THE workings of thought often seem mysterious. Ideas come into our minds apparently without cause and without connection. For days and weeks perhaps I have been trying to recall some name, but all in vain. One day as I am walking along the street, my thought wandering miles and miles away from the object in quest, all at once the forgotten name comes into my mind as indifferently as if I had never tried to recall it, suggested, it may be, by the fruit tender’s call, or the teamster’s commands to his horses, or some article in the show window. I know not how the name has come back into my consciousness, what has happened among the brain cells, or what has disengaged the name concept from other concepts below the threshold among which it was entangled, I know simply that the name has come back to me under such and such circumstances. The mind works under strange conditions, indeed, and to the psychologist these strange operations are as interesting as they are strange. Who can count, or account for, the silly fancies, the grotesque suppositions, the irrelevant reflections, the strange thoughts, etc., that come and go in the stream of consciousness during the course of a single day? They seem to be entirely disconnected; apparently there is no causal bond between them; but the fact is that they are not causeless effects; there is a link of connection between them all.
Sequence of Ideas. In the chapter on concept mass we learned that no concepts stand alone. Every idea that is in the mind or ever comes into consciousness is connected with other ideas. So in the stream of concepts that make up consciousness at any moment, there is a logical sequence, a definite order, in which the concepts come and go. This order is determined by association. However disconnected and fantastic the ideas which float through our minds may be, they come and go by virtue of a law as definite as that which controls the flow and ebb of the tides, regulates the seasons or holds the planets in their courses it is the Law of Association.
Mr. Halleck tells us that he was once surprised, in a distant city, to find a picture of the Yale campus appear in his mind. He was thinking of a subject which had no conceivable connection with that campus. The mystery was solved when he realized that he was at that moment hearing a certain tune whist. led, which had before been strongly associated with the college grounds.
Notice in the following example how one idea is associated successively with another, and therefore how one brings up another. I sit in my study, I hear a loud rumbling noise in the street below it is occasioned by some heavy vehicle it is a traction engine previously seen a picture of an accident I witnessed years ago comes into mind there is another engine coming round a sharp corner a horse, frightened by the sight and sound, makes a sideward spring and overturns the carriage picture of a man who jostled me as the crowd was running towards the scene of the mishap he looked like Jones have not seen Jones since I was at school the first time I saw him there he was sitting on the library table, eating sandwiches I always said there was no use in letting those books remain in cloth binding that reminds me, I would better have my magazine sets bound before they cost too much I don’t like to spare those articles of Brown’s, I shall want them for that essay on finger training by the way, that clavier has just arrived the express man Tom brought it Tom has a stiff hand, the result of a railroad accident the train was ditched by a cow belonging to my friend Wilson,he is now at Leipzig the old “Gewandhaus” has been demolished those celebrated concerts, conducted by Mendelssohn a plain marble cross in Old Trinity Churchyard, Berlin, marks his final resting place, etc. etc. Seemingly there is no connection between these various ideas, and no definite order in which they come, but the law of association explains why the ideas succeed one an-other in just this order and no other. No idea ever appears unless there is a definite reason for it.
In the case of dreams our ideas are apt to be wild and fantastic, but the current flows on obedient to the same laws as those that control our waking thoughts. The ideas that make up the dream come in their particular order according to the law of association. If a person gets the cover off his feet on a cold night, he may dream of walking barefoot on a glacier; or if he has recently been reading about Nansen’s polar expedition or about Klondyke adventures, he will probably dream of strange experiences in those inclement regions.
Physiological Basis of Association. I think a careful study of the facts of experience will leave little room for doubt that the phenomena of association rest on a physiological basis. This appears the more probable when we reflect on the process of perceiving outward objects. How, for instance, do I obtain the percept and the concept of an apple? With the eye I gain facts concerning its size, shape, color; with the fingers I learn that it is rough or smooth, hard or soft, also that it is large or small, round, fiat, oblong, etc.; with the sense of taste I find out that it is sour or sweet, or has any specific flavor; with the sense of smell I become aware of its characteristic apple odor, and so on. From these various sense data, how do I form the concept of the apple? The object that has awakened these different sensations of color, shape, size, taste, smell, etc., is not to me an apple until they have all been woven together into one mental picture which I call the concept of the apple. The psychological laboratory reveals the fact that the several senses report their respective items of information to different subordinate centres in the brain; the eye reports to one part, the ear to another, the taste to a third, and so on; different groups of cells have been in action and have received corresponding contents or impressions, like so many separate lake-lets into which flow streams from different sources. How is it possible for these different sensations to be brought together into one idea, the concept of the apple? By association of sensations, effected by means of cells and groups of cells that communicate one with another by connective fibres of the brain. Here we find the physiological basis of the association of ideas. Though this can be accepted only as a theory it nevertheless affords a plausible explanation of the phenomena in the case.
Laws of Association. Several distinct laws of association have been observed, according to which ideas naturally group themselves and which determine the order of their reproduction. These laws have been differently stated and classified. In general they have been classified as primary and secondary. By a primary law of association is meant a general, universal rule which all ideas obey in coming into consciousness; by a secondary law we mean some particular reason why one of many associated ideas recurs to consciousness rather than the rest.
Primary Laws of Association. There is really only one sharply defined primary law of association, and that is the law of contiguity. Contiguity means the state of being contiguous, that is, in actual contact, touching, adjoining, neighboring, adjacent. Contiguous ideas are those which are adjacent in the same group, those which came originally into consciousness at the same time or at different times under like circumstances, as parts of the same mental picture and apperceived in the same state of concept mass. Ideas grouped together in this way have a tendency to recall or suggest each other, so that when one for any reason is called up the rest of the group will likewise come, just as when I take hold of one link of a chain and raise it up, other links will also rise.
In applying and explaining the law of contiguity it is not necessary that objects must be actually contiguous in space and time. The objects thus associated may be thousands of miles apart and may be separated by a stretch of many years; it is necessary only that the mind perceives the ideas together, side by side in the same group. If, for example, when reading history, I have at any time grouped in my thought the names of Hannibal, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Wellington, Washington, Grant, etc., as those of the world’s great generals; or Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Handel, Bach, Schumann, Chopin, etc., as musicians; or Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Shelley, Burns, Tennyson, Longfellow, etc., as distinguished poets whenever afterwards any one of these names comes into mind the other associated names will follow, though the persons they represent lived in distant portions of the earth and at widely separated periods of time. The principle of contiguity is just as applicable as if all the persons named were present in one place and at one and the same time. It is enough that their names have been brought together in the same mental group and there stand side by side.
Contiguity includes facts both of coexistence and of succession. When ideas are in the mind at the same time, e. g., some particular house and its immediate surroundings, a person and the sound of his voice, a musical chord and a particular piano forte, the ruins of a castle and the clambering ivy, the harbor of Naples and a glowing sunset, the amorous bower and the moonlight serenade, the snow and the sleighing party, etc., they are said to coexist. When ideas follow each other, like the members of a series, the chapters of a book, the letters of the alphabet, the words of a sentence, the lines and stanzas of a poem, the seasons of the year, the days of the week, the events of a life time, etc., they are ideas in succession.
In learning the alphabet, a is associated with b, b with c, c with d, etc. Therefore, in repeating the letters we say, a, b, c, d, and not a, m, h, x, because this is the order in which the concepts of the letters on first coming into the mind were successively associated.
Suppose I undertake to memorize Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard. “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day” In memorizing the lines I learn the successive words in just this order and no other, that is, the concepts are associated in my mind in this particular way; hence, in reproducing the lines I start with the first word and then the following words come in the order of their association. Were it not for this law, other words foreign to the poem might come in at any point; the mind might turn aside and think of parts of other poems, and so instead of following the lines word for word in the right order it would make a conglomeration of various disconnected words and phrases. Thus, “The curfew tolls,” “My country, ’tis of thee,” “Once upon a midnight dreary,” “Strike, till the last armed foe,” “All blessings flow,” etc.
That the phenomena of contiguity have a cerebral explanation is very probable. Whenever any brain cells have once acted together in any process of perception, the subsequent stimulation of any one in the given group will tend to set the others into a motion similar to that which they had previously experienced. “When two elementary brain processes have been active together or in immediate succession, one of them, on reoccurring, tends to propagate its excitement into the other” (James).
Secondary Laws of Association. According to the general or primary law just now stated, all associated ideas should be reproduced when anyone of the series is made to return to consciousness. If brain cells, sensations, and concepts are associated as has been explained, we might suppose that our whole past experience would be constantly streaming in endless succession through our consciousness, since at any moment some brain processes are sure to act in conjunction with others that have acted before in a similar way. But as a matter of fact we know that such is not the case. To answer this question we must unfold our subject farther, and bring under consideration certain specific principles which are called the secondary laws of association. Here we inquire why some particular concept among many associated concepts on a given occasion comes into consciousness in preference to others, and why not all in regular succession return.
The solution of the problem depends on a principle of nervous activity, called the summation of stimuli. This means that a stimulus which by itself would be insufficient to excite a nerve centre to effective discharge, may, by acting with one or more other stimuli equally insufficient by themselves, bring about such discharge. The balking car horse may serve to illustrate the principle. No single thing is able to start the horse; but by applying a number of exciting causes his balking may be overcome. For ex-ample, the driver uses his voice and the reins, a bystander pulls at the bridle straps, another applies the whip, the conductor rings the car bell, the passengers get behind the car and shove it upon the horse’s heels, a boy precedes with some tempting ears of corn or bunch of grass, the lady passengers try to scare the horse with their parasols, etc., etc., when all of these incitements are applied at the same time the obstinacy of the animal generally yields, and he goes on his way rejoicing. So when we are trying to recall a lost name, we think of as many “cues” as possible, we repeat the letters of the alphabet, then we form syllables with the letters in alphabetical order, we think of other names, akin to the one in quest, and so on, and the method generally succeeds on the principle of summation of stimuli; discharges from associated brain cells reenforce each other, and by their joint effect determine whether one idea or another shall be awakened.
The father of a dull boy, wishing to exhibit to some guests the boy’s progress in kindergarten instruction, holds his penknife upright on the table, and says, “What do you call that, my boy?” “A knife,” is the persistent answer. Recollecting that in the kindergarten exercises, not a knife, but a pencil, was used, the father held upright his pencil and repeated his question, whereupon the desired answer promptly came, “I call that vertical!” The example strikingly illustrates the working of the boy’s mind. He had often seen a knife, but not in connection with the idea of a vertical line, and therefore the sight of the knife alone did not awaken the concept vertical; when, however, the pencil was substituted, which before had acted with other things in producing a particular group of impressions, immediately it served to bring up its associated concept of a vertical line.
In the phenomena of association we have both total recall and partial recall. According to the law of contiguity, our ideas should return to the mind with unvarying regularity, just as the notes in the tune of the organ grinder. But our minds do not work in such a mechanical way, our ideas do not always come and go just like the notes of the music box. In partial recall some constituent concepts of the original group are passed over, while others reappear; not all our past experiences are equally operative in determining what particular ideas shall appear in the awakening series. Not all are equally prominent: there is always some one that stands out above the rest and, so to speak, dominates the reproductive process. That item is always the one that appeals most powerfully to our interest. The following illustration, adapted from Prof. James, shows this principle of interest. Looking at my clock (1879), I found myself thinking of Mr. Bayard’s resolution in the Senate about our legal tender notes; the clock called up an image of the man who repaired its gong ,he suggested the jeweler’s shop where I last saw him the shop recalled some shirt studs which I bought there the studs, the value of the gold and its recent decline the gold, the equal value of greenbacks these brought up the question of how long they were to last, and so, finally, the Senate Bill. Each of these images in the associated series, offered various points of interest. The gong at the moment referred to was the most interesting part of the clock, because, having begun with a beautiful tone, it had become discordant and aroused a sense of disappointment (hence, the need of the repairer’s services). This explains why I thought of the gong and then of the succeeding members of the series, rather than of the friend who presented the clock to me, or one of the many other circumstances connected with it. So then to explain the phenomenon of preference in the matter of partial recall we must resort to the principle of interest, to which we shall refer again.
Several forms of the secondary laws of association are to be noted.
1. The Law of Correlation. Otherwise stated, this means likeness. If there are fifteen ideas associated by contiguity, and if there is likeness between the third and seventh, these will be most apt, other things equal, to come into the mind together. Where there is any thought relation between ideas, they are apt to suggest one another. The study of etymology affords many examples of such thought relation, the great majority of words being founded on physical imagery insomuch that one has called our dictionary a `collection of faded metaphors.” Our word tribulation (from tribulum, a threshing instrument) suggests wheat or chaff, and vice versa; chastisement (from castus, white), a process of cleaning, further associated with snow and wool (“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”); succor (from sub and curro, to run under), the idea of one person putting his shoulder under the burden which another is bearing; imbecile, the image of a tottering form resting on a staff, etc. The study of etymology carried on in this way, namely, by correlating images and meanings, not only makes the subject intensely interesting, but also cultivates the habit of associating concepts according to their inner thought relations.
It will help one to remember the position of the several letters on the staff by associating the staff with the human hand, thus:
The letters in the spaces from the bottom upwards spell F A C E.
The student should train himself to unite concepts in his mind by the natural relations of things. One of the great beauties of a trained mind is that its concept mass is made up of rationally correlated ideas and consequently it recalls things preferably in their thought relations, and is not enslaved by the accidents of time and place. Prof. Halleck calls attention to the fact that an ignorant person on the witness stand will insist on telling everything, just as it passed through his experience, no matter whether it bears on the case or not. His mind is a slave to the facts of contiguity, and so machine like he repeats everything, ofttimes very much to his attorney’s discomfort. If, between two given events, something else with no bearing on the case happened, he must narrate the incidental facts also in order to keep on the track of his story. For example, his associated series of concepts might run thus: Bought a barrel of flour on trust at a red grocery one of his children was teething he stepped across the street to the drug store to get a bottle of paregoric the clerk was a young fellow with a black moustache he resembled that farmer boy, who bought the gray nag at the public sale, where he met cousin John by the way his children have the whooping cough, and he called Dr. R. he passed in front of his office on the way to the red grocery, etc. Having never trained his mind to think logically, i. e., according to the necessary thought relations of things, he must relate all the events of the series in the order in which they occurred, for he has no other way of getting from the one important event to the other. If you break the chain for him, as in the act of cross questioning, you are likely to confuse him and render him helpless so that he cannot proceed at all. He stands puzzled, like a man in the middle of a stream where an accustomed stepping stone has been removed.
The following example from Mrs. Radcliffe’s “The Romance of the Forest” (quoted by Halleck), illustrates the point admirably. Peter, one of the characters, rushes into the room, with important news, which his master is eager to hear:
‘O, sir. I’ve heard something that has astonished me, as well it may,” cried Peter, “and so it will you, when you come to know it. As I was standing in the blacksmith’s shop, while the smith was driving a nail into the horse’s shoe; by the by, the horse lost it in an odd way. I’ll tell you, sir, how it was.”
“Nay, prithee, leave it till another time, and go on with your story.”
“Why, then, sir, as I was standing in the blacksmith’s shop, comes in a man with a pipe in his mouth, and a large pouch of tobacco in his hand.”
“Wellwhat has the pipe to do with the story?”
“Nay, sir, you put me out; I can’t go on, unless you let me tell it in my own way. As I was saying with a pipe, etc.”
Practical life furnishes many similar illustrations. If a student has memorized a piece of music mechanically, i, e., without giving any thought to the notes, phrases and periods, he is likely to be entirely thrown off, if, in the public rendition, he accidentally omits a single note. So, in reciting a declamation, which has been mechanically committed to heart, as the phrase goes. Such methods of memorizing should be discouraged.
We should associate things logically, that is, according to their inner thought relations, and not simply mechanically, or, still worse, accidentally. If a child for the first time sees a horse and a sheep together, the relation being purely accidental, the next time he sees one of these animals, he is apt to think of the other, not because there is any inner connection between them, but because he happened to see them together the first time. Such a process has little disciplinary value and does not contribute much to the child’s growth in intelligence. The scientific educator knowing this principle will guard his pupils against accidental associations in the exercises of the school room. All their concept associations should be based on the inner and true relation of things. Failing in this, the business of instruction becomes more difficult, and the results less satisfactory. We all know how hard it is to memorize and recite, for example, the Proverbs of Solomon, or the maxims of Poor Richard’s Almanac: the reason is that the reciter sees no connection between the successive verses or maxims, and so must depend upon pure memory. Not only is the process of memorizing made much easier but it also contributes much more to mental growth if the things learned are connected by a true thought relation.
Among the inner relations of things, may be mentioned those of cause and effect, instrument and use, means and end, law and example, container and thing contained, symbol and thing symbolized, genus and species, etc. Further examples of correlates are such as, the wing of a bird and the atmosphere, the fin of a fish and the water, oar and boat, organ and bellows, piano keys and the fingers on the hand of the player, heart and blood, lungs and air, eyes and light, ears and sound, house and occupant, book and reader, the ebb and flow of tides, root and trunk, bird and nest, trough and crest of waves, the harp and the harper, lock and key, life and organization, body and soul, etc. In all these cases the relation between the parts is not accidental, but it is a relation of thought, design, adaptation.
The human mind is naturally curious; it delights in tracing the connections of things; the search for causes is native to it; the discovery of thought relations is an exercise entirely congenial to the inquiring mind. Gaining knowledge hi the nature of the case should not be a tedious and painful process, and we can say it never is if carried on in the right way. Gaining knowledge is interesting and stimulating when we can discover the causes of the things we see and hear. Hence the fascination of scientific studies, such as botany, zoology, physiology, geology, physics, astronomy, etc. Learning bare facts in a mechanical way is apt to be laborious and uninteresting, and the facts when learned are retained with difficulty. A better way to learn facts is to learn them in connection with their causes or the search for their causes. In the study of harmony, it will aid the pupil in learning the facts about chords if his attention is directed to the cause why certain notes make consonance and others make dissonance. That there is a cause for these phenomena the intelligent teacher very well knows, and if he can succeed in starting his pupil upon a course of investigation he will not only make the subject of harmony interesting, but he will greatly benefit the pupil in the way of mental development. It will help us to interpret a piece of classic music if we can find out why in one part there are written major chords and in another minor; why in one place, crescendo and in another decrescendo; allegro now and andante then; forte here and pianissimo there. It is not enough to learn, by stuffing the memory, that such and such marks are found in particular places, but it is more interesting and more important to know why these marks are there and why they stand in one place rather than in another.
Can the pupil know these things, and is it lawful for him to inquire into such matters? Time was when such inquiries would have been considered entirely unnepessary, perhaps, impertinent; but we are living in an age of investigation, which is true of music as well as of everything else. To carry a load of facts by mechanical association is like carrying supplies of food “in a bundle strapped upon the back;” while carrying the same facts by rational association is like carrying the food “eaten, digested, and wrought over in to the bones and muscles and nerves which hold the body firm and solid and ready for use.” Learning the causes of things awakens in the pupil a sense of power and of satisfaction, a realization that he is doing something and is making real progress in his music studies. The feeling has a reactive influence, for the greater the feeling of power and the keener the sense of pleasure it yields, the greater is the amount of attention the pupil gives to his work. Is it possible to make the practicing of etudes interesting in the way above suggested? Let the wide awake teacher try the experiment and find out for himself.
For these three reasons, then, we should strive to associate things according to their inner thought relations, viz., first, because of the pleasure the mind derives from the exercise; secondly, because of the practical results; thirdly, because thereby a useful habit is cultivated.
Hence, the importance of being careful, pains taking, wide awake students; of setting facts into the mind in their rational order; of having intelligent ideas as to why things, which we find in our music lessons, are as they are, and not simply that they are thus and so. Do not allow either yourself or your teachers to cram your mind full of disconnected facts, but train yourselves into the habit of searching for an intelligent cause of the things you learn; bring new concepts into your growing concept mass in their right relations so that every step in the process of your technical musical training may be a step at the same time in the development of your intellectual powers. We should be able, not only religiously but also musically to “give a reason for the hope that is in us” the hope of success in our calling. It is a hopeful sign when students ask intelligent questions not idle quibbles for the sake of killing time or for amusement, but earnest, searching questions that help them forward and enlarge their field of ideas.
Plato defined man as a “truth hunter”. That is a good definition of a student: he must be a truth hunter. What does this imply? The saying of Plato rests on the figure of game hunting. Here are tracks on the snow, on the sand, in the mud what made them? Whither do they lead? Whence do they come, etc? So in the pursuit of knowledge; the truth hunter finds tracks, evidences, intimations, markings of all sorts what are they? why? whence? for what purpose? why thus and here? why not otherwise, etc? It is a good practice to surround the subject of investigation with a thousand questions. One question answered is a thousand new ones raised, and thus the way into the secrets of things is opened. Socrates was a great questioner; it was thus he confounded and overcame his enemies. Our Saviour at the age of twelve was found in the temple in the midst of the doctors of the law both answering and asking questions. There is a picture of the model student. Music students also need to study, to inquire, to apply themselves, to be zealous truth hunters. Study many things; not merely notes. The more general knowledge you possess, the more power you will have in the pursuit of your special calling; the more meaning you will see in the composition you are playing, the more beauty and meaning you will be able to bring out of it; the higher will be your rank as a musician.
2. The Law of Repetition. This rests on the same fundamental fact as the law of habit. If two or more ideas are often repeated in conjunction the repetition will make a firm bond of association, and the more frequent the repetition the stronger will be the resulting bond, and the more certain is the awakening of the rest of the series upon recurrence of any one member. “The closest associations, such as those between vocal actions and the resulting sound, words and the things named, the movements of expression and the feelings expressed, are the result of innumerable conjunctions (repetitions of acts) extending throughout life.
The more frequently we have seen a play, or heard an oratorio, or read a poem, or written out a certain sentence, the easier will it become for the mind afterwards to run over the series of associated things. The effect of the repetition is to produce a powerful tendency for the mind to pass from one thing to the next in a series of associated impressions or concepts. In this way is produced also the power of anticipation. If B has frequently followed A, and C, B, and so on to the end of the series, the recurrence of B is sure not only to be immediately followed by C, but will also cause the mind to anticipate succeeding members of the series, as M, N, etc., so that the mind is able to look onward to what is coming as well as to attend to what is passing. When a pupil is learning a new tune he fixes in his mind, one by one, the successive notes as he hears the tune sung or played, or performs the act himself. By often going over the same thing, the mind, on recurrence of the first notes, moves on easily to the following ones, and even forecasts what ones are to come after. Suppose we are listening to an opera. Here are several concurrent series of ideas, the orchestral accompaniment, the singing of the text by the prima donna, the actions of the supporting players, the shifting stage scenery, Sully, “Outlines of Psychology.”
etc. The more frequently we have witnessed the same performance, the more readily will the recurrence of any one part, e. g., a particular strain of the orchestral accompaniment, recall other associated parts, e. g., a particular turn in the text, a brilliant stage display, or a striking pose by some actor. The effect of it all is to bind together the several elements into one complete whole.
3. The Law of Interest. This means that a stronger bond of association is formed between things that appeal powerfully to our feelings than those that are indifferent. Those things which interest us most are the ones most firmly linked together by association and the ones most apt to return to consciousness. The principle of interest depends on several circumstances. Among these may be mentioned that of recency. In most cases we are more interested in what has recently happened than in events which belong to the distant past. To be sure, recency alone does not determine the matter of greatest interest and firmest association. Vividness is also a powerful factor. What is exceedingly vivid necessarily makes a deeper impression and interests us more than what is ordinary. Halleck mentions the example of a person who had just left the shelter of a tree, when the tree was torn into pieces by lightning. Afterwards whenever it began to thunder an image of that tree came before him. Though there had been thousands of other objects associated in his experience with thunderstorms, he always would think of that particular experience because of its great vividness. The sighing of the wind among the pine needles always calls up to the author’s mind his first view of Yosemite Valley from “Inspiration Point,” because that sound was vividly associated with the awful panorama unfolded to view from that particular spot. A heavy nimbus cloud always brings into my mind “Punch Bowl,” an extinct volcanic crater in the rear of Honolulu, because while sitting on the rim of the crater one day, such a cloud having disengaged itself from the great cloud-mass in the rear and having unobservedly drifted around and in front, by and by poured itself out in a copious rain shower between the observer and the city down below. It was such a surprise, such a novel occurrence in my experience, and the whole scene was so vividly impressed that the place mentioned and that particular form of cloud are permanently associated in my thought. The chirping of the cricket in autumn time brings to mind a certain open grave in an out-of-the-way, desolate, neglected burying ground in the corner of a field. That was the first grave I had seen. My childish fancy was highly wrought upon. Seeing the grave under such circumstances and hearing, in the stillness and loneliness of the place, the solemn, measured chirp of the cricket, the scene was most vividly impressed on my mind and the two things to this day are inseparably associated. So everyone can recall similar examples in his own experience, just as striking and perhaps more interesting than any that , have been mentioned. “The experiences of childhood often throng the memory of old age, because they were so vivid they deeply affected the plastic brain cells and left there an unfailing impress.”
When Joseph Haydn, a boy eight years old, was studying at the Hainburg school, George Reutter Capellmeister of the Cathedral of St. Stephen’s in Vienna, passed that way in search of boys’ voices for his choir. He examined young Joseph. Placing a canon before the boy, he asked him to sing it at sight and Haydn obeyed with so much readiness and correctness of ear and tone that Reutter was delighted. While Haydn was singing Reutter observed that the boy cast longing glances at a plate of cherries on the table, and throwing a handful into his cap he said, “Well done, you little rascal!” Haydn used to say afterwards that he never saw a plate of cherries without thinking of that day and occasion, which proved so important in his career.
We see how strong a factor personal interest is in determining the current of association. When we understand this principle thoroughly, we can easily explain many strange experiences in our lives. Those ideas are most likely to return to consciousness on a given occasion which have previously appealed most powerfully to our feelings; hence, if any one of the series of impressions is reawakened the other, associated members are sure to reappear.
The facts of heredity may be selected farther to illustrate our subject. What heredity does in our mental life is quite similar to the facts of association explained on the basis of nervous and mental predisposition. The same laws seem to govern both classes of phenomena; we may infer, therefore, that their causes are similar, if not identical. For example, “to the son of a drunkard, a glass tumbler or bottle is likely to suggest saloons, liquors, drinking carousals, etc. The son who has inherited a preference for art will think or dream most often of objects connected with art. The daughter of a musician is likely to have the greatest facility in recalling ideas connected with music.”
Heredity is hot everything, as Mr. Galton in his book on the subject claims, but it is a great factor in determining mental bias or the current of association. Bach’s father and brothers were musicians and his ancestors for generations back were of a musical turn of mind. Mozart’s father was a professor of music. Weber’s father was a man of musical taste and of some skill in the same direction. No little part of Mendelssohn’s peculiar bent and all the merit of his earlier musical training must be accredited to his highly cultured mother. Raphael’s father was a painter of considerable reputation in his day. John Wesley’s ancestors for four generations had been scholarly churchmen. Van Dyck, the master of portrait painters, was particularly fortunate in his parentage, his father having been a painter on glass and his mother a painter of landscapes, from whom also he ‘received his earliest art instructions. James Watt’s love for tools and his mechanical dexterity may be traced to his father. The father of Palissy, the noted Huguenot potter, was a tile maker and a worker in clay. Edmund Burke’s father was an attorney of prominence in Dublin. And so we could multiply examples indefinitely, all of which are highly suggestive in the line of our remarks on heredity and association. We say heredity and association, because if the facts in both cases could be traced back to their primary cause, perhaps we should find that they rest on the same basis. If we were to go outside of human psychology and enter that exceedingly fascinating field of animal psychology, just now attracting so much attention, we should find many very strong confirmations of this view.
A change in our emotional states may change the direction of our associations. The following example, suggested by Halleck, will serve to illustrate. An idea, A, is often followed by an idea, S, one day and by L the next day. I pass a certain farm on Monday, and I think of a pear tree in the orchard, while on Tuesday, passing the same farm, I think of the well behind the house. Why this change in the direction of association? On Monday, when I passed the farm I was hungry, and therefore, the picture of the tempting fruit, which I had previously plucked from that particular tree, came into my mind. On Tuesday, I was thirsty, and therefore, the well, from whose cool depths I had previously slaked my thirst, was the first to come into my thought. If we carefully note all the circumstances connected with the flow of our ideas we shall have little difficulty in explaining the peculiar facts of association.
4. The Law of Voluntary Attention. Attention may also be mentioned as one of the secondary laws of association. If the attention has been strongly fixed by an act of will on some particular ideas in a series, these ideas are thereby strengthened and will have the precedence in the reproduction of the series. The greater the mental effort we put forth in centering the attention on some particular thing, the greater is the probability, other things equal, that the concept of that thing will return to consciousness in preference to others. If we read the poetry of Shakespeare, Milton, or Tennyson in a listless way, that is, without giving much mental energy to the exercise, but few ideas from these authors will find a permanent place in our concept mass, and they will have little power to direct the stream of association in our literary life. If we play the compositions of Bach and Haydn with feeble attention, they will have little influence to enrich our music life with inspiring suggestions.
The Educational Bearing of Association.
The facts and laws of Association have important applications to education. For example, the principle of interest may be used to good advantage in dealing with the various subjects of instruction. Some things appeal immediately to the pupil’s interest, while in the case of others, interest may be aroused by associating them with things which are interesting in themselves. There is a simple law which controls the association of natural and acquired interests; if the teacher understands this law he can make use of it in causing the pupil to become interested in subjects which in themselves are not interesting to him. Any object not interesting in itself may become so by associating it with some other object in which an interest already exists. The two associated objects grow, as it were, together; the interesting portion sheds its quality over the whole, and thus things not interesting in themselves acquire an interest which becomes as real and as strong as that of any natively interesting thing.
There is nothing that has so great interest in itself to a man as his own personal self and its fortunes. Hence, the moment a thing becomes connected with the fortunes of one’s self it becomes an interesting thing to that person, however indifferent it may have been before. This is a pedagogical principle of great value. What should the teacher do with a pupil who has no interest in a given subject which he is trying to teach the pupil? Our principle suggests that he should begin with things in the line of the pupil’s native interest, and then gradually bring to his attention other things that have some immediate connection with the former. Then, step by step, he should connect with these first objects and experiences the later objects and ideas which he wishes to instil in the pupil’s mind. By associating the new with the old, the natively interesting with the uninteresting, he will be able by a little skill to surround the entire system of things and of mental experiences with an atmosphere of lively interest.
Then, too, there is suggested immediately the importance of the atmosphere into which the life of the child is cast and in which the educating process goes on. The environment of the home and of the school room claims the earnest attention of the educational philanthropist.
In the home and in the school room are formed the associations which in after life are to give direction to the stream of ideas; here is formed the web of character into which the incidents of life as woof are to be woven. Plainly enough the guardians of our homes and of our free schools have no moral right to neglect the aesthetic condition of the place whence starts the stream of life. It should be made attractive both inside and outside. The most beautiful spot should be selected, and then no expense or pains should be spared in its suitable adornment. The city school house should not be crowded in among other buildings, but it should occupy a sufficiently large Open place, beautified with lawn and shrubbery and flowers tastefully arranged. These things are silent but powerful factors in the education of childhood,and are quite as important as books, charts, etc. If the stream of association starts out from beautiful, chaste, and elevating objects and surroundings, there is less danger that it will turn aside afterwards into filthy places. If an inspiring environment is important to the birth and early life of a poet, it has similar value in the education of every soul.
“If children are daily surrounded by those influences that elevate them, that make them clean and well ordered, that make them love flowers and pictures, and proper decorations, they at last reach that degree of culture where nothing else will please them. When they grow up and have homes of their own, they must have them clean, neat, bright with pictures, and fringed with shade trees and flowers, for they have been brought up to be happy in no other environment.”
The mere looks of a schoolhouse and the surrounding playground have a wonderful influence on the mind of the average child. Our railroad corporations build beautiful station houses and set them in beautiful garden plots, radiant with flowers and trees. The rural schoolhouse, generally speaking, is depressing and degrading in its character and influence. There is nothing about it calculated to encourage or cultivate a taste for the beautiful in nature or in art. Yet this is the place and such the surroundings where the stream of national life takes its start; as the fountain, so will be the stream.
Much is said in our day about the sanitary condition of school buildings, and certainly the subject deserves all the attention it is receiving and more, too; but it is quite as important to look after those conditions that will secure the aesthetic, moral, and spiritual health of the children during the period of training. It makes much difference what kinds of pictures are hung upon the walls of our homes and school rooms, or adorn the pages of our school books; what kinds of ornaments we select for the jewelry we wear upon our persons.
No one who understands the mighty influence of’ these art-forms in the way of shaping taste and directing the stream of association can doubt for one moment their value as educational forces. Fill the mind of childhood and youth with beautiful pictures, chaste figures, elevating images, and you gain in these an initial power of association which will do much in carrying forward the development of character in a safe channel and making the experiences of subsequent life rich and interesting. One has said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and Icare not who makes the laws.” With equal propriety and truth we may say, Let me paint the pictures of a nation, and the laws will make themselves. So the power of literature consists not any more in the facts it conveys than in the pictures of association it brings into the mind. The power of a good book, apart from the valuable information it imparts, in the way of filling the mind with pure images as bonds of association with holy things and things helpful in right thinking and right living, is greater than human arithmetic can estimate. So on the other hand, the vicious and depraving images and suggestions which a bad book brings into the mind of among the most deadly forces in the hands of the destroyer of souls.
Therefore, home life and school life should be made interesting and helpful to youth. Youthful associations abide long years after the days of youth have fled, and they leave their stamp upon the life we live, whether we will it so or not. Early life should be linked with that which is elevating and noble; with good books, chaste pictures, pure images; with the inspiring forms of nature, with mountains, fields, brooks, trees, flowers, stars, the waterfall, the ocean. As Phillips Brooks so beautifully has said, “You must feel the mountains above you while you work upon your little garden.” Or as the poet has said,
“To him, who in the love of nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language: for his gayer hours She has a voice of gladness, and a smile And eloquence of beauty; and she glides Into his darker musings with a mild And healing sympathy, that steals away Their sharpness ere he is aware.”
Relation to Music. And what is the relation of all these things to music and musical education? Vastly more vital than we realize. It is a serious thing what kind of musical thought associations we make. If the reading of literature is a potent influence in general education, so the study of musical compositions and of musical literature is an equally powerful factor in musical education. In both cases the same psychological principle holds.
What power is there in music? All races of men from remotest antiquity have felt the power of music, and have acknowledged the same by giving special attention to it in their social, civil, and religious institutions. It has always been a subject of wonder, and its marvelous power has given rise to many legends and fables. Reference has already been made to some of the stories of ancient’ mythology. Early history abounds in similar wonders. Terpander restored a rebellious people to their allegiance through his melodies. Tyrtaeus aroused a whole army to action by the sound of his flute. The legislators of antiquity made use of music as a method and means of government. Plato said that no change can be made in music without a similar change being made in the state, and that tones can be selected capable of arousing malice, insolence, and their opposites. He emphasizes the influence of the proper music on the formation of character, and proceeds to specify the general scales in which music should be written. The high Lydian is plaintive, the Ionian and Lydian are soft and convivial, the Dorian is the music of courage, and the Phrygian of temperance. Aristotle agrees in general but considers the Phrygian music as exciting and orgiastic. The Lydian is a tone to a tone and a half higher than the Phrygian, and the Dorian is a tone below the Phrygian. The Dorian is a medium, easy pitch, neither too high nor too low, and expresses a manly character and a full flow of strength. What makes this difference of effect?
In the first place, it is true that the special melody associated with each scale has much to do with the case. There are many examples to show this. Another fact developed in the psychological laboratory comes to our aid in explaining the phenomenon under consideration. Music has a direct influence on the will. The force of will varies according to what we hear, as well as what we feel and see. The following experiment devised by Prof. Scripture, shows this: “With the thumb-and-finger grip (making use of the Dynamometer) the greatest pressure I can exert during silence is 4 kilos. When some one plays the giants’ motive from the `Rheingold’ my grip shows 4% kilos.* The slumber motive from the Walkürie reduces the power to 3% kilos.” This is an exceedingly interesting and suggestive experiment, and may give us a clue to the secret about the power of music. It appears from experiments of this kind that pitch alone has much to do with the effect produced by different scales. The strength of grip varies with the pitch: tones of a moderate pitch, such as the Dorian above mentioned, increase the power of the grip, while very high or very low tones weaken it. One thing, I think, is plain, and that is that the facts of music may be explained on scientific ground and that such explanation is to be sought for in the field of psychology. That the various effects of music are due ultimately to associated brain impressions and associated thought concepts is highly probable. We know what influence martial music has upon soldiers on the battle field. The Marseillaise (pronounced mâr’-sa’-yâz’) helped to achieve the French Revolution. So “Fin’ Feste Burg” has inspired courage in the heart of many a soldier of the Cross.
Music has power to calm base passions, and bring noble ones into play. As Pope sings in his “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day” :
“Music the fiercest grief can charm, And fate’s severest rage disarm: Music can soften pain to ease, And make despair and madness please: Our joys below it can improve, And antedate the bliss above.”
Gibbon, in the last volume of his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” observes that it is proved by experiment that the action of sound, while accelerating the circulation of the blood, affects the human frame more powerfully than eloquence itself. He then cites the following anecdote, contained in an account of a journey through England and Scotland.
According to the most ancient traditions, the bagpipe has always been the favorite instrument of the Scotch, since it was first introduced into the country at a very remote period, by the Norwegians. The larger one figures in their battles, funeral processions, weddings, and on other great occasions; the smaller sized one is devoted to dancing music. Certain martial airs, called pibrochs, produce the same effect on the natives of the Highlands as the sound of trumpets does on their chargers, and sometimes even miracles are performed almost equal to those attributed to the music of Greece.
At the battle of Quebec, in 1768, while the British troops were retreating in disorder, the commander complained to a staff officer of Fraser’s regiment, of the bad behavior of his corps. “Sir,” replied the latter with some warmth, “you made a great mistake in forbidding the bagpipes to be played; nothing animates the Highlanders to such a degree, at the hour of battle; even now they might be useful.” “Let them be played as much as you please,” answered the commander, “if that can recall the soldiers to their duty.” The musicians received the order to play the favorite martial air of the Highlanders; as soon as the latter heard the familiar tones, they paused in their flight and returned with alacrity to their post.
The influence of music on the physical organization of animals and of man is very well known and writers on the subject record many curious examples. Cabanis says: “There are peculiar combinations of sounds, and even of single tones, that affect all the faculties of sense; these, by their immediate action upon the soul, arouse certain sentiments over which they seem to have special power, in accordance with the primitive laws of organization.” Grétry mentions a surprising effect of music on the heart and the circulation of the blood. “I placed three fingers of the right hand on the artery of my left arm, or on any other artery in my whole body, and sang to myself an air, the tempo of which was in accordance with the action of my pulse; some little time afterward, I sang with great ardor an air in a different tempo, when I distinctly felt my pulse quickening or slackening its action to accommodate itself by degrees to the tempo of the new air.” Berlioz relates the effects produced on him by hearing music of which he was particularly fond, in the following graphic language: “Nothing in the world could give an exact idea of the effect, to any one who has never experienced it. My whole being seems to vibrate; at first it is a delightful pleasure, in which reason does not appear to participate at all. The emotions increasing in direct ratio with the force or grandeur of the composer’s ideas, produce, little by little, a strange agitation in the circulation of the blood; my pulses beat violently; tears, which usually give evidence of the crisis of a paroxysm, indicate only a progressive stage, and greater excitement and agitation is to follow. When the crisis is really reached, there occur spasmodic contractions of the muscles, a trembling in all the limbs, a total numbness of the feet and hands, a partial paralysis of the nerves of vision and hearing: I no longer can see, and can hardly hear vertigo semiconsciousness. ” The celebrated cantatrice Malibran, on hearing for the first time Beethoven’s symphony in C minor at. the Conservatory, was thrown into such convulsions that she had to be carried from the room.
The effects of music on man’s moral and intellectual nature are equally great and even more marvelous. When King Saul was tormented by the evil spirit, David touched his harp, and the king was comforted and became calm again, for the evil spirit left him.
Dryden, in his famous ode, “Alexander’s Feast,” beautifully describes the power of music on the emotions of men. The proud king is a mere plaything in the hands of the skilful musician, who with his lyre sways the changing passions at his will.
“Timotheus, placed on high Amid the tuneful quire, With flying fingers touched the lyre: The trembling notes ascend the sky, And heavenly notes inspire.
With ravished ears The monarch hears, Assumes the god, Affects to nod, And seems to shake the spheres.
The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung this poem was set to music by Handel in 1736.
Soothed with the sound, the king grew vain; Fought all his battles o’er again; And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain. The master saw the madness rise, His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes; And while he heaven and earth defied, Changed his hand, and checked his pride. He chose a mournful muse, Soft pity to infuse.
Softly sweet, in Lydian measures, Soon he soothed his soul to pleasures.
Now strike the golden lyre again; A louder yet, and yet a louder Break his bands of sleep asunder, And rouse him, like a rattling peal of thunder. Thus long ago, Ere heaving bellows learned to blow, While organs yet were mute, Timotheus, to his breathing flute and sounding lyre, Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.”
Music was recommended by the ancients as a curative agent, and not without cause. There are numerous instances of diseases both of body and mind treated, and relieved by skilfully combined sounds. Coelius Aurelianus mentions a flutist who, by playing in the Phrygian mode, could charm, as it were, the diseased part, causing it to palpitate and tremble. Bonnet says he has known several persons suffering from gout who employed music as a means of relief for acute pain, with entire success. Sauvages mentions the case of a young man, who had been attacked with intermittent fever, accompanied by violent headache; he could be soothed only by the sound of a drum.
Music has a favorable influence on digestion; hence, the ground for the custom so common in high life of having music performed during feasts. Voltaire hardly realized the full meaning of his witticism to the effect that our purpose in going to the opera is to promote digestion. Listening to good music is undoubtedly the best mode of exercise that literary persons necessarily leading a sedentary life can take. Milton, the poet, philosopher, and musician, spent a certain time every day after dinner in singing or playing on some kind of instrument. Democritus informs us that the sound of the flute is a remedy against the plague. Celsus, speaking of the insane, says, “We must quiet their demoniacal laughter by reprimands and threats, and soothe their sadness by harmony, the sound of cymbals or other noisy instruments.” It is said that the Phrygian mode, full of sweetness and vivacity, is admirably adapted to those who are one moment overwhelmed with grief and the next thrown into paroxysms of rage; while the martial Dorian mode suits those who are given to talking and behaving in a silly manner, and indulging in bursts of meaningless laughter.
In the records of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, the case is mentioned of an illustrious musician and composer who was attacked by a violent fever, accompanied by continuous delirium. The third day of his delirium he asked if he might hear a little concert in his room. Bernier’s cantata was sung. As soon as he heard the first notes, his countenance became calm, his eyes assumed a quiet expression, and the convulsions ceased entirely; he shed tears of pleasure, and the fever left him while the concert lasted, but as soon as it was over he relapsed into his for mer condition. After ten trials of the same treatment a complete cure was effected.
Quarin relates an instance of epilepsy cured by mu-sic. “One day the patient having been listening to music when she felt the epileptic fit coming on, suffered only the symptoms. Every time afterward that she felt the approach of the paroxysm, the young girl was placed so that she could hear music; and nature, being thwarted, as it were, in its perverted tendencies, lost finally the habit of convulsive movements.” A similar case is mentioned by Roger. A young lady belonging to the department of La Drome suffered from a nervous disease resembling catalepsy. The sound of the violin relieved her in a surprising manner, and if she had the good fortune to hear it before the paroxysm was upon her, she was saved from it entirely.
If these things are true, what do they mean? Why is music such a powerful agency? The secret lies deep down in the silent workings of the brain cells and of the concepts in the concept mass. The explanation is to be sought in the inner thought relations and the associated sense impressions awakened by the incoming sounds. If these phenomena rest on association, the question comes back with intensified emphasis, What kind of music do you hear and learn? What kind of thought associations does your musical experience make? With what are you linking your life with the stars, or with the trailing serpent? What thoughts do the chords you hear awaken?
spiritually. It becomes every one of us to ask, What manner of being am I? What possibilities and probabilities are involved in my composite nature? What is my relation to the world in which I live and what the relation of this life to that beyond the present? I am a harp of ten thousand strings what are the sounds from without that steal in through my senses and awaken in my soul their sympathetic chords? Those sounds determine in what direction and to what goal the stream of my life shall flow. Those sounds have associated with them the ever audible and inspiring whisper of new and budding life, or else the vacancy and despair of death. How vast the importance that only sounds with hallowed associations sweep the strings of this mystic soul harp! How solemn the chimes that peal forth the changes of human existence and human destiny!
“Oh, the clanging bells of Time! How their changes rise and fall, But in undertones sublime, Sounding clearly through them all, Is a voice that must be heard, As our moments onward flee, And it speaketh aye one word, Eternity! Eternity!”