DMA Project Paper

Often we seek to have meaning in our lives, even in the most basic actions that make up our days. Artists seek to capture this meaning and communicate it to others, but it can be a rigorous quest requiring long hours of searching, thinking, experiencing, and asking questions. While writing this paper, I discovered that there are many answers to these questions to be found in the philosophical writings that have shaped world thought, among which are those written by Plato, Aristotle, and St Augustine, as well as the Book of Psalms, Leopold Mozart’s violin treatise, and the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. It is my hope that you and many people will read this paper and find in it helpful signposts in your quest for truth.

Violins and Horses, Beauty and Truth:

A study of universal aesthetic principals as exemplified in the Spanish Riding School of Vienna and Leopold Mozart’s Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (Treatise on the Fundamental Principals of Violin Playing), 1756


Danielle Rosaria Cummins

A project paper submitted to the faculty of Claremont Graduate University

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts

Claremont, California



Music and horsemanship. They are simultaneously different and the same. It might seem strange at first to compare these two disciplines which are strikingly different on their exteriors. However, when placed side by side, similarities begin to come into focus, similarities which give light into a deeper understanding of life and human existence. When comparing their histories, one can indeed see some immediate similarities. Both classical horsemanship and music have been valued so highly that they have been perpetuated from their very beginnings up until the present day. Throughout the centuries both have had dedicated people give their artistic lives to them and many thousands if not millions of people have gathered together to witness their presentations. Why is this? The answer to this question is quite simple. Both disciplines make accessible to the senses the invisible, immortal realities of beauty and truth. The search for beauty and truth is the universal quest which unites people all over the world. When progress is made toward these two realities, the human spirit is lifted up and rejoices, whereas when the soul moves away from beauty and truth, it becomes dejected. The human soul searches restlessly for something it cannot fully understand yet has some vague idea of hence the unceasing quest for fulfillment. Artistic disciplines give people ways of interacting with beauty and truth as well as mediums with which to communicate their interactions with others. That is why the arts are so important and are such an integral part of human existence.

Because of the beauty and truth they bring forth, many human occupations which appear different on the outside are actually very similar in their actual substance. Comparing two apparently different disciplines can often lead to a clearer understanding of truth. A comparison between Leopold Mozart’s Treatise on Violin Playing and the style of horsemanship known as classical dressage reveals that both music and horsemanship are analogies of unseen realities, and that while they differ in their outward figura, i.e. the outward aspects that are accessible to the senses, are closely related both in terms of the aesthetic principals they express and in the techniques used while cultivating inner potential. This paper will focus on a comparison between Mozart’s violin treatise from 1756, the Spanish Riding School of Vienna with its origins in Greek horsemanship, and on the aesthetic principals both illustrate.

What this Exploration Is and What it Is Not

            An amazing amount of technical knowledge pertaining to violin playing can be gained through the study of Leopold Mozart’s treatise. It provides a wealth of information applicable to beginners just leaning how to play the instrument, to advanced violinists, and to scholars who would like to gain a better understanding as to how the violin was played before, during, and after the Classical era. Likewise, the training methods at theSpanishRidingSchooland the writings by the school’s head riders provide very specific, systematic, relevant techniques which apply directly to those pursuing the art of classical dressage. However, this paper is not a summarization of techniques and issues found in these fields. If one is searching for specifics which only apply to music and violin playing such as note and rhythm reading, bow grip, sound production, intonation, tuning, etc. or to horsemanship, issues such as longe line training, seat, impulsion, correct use of the aids, transitions between gaits, etc., then the author would suggest that one go directly to the pertinent sources listed in the bibliography. There one will be able to learn first hand what these historical writers and teachers have to say for themselves on the subjects.

This is not to say that the present study has no value to historically-minded performance. On the contrary, the quest for truth is the core of all real historical exploration. With regards to music, historical performance practice has truth at its very heart because it is the field in which people seek to re-create the authentic intentions of the composer. In addition to studying historical instruments, tuning, articulation, tempi, dynamics, ornamentation, etc., how better to achieve this end than to strive to understand how historical musicians thought about music itself. Roland Jackson, Professor Emeritus of Music at theClaremontGraduateUniversity, states,

Performance Practice is an attempt to return, inasmuch as this is feasible, to the composer’s original conception of a musical work, and to re-enact how music sounded at the time of its initial presentation. Such an endeavor is by no means an easy one, entailing as it does the bringing back of much that has been lost or forgotten over time.[1]

Much of what has been forgotten over time are past philosophical thoughts about art. Many concepts held in common acceptance today would be completely foreign or unheard of by people in other times and cultures. For example, the idea of art having independent value, i.e. “art for art’s sake,” is one which does not hold true for the artistic cultures of the current study. That being said, in order to avoid imposing any twentieth or twenty-first century ideas on people to whom they do not apply, it is necessary to look at the words of the artists themselves and so gain a clearer picture of what they really thought. Such an exploration, when pursued by a mind willing to learn, will undoubtedly yield new discoveries.

This is not so much a study about “what,” i.e. what is done in these fields. It is a study on “how” and “why,” i.e. how artists in these fields achieve what they do and why they do it.  It will show how historical horsemen and a historical musician, Leopold Mozart, thought about their respective arts and how their thoughts play out in their respective fields. It will also show the universal principals which underlie the basis of all artistic disciplines and even all honest human endeavors. For this reason, this study has a wide spectrum of interest whether one is interested in classical horsemanship, 18th century violin playing, and/or aesthetics.

Short historical backgrounds of Leopold Mozart’s Treatise on the Fundamental Principals of Violin Playing, The Art of Horsemanship by Xenophon, and the Spanish Riding School of Vienna

Mozart’s treatise, Xenophon’s treatise, and the Spanish Riding School, are dynamic, yet historical, aesthetic exemplifications. They are old traditions which are still relevant and used today. The following paragraphs are descriptions and historical backgrounds of the primary sources used for this study.

Leopold Mozart (1719 – 1787) was born in the city of Augsburglocated in southern Germany. From 1737 – 1739 he attended the SalzburgBenedictineUniversitywhere he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.[2] This is significant given the nature of the present study. It signifies that Mozart himself was a student of philosophical concepts prevalent at that time, concepts that would find their place within his famous violin treatise. Mozart’s Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (Treatise on the Fundamental Principals of Violin Playing) was first published in 1756 in Augsburg. The treatise has been respected from the start and has continued to be a valuable source of information pertaining, not only to Classical violin playing, but also to musical thought during the Classical era. As such, the treatise is invaluable to the field of performance practice. Grove Music Online gives some basic information about Mozart’s work, i.e.,  “The Violinschule of 1756, […] revised by the author for second and third editions published in 1769–70 and 1787 respectively, was widely recognized as the most important violin tutor of its time. A Dutch translation appeared in 1766, and a French edition, by Valentin Roeser, apparently not authorized, in 1770; elsewhere, revisions of Mozart’s text continued to be published as late as 1817.”[3] This present paper makes use of the second edition translation by Editha Knocker from 1948, cited by David D. Boyden in his groundbreaking book The History of Violin Playing from its Origins to 1761, first published in 1965, and Roland Jackson’s Performance Practice published in 2005. This translation is based on the first and third editions from 1756 and 1787. Additions found in the third edition are indicated in the translation through the use of square brackets. In the preface for the first edition of the translation Editha Knocker states, “The differences between the third edition and the second and fourth editions of 1769 – 70 and 1800 are so slight as to be negligible.”[4]

The discipline of classical dressage today comes directly from the ancient art of training horses for war. Xenophon’s The Art of Horsemanship, dating from ca. 300 B. C., is the earliest surviving treatise on the subject. According to the Spanish Riding School’s web site, “Even today the daily routine at the Spanish Riding School is still shaped by the philosophy of classical equitation, a philosophy based on the writings of the Greek commander Xenophon […].”[5] Alois Podhajsky, director of theSpanishRidingSchool for twenty-six years, says that,

Any horse expert who has studied this book of Xenophon’s written 2400 years ago cannot fail to be impressed by the preciseness of his explanation and by his insight into the feelings of the horse. His training was based on intuition and kind treatment, a policy that, unfortunately, was not always followed by riding masters in later years[6].

It is fortunate, however, that this policy of humane treatment is still upheld by the Spanish Riding School to this day. At theSpanishRidingSchool, one can see classical equitation at its highest level. According to the school’s website:

The SpanishRidingSchoolcan look back on more than 430 years of rich history. It is the world’s only institution that still cultivates classical dressage in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école to this day. Why is it called “Spanish”? Because Spanish horses were used when the RidingSchoolwas founded in 1572 and because the Lipizzans are descended from Spanish horses.[7]

The school’s web site also states that,

“The objective of classical equitation is to study the way the horse naturally moves and to cultivate the highest levels of haute école elegance the horse is capable of through systematic training. The result creates an unparalleled harmony between rider and horse, as only Vienna’s Spanish Riding School achieves.”[8]

The Winter Riding School, where training and performances occur all year except during the summer, is housed to this day in the Vienna Hofburg, the historical seat of the Austrian Monarchy and the current location of the offices for high-ranking officials in the Democratic Republic of Austria. The beautiful Baroque riding hall designed by Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach was completed in 1735 and is still used for performances today. The Hofburg also contains accommodations for the Lipizzaner stallions and their tack. The fact that the Spanish Riding School has been housed at the Hofburg for so many years is a testament to the value that Austrians and people from all over the world have identified in the training and art of the Spanish Riding School.

In addition to Xenophon’s The Art of Horsemanship, training at the Spanish Riding School is based largely on the authoritative book Ecole de Cavalerie (School of Horsemanship) by François Robichon de la Guérinière which, as stated by Jack Schuman,[9]

“[…] is unquestionably one of the world’s great books on horsemanship. Since 1733, when it was first published in this form (expanded from four parts published between 1729 and 1731), it has been continually praised by professional and amateur horseman alike and its author singled out as one of the supreme masters of classical equitation of all times. The great popularity of the work is attested by the fact that it has gone through numerous editions down to 1825, sometimes under other titles, such as Traité d’Equitation, Elements de Cavalerie, and Manual de Cavaleries.”[10]

Guérinière describes his work thus:

“[…] my design in composing this work has been to collect and to put into methodical order the principals which may for lovers of horsemanship facilitate the knowledge of all that which pertains to it.”[11]

Of Guérinière’s treatise Schuman states,

“The teaching methods which he [Guérinière] so ably set down have been used virtually unaltered down to the present time and have served as a basis for such famous institutions as the Spanish Riding School of Vienna and the School of Cavalryat Saumur.”[12]

Much of the knowledge about training at the Spanish Riding School (SRS) is handed down orally, so it is fortunate that Alois Podhajsky (1898 – 1973), wrote several books on his training methods. During his initial training at the SRS, Podhajsky trained under the three head riders Polak, Zrust, and Lindenbouer. In his book entitled The Riding Teacher, Podhajsky says,

“They conveyed to me the most fundamental understanding, namely, that the classical art of riding as taught at the SpanishRidingSchoolis based on the same foundation essential for every kind of riding: confidence between horse and rider; mutual understanding; and a thorough knowledge of the capabilities of the four-legged partner.”[13]

This study also makes use of writings by the historically influential philosophers Aristotle (c. 384 – c. 322 B.C.), Plato (c. 427 – 347 B.C.), and St Augustine (354 – 430 A.D.) in order to further the clarification of certain abstract ideas.


The Discipline of Aesthetics

As this exploration will show the connection of horsemanship and music through the use of aesthetics, a discussion of the term “aesthetics” is necessary. The word “philosophy” means “love of wisdom.” Wisdom is the understanding of truth. Truth can be defined as “the way things really are.” The branch of philosophy called “aesthetics” deals with the nature of beauty and its manifestation in the arts. Disciplines such as music, dance, the visual arts, and classical horsemanship can be seen as practical applications of philosophy because of the realities they are able to convey. The real aim of art is to bring us to a better understanding of beauty and truth. Throughout history people have sought after truth and many times have conveyed what they discovered through art. But truth can be difficult to find and understand. It must be sought after in order to be revealed and only reveals after a long and arduous search. The arts are the result of people searching for beauty and truth, discovering, gaining skills to communicate, and finally sharing their findings with others who in turn must take in, think about, and discover the truth communicated to them. The arts, at their highest level, can convey to us truth about ourselves, each other, and the seen and unseen world. Classical horsemanship and violin playing do this very efficiently, and this is why they have a close relationship with one another. 


Value is a significant aspect of both dressage and Leopold Mozart’s violin treatise. As was mentioned earlier, both disciplines have been preserved and cherished  by people over the centuries as can be seen in the long standing residence of the SRS in the Vienna Hofburg and the many editions of Mozart’s treatise.  This is because many people have seen value in them and have deemed it necessary to take the required care in order to perpetuate these traditions. Understanding the nature of value and why people recognize it in Mozart’s Violinschule and the SRS sheds a clearer light on these two disciplines.

The pursuit of truth and beauty can give us a better understanding of what has true value. Realities, qualities, and pursuits with value elicit dedication on the parts of human beings as it would not make sense to dedicate one’s effort to things without any perceptive worth or consequence. In view of this, it would appear that understanding what has value is of paramount importance if one is to lead a meaningful life. There are qualities of value itself which may aid us in understanding the concept of aesthetics. For example, value is not always, indeed not usually generated from that which one can see. Mozart’s interest in the internal nature of things over and above their appearance is evident even in his discussion in the outward physical makeup of the violin. In discussing the violin’s construction, he decries the frequently over-emphasized importance of visual appearances by saying that people often place more value on decorations such as the violin’s scroll than to the sound-producing parts. Mozart states,

“[…] violin-makers endeavor to give an air of finish; some by means of a graceful, snail-like curve, some by carving a lion’s head. Yea, they often attach greater importance to such decorations than to the main structure. Consequently the violin – who would believe it! – is a victim of the universal deception of external show. He who values a bird for its feathers, and a horse for its blanket, will inevitably judge a violin by its polish and the color of its varnish, without examining carefully its principal parts. This course is taken by all those who judge with their eyes and not with their brains. […]. Yet in spite of this, many a violin is valued simply for its appearance, and how often does it happen that cloths, money, pomp, and especially the curled wig, is that which turns a man into a scientist, counselor, or doctor?”[14]

This passage makes it very clear that Mozart is aware that people often judge things based on their sense of sight. However, he is also keenly aware that what makes something valuable is not simply that which is visible, but, much more significantly, is that which is invisible. In this case, Mozart is discussing the unseen tone-producing qualities inherent in the violin. These qualities of the instrument remain unexpressed until someone actually plays the instrument but exist there nevertheless. In a similar way, the make-up of the soul, in Latin “anima,” exists whether it is expressed or not, and different qualities are expressed at different times. In this respect, the violin could be seen as an analogy for the human body and the invisible tone-qualities inherent in it as an analogy for the human soul. The violin has value, not according to its appearance but according to its tone-producing qualities. In a similar respect, a person has value, not based on his or her appearance, but because he or she has an invisible human soul.

The similarity of relationships between instrument and music, body and soul has not gone unnoticed. It is, in fact, the core of a famous analogy made in Plato’s dramatic dialogue Phaedo, an analogy which puts forth, not only the similarities, but also the significant differences between instrument/music and body/soul.[15] It is presented by the character named Simmias who is not convinced that the soul is immortal. He wonders whether the soul is not like the harmony of a lute (an analogy for the body) which, though it is invisible, dies away much quicker than the instrument itself and is reliant on the instrument’s existence for its own. He notes that the harmony perishes before the instrument and cannot exist if the strings of the lute are broken. He says that perhaps this happens to the soul when the body is subjected to disorder or injury. Perhaps, he says, the soul is a harmony of the body.[16] This argument strikes fear into the listeners in the dialogue, but Socrates, who himself is about to be executed, remains completely calm in his response.  Socrates answers that there is a difference between the harmony of a lute and the body and soul. It is this: the harmony of a lute is lead by the elements of the instrument, whereas the body is lead by the soul. The harmony of a lute can never be at variance with the instrument itself, but we as human beings know that very often we are at variance with the affections of the body. Socrates uses the example of how sometimes the body is inclined to eat of drink when the soul is inclined against these actions. Clearly, then the harmony of the lute is lead by the elements which compose the instrument, but the soul and body are quiet another matter. The soul, especially the wise soul, is the driving, invisible force which leads the body.[17] We can further see that it is the soul that drives, not only the body, but also the harmony of the lute or any other musical instrument as well as the cultivation of artistic abilities and the interaction with beauty.

St Augustine speaks of the soul thus:

“Then I turned towards myself, and said to myself: ‘Who are you?’ I replied: ‘A man’. I see in myself a body and a soul, one external, the other internal. Which of these should I have questioned about my God, for whom I had already searched through the physical order of things from earth to heaven, as far as I could send the rays of my eyes as messengers? What is inward is superior.”[18]

The soul, which is invisible and akin to the absolute truths such as beauty and greatness, seeks after these truths and is able to interact with them through the mediums of sound and movement and thereby nurture these qualities within itself (see also “Truth” and “Beauty” above). This is why dressage and music have survived for hundreds of years due to the careful preservation and perpetuation of people who recognize their worth and who are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for the continuation of their existence.

One might ask whether the value of a piece of music or a specific dressage routine has value that is generated from itself or from the person who witnesses it, and whether this value is subjective or objective. Here again is the question of cultural and individual background versus absolute value. The questions are these: does something have value depending on whether or not someone understands it? Or, does it have value independent of human acceptance? Is art valuable for art’s sake? When these questions are asked in reference to a work or art, there is a problem, namely, that these questions are aimed at the art work rather than at the deeper purpose of art. Value is to be found in that which is being expressed rather than in the expression itself. The same is true for language. It is put very clearly bySt. Augustinein his famous “Confessions”:

“My question is whether the happy life is in the memory. For we would not love it if we did not know what it is. We have heard the term, and all of us acknowledge that we are looking for the thing. The sound is not the cause of our pleasure. When a Greek hears the Latin term, it gives him no pleasure as he does not understand what has been said. But we are given pleasure, as he would be too of he heard this expression in Greek. The thing itself is neither Greek nor Latin. Greeks and Latins and people of other languages yearn to acquire it. Therefore it is known to everyone. If they could be asked if they want to be happy, without hesitation they would answer with one voice that they so wish.”[19]

Just like spoken languages, music and dressage come from unique historical and cultural backgrounds. In order for one to understand the language of these arts, fluency gained through conscious study or subconscious familiarity is required. A single, isolated event witnessed by two people, one with this fluency and one without, would naturally be more meaningful to the person who is more capable of understanding the particular art language. However, the truth and beauty being expressed would have value whether anyone in the audience is able to understand the language or not. These absolutes are independent of human understanding and acceptance. Art has value only because it is able to communicate beauty and truth and helps bring people closer to them. In other words, “how” something is communicated only makes that communication more or less effective. “What” is being communicated is where the value lies.

Throughout human existence there have been those who are intent on perpetuating earlier traditions, building on the knowledge and wisdom gained by there predecessors, and by this means connecting themselves with those who came before. This is the basis of culture. However, in modern times, we have witnessed a break from the past. Instead of carrying on this tradition of seeking after the beautiful and the true, many artists have chosen another route. One can see this emerging clearly in the Romantic era, when the suffering artist really began to be lifted up as the person to emulate. The idea that one has to suffer traumatic experiences in order to create meaningful art, and the idea that depictions of ugliness are to be sought after are not ideas stemming from the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, the Bible, Medieval learning and scholarship, nor are they to be found in Leopold Mozart’s violin treatise or in the Spanish Riding School of today. One piece of artwork which may be seen to challenge the idea of art as bringing forth beauty as well as truth is the “Laokoön, the early Roman sculpture dating from between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD[20]. It was rediscovered in 1506 and depicts the Trojan priest Laokoön and his sons being devoured by snakes. This is not a beautiful subject, though the sculpture is masterfully and realistically done and has long been held as a great work of art. This discovery brought up the question: can art be ugly or depict ugly subjects but still valuable? It should be mentioned that this particular art piece was probably created to tell a story, possibly the justice and punishment brought on those who do not honor the gods. It comes from a cultural context. In modern times, art is often created that is not edifying to the viewer/listener, but is made purposefully ugly, shocking, random, or simply based on nothing. In this art, one can see a sort of wandering search for fulfillment without any specific goals, a “freedom” which results in loosing sight of everything, and a vast expanse of nothingness. This is understandable, standing as we are after two world wars and the bloodiest century of human history. But is such art helpful to the human spirit? One must agree that it is good to remember the atrocities of the past so as to avoid them in the present and future. In this respect, art is very educational and communicative. However, there is much more to life than the ugly atrocities people sometimes inflict on one another and the loneliness of an existence based on random, disconnected occurrences. It is valuable to learn from the philosophers and artists from the past who saw beyond themselves and their bodily existence into the connected lives of others and into the mysteries of the unseen.

The idea that value in art stems from deeper realities than the art itself is upheld by Podhasky when he says,

“Equestrian art, perhaps more than any other, is closely related to the wisdom of life. Many of the same principals may be applied as a line of conduct to follow. The horse teaches us self-control, constancy, and the ability to understand what goes on in the mind and the feelings of another creature, qualities that are important throughout our lives. Moreover, from this relationship with his horse the rider will learn that only kindness and mutual understanding will bring about achievements of the highest perfection.”[21]

These lessons are present to people who witness performances of the SRS as well as to the horsemen and women whose lives are dedicated to the art.

 Figura and the Unseen

Before looking more in depth into how horsemanship and music are related, it is important to understand the concept of “figura”. Leopold Mozart begins chapter one of his Violinschule with a discussion of this concept as it pertains to music notation. He states that,

“All our perceptions originate in the external senses. There must therefore be certain signs which, through the eyesight, affect the will instantly, and cause the production of various tones either with the natural voice, or on different musical instruments, according to these various signs.”[22]

The word “sign” could be replaced with the word “figura”, a word which has far more meaning and significance. It is a Latin word which refers to something which makes the invisible accessible to the senses. This concept extends far into all disciplines and human life. In the most simple terms, a figura is linear, visual, and recognizable. It has enabled people to transfer knowledge down through the ages in a written manner. Figurae denote specific manners of moving. These letters and words I am writing right now are figurae. They bring to your mind my thoughts. Each one has a specific sound, each word has a meaning, and so does each sentence. Figurae are distinctive and contain differences which allow us to be able to tell one from another. As stated by Nancy van Deusen, “Figurae, as we will see, is a term which is interchangeable with such expressions as

letters, characters, virtues, signs, and designs, as geometric designs, and rhythms.”[23] Each discipline has its own special set of figurae and each figura brings to mind a special way of moving:

Music: (music notation) Writing: Aa Bb Cc  Math: 1 2 3

Visual arts communicate through paintings, sculptures, etc., and music, classical horsemanship and dance communicate through movements. Music is organized movements of sounds and horsemanship is movements of horse and rider. The concept of figura allows us to make the connection between disciplines. All disciplines are modes or ways moving and of exploring the world. They make accessible to the senses the invisible world of truth and beauty.

In her book Theology and Music at the Early University: The Case of Robert Grosseteste and Anonymous IV, Dr. Nancy van Deusen brings discusses how the concept of figura is dealt with by the early Medieval writer Cassiodorus in the prologue to his Expositio psalmorum, a commentary on the Psalms. Psalm 119 makes the idea of figura especially clear. Psalm 119 is the longest in the Psalter. It consists of twenty-two sections or stanzas. Each stanza is headed by a word spelling the name of a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the stanzas are arranged alphabetically. Each stanza has eight verses, and each verse begins with the same corresponding letter. Each verse has a word meaning “instruction” in it. Translated, such words are, as stated in the Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, “[…] law, edict, command, precept, word, utterance, way, decree, and teaching.”[24] The Psalmist, in focusing on the instruction of the Lord, speaks of the joy of those who follow the Lord.[25] The Psalmist also implores the Lord to be kind to his servant,[26] to keep him from error[27] and to teach him his laws.[28] The Psalmist also uses the allegorical mode when he says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, […].”[29]  He speaks of the wonderful nature of God’s decrees[30] and the righteous of the Lord.[31]

Now the question could be, “Why did the inspired psalmist take such trouble to bring to our attention the various figurae of the alphabet?” Well, it does bring out the importance of this figura concept and the realization of it in the mind of the Psalmist, and consequently those who studied to book of Psalms though the Middle Ages and following. For it is by these very alphabetical figurae that the word of God is able to be preserved and transmitted through Bible. Saint Francis of Assisi, for example, was so conscious of this that he reputedly did not throw away scraps of paper with writing on it because he said that those very same letters were used in the word of God. Figura are used to make accessible to the senses invisible thoughts and ideas. Cassiodorus made clear the important aspect of figurae. As stated by Dr. Nancy van Deusen,

The Greek schema was received into the Latin language during the Middle Ages through the linguistic interpretations of figura, character, rhythmus, numerus, littera, and mensura. The concept of figurae also appears in the context described as ambulam latitudine – walking in a straight line, so to speak – thus presenting the concept of particular figures in a context. All of these Latin equivalents show facets of the significances of the word schema. For all of them plurality or diversity is essencial to an understanding of what they mean. Cassiodorus’ extensive discussion of figures discloses the following traits they all have in common: his “varied figures” are descriptive, therefore, show, they demonstrate, they occur in an orderly fashion within a definite process, they are linear – hence delineate – and they are constructed. Cassiodorus uses the example of the cross for all of these capacities of figurae.[32]

Written musical figurae is discussed in Mozart’s treatise. He says, “All our perceptions originate in the external senses. There must therefore be certain signs which, through the eyesight, affect the will instantly, and cause the production of various tones either with the natural voice, or on different musical instruments […].[33] Just as written music affects the will so as well do the visible aspects of horsemanship and the visual/audible aspects of music. For when these arts are performed with sincerity after much training and acquiring knowledge and wisdom, they contain within themselves recognizable truths such as beauty, the cultivation of inner potential, elegance as the result of perseverance, and the harmonization of freedom within discipline. Such arts practiced and witnessed with humility, that is, considering the art­­­ and truths themselves rather than of fame, change the listener, viewer, and performer and affect their will to strive after these exemplified truths.

Now, that is a discussion about written figurae. However, the concept can be taken much farther than that. We as human beings have substance that remains largely unseen by the eyes of people, substance of character, personality, life, memory, and soul. These realities, while they in themselves are invisible, are made apparent to others through the visible actions of our bodies, the audible actions of our speech, and through the use of written figurae. In other words, our bodies, our speech, our writing are all figurae for the substance of us. They help communicate who we really are to others. Without them, the unseen realities present within each of us would, though present, remain inaccessible to other people. Just so, absolute beauty and truth are invisible, but music and horsemanship are visual and audible disciplines which bring these realities to our senses and allow us to come to a better understanding about them. The violin, the music, the horse, the rider, these are the figurae. What they make accessible is discussed in the next section.

Absolutes versus Subjectivity

 We exist in a world of two contrary realities: the changing and the infinite. As we shall see, that which is seen changes while that which is invisible is unchanging. Absolute beauty and truth belong to the second category, and it is these which are made more accessible to the senses through art. Today the idea is often put forth that the truth changes depending on beliefs of the individual. However, this idea does not hold sway under the scrutiny of philosophers such Plato and Aristotle who both put forth the idea of certain realities as being absolute rather than subjective. Aristotle sees it in this light:

“But it is foolish to occupy oneself equally with all the doctrines and fancies of those who dispute with one another; for it is clear that some of them must be in error. […] And so I say the same about good and bad, beautiful and ugly, and other qualities of the sort. For to maintain the view in question [i.e. “man is the measure of all things”, Aristotle, 230], is no different from insisting that what appears to those who push their finger under their eye and make one object look like two, and yet it is also one, because the same object appears to be one to those who do not so manipulate their eye.”[34]

This idea of absolute beauty and truth is very central to the understanding of the connection between Leopold Mozart’s violin treatise and classical horsemanship (see also “Truth” and “Beauty” below).


The truth is “that which is.” “Nature” is another term which can be used to mean truth. Nature refers to the physical realities in the world such as animals and plants etc. but also to the truth about things, i.e. their substance. Music and horsemanship use materials found in nature to communicate the invisible nature of metaphysical realities. Mozart puts it like this:

“God gave the first human beings, soon after the Creation, every opportunity to invent the excellent science of music. Adam was able to distinguish the difference between human voices; he heard the songs of the various birds; he perceived the changes of the whistling of the wind through the trees, varying from a high to a low pitch; and the tool for singing had been given to him from the beginning by the good Creator, planted in him by Nature. Then what shall prevent us from believing that Adam, moved by the urge of Nature, essayed an imitation of, for instance, the cheerful songs of the birds and so on, and discovered in them a variety of notes?”[35]

The truth can be difficult to discern because it often lies beyond the senses. Aristotle says of truth,

“To catch sight of the truth is difficult, in one way; in another, easy. A sign of this is that no one can see it complete or completely misses it, but each says something on nature; so that although he may individually contribute little or nothing, yet out of collaboration of all these there arises a great mass.”[36]

Truth is of immense value. The following quote from the gospel of John makes this very clear. The dialogue takes place right before Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified:

“So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’ Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”. Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”[37]

This takes place in the midst of the passion among yelling crowds, false accusations, betrayal, and denial. Yet, the tumult of the passion seems to cease for a moment as Pilate says, “What is truth?” It is a universal question. Jesus’ words, “Everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice,” show how very valuable the truth is. Notice how Jesus shows that the truth is revealed through the audible figurae of His voice. The universal value of truth is recognized by people all over the world.St Augustine puts it like this:

“[…] if I put the question to anyone whether he prefers to find joy in the truth or in falsehood, he does not hesitate to say that he prefers the truth, just as he does not hesitate to say he wants to be happy. The happy life is joy based on the truth.”[38]

Music explores and reveals truth, so it is akin to and makes known philosophy. Plato reveals his awareness of this fact in his dramatic dialogue Phaedo, the account of Socrates’ last conversation with his followers before his execution. In the Phaedo, Socrates is reported to have said,

“In the course of my life I have often had intimations in dreams “that I should make music.” The same dream came to me sometimes in one form, and sometimes in another, but always saying the same or nearly the same words: Make and cultivate music, said the dream. And hitherto I had imagined that this was only intended to exhort and encourage me in the study of philosophy, which has always been the pursuit of my life, and is the noblest and best of music.”[39]  

Notice how Plato calls philosophy “music,” not just any music, but the best and most noble. So we can deduce from this statement that according to Plato, the best and noblest music is that which is most like philosophy: that which reveals how things really are. Music is able to do this by helping us better understand the invisible world through the use of movement of sound (for a description of how music communicates truth, see “Movement as Communication and Unifying, Motivating Power” below).


In some ways, beauty is a more complex idea than truth. Truth is “that which is” or “the way things really are.” Beauty, however, cannot be defined in such succinct terms. To begin with, it carries with it some concepts which need to be dealt with. It is again necessary to differentiate between two ideas which are contained in the word beauty: the subjective and the absolute. A subjective approach to beauty is frequently encountered when the term aesthetics is used to suggest a choice as to whether one enjoys something or not or whether it is appealing. Such an approach can be found in the changing fashions of clothing, hairstyles, make-up etc. There are personal views of beauty and also cultural views. However, we are not exploring beauty here in terms of cultural differences or what one person views as beautiful as opposed to another person’s views. This paper is dealing with absolute beauty. It is an invisible, unchanging reality which exists whether it is present to the senses or not. It is not dependant on our human exemplifications, yet is often made present to us through them. Plato was very aware of the idea of absolutes, as is evident in the Phaedo. In the dialogue, Socrates argues for the immortality of the soul and for the existence of absolutes. He argues thus:

“And what would you say of the many beautiful – whether men or horses or garments or any other things which may be called equal or beautiful – are they all unchanging and the same always, or quite the reverse? May they not rather be described as almost always changing and hardly ever the same either with themselves or with one another?

The later, replied Cebes; they are always in a state of change.

And these you can touch and see and perceive with the senses, but the unchanging things you can only perceive with the mind – they are invisible and are not seen?

That is very true, he said.

Well, then, he added, let us suppose that there are two sorts of existences, one seen, the other unseen.

Let us suppose them.

The seen is the changing, and the unseen is the unchanging.

That may also be supposed.

And, further, is not one part of us body, and the rest of us soul?

To be sure.

And to which class may we say that the body is more alike and akin?

Clearly to the seen: no one can doubt that.

And is the soul seen or not seen?

Not by man, Socrates.

And by “seen” and “not seen” is meant by us that which is or is not visible to the eye of man?

Yes, to the eye of man.

And what do we say of the soul? is that seen or not seen?

Not seen.

Unseen then?


After such a dialogue, one may say, “Yes. Absolutes exist. But what is the nature of these absolutes?”  With regards to beauty, even Plato speaking through the character of Socrates is in some ways inexplicit. And yet, he gives us this clue when he says, “[…] if there be anything beautiful other than absolute beauty, […] it can only be beautiful in as far as it partakes of absolute beauty – and this I would say of everything.”[41]


Specific Attributes of Beauty

Attempting to look directly at any absolute is blinding to the intellect. Yet, we can discover something about them by looking at different manifestations that can be attributed to them. With regards to beauty, there are more specific qualities which many people would admit as being beautiful. Such qualities include the following: sincerity, humane treatment and compassion, humility, patience, dedication, focus, logic, thoughtfulness, self control, and freedom within discipline. These can all be found in the training methods found at the SpanishRidingSchooland in Leopold Mozart’s violin treatise and, as a result, are also made evident during the actions and performances of these disciplines. Some of the most notable aspects of beauty are found in the exemplifications themselves, i.e. the actual movements of Classical music and dressage: grace with both humility and nobility. Another attribute of beauty which is present is the unifying power these disciplines have, a power that brings people together in a common experience of the good and true. Aspects of human character which are considered good and beautiful are actual requirements for success in these fields. Podhajsky says, “Three traits of character are an absolute must with any successful riding teacher: he must have self-control, patience, and be free of any false ambition.”[42] These three qualities are also priorities for Leopold Mozart, as we shall see in the following sections. In order to further understand how beauty is shown in Classical music and dressage, we will now explore specific attributes of beauty as they are dealt with by classical horsemanship and by Mozart’s violin treatise.


Sincerity and the absence of artifice is a priority of both Mozart and Xenophon. This has to do with truth. Take, for example, Mozart’s definition of “Cantabile”. His definition is as follows:

“Cantabile: singingly. That is: we must endeavor to produce a singing style. This must of course not be too artificial but played so that the instrument, as far as possible, imitates the art of singing. And this is the greatest beauty in music.”[43]

According to Mozart, the “greatest beauty in music” is that which imitates the human voice as found in nature and cultivated in the art if singing. He says that it must not be artificial, so we may gather from this statement that he relates beauty to truth. This relationship can also be seen in his discussion of faults that he finds in some violinists. He states in his preface,

“I felt a deep sympathy when I heard adult violinists, many of whom often preened themselves not a little on their knowledge, distorting the meaning of the composer by the use of wrong bowing. Yea, I was amazed to see that even with the help of oral explanations and practical demonstration they were often quite unable to grasp truth and purity.”[44]

Notice how he condemns those who obscure the composer’s meaning. Those who are performing a piece of music are presenting the composer’s ideas to an audience, and these ideas need to come through in order for there to be a true representation of the composer’s work.

Xenophon deals with beauty as it relates to understanding and will. He says,

“For what a horse does under compulsion, […] is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer. There would be a great deal more ungracefulness than beauty in either a horse or a man that was so treated. No, he should show off all his finest and most brilliant performances willingly and at a mere sign. […] This is the attitude in which horses of gods and heroes are always depicted, and men who can handle a horse gracefully in it are a magnificent sight.”[45]

The idea that the horse is to perform its majestic and noble movements willfully is related also to truth, because a horse performing movements in such a way is expressing its real disposition. It is significant to note that both Mozart and Xenophon advocate relaxed and natural manners of positioning, be it holding a violin or sitting on a horse. This is important both for practical purposes such as freedom of movement, and also for this aspect of truth: to express willingly as a reflection of inner realities.  When a rider and horse or a musician’s heart is in their work, their willfulness makes them a living expression of the truth contained in the art, and this sincerity is beautiful.


Only the humble can learn. This is because learning requires the acknowledgement that one does not know everything and has room for improvement before new ideas can be accepted. Indeed, pride is a fault which, if not addressed, can be easily acquired while pursuing artistic disciplines since they give the artist such power as to be instrumental in influencing vast numbers of people. It is sobering to remember that artistic ability, though it does come in part from natural potential, stems mainly from correct training, long study, and the proper environment in which cultivation takes place. Louis Podhajsky, Leopold Mozart, and the horsemen/women of theSpanishRidingSchoolhave all acknowledged the need for humility.

Leopold Mozart’s character in the respect of pride versus humility presents a dichotomy. He was aware of the necessity of humility in learning, yet was known for being rather proud in his education. Several statements in the Violinschule attest to this as well as his intolerance for the ignorance betrayed by some musicians. In the Fifth Chapter of the treatise, Mozart includes a lengthy footnote as to how a person wished to settle a musical controversy by writing, “[…] an excessively bad letter, both with regard to the merits of the matter and of the grammatical style, so that all who read it were convinced of the crass ignorance of the writer.” Mozart continues, “[…]. However, it so happened that the simple, silly bird caught himself in his own snare, and was exposed to public derision. His simplicity touched me; I let the poor writer go, although I had already written down an answer for the diversion of my friends.”[46] Despite his pride, albeit he was sometimes almost justified, Leopold Mozart clearly states in the preface that learning comes after humility. He says,

“Finally, I must confess that I have written this Violinschule not only for the use of pupils and the benefit of teachers, but because I desire earnestly to convert all those who, by their bad teaching, make failures of their pupils; because they themselves have faults which they would easily recognize, could they for but a short space of time renounce their self esteem.”[47]

Podhajsky witnessed the same situation in some riding instructors and their students. He says,

“How often is may be observed that a rider who is just able to sit the horse already dreams about going to horse shows and winning ribbons. But there are also teachers who, with the smallest progress of their pupil, see in him the future Olympic candidate. It sounds absurd but I have witnessed it myself. Such exaggeration is not to be regarded purely as bad judgment, for it may also have a bad effect from the pedagogical point of view: unsound ambition or heightened complacency might be unduly nourished.”[48]

Mozart attests to a need for balance between confidence and humility when he says this about his treatise,

“[…] what could I say of my work without either blaming or praising myself? The first I refuse to do, because it offends my self-esteem and indeed who would believe that I was sincere? To do the second were to sin against decorum – yea, against reason – and is therefore ridiculous, for everyone knows what an evil odour self-praise leaves in its wake”[49].

At the Spanish Riding School, humility is a part of the training method. During training and performance, the SRS rider holds a switch cut from a birch tree rather than any decorative whip as a visual sign of this humility.

Patience, Dedication

(see “Nature, Cultivation, and Patience” below)


Stylistic Similarities between Mozart’s Treatise and Dressage

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna and Leopold Mozart come from similar cultural environments. Mozart published his Violinschule in his native city of Augsburg in 1756 (the same year as the birth of his famous son). However, he had already been living in Salzburg since 1737.  Salzburg and Vienna were both part of the expansive and influential Habsburg empire. The Habsburgs were great patrons of the arts from the 13th to the early 20th century. Since its establishment in 1572, the Spanish Riding School had existed at the heart of this empire. The disciplines of classical music and classical writing flourished in this atmosphere of learning. Due to their shared cultural background, it is to be expected that Mozart’s Violinschule and the traditions of theSpanishRidingSchool would have similarities in the particular ways beauty is viewed, as indeed they do.

With regards to how movements are achieved, both Mozart and the SRS agree that the muscles should be relaxed and free. This can be seen as Mozart describes the bow stroke:

“[…] the stroke must not be guided with the whole arm; the shoulder should be moved but little, the elbow more, but the wrist quite freely and naturally. I say that the wrist must be moved naturally. I mean by this: without making ridiculous an unnatural twistings; without bending it too much outwards, or holding it perchance quite stiffly; but on the contrary, the hand must be allowed to sink when making the down stroke, and in the up stroke the hand must be bent naturally and freely and neither more nor less than the course of the bow demands.”[50]

Notice how the author emphasizes three times in this quote the importance of natural movement. Podhajsky mirrors Mozart very closely in the following quote about transitions from trot to canter:

“The teacher should not allow the pupil to try to obtain the strike-off by twisting his body and sliding about in the saddle, nor should he lean forward or pull at the reins or demand the strike-off with the outside leg, which would provide a crooked strike-off.”[51]

Good posture in riding and playing the violin always reflects the goal of efficient and natural movement with a balance between effort and relaxation. This aim is applied down to every detail of movement, as can be seen, for example, in Mozart’s description of the right-hand index finger position:

“One may, at times, hold the bow with the first or second joint of the index-finger, but the stretching out of the index-finger is at all times a serious error. For in that way the hand stiffens because the nerves are taut, and the bowing becomes labored and clumsy; yea, right awkward, as it must then be performed by the whole arm.”[52]

Natural movement is a basic priority which can be found in Podhajsky’s “basic theory of training”. He states that,

“It is the aim of the rider is to be able to move in balance on his horse’s back and perform various exercises with him. This sport should yield pleasure not only for the rider but also for the horse, who should be calm, supple, and obedient, comfortable in his movements, and should submit to his rider without constraint.”[53]

Both horse and rider should be relaxed, carrying out their movements with grace and freedom.

Natural movement is connected to the idea of smoothness. Training to achieve smoothness occurs in both disciplines. Of left hand fingering, Mozart says, “In slow pieces the forth finger is often used, not from necessity but for the sake of equality of tone and therefore also for the sake of elegance. Of right hand bowing Mozart says that, “[…] one must accustom one’s self from the beginning to draw a long, uninterrupted, soft, and flowing stroke.”[54]  In riding, smooth transitions (i.e. changing from one gait to another) are part of basic training. This can be seen as Podhajsky describes the training which leads up to the transition from canter to walk:

“For the past weeks of training, the transition from the trot into the walk was no longer executed by a sort of trailing off of the trot but by a definite transition in which the horse was pushed forward with both legs and made to step briskly under his body with the hind legs. Repeated short actions with the reins (half halts) made him pass in unaltered rhythm of the trot smoothly and supply into the walk.”[55]

One of the most significant stylistic similarities between SRS training and Mozart’s violin treatise is the perpetuation of nature, i.e. the cultivation of that which occurs naturally rather than the creation of something contrived and false. Here again we see truth at work (see also “Sincerity” above and “Nature, Cultivation, and Patience” below). An example of this can be seen when Mozart discusses how the violinist should know how much to fit into one bow so that evenness and purity of tone is maintained. He says,

“Yea, it goes against nature if you are constantly interrupting and changing. A singer who during every short phrase stopped, took a breath, specially stress first this note, then that note, would unfailingly move everyone to laughter. The human voice glides quite easily from one note to another; and a sensible singer will never make a break unless some special kind of expression, or division of rests of the phrase demand one. And who is not aware that singing is at all times the aim of every instrumentalist; because on must always approximate to nature as nearly as possible.”[56]

Carrying out maneuvers in a natural and relaxed fashion is one of the main priorities at the SRS, as can be seen in their performances as well as in their training methods. Cultivating the natural abilities of the horse in a kind and humane way is the basis for all SRS training.  All of the movements that the horse is asked to perform occur in nature, as one can see when a herd of horses freely interact in an open environment. Podhajsky says, “The rider must understand his horse both physically and mentally and base his training on the horse’s natural abilities. By treating the horse as an individual he will get the best out of him without destroying his character.”[57] (see also “Nature, Cultivation, and Patience” below).

Dressage and Classical music as presented by Podhajsky, Guérinière, and Mozart  have a certain definitiveness in the way motions are carried out. Take, for example, Mozart’s description of the bow stroke: “One must not play away at the point of the bow with a certain kind of quick stroke which scarce touches the string but must always play solidly.”[58] He also says, “[…] a beginner should at all times play earnestly, with all his powers, strongly and loudly; never weakly and quietly, and still less should should he dally with the violin under his arm.”[59] Another example is Podhajsky’s description of the rider’s seat before learning the canter: “It is much better to wait with the canter until the rider’s seat is sufficiently firm than to have the rider loose his seat and disturb the horse’s movement.”[60]  And finally, take Guérinière’s description of contact[61], “Correct contact, which produces the best mouth, is when the horse, without leaning upon or fighting the hand, takes a definite, light and balanced contact: these three qualities are those of a good mouth, and correspond to those of the rider’s hand, which must be light, gentle, and definite.[62]

The musician, horseman, and the horse as well must execute movements with energy and definitiveness yet must still be sufficiently relaxed so as to move with grace and natural ease while being able to enjoy the creative process. Podhajsky sums up these stylistic goals in this way:

“The object of the classical art of riding is to train the horse not only to be brilliant in the movements and exercises of the High School, but also to be quiet, supple, and obedient, and by his smooth movements to make riding a true pleasure.”[63]


Truth Revealed: Movement as Communication and a Unifying, Motivating Power

Sound communicates. Even horses understand this. Take, for example, the following quote from Podhajsky: “Much use should be made of the voice; whereas it is a mistake to shout at the horse, both trainer and groom will give him confidence by speaking softly.”[64] Notice here how Podhajsky is not referring to particular words that should be used but rather to the tone of voice which can keep the horse calm. One might ask, “How is pure sound able to communicate invisible realities to others?” One can understand this better by exploring how music works as communication.

People are able to understand the language of music because it portrays truth through the movement of sound through time. Music is a mirror of the movements of the soul when it is in different states and is also a reflection of the movements of different emotions. These ways of moving are often reflected exteriorly by people in particular emotional states. Take, for example, someone who is sad and wants other people to know it. He or she may walk slowly with eyes downward, and feet hardly leaving the ground. Or take, for another example, someone who is angry. He or she might walk in a rapid, stiff manner with eyes wide open and fists clenched. The happy person with the smile might have a little skip is his or her step. These movements are reflections of invisible interior realities. Music can also move in these ways when the composer wants to express these emotions. Sad music can be slow, connected, somewhat quiet (depending on the type of sadness being portrayed), angry music can have punctuated, accented notes, loud dynamics, strong dissonances, etc., and happy music can be light and bouncy with staccato articulations, upward scalar runs, consonant intervals, etc. In violin playing, bowing has a very direct effect on the emotions that are brought forth. Mozart describes bowings thus:

“[…] the bow gives life to the notes; […] it produces now a modest, now an impertinent, now a serious or playful tone; now coaxing, or grave and sublime; now a sad or merry melody; and is therefore the medium by the reasonable use of which we are able to rouse in the hearers the aforesaid affects.”[65]

The violinist is able achieve this through various bowing techniques. Mozart gives many examples of different articulations such as slurs and separate notes, consecutive up-bows, etc. The violinist is also able to communicate with volume and tone color through the use of the three main ways of controlling sound: weight, contact point (where the bow touches the strings), and bow speed.

Because it conveys truth through movement, music is able to directly communicate qualities such as beauty, nobility, etc. or emotions such as joy, sorrow, etc. without being specific as to the circumstances which bring them forth. The quest for beauty and truth is so universal, and music, as a medium for communicating discoveries about these realities, has a unifying and motivating force that can bring people from different backgrounds together, though they have to be able to understand the language of the type of music being heard.

Classical horsemanship also has a very motivating force which is communicated through movement. Take, for example, the Passage or “Spanish trot.” It is a collected trot where the legs diagonal from each other move simultaneously. This movement requires a great deal of strength and concentration from the horse and horseman. The result is a concentrated, focused movement that portrays nobility, purpose, and dedication. In addition to providing the horseman with a reliable mount, classical training for war gave motivation to troops and prestige to princes. Guérinière states, “The passage, for example, renders noble and elevated the gait of a horse and the head of troops.”[66]

There are many musical elements that allow the portrayal of emotions in music to take place. Sound, itself an unseen substance, and the different timbres made by instruments is one. Others include pitch, dynamics (volume or intensity), articulation, and rhythm. The last of these, rhythm or time is a significant element that connects music and dressage very closely.

Movement Through Time

As we have seen, music and horsemanship are able to mirror life because, like life, they consist of movements through time. When material is moved through time, communication takes place. The nature of material, the way it moves, and the speed at which it moves tells people about the unseen. Take, for example, Mozart’s description of the trill. Mozart pairs different trill speeds with corresponding emotions. He says,

The trill can be divided into four species according to its speed: namely into slow, medium, rapid, and accelerating. The slow is used in sad and slow pieces; the medium in pieces which have a lively but yet a moderate and gentle tempo, the rapid in pieces which are very lively and full of spirit and movement, and finally the accelerating trill used mostly in cadenzas.[67]

This clearly shows that the speed of music and musical ornaments has a direct correlation to the emotional substance that is brought forth. The idea of expressing emotions according to the intentions of the composer is a high priority for Mozart and should also be for any conscientious interpreter. Mozart’s list entitled “Musical Technical Terms” is made of definitions and terms that indicate tempo and character. These two musical aspects go hand in hand because truth is made apparent through the motion of figurae through time. Take, for example, the term Adagio Pesante. Mozart says this call for, “[…] a mournful Adagio, [which] must be played somewhat more slowly [than Adagio], and with great tranquility.”[68] Notice how “mournful” and “with great tranquility”, emotional expressions, are placed alongside “slowly”, a time expression.

Time as an Unseen Substance

Time is an invisible material which can be worked with and is one of the key materials used in these two disciplines. The idea that something can be a material even though it cannot be seen or felt by the exterior senses is sometimes rather foreign to today’s scholars. Yet, in reference to time, the notion is very comprehensible. We cannot see time, but we know it exists because we see its effects and move through it with one event and/or action following another. By consciously making events last longer or shorter, we work with time. This working with time as an invisible material is developed to a very high degree in dance, music, and horsemanship. There are many other invisible materials such as sound, character, and emotions.

Time exists both in the sense of small, individual movements which fit into a larger whole such as a piece of music or dressage routine and in the sense of the material that is required for progress to take place i.e. it takes a large amount of time and consistent study for perfection to be approached. In reference to the first sense, the portrayal of emotion which we have discussed requires an extensive amount of rhythm training. Each maneuver has its own amount of time and time ensures that the correct order of events is maintained. In reference to the second sense, cultivation requires the presence of vast amounts of time that are specifically allotted to artistic endeavor. It is also essential for the maturity of the human mind. In music, dressage, and life, there are small movements and great ones, movements which take a moment and movements which take a lifetime, and everything in between.

Though he says it of music, Leopold Mozart’s following statement is as true forviolin playing as it is for classical dressage. He says,

“Time makes melody, therefore time is the soul of music. It does not only animate the same, but retains all the component parts thereof in their proper order. […] Everything depends on musical time-measure, and the teacher must use the greatest patience in seeing that the pupil grasps it thoroughly through diligence and attention.”[69]

In classical dressage, the importance of rhythm and timing can be seen at every moment. Podhajsky says,

“Let us once again emphasize the most important points of a good dressage horse: he should move forward with impulsion, which shows itself best when he is able to remain on a straight line. This impulsion, fundamental to the entire training, is not present in a horse that sways and goes crooked or in one that proceeds with hurries and hasty steps. Lack of rhythm means lack of balance, which is just as necessary for riding as it is for dancing.”[70]

The horses are trained to have a consistent, relaxed rhythm appropriate for each gait or maneuver. In synchronized riding, sometimes involving many horses and riders, rhythm and the correct order of movements are very crucial. This type of riding has its counterpart in music involving more than one player. Also, in music and in riding, the art relies on time in regards to order. The individual parts of riding require a proper series of events just as the individual notes in a piece of music require the proper order and rhythm.  Rhythm is part of what Podhajsky’s “the basic theory of training”. He says,

“It is important that the horse move his legs rhythmically, which proves that he is balanced physically as well as mentally, thus allowing the rider to sit correctly and have a good feeling.”[71]

As we have previously discussed, time in the larger sense is required for any significant amount of cultivation to take place. Podhajsky says that,

“When training a horse, the rider must repeat over and over again: “I have time.” It takes time – a great deal of it – for a horse to develop and to understand what is required of him. Nowadays, when everyone seems to strive for quick success, this cannot be repeated too often.”[72]

The ability to perceive the truth and then to communicate it takes a lot of time. Because art is communication of “that which is”, and because “that which is” can sometimes be hidden from immediate view, a consistent seeking after wisdom and a constant willingness to learn are required of the artist.


Knowledge and Wisdom

Knowledge and wisdom bind the arts of horsemanship and music together. A discerning person would undoubtedly recognize these qualities in masters of these arts. Another reason why people pursue these disciplines is because they are a means by which wisdom may be acquired.

Wisdom is the knowledge and understanding of truth. It is difficult to attain and requires sacrifice, but its value far outweighs the cost. The pursuit of wisdom requires the seeker to sacrifice what does not pertain to that pursuit, and the decision to do so may initially be painful.St Augustine, in his “Confessions” laments his delayed pursuit of wisdom and describes such a pursuit in the following manner:

“Many years of my life had passed – about twelve – since in my nineteenth year I had read Cicero’s Hortensius, and had been stirred to a zeal for wisdom. But although I came to despise earthly success, I put off giving time to the quest for wisdom. For ‘it is not the discovery but the mere search for wisdom which should be preferred even to the discovery of treasures and to the ruling over nations and to the physical delights available to me at a nod.”[73]

This quote is taken from Book VII of the Confessions and is stated right before the account of the Saint’s dramatic conversion. Here, St Augustine is aware of the price required from the one who decides to wholeheartedly seek after wisdom. He is also aware of the great value this search has. As a consequence, his will is at war within himself, so much so that he says, “So there are two wills.  Neither of them is complete, and what is present in one is lacking to the other.”[74]  He also says, “[…] in the process of deliberation a single soul is wavering between different wills.”[75] After an intense struggle which has come to a head after long suffering and debating,St Augustine is able to give up his former life of worldly pleasures in order to pursue a life dedicated to this search of wisdom.

Artists have to make similar sacrifices. They dedicate time and concentration in order to gain knowledge and wisdom and then share truth with others. Daily life, experiences, actions, and observations all play a part in how the artist approaches and gives forth his or her art. Art gains depth, not only as the artist grows, but also as the person who is the artist grows.  This development has the potential for endless expansion (see “Nature, Cultivation, and Patience” below).

Wisdom can sometimes be acquired through knowledge gained from connected experiences. To gain wisdom in this way, the artist must study diligently, connecting this concept with that one and so achieve an ever clearer idea of truth. This is possible though step-by-step progress. In speaking of tempo Mozart states, “Often, if other points be carefully observed, the phrase is forced into its natural speed. Remember this, but know also that for such perception long experience and good judgment are required.”[76] Aristotle says,

“From memory men get experience; for by often remembering the same thing they acquire the power of unified experience. […] Art is born when out of many bits of information derived from experience there emerges a grasp of those similarities in view of which they are a unified whole.”[77]

Alois Podhajsky sounds very much like Aristotle in the following quote:

“As in life, so with riding, we must fix our eyes on a goal and advance toward it in a straight direction. To be able to follow this principal we should not make too difficult demands in the beginning but choose an aim within reach of abilities. This will prevent us from losing sight of the goal and advancing in the wrong direction. Having reached the first goal, we may concentrate on the next higher one, thus progressing step by step towards the top. This is true for the pupil as well as for the teacher.”[78]

Xenophon says he was qualified to write his treatise because of his years of experience.  He says, “It has been my fortune to spend a great deal of time in riding, and so I think myself versed in the horseman’s art.”[79] He says he knows about the treatise on the same subject by a man named Simon and states that, “Still, I shall not strike out of my work all the points in which I chance to agree with him, but shall take much greater pleasure in passing them on to my friends, believing that I speak with more authority because a famous horseman, such as he, thought as I do.”[80] Xenophon gains his knowledge and wisdom from long experience and is also proud of the fact that many of his thoughts are not original but echo and built on previously existing ideas. This is mirrored by the Spanish Riding School’s web site which says, “At the Piber Federal Stud, we cultivate and build on the knowledge we have gained from over four centuries of raising these noble creatures.”[81]

Long experience alone does not guarantee wisdom. There are many people who are successful in their fields yet seem to lack this quality. Though they do not know the reasons why they do things, they are able to accomplish the tasks at hand. Aristotle states it this way,

“Now experience seems in no respect inferior to art in a situation in which something is to be done. On the contrary, we see experienced men succeeding even better than those who know the reasons but who lack the experience The reason is that experience, like action or production, deals with things severally as concrete individuals, whereas art deals with them generally.”[82]

Many people have this proficiency and are successful in their fields yet could not be called “masters” or “experts”. Through their experience they know what to do but they cannot explain why they do it. Aristotle continues thus:

“Nevertheless, we believe that knowing and understanding characterize art rather than experience. And so we take experts in an art to be wiser than men of mere experience; because wisdom presumably comes only with knowledge, and we believe that the experts can analyze and explain, whereas others cannot. Men of experience discern the fact “that”, but not the reason “why”; whereas experts know the reason why and explanation.”[83]

Alois Podhajsky, Leopold Mozart, and the riders of theSpanishRidingSchoolfit into Aristotle’s description of the later. This is evident in their writings and in their teaching styles which include reasons for goals and techniques which are to be aimed for. Aristotle says,

“In general, too, it is a sign that a man knows when he can teach. Hence we believe that art is more scientific than experience. For men of knowledge can teach; whereas men only experienced cannot. So it takes more than being sensitive to make a master in art; for by the senses we grasp things well as separate things, but the senses do not tell us the why about anything. Thy do not tell us why fire is hot, but only that it is hot.”[84]

However, musicians and horsemen realize that understanding is incomplete without action and wisdom goes hand in hand with practice. Podhajsky demonstrates his awareness for the need of a balance between wisdom and practical application in the following quote:

“Ideas with regard to the importance of theory over practice will always differ, but they will agree on one point, namely, that the one is not complete without the other. Theory without practice is of little value, whereas practice is the proof of theory. It is theoretical knowledge that will show the way to perfection. Theory is the knowledge, practice the ability. Knowledge must always take precedence over action. This thesis is especially true of the art of riding. In spite of initial success, the self-taught person can never become more than a workman; only on a foundation of theory can riding develop to the realm of art.”[85]

Alternatim and Focus

            In order to achieve the high level of artistry required for these disciplines to become a channel for beauty and truth, focus is a vital element to studying, training, and performing. Focus, or the ability to concentrate specifically on the task or idea at hand, is an aspect of beauty because it is a manifestation of dedication and the channeling of one’s efforts to the present endeavor. It is commitment. Focus can be gained through the use of alternation, in Latin “alternatim”. Alternation is an important part of daily life and part of any healthy learning environment. Without alternation, learning would be impossible. With very little alternation, leaning could take place, but the very pursuit would become extremely tedious. This is because we learn about things through their differences. Imagine, for example, if the whole world was red. Would we know what red is? We would not because there would be nothing to compare it to. So, there are two reasons why alternation is important for teaching and learning: first, it allows learning to take place, and second, it allows the learning process to be interesting. It also enables the student to use different ways of thinking, thus using one part of the brain while giving another part a rest.

This concept can be found throughout music history and is key to SRS training. Take a Classical symphony, for example Symphony No. 41 in C, K. 551 by Leopold’s famous son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791). This symphony is made of four movements labeled thus: I. Allegro Vivace, II. Andante cantabile, III. Menuetto: Allegretto, and IV. Molto Allegro. Each of these character designations denotes a contrasting way of moving and alternation between the same. Alternation also takes place within these movements and encompasses virtually all musical parameters including orchestration (different instruments or groups and families of instruments playing at different times versus all together), range (high and low), rhythm, major and minor, dynamic intensity (loud and soft), texture (homophonic or same rhythm, polyphonic or two simultaneous melodies, Alberti bass and other repeated bass patterns), all of which contribute to an alternation of the emotional content which is being expressed. It is fascinating to listen to a symphony in this way. These contrasting emotional qualities and ways of moving within the context of a single movement and within a single symphony are another way in which music mirrors life.

Alternation is an expected element of Classical music. Too much repetition can be very unpleasant. Leopold Mozart makes a statement about alternatim that clearly shows his opinion on the matter. During a discussion of string instruments and violin making, he makes this statement:

No one will take it amiss if I say frankly that more depends on the accurate research into the making of instruments than on the efforts of scientists to prove why two consecutive octaves and fifths do not fall pleasingly on the ear. In any case, sound musicians have banished these long ago and it is sufficient to say that, because of the effect of their too close relationship on a discriminating ear which expects variety, these octaves and fifths become nauseating owing to unpardonable repetition.[86]

While observing a lesson with SRS rider Marius Schreiner (see “First Hand Observations” below), I was able to see how alternation can be used to gain the focus of a distracted horse or rider. This particular horse was a young Frisian who was just beginning under the saddle. She was on the longe line and Herr Schreiner and the owner were on the ground. It was noticeable that the horse’s focus was not there because she kept looking to the outside of the circle and outside of the arena. In order to gain her focus, Herr Schreiner simply had her alternate between the trot and the walk. All of the lessons I observed had alternatim built into them. There was a changing back and forth from more to less intense training. Each lesson also had its own collection of specific concepts which pertained to the task at hand, and Herr Schreiner would alternate from one concept to another, thus keeping the focus of horse and rider. Podhajsky says this of alternatim:

Frequent changes of speed keep the horse’s attention awake and teach him to respond to even slight aids and concentrate on his rider. Moreover, his suppleness and agility are increased and contact, impulsion, and obedience improved.[87]

Just as it is important for dressage horses and riders to have rests both during individual training sessions and throughout the year (SRS horses and riders have Sundays and summers off from work), so too is it important during musical training and within the fabric of music itself. There is alternation within music between sound and silence, as well as between one part and another. Mozart says of the musical rest,

The rest is a sign of silence. There are three reasons why the rest was discovered to be a necessity in music. Firstly, for the convenience of singers and wind-instrumentalists, in order to give them a little respite during which to take a breath. Secondly, from necessity, because the words in songs require punctuation and because in many compositions one or other of the parts often has to remain silent if the melody is not to be spoilt and made unintelligible. Thirdly, for the sake of elegance. For just as a perpetual continuance of all the parts causes nothing but annoyance to the singers, players, and listeners, so does a charming alternation of many parts and their final union and harmonization give great satisfaction.[88]

Physical rest, punctuation and distinction of melody, and elegance. These are the reasons cited by Mozart for the rest in music. Apart from the distinction of melody, these priorities are indeed universal in artistic disciplines and other human pursuits. They are important to keep in mind during study and during the instruction of students. Rest should alternate with work. This is especially true for young children and/or beginning students who need frequent times to relax and take in what is being studied. As they grow older and/or more advanced, times between studying and resting can become longer, but alternation must still take place in order for learning to be productive and humane (see “First Hand Observations” below).

Nature, Cultivation, and Patience

People and horses all contain inner potential. This potential needs to be cultivated with patience. Someone many have amazing artistic abilities, but without patience and proper training, that person will never be able to reach his or her highest capabilities. Likewise, a person who is apparently not particularly gifted can nevertheless become artistically brilliant through patient, methodical, and consistent study. The requirement of patience and cultivation is key to many life lessons one learns through the pursuit of artistic disciplines.

Hidden potential exists. This is nature. Nature can be defined in this sense as “that which is”. There is invisible nature in every person and horse which has potential, the possibility of growing and becoming a channel for beauty. The question is whether or not this potential will ever be realized; whether it will ever be cultivated. Mozart, as a good teacher, was very conscious of this. In the dedication of his treatise to Prince Siegmund Christoph, Archbishop of Salzburg, Mozart states,

“How many young people, often endowed with the fairest gifts of Nature, would have grown to maturity, untended as the seedlings run wild in the forest, if your fatherly help had not in good time brought them under the supervision of judicious persons for their upbringing. And how many would have had, in the increase of their years, to famish in want and poverty and to be a burden on the community as useless citizens of the world, if Your Grace had not graciously provided instruction for such, according to their talent and ability, in this or that path of knowledge?”[89]

Indeed, the whole treatise is an acknowledgment of the fact that each person, in order to realize inner potential, must have access to proper, methodical, consistent cultivation, even if that person is gifted in the most extraordinary way.

Mozart’s treatise was written during the time known as the “Enlightenment.” One of the greatest Enlightenment ideas was that of universal education, i.e. everyone should have access to education so that they can become cultivated according to their abilities. This idea is present in Mozart’s treatise, as is evident in the preface. Therein he expresses his practical intention of keeping the volume a reasonable size so as to keep the price down. For, as he says,

“Not much is gained be a book being a little more costly to the buyer, for indeed who has greater necessity to acquire such guidance than the needy who are not in a position to put themselves under a teacher for a long period of time? Are not the best and most gifted people often in the greatest poverty; just those who, if they had a reliable Instruction Book available, could go far in a short space of time?”[90]

This quote shows how the author is concerned with the universal education of anyone who has inner potential. It also shows the idea of equality; that birth and social rank do not determine one’s worth or ability, but can affect what opportunities are available to a person.

The inner nature of both horses and people is different in each individual, and some are more suited and/or inclined towards artistic disciplines than others. This must be taken into account by all conscientious instructors and should affect teaching methods. Of course, when one is especially gifted in the discipline, this natural ability has a positive effect on training. Podhajsky states, “Talent for riding, besides affection for the horse, is of immeasurable value for successful training if recognized and correctly developed by the teacher.”[91] Some students may have certain advantages, but others can still achieve a high level of art. As Podhajsky says,

“A young and agile person will certainly obtain the physical skill sooner and more easily than an older one, which dos not mean, however, that a person advanced in age might not learn how to ride. On the contrary, serious determination and increased ability to concentrate – maybe even a little ambition – may outweigh physical shortcomings.”[92]

Mozart says that individuals respond differently to music based on their personalities. He says that these personalities can affect tempo and need to be taken into consideration by the teacher. He states,

“A cheerful, merry, ardent person will always hurry more; a melancholy, idle, cold-blooded one will dawdle. If one allows a person who has fire or spirit to play quick pieces at once, before he knows how to perform the slow ones exactly in time, the habit of hurrying will cleave to him all his life. On the other hand, if one gives nothing but slow pieces to a frosty, melancholy ‘moper’, he will remain for all time a player without spirit; a bad and sleepy performer. One can therefore combat such faults as originate from temperament by means of reasonable instruction. The hot-head can be held back with slow pieces, and his spirit by degrees be tempered; while the slow, sleepy player can be enlivened by cheerful pieces […]”.[93]

This idea as it pertains to horsemanship is mirrored exactly by Alois Podhajsky who says,

“In former times any experienced riding instructor of an important riding school was bent upon matching his pupils to his horses in a psychological way so that their characters complemented each other. It has proved advantageous to select a calm rider for a temperamental horse and a nervous one for a placid animal, thereby obtaining a certain harmony of characters. A phlegmatic rider on a quiet horse would soon fall asleep, while the combination of a high-strung rider on a nervous horse often leads to unexpected explosions. Those teachers could make exchanges when horse and rider did not comply with each other.”[94]

Before cultivation takes place in horses, riders must choose their mounts based on their natural abilities, potential, and soundness. Xenophon speaks of this in the following quote:

“As I assume the horse to be bought is meant for war, trial should be made of all the qualities that war itself puts to the test. These are jumping ditches, going over walls, breasting banks, and leaping down from them; you must try him riding up hill and down dale and along the slope. All these tests prove whether his spirit is strong and his body sound. He should not be rejected, however, if he does not perform them all very finely; as many animals fail, not from inability but from want of practice in these feats. With instruction, habit, and practice they may do all finely, provided they are sound and not vicious.[“95]

This last point, the disposition of the horse, is one which has its parallels in music. For natural disposition, while it can be cultivated and guided, should have inner qualities which make the pursuit of specific endeavors feasible and in accordance to the unique potential and interests of the individual. Of horses, Xenophon says,

“To sum it all up, the least troublesome and the most serviceable to his rider in the wars would naturally be the horse that is sound-footed, gentle, sufficiently fleet, ready and able to undergo fatigue, and, first and foremost, obedient. On the other hand, horses that need much urging from laziness or much coaxing and attention from being too mettlesome, keep the rider’s hands always engaged, and take away his courage in moments of danger.”[96]  

This tradition of choosing mounts is carried on today at the Spanish Riding School. The school’s web site states, “The principle of examining the horses within a closed herd enables us to document each horse’s capabilities exactly. Our staff record an extensive amount of data on the horses’ temperament, willingness to perform and character”[97]. In the Airs Above the Ground, specific horses do particular maneuvers according to their natural abilities. SRS training methods take into account these individual character differences within horses. Podhajsky states that, “Horses that show greater intelligence are generally more sensitive and must be treated with greater care. Well-bred horses will not tolerate rough or unjust treatment, as they have a quicker understanding than those that are not so well bred […]”[98]. Because all horses and people are unique, each one has specific weaknesses as well as special strengths to offer. A master teacher understands this. Podhajsky says,

“I have stressed the relationship between pupil and teacher and between both and the horse for a good reason: in our world of rapid technical development and of thinking of the masses, the value of the individual is easily forgotten.”[99]

This unique inner potential requires specific cultivation, and every student proceeds at his or her own pace. It is important that students are given assignments which are within their grasp in order to ensure a positive and constructive learning process. Mozart, Xenophon, and the training at theSpanishRidingSchoolare all very systematic in their teaching methods. The students, both riders and horses, do not proceed to a higher exercise until they have sufficiently understood and mastered more basic exercises. This means of cultivation is a cornerstone for these training methods. Podhajsky says,

“The teacher should always remember that even the simple exercises are difficult for the beginner to perform and, therefore, gradually increase his demands as to correct seat and guidance of the horse in accordance with the growing skill and understanding of the pupil. When building up his lessons systematically he will have the opportunity to encourage his pupil with praise and make him take pleasure in riding. Increasing his demands too quickly, on the other hand, would force him to criticize too often, which would soon discourage the rider.”[100]

Mozart displays an awareness of these truths and does not address how to play the violin until he has discussed music history and notation. And it is only after the student is able to hold the violin properly that he or she is allowed to proceed to playing notes. When dealing with these notes, Mozart has the teacher assign the student scales with ever increasing numbers of sharps until there is a maximum of six, beginning with C major and A minor, then beginning with F major and D minor for the scales with flats. He says that these scales should be played first with strict minim-notes (half notes), which are then divided into crotchets (quarter notes), then into quavers (eighth notes), etc. so that each time the scale is played twice as fast as before. This way the scales are learned accurately and in time.[101] Of playing musical pieces Mozart says, “Above all, one should not give a beginner anything difficult before he can play easy things well in time.”

At theS panish Riding School, horses are first taught to trust humans, and then are halter broken. Only after much training on the lead rope and lunge line is a saddle placed on him.SpanishRidingSchoolstudents ride a horse on a lunge line for the first two years of their training. Podhajsky says,

“It is the aim of every riding instructor to further his pupil to the best of his abilities. He should, however, not be tempted by his own ambition or vanity to teach his pupil any exercises for which he is not ready. Even with a talented pupil a sound foundation is necessary.”[102]

The training and performing of the Spanish riding school is based on kindness and patience which can be traced back all the way to Xenophon who speaks specifically of how the “horse breaker” (trainer) should gain the trust of the horse so that, “solitude means to the colt hunger and thirst and teasing horse flies, while food, drink, and relief from pain come from man. For this to be done, colts must not only love men, but even long for them.”[103] He talks of how the trainer should stroke the horse, and should, “[…] lead him though crowds and to make him familiar with all sorts of sights and all sorts of noises. Whenever the colt is frightened of any of them, he should be taught, not be irritating but be soothing him, that there is nothing to fear.”[104] Xenophon also speaks of how to care for the horse, how to groom him, and how to house him. And of training he says, “[…] it is the best of lessons if the horse gets a season of repose whenever he has behaved to his rider’s satisfaction.”[105] Alois Podhajsky says,

“Patience should be a virtue of the rider and also the highest principal of every successful riding teacher. He should endeavor to inspire his pupil with his patience, which will calm him and help him to overcome difficulties much more easily […].”[106]

He also says, “[…] from the good teachers we learn that with dedication and kindness we may pass on our knowledge and experience to be preserved for future generations”[107]. Indeed, he stresses this idea even further by saying,

There is one axiom that every prospective rider should never lose sight of: to become a rider takes patience and again endless patience. It is the only way to obtain progress and success, while the absence of this virtue will entail setbacks and failure. Actions committed out of impatience, though they may seem ever so insignificant, may in one second annihilate advance that has been obtained in weeks of hard work. This patience is nothing else but the visible result of self-control which is to be cultivated by riding and is of greatest importance throughout the entire training from modest beginning up to the highest possible level. Every student should remember this and act accordingly.[108]

Xenophon and Podhajsky’s words directly apply to successfully learning and teaching music. This patience, though it is acquired through conscious effort, leads to true freedom.

Freedom Within Discipline

Who has ‘gathered the bitter’ into one society? (Gen. I: 9). For they pursue the same end of temporal and earthly felicity. This purpose dominates everything they do, even though the innumerable variety of their anxieties makes them fluctuate from one thing to another. Who, Lord, but you told the waters to gather into one assembly, and cause to appear the dry land, ‘which thirsts after you’ (Ps. 62: 2 – 3). For ‘the sea is yours and you made it, and the dry land your hands have formed’ (Ps. 94 : 5). In this text ‘sea’ means not the bitterness of conflicting wills but the gathering together of waters. You restrain the evil desires of souls, and fix limits to prevent the waters advancing further (Job 38: 10f.), so that their waves break upon themselves and thus, by the order of your ruling authority which is superior to all things, you make it a sea.[109]

So does St Augustinespeak of the boundaries of human will and action established by God. In dressage and Classical violin playing, there are definite boundaries set, techniques which are expected to be attained and mastered, and accepted practices which differentiate these ways of communicating from other human actions. Yet, freedom is to be found within these very boundaries. In fact, it is these boundaries themselves that make freedom attainable, so they could also be referred to as ways of life. Everyone has ways of life, so everyone has boundaries. Some are more constructive, healthy, and positive than others. People with constructive, healthy, and positive ways of life are free. Take, for example, the proud violinist who seeks perfection through the impatient playing of music over and over, faster and faster, with little or no progress to show and no systematic method of achieving results. This violinist, when asked to share the music with others, becomes afraid at the sight of the audience and merely hopes to survive performance. The violinist’s focus is on him or herself. Then take the humble violinist who seeks progress through the patient, thoughtful approach of systematic study and training. This violinist is ready to share the music with others because he or she knows that there is always more to learn and is able to continue learning while in the process of sharing the music during performance. This violinist’s focus is on learning, on the audience, and him or herself as part of the whole communication experience. Which violinist has more freedom? Clearly the second. Take, for another example, the rider who has no communication with his or her horse, who gets on and goes without concern as to whether the horse fully understands what is being asked or does not know how to communicate to the horse. This horse and rider are not only not free, they are also in physical danger. Now take the horse and rider who, through dedication and consistent, thematic training, have gained trust and understanding of each other. This rider has devoted time and thought to the cultivation of the communication necessary for the relationship. Even though much time and energy are required and specific boundaries are essential for such a relationship to exist, these efforts obviously result in the acquisition of much more freedom than the way of life followed by the un-disciplined horse and rider. It is not the person whose passions are gratified that has freedom. Rather, it is the person who is able to control the passions, the one who has mastered him or herself who is truly free.


First Hand Observations

On July 25 and 26, 2009, I was privileged to have the opportunity to observe a dressage clinic with Marius Schreiner from theSpanishRidingSchoolat Dove Hollow,San Diego,CA. It was fascinating to see first hand how this SRS horseman works with horses and riders from beginning to advanced levels and how priorities and traditions that have been handed down for centuries are played out today. The teaching style proved to be very successful and can be applied directly to musical training, both as one teaches music to others and as one studies music alone. I have taken this training style into my own violin studies and can say that it is indeed very effective. It contains so many universal principals that can be applied to any ongoing pursuit of knowledge, skill, and wisdom.

The first lesson I observed was an example of basic training. The horse was on a long rein and had a saddle and cabazon on. The rider and clinician were on the ground. Before each lesson, Herr Schreiner asked, “What are you working on?”. When a question like this is asked at the beginning, a clear intention is established and the lesson has a definite purpose. This particular lesson focused on teaching the horse to do the piaffe.[110] The piaffe takes an enormous amount of concentration from the horse and requires muscle as well. In view pf this, patient training is essential. The lesson was entirely positive for all involved, and appropriate correction was balanced with praise. The structure of the lesson was to have the horse do a collected trot and then do a couple steps of the piaffe at most before he was given a small break and was praised with patting and a sugar cube. This was the rhythm of the lesson. Each time the horse made a little progress, he was praised and the intensity of the training lessened so that the horse was able to have time to think about what he just did. The praising not only made the experience positive, it also let the horse know when he did the movements correctly and made him want to do them again. Care was taken so that the horse did not become over tired, either between each small piaffe or in the overall lesson. Herr Schreiner said, “Stop when it is good, and then he will feel good for the next time”. He also said, “Teach the piaffe in small pieces. You cannot teach the piaffe in one week.”

Each lesson has a different rhythm. This depends on the level of the horse and/or rider, and what they are working on. Less advanced horses and riders have more alternation between resting or less intense working and active training, and the timing between them is shorter. During more advanced lessons, this specific type of alternation is slower. Riding lessons involving techniques such as transitions (moving from one gait to another), etc. tend to have more continuous movement than ground work, and the times when the movement slows is more spread out than for example in the piaffe lesson. The same type of rhythm still exists, though. It is an alternation between intense application of concepts and then intense listening and contemplating the concepts given by the instructor. A rider will, for example, be working on contact and posture at the trot. The instructor will give directions as the horse and rider move around the ring and after a time the instructor will tell them to stop or slow down so he can explain more in detail as the rider focuses directly on what he is saying. During times of movement in such a lesson, the rider must never stop working, but must be constantly seeking improvement, looking for what can be made better in the context of the current project. There are certain techniques that are crucial in all the riding lessons. They include sitting down into the saddle, having good posture with the stomach relaxed and the back slightly arched, keeping the shoulders relaxed, breathing all the time, and having good, elastic contact through the reins to the horse’s mouth, which is one of the rider’s main lines of communication.      


This comparison between Mozart’s treatise and the Spanish Riding School reveals many parallels that exist between the disciplines of horsemanship and music. They are analogies for many of the same aesthetic principals and require similar techniques of cultivation. They mainly differ in their outward appearance and technical means (in other words, horses and riders vs. musical instruments, musicians, and sounds). Under the surface, the similarities between these two disciplines are more striking than their differences. Both use unseen natural materials such as time, temperament (or personalities), life, and passion. Both express beauty, nobility, and truth through movement, and both make use of figure so that these realities are perceptible. In order to achieve the ability to willfully and sincerely express beauty and elegance in these art forms, a slow, patient course must be undertaken to gain knowledge and then wisdom. The result is the harmonization of freedom within discipline. Comparing music and horsemanship is like looking through two lenses in order to a clearer view of a single object, in this case the unseen. Music and classical horsemanship help people better understand the unseen and have power that can cause the will to strive for the aesthetic principals they illustrate. Because of this, they have been found in similar situations throughout history. They can be seen during times of struggle as well as celebration and have been used as educative tools and means of enjoyment. In classical horsemanship and music people come together to learn from and contribute to a rich cultural tradition. The Spanish Riding School brings together both horsemanship and music, so unseen aesthetic principals are exemplified both through the seen and the heard. Alois Podhajsky says of his youth, “I wanted to ride and develop the horse’s movement into dance and music… […].”[111]

Beauty and truth do not depend on human understanding, acceptance, or exemplification for their existence. They are immortal and unchanging. However, when we do strive to understand, accept, and exemplify them, we are better able to interact with these realities and so further the cultivation of them in ourselves. High art is the fruit of this interaction and is a medium for its communication. Understanding art in this way results in the unification of what is good in humanity. That is why it should be perpetuated. As St. Paul says in Philippians 4: 8, “[…] whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”[112]



Aristotle, Metaphysics, translated by Richard Hope,New York: Columbia University Press, 1952,Ann Arbor Paperbacks, University of Michigan Press, 1960.

van Deusen, Nancy, Theology and Music at the Early University: The Case of Robert Grosseteste and Anonymous IV,Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995.

de la Guérinière, François Robichon, School of Horsemanship, translated b yTracy Boucher, introduction by Jack Schuman,London: J. A. Allen, 1994.

Harris, Charles, Workbooks from the Spanish School: 1948 – 1951, biography of Charles Harris by Robert Sherman,London: J. A. Allen, 2004.

Jackson, Roland, “Performance Practice: A Dictionary-guide for Musicians”,New York:Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2005.

Mozart, Leopold. A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing, translated by Editha Knocker in 1948, second edition 1951,Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Plato, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, translated by Benjamin Jowett, M.A., GreatBooks in Philosophy,New York: Prometheus Books, 1988.

Podhajsky, Alois, My Horses, My Teachers, translated by Eva Podhajsky,North Pomfret: Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1997.

________, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principals of Classical Horsemanship,Hollywood,CA: Melvin Powers Wilshire Book Company, 1967, originally published under the title DIE KLASSISCHE REITKUNST – Eine Reitlehre von den Anfängen bis zur Vollendung by Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung GmbH., München, 1965.

 ________, The Riding Teacher, forward by Sylvia Loch,North Pomfret: Trafalgar Square Publishing, 2004, originally published in German under the title Reiten Lehren und Lernen, first published in the United States of America by Double Day & Co., Inc., in 1973.

Saint Augustine, Confessions, translated by Henry Chadwick,Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992.

Xenophon, The Art of Horsemanship, translated, with chapters on the Greek riding-horse and with notes by Morris H. Morgan, first published in 1894 by J. M. Dent & Company, Reproduced from the original and first published by J. A. Allen & Company in 1962, London: J. A. Allen, 2004 reprint.

 Journal Article

 Lynn Catterson, “Michelangelo’s ‘Laocoön’?”, Artibus et Historiae, v. 26 no. 52 (2005), 29 – 56.

 Online Sources

 Eisen, Cliff, et. al., “Mozart”, Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 6 August, 2009), <;.

“Spanische Hofreitschule Bundesgestüt Piber”,, accessed March 31 – April 1, 2007.


“Majestic White Horses: TheSpanishRidingSchoolofVienna”,Andrea Home Entertainment,, 2005.

Spanische Reitshule, Wien, “The Spanish Riding School of Vienna”, distributed in NorthAmericaby Equestrian VisionUSA,Wochenschau,Austria, 1987.

“The Spanish Riding School: The First Four Hundred Years, History…Tradition…Performance”, distribution for the New York Times Syndication Sales Corporation by Sallyforth, Inc., distributed in North America by Equestrian Vision USA, produced by MR-Film, Vienna, Austria.

First Hand Observations

Marius Schreiner, Bereiter from theSpanishRidingSchool,Vienna, riding clinic,Brookside Equestrian, Walnut, CA, January 18 – 20, 2009.

 ________, Dove Hollow,San Diego,CA, July 25 and 26, 2009.

________, W Farms,Chino Hills,CA, July 19 – 21, 2008

[1] Roland Jackson, “Performance Practice: A Dictionary-guide for Musicians”, (New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2005), ix.

[2] Cliff Eisen, et al. “Mozart.” In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed October 8, 2009).

[3] Cliff Eisen, et. al., “Mozart”, Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 31 April, 2007), <;.

[4] Mozart, xxxiv.

[5] “Spanische Hofreitschule Bundesgestüt Piber”,, accessed March 27, 2007.

[6] Alois Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principals of Classical Horsemanship, (Hollywood, CA: Melvin Powers Wilshire Book Company, 1967), 17.

[7]  “Spanische Hofreitschule Bundesgestüt Piber”,, accessed April 1, 2007.

[8] Ibid, accessed March 31, 2007.

[9] Note: The jacket notes to the School of Horsemanship states, “Jack Schuman’s doctoral research focused on Charles Parrocel, the illustrator of the School of Horsemanship, and it was this interest which lead him to propose a translation of the whole work. […] Recently retired from a professorship in Art History at WashingtonS tate University, he now lives inSouthern Oregonand his interests include collecting and performing on historical musical instruments such as the viola da gamba and the vielle à roué, instruments popular among the aristocracy of La Guérinière’s time” (see following footnote).  

[10] François Robichon de la Guérinière, School of Horsemanship, translated by Tracy Boucher, introduction by Jack Schuman, (London: J. A. Allen, 1994), xi.

[11] Guérinière, 1.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Alois Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, forward by Sylvia Loch, (North Pomfret: Trafalgar Square Publishing, 2004), 3.

[14]Mozart, 13.

[15] Note: The Phaedo is an account of the last discussion between Socrates and his followers before the philosopher was executed. It deals with the immortality of the human soul and of absolute truths. Plato, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, translated by Benjamin Jowett, M.A., Great Books in Philosophy,New York: Prometheus Books, 1988.

[16] Plato,  102 – 3.

[17] Ibid, 110 – 112.

[18] Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), X. vi

(9), 184.

[19]Saint Augustine, X. xx (29), 197.

[20] Note: There are some who question the Laokoön’s authenticity. See Lynn Catterson, “Michelangelo’s ‘Laocoön’?”, Artibus et Historiae, v. 26 no. 52 (2005), 29 – 56.

[21] Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principals of Classical Horsemanship, 20 –21.

[22] Mozart, 25.

[23] Nancy van Deusen. “Theology and Music at the Early University: The Case of Robert Grosseteste and Anonymous IV”, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995), 76.

[24] Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992), 682.

[25] Ibid, Psalm 119: 1.

[26] Ibid, Psalm 119: 17.

[27] Ibid, Psalm 119: 37.

[28] Ibid, Psalm 119: 26.

[29] Ibid, Psalm 119: 105.

[30] Ibid, Psalm 119: 129.

[31] Ibid, Psalm 119: 137.

[32] Van Deusen. 78 – 79.

[33] Leopold Mozart, A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing, Translated by Editha Knocker in 1948, second edition 1951, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 25.

[34] Aristotle, 231.

[35] Mozart, 19.

[36] Aristotle, 35.

[37] John, 19: 37 – 38, Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992), 173 – 174.

[38]Saint Augustine, X. xxiii (33), 199.

[39] Plato, 72.

[40] Plato, 94 – 95. Note: The soul, seen here as belonging to the realm of unseen, immortal absolutes, seeks after these realities which are akin to its substance. Pursuits such as music and dressage can allow the soul to interact with beauty, truth, greatness, etc. and nurture these qualities within itself. That is why the artistic disciplines are so valued and cultivated (see also the section entitled “Value”).

[41] Ibid, 119. Note: By mentioning “and this I would say of everything”, Plato is referring to other absolutes such as greatness and smallness which are also mentioned in the dialogue.

[42] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 7.

[43]Mozart, 51.

[44] Ibid, 7.

[45] Xenophon, The Art of Horsemanship, translated, with chapters on the Greek riding-horse and with notes by Morris H. Morgan, first published in 1894 by J. M. Dent & Company, Reproduced from the original and first published by J. A. Allen & Company in 1962, (London: J. A. Allen, 2004 reprint), 63.

[46] Mozart, 103.

[47] Ibid, 8.

[48] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 23 – 24.

[49] Mozart, 7.

[50] Ibid, 60.

[51] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 112.

[52] Mozart, 58.

[53] Ibid, 16 – 17.

[54] Ibid, 60.

[55] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 112.

[56] Mozart, 101 – 102.

[57] Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principals of Classical Horsemanship, 71.

[58] Mozart, 60.

[59] Ibid, 63.

[60] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 82 – 83.

[61] Note: Guérinière described contact as, “[…] the sensation produced by the bridle on the hand of the rider, and, conversely, the action which the rider’s hand communicates to the bars of the horse”. Guérinière, 90.

[62] Guérinière, 91.

[63] Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider, 29.

[64] Ibid,73.

[65] Mozart, 114.

[66] Guérinière, 190.

[67] Mozart, 189.

[68] Ibid, 51.

[69] Ibid, 30.

[70] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 141.

[71] Ibid, 18.

[72] Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principals of Classical Horsemanship, 119.

[73] Saint Augustine, VIII. vi (17), 145. Note: The quotation comes from Cicero, Hortensius, fragment 106 Grilli.

[74]Saint Augustine, VIII. ix (21), 148.

[75] Ibid, VIII, ix (23), 149.

[76] Xenophon, 33.

[77]Aristotle, Metaphysics, translated by Richard Hope, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952),  3 – 4.

[78] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 23.

[79] Xenophon, 13.

[80] Ibid, 14.

[81] “Spanische Hofreitschule Bundesgestüt Piber”, accessed April 1, 2007.

[82] Aristotle, 4.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Ibid, 5.

[85] Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider, 20.

[86] Mozart, 15.

[87] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 79.

[88] Mozart, 36.

[89] Ibid, 6.

[90] Ibid, 8.

[91] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 35.

[92] Ibid, 34.

[93] Mozart, 34  – 35.

[94] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 156.

[95] Xenophon, 25.

[96] Ibid,, 26.

[97] “Spanische Hofreitschule Bundesgestüt Piber”, accessed March 31, 2007.

[98]  Podhajsky, The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principals of Classical Horsemanship, 72.

[99] ________, The Riding Teacher, 15.

[100] Ibid,77.

[101] Mozart, 71.

[102] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 108.

[103] Xenophon, 21.

[104] Ibid, 21 – 22.

[105] Ibid , 62.

[106] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 8.

[107] ________, My Horses, My Teachers, translated by Eva Podhajsky, (North Pomfret: Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1997), 1.

[108] Podhajsky, The Riding Teacher, 10 – 11.

[109] Saint Augustine, XIII, xvii (20), 284.

[110] Note: Guérinière described the piaffe as follows: “To piaffe: this is the action the horse makes when it passages on the spot, by bending and lifting the legs gracefully, without traversing, advancing or moving backwards, and while remaining under the control of the rider’s hand and legs.” Guérinière, 92.

[111] Podhajsky, My Horses, My Teachers, 3.

[112] Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, 306, Philippians 4: 8.

2 thoughts on “DMA Project Paper

  1. Pingback: DMA Project Paper up on the blog! | daniellecumminsviolinist

  2. There are so many ideas we can gain from crossing over into other disciplines! It’s fun to keep running into them! Here’s a couple ideas I’ve been thinking about lately while teaching and performing:

    *Impulsion: That’s when the horse has energy and power moving from his hind-quarters forward. He’s not holding back or running away, but with control and vitality is moving forward, accepting where he is and where he is going moment by moment.

    *Accepting the bit: The horse accepts the bit when he does not shrink back from it but takes in the information which is passed along the reins to his mouth. The violinist does this when he or she, without seeking to escape or become tense, lovingly accepts the information the violin, sounds, environment, and muscles are telling him or her. This “accepting the bit” allows for leaning and interaction with the moment to take place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s