USA, Charleston, SC, 2010)
- EHRENREICH, Barbara – Dancing in the Streets – A History of Collective Joy – Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY, First Edition, 2007
- SPECTOR , Irwin – Rhythm and Life, The work of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, Dance and Music Series, n. 3 – Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, NY, 1990
- TUCKER, Melissa – Dalcroze Workshop Handout – Longy School of Music, Cambridge MA, Nov. 16th, 2003
- ZEVI, Bruno – Architecture as Space – How to look at architecture, Translated by Milton Gendel, Edited by Joseph A. Barry, Revised Edition, Horizon Press, New York, 1957/1974
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2011 – http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johannwolf109108.html, accessed May 14th, 2011