Resounding in the Human Body as the ‘True Sanskrit’ of Nature

Reading Sound Figures in Novalis’ The Novices of Sais

  • Alexis B. Smith Hanover College


The early German Romantics Novalis and Johann Wilhelm Ritter interpret Klangfiguren (“sound figures,” known most commonly as “Chladni Figures”) as representing the universal language of nature, with sound containing its own writing—sound that can be seen, and writing that can be heard—a language that is therefore revealed with the human body as its instrument. Their postulations serve as a useful model on how to consider music’s and more generally sound’s communication with the human body—focusing not on how it is processed through the ears, but rather by the body itself.