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This transcript appears in the June 21, 2019 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.


Music and Creativity: The Lawfulness
d Beautiful Ordering of the Universe

[Print version of this transcript]

Liliana Gorini

The following is an edited transcript of a class given by Liliana Gorini and John Sigerson, the fourth in a series of classes on the works and ideas of Lyndon LaRouche, under the title, “Earth’s Last Fifty Years and Earth’s Next Fifty Years,” presented before a live audience in New York City on May 18, 2019. Gorini is the chairwoman of MoviSol, the LaRouche movement in Italy. Sigerson is the music director of the Schiller Institute and the co-author of its Manual on the Rudiments of Tuning and Registration: Introduction and Human Singing Voice.

Part 1

Gorini—LaRouche and Italy,
the Renaissance Idea

Gorini: Helga Zepp-LaRouche recently spoke about the importance of LaRouche’s writings in creating a global Renaissance. She compared the importance of LaRouche’s writings to those of Plato at the Council of Florence, which made the Italian Renaissance possible:

I have compared the access to LaRouche’s ideas to the impact that the introduction of Plato had in the context of the 1439 Council of Florence, triggering the explosion of the Italian Renaissance. Because if Nicholas of Cusa would have not brought the Greek Orthodox Church scholars Bessarion and Plethon, who were scholars of Plato and who brought the entire works of Plato, which had been lost to Europe for 1700 years, the Renaissance would not have been possible. Fortunately, you had the Medicis who financed a crash program to translate the works, and it was the excitement for Plato which made the Italian Renaissance what it became.

Lyndon LaRouche was politically very well known, and influential in Italy, but, perhaps surprising to some, he made a special intervention on the question of culture and the Verdi tuning. He had always been very supportive of Classical culture. In the preface to the Music Manual, which was published in Italian at the time of our Schiller Institute conference on Verdi tuning, “The Classical Idea: Natural and Artistic Beauty” at the Casa Verdi in Milan, Italy on April 9, 1988, LaRouche wrote:

The relationship between Platonic notions of the Good and Beautiful, and the application of Augustinian principles of harmonic beauty by the 12th to 13th century cathedral building of Chartres in France, is an outstanding example of the pre-Renaissance notion of the application of the Classical idea. For Classical essence, beauty was not a matter of differing tastes, but subject to scientific verification.

LaRouche: Voices Will Be Destroyed

In 1986, I had the opportunity and honor of participating in a performance in Virginia of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, conducted by John Sigerson, who will speak after me. During the rehearsal, Mr. LaRouche arrived to hear us. He said then,

I don’t care what you do; put scotch tape on the bassoons, do whatever you want, but go back to the scientific pitch of C=256 or the music will be destroyed and the voices will be destroyed.

That was quite a shocking statement. And many people said, “Maybe he is exaggerating.” Many people thought LaRouche exaggerated in his political and economic forecasts, and later learned they were wrong. In music, we all discovered that he was not exaggerating there either; he was truly a visionary.

I returned to Milan to seek out evidence of what LaRouche was saying, and went to the Milan Conservatory where my father was a teacher. He found the 1884 letter of Giuseppe Verdi in the library of the Milan Conservatory, which presented exactly the same idea of a scientific tuning as did Mr. LaRouche! In 1884 Verdi had written: “There are scientific reasons why we need to go back to” what he called “A=432 Hertz,”—which in Archimedean mathematics equals C=256 cycles per second.

Verdi wrote that we cannot have an A in Paris—which at that time had a lower tuning—that is a B-flat in Rome. In Rome the pitch, at that time, went as high as A=448. Verdi said that as music is a universal language, he called on all musicians to go back to A=432.

Left to right: unknown, Piero Cappuccilli, Carlo Bergonzi, Arturo Sacchetti, Lyndon LaRouche, and Liliana Gorini at a conference in November, 1997 at the Salone Barezzi di Busseto, presenting the book Canto e Diapason, the Italian-language edition of the Schiller Institute’s Manual on the Rudiments of Tuning and Registration.

Return to the Verdi Tuning

We happily told Mr. LaRouche about this letter of Verdi—and decided to go ahead with a campaign for the Verdi tuning. In 1988, we had the first Schiller Institute conference on scientific tuning in Milan at the Casa Verdi, which is the house built by Verdi for poor musicians. His grave is there now. With us to speak about the need to go back to the Verdi tuning were Piero Cappuccilli, a very famous Verdi baritone, and Renata Tebaldi, the world-famous soprano.

In conjunction with the 1988 conference, we circulated a petition for Verdi tuning that was signed by 2,000 of the most famous opera singers in the world—Montserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, you name them. All of these singers supported this idea, and this campaign was widely covered in the leading newspapers all over the world—from Le Monde in France, Corriere della Sera in Italy, to the New York Times in the United States. LaRouche’s initiative, the Schiller Institute campaign for lower tuning, became known everywhere, because of Verdi’s letter and because all of these famous singers had endorsed it.

1988 Conference at Casa Verdi

The video report of our 1988 conference began with Mr. LaRouche saying,

I knew what you had to have, because the music was based on the human singing voice. Most of the leading singers of that time, who were leading singers at the time, all joined our defense of this tuning against the higher tuning, which is actually very destructive.

In the video you see Renata Tebaldi entering the room, and the audience was riveted—she was very famous. Tebaldi told the audience,

I will fight for this issue, because it is not right for young singers [to be subject to the high tuning; they] cannot go forward with [such a] high tuning. After years of school and teaching, they are suddenly thrown onto opera theaters, such as La Scala in Milan, or the opera in Vienna, in which they find a very high tuning, and they are lost.

Renata Tebaldi (right) with a friend in New York in 1957.

Piero Cappuccilli’s entrance had the same effect. He reported, “I have to say that at the time of Verdi, the pitch was at 432 Hz, and he wrote his operas for that pitch. Of course Verdi was a very intelligent person; he knew the voices very well, and he wrote for the voices,” Cappuccilli then sang “Oh, de verd’anni miei” from the Verdi opera Ernani at A=432 to demonstrate the beauty and the color of the lower, proper tuning, remarking, “It’s an entirely different story!”

We had conferences demonstrating the musical effect of the two tunings across Europe and the United States. These conferences brought together the idea of art and music, art and science, as a unity. I believe this is one of the reasons Lyndon LaRouche has been so popular and to this day, is very popular, as that oneness of art and science was a core element of the Renaissance.

Leonardo da Vinci

It was not only LaRouche who was attacked and went to prison. Leonardo da Vinci, whose 500th [death] anniversary we are celebrating this year, is still being attacked. In April there was an article in The Economist saying that Leonardo was no genius at all; which reminds me of a Financial Times article against LaRouche. He was in jail; Leonardo da Vinci was in jail when he wrote his treatise, De Vocie, on the human singing voice, which made exactly the comparison which LaRouche has been making between the singing voice and science. Leonardo compares the way waves behave in water and air, with the way they work in the larynx of human beings. In order to do that, he worked with corpses, and for this reason, he went to jail.

Not only Leonardo da Vinci; Dante Alighieri was also exiled—one of the pre-Renaissance geniuses who made the Italian language possible—he was exiled. Francesco Petrarca, who was involved in diplomatic work to get the Pope to move from Avignon to Rome, was also heavily attacked and probably poisoned and killed. Many of these geniuses of the Renaissance were also politicians; so this is also a comparison to Mr. LaRouche which you can make. Verdi himself was a member of the Senate in Italy, and he was fighting against the Hapsburgs in Italy. Some of his operas also were politically very clear.

Giovanni Boldini, 1886
Giuseppe Verdi

This is the reason why LaRouche is considered a man of the Renaissance in Italy, and it is important to know that Italy looks to LaRouche’s ideas and LaRouche’s exoneration as the key to change also in American policy.

LaRouche: The Quality of Mind

The change of mindset is key here. Let us conclude with an excerpt from Mr. LaRouche, answering a question, about music versus mathematics, posed to him during a webcast. He answers in a very moving way, quoting Bach, Beethoven, Shelley. He says, “In this culture, we are deprived of access to this quality of the mind, which is the quality of the mind indicated by the music of Bach, Beethoven. To understand economy, you have to understand this quality of the mind.”

Elias Gottlob Haussmann, 1748
Johann Sebastian Bach

Lyndon LaRouche: Bach’s work was a process of development in the history of music, as such, the history of composition. But what you do, is you take Bach, in his Well-Tempered Clavier, which is a key reference point, but not the only one, and then you look at the history of music leading into Bach, Bach’s work, and then you take the music leading out of it. What comes out of Bach’s work.

Then you also have to have a conception of language. Now, most people in the United States today, do not know how to speak. They know how to utter, but not to speak. They utter words, in an algebraic kind of way, or a non-algebraic kind of way, like “Something happened. Unfortunate.”

So that they don’t live their lives in terms of understanding what the mind of the Bach tradition in Classical composition represents. They don’t know the experience of the mind. See, it doesn’t lie in the mechanics, it doesn’t lie in the particulars. Bach is not that way. You cannot get a mathematical theory of Bach. People have tried to do that. It’s insane, it does not work!

You are looking more at the inner aspect of the mind: Classical artistic composition, corresponds to an inner character of the mind that most people don’t touch. What happens is, that among competent musicians, and especially great ones, even if they don’t understand what they are doing on the deepest level, they recognize that something is valid, as opposed to invalid. And therefore, they know the subject.

Most people in music—like people who can put up with rock, or the popular music of today—obviously know nothing about music. They know how to make noises; you could probably train chimpanzees to do a better job.

But to understand what underlies music, you are touching on the deeper part of the human mind, not the sense certainty-organized part. That’s why it’s so difficult to have a formal, algebraic, or mathematical type, or something like that, a formal demonstration—it’s the communication of an idea. And, this is an idea that can properly only be recognized, in those characteristics of the human mind, which are not corresponding to sense-certainties. There’s no sense-certainty explanation which will give you a real insight into music, Classical music, in the Bach tradition. It’s something you acquire by developing your mind, so that in this matter, you have a special kind of sensitivity.

I’ve seen this in great musicians, who I happen to know, for example, my friend Norbert Brainin, who died some years ago; of my age, he was actually younger than I am. And other great musicians. And I can recognize, in great musicians, and some of the recording work of great musicians, you can recognize—it’s like an image in the mind: You can see the way their mind is working. And there is no way to explain it in terms of number theory or any other such thing. You have to recognize it. And other people will recognize it.

Great Music Moves the Mind

It’s a thing that Shelley refers to: that the mind is moved, but does not know why. And of course, when the mind is moved, it may be moved in a misleading direction; it may not be true to truth. But when you become familiar with great music, great composition, for example, then, you develop, from knowing the great music from all kinds of experience, you really recognize an old friend. And you’re at home with an old friend. It’s like knowing a great performer in music, and they have certain ways of performing, and you get to know that, in various characters in music, who have a very special way of acting, and you understand their music from that special way which they do things.

W.J. Mäler, 1804
Ludwig van Beethoven

And then they go through changes, and yet, they don’t go through changes: Like a work of Bach, or Beethoven in his “middle years” so-called, as opposed to his final composition. There is a change there, but you can still recognize “Beethoven” as a personality in his music. Even though he has made a great change, a leap in insight, as in the Opus 132 [String Quartet No. 15 in A minor], for example: There is a great leap in insight; but you can still recognize him, there; you can go back and recognize the Razumovsky Quartets [Opus 59] of Beethoven, in the same personality, but an older, more mature one, more brilliant, more profound, in the Opus 132.

That’s the way it works. We are deprived of, in this culture, access and emphasis on this quality of the mind, which is what I am dealing with in these papers on economics: To understand economy and how it works, you really have to understand this principle of the mind. So I am dealing with it in the thing that went to press now, and I will be dealing with it in a series of, probably, four others, which will complete in this series on economics that I intend to get done, fairly rapidly.

Part 2

Sigerson—LaRouche, The Classical Window of the Mind

John Sigerson

Sigerson: Let me begin with a reflection on one crucial idea that Mr. LaRouche addressed in the discussion with which Liliana concluded her presentation—it’s very helpful that he spoke there about sense perception, because that’s exactly the problem. He is focussing on the very human need to identify what is real in the universe. Lyndon LaRouche struggled with this question even as a teenager. When he came upon the writings of Gottfried Leibniz, one of the greatest philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries, he talked about this from the standpoint of what is substance. What is the substance of the universe? Is matter the substance of the universe? Or is there something that creates matter? Well, now in the age of Albert Einstein, who was actually a Leibnizian scientist, we now know that matter is created. Matter isn’t just self-evident. So, what is behind matter? What LaRouche discovered, and emphasized, is that it’s creativity.

But it’s not just general creativity and sort of making things. It’s creativity that is characterized by leaps in one’s grasp and mastery of the universe itself; and the lawfulness and the beautiful ordering of the universe, which is based on growth and on self-development. This is provable and demonstrable scientifically and also culturally. That was his focus; that has been his focus all along.

My presentation here is in three sections, and for the most part it will be Lyndon LaRouche giving this class. I’m going to be your guide.

First: an insight into Mr. LaRouche by looking at a presentation by him from a much earlier time, from the 1970s. Second: a look at Wilhelm Furtwängler, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century—along with Lyndon LaRouche—who was a great conductor and also a composer.

And, Third: Mr. LaRouche talking about a very particular song that was a series of songs composed by Johannes Brahms at the very end of his life in 1896, which was kind of his last will and testament. It’s called Vier ernste Gesänge, the “Four Serious Songs.” He composed it upon the death of his very close and dear friend, Clara Schumann, the wife of Robert Schumann, who had died much earlier. These particular pieces played a very important role in the development of Mr. LaRouche’s thought over a long period of time.

We will conclude by asking our live audience to listen to one musical examples of what Mr. LaRouche is getting at from the standpoint of human of creativity. Because of copyright protections that prohibit us from playing large sections of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s performances, instead we will play a musical selection from the great Austrian alto, Gertrude Pitzinger, who worked very closely with Furtwängler. Pitzinger was a personal friend of Lyndon and Helga LaRouche, later on in her life.

On the Subject of the Principle of Music

Let us begin with a passage from LaRouche’s June 15, 2012 EIR article, “A Lesson from Wilhelm Furtwängler: The World’s Breakdown-Crisis Is Now.” In that article LaRouche wrote:

The foregoing, stated conclusion begs the inference of a certain specific kind of universality, that of a truly universal, and knowledgeable principle of creativity. The empirical evidence to this effect, for music, is provided to us as by the work of Wilhelm Furtwängler, and by that work’s relevance to the preceding genius of Johann Sebastian Bach’s C=256.

This is the “Verdi tuning”; it was also the Bach tuning, it was also the Mozart tuning, it was Beethoven’s tuning, and it is the way you can create the optimal harmonic ordering of the human body, to work with these universal principles.

LaRouche wrote:

This has had universalizing implications for the defining of the principled characteristics of the human mind. Indeed, the rises and declines of the Classical musical principles so defined, correspond, in experience, to the ebb and flow of the moral quality of the intellectual competence of the relevant cultural current among sections of human society.

And we might also say “incompetence,” which is quite characteristic today. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when many, many students thought they wanted to be revolutionaries—they however had no idea what that meant. Lyndon LaRouche spoke at many universities, especially in the New York area, and would tell students, “OK, you want to be revolutionary? OK, let me tell you what creativity is, because that’s what being a revolutionary is.”

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Lyndon LaRouche organizing students in New York City in 1973.

It’s not just going around marching or something, like these Green fascists are doing today. But it means actually grasping a principle, the scientific principle of creativity. In 1973, LaRouche addressed a group of students at Swarthmore College—this was the “younger” LaRouche, 51 years old at that point, talking to these “wanting-to-be-revolutionary” students.

Beyond the Flash of Insight

LaRouche: So then, the question of leisure is fundamental, but in the sense of productive leisure. It is precisely to the extent, that the individual gets beyond the flash of insight to make creative thinking a deliberative thing, that he becomes the type and identity, that is, social identity, for creative processing. The best example I can give of this, would be the case of Heine, Beethoven, or Shelley, which are highly accessible forms, and they’re reliable forms to deal with—Beethoven in his double fugal works; Heine in general, in his poetry; Shelley in a lot of his poetry.

Percy B. Shelley

But, here’s what happens: In a revolutionary period, there is a change—I see this in strikes and upsurges—there’s a change in the nature of the relationship among people who are involved in the center of an upsurge. The persona relationship almost dissolves. And there’ve been a lot of silly things said by observers of these things, which says, you know, the self dissolves. It’s a lot of nonsense. And I can easily demonstrate that, but that’s another question. In these periods, precisely as Shelley described it—he’s absolutely correct—in the population, there’s an increase in intelligence, a qualitative increase in intelligence, that is, the capacity to assimilate important new ideas.

Now, what happens to a poet or a musician, who is himself creative—just in the ordinary sense; he’s very creative, but he’s not a great artist—suddenly, he finds himself being received by an audience, which is suddenly capable of sensing the most profound kinds of creative thinking. Now, his social relationship to his audience, his self-defined activity, his self-defined social relationship, becomes not the theme, not the subject, not the poem, but the form, the subject, the theme, the skill, the technology, all becomes a way of mediating his relationship to his audience, in terms of his creative activity to them, there. I say to you, that the subject of all creative art, of all great art, has absolutely nothing to do directly, with what they tell you about the subject, in most poetry courses or music courses. Because most of these people are Philistines, and they’re incapable—I don’t care how much music they studied, how much poetry they studied—they’re incapable, of recognizing a species they don’t know exists, creativity.

The subject of all great art is creativity. And what the artist is doing is trying to celebrate creativity to his audience, which he hopes is sensible of it; the intelligence of the audience, how important creativity is. His creativity has become his identity. This is true of anyone who does creative work, whether it’s in art, or in science, is, the act of creative mentation becomes the subject, becomes the identity. Perfection: What’s perfection? Perfection is creativity. What’s creativity? It’s the sense of yourself, of your activity, which every great artist not only has, but if you want to understand anything that is done, you have to locate creativity as the subject of his painting, his sculpture, his music, his poetry: That’s the subject of the poetry. Someone says the subject is this, or the subject is that, say, “You don’t know anything about poetry, you don’t know anything about music. Because if you did, you’d never say such a silly thing.”

The Subject of All Great Art

The subject of all great art is creativity, and nothing but creativity. And it’s creativity in a certain setting, using a mediating object as a way of getting at the communication of some aspect of creativity. It’s very easy to understand.

So therefore, what we’re dealing with, in leisure, as it applies to the Labor Committee—and I know exactly what this means in politics, because I’ve gone through it for 30 years—is that, to work something out, requires a relationship between yourself and the ongoing process of work. What you have to do to become creative, to bring creative powers under control, is not simply going around having flashes of creativity—that’s a lot of crap, that’s like having diarrhea. What you do, is, you struggle with something. Because creative thought is not necessarily correct because you happen to use creative faculties. Nor do you always know what creative thought is, at the beginning. You sometimes get flashes of insight, which may be stomach pains or something else. It’s not creative.

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EIRNS/Doug Mayhew
Lyndon LaRouche conducts a class for youth in 2002.

But what do you discover, to become self-conscious of creative powers? It’s by doing something creative. You actually struggle with ideas, to understand them, to break through. When you’re working at it, you look at it, you criticize it, you try to get insight into what you’re doing. You try to reflect upon the activity in which you’re engaged in doing that; thus, through the object of your own creativity activity, in your analysis of that object, you are reflecting, if you’re looking for it, on your creative activity. And it’s this self-consciousness of your creative activity, which is your encounter, and is your first ability to make deliberate, creative mentation. And it’s as you’re able to make creative mentation deliberate, that you’re able to develop a human sense of self-identity.

And if you haven’t got a human sense of self-identity, you can not be trusted in a revolutionary situation. Because the question is, when you’re pushed to crisis, are you going to go for the mask, or are you going to go for an aperture? Are you going to worry about what the crowd says, or are you going to worry about what has to be done? If you’re thinking about what the crowd’s going to say, you’re dead! And you’re a menace!

The interesting thing is, creativity has to be task oriented. It requires leisure, but it’s task-oriented leisure.

Wilhelm Furtwängler, an Immortal Passion

Sigerson: You can hear that passion in the “young” Mr. LaRouche, because creativity is also a passion for the development of mankind, and the preservation of the potential for creativity. And the passion for saving that precious idea from all enemies who want to stomp it out.

In this second section, I will introduce you to Wilhelm Furtwängler. You can read more in an article by Matthew Ogden, “The Immortality of Wilhelm Furtwängler,” from EIR, May 22, 2015.

Wilhelm Furtwängler was a close friend of Yehudi Menuhin, a great Jewish violinist. When he was very young, Menuhin played for Furtwängler—before World War II—and they became very close associates. Unlike a number of people, Yehudi Menuhin defended Furtwängler’s very courageous decision to remain in Germany, to remain in Hitler’s Germany, and not to just emigrate and leave, and let culture be completely destroyed by the Nazis and the cultural degenerates who were running the Nazi leadership with Hitler. Furtwängler has been, and still is slandered as a Nazi, as a Nazi supporter. He deserves exactly the kind of exoneration that Lyndon LaRouche deserves, for that reason.

Think of the fireman: A house is burning, and there’s a baby inside. What do you do, under that situation? You know that if you go into that house, you’re going to risk your life, but you may actually save that child. Do you run the other way? Wilhelm Furtwängler, Germany’s leading artist, had to make that decision. He represented everything beautiful and good in German culture. He decided to stay.

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Life-long friends Yehudi Menuhin (left) and William Furtwängler.

At the very end of the war, Hitler put Furtwängler on the list of people to be executed. Furtwängler, fortunately, was warned and managed to slip away in time. He avoided being executed—many other great intellectuals were not able to avoid that fate. Yehudi Menuhin, unlike Artur Rubinstein and the author Thomas Mann, who both said of Furtwängler’s decision to stay, “Well, he’s a Nazi,” Menuhin said, “No, I’m going to stand up for Furtwängler, because he was right, his decision was correct, and he’s a great person, and he actually saved the best of European culture.”

The Greatest of These Is Love

On Furtwängler’s gravestone, in Heidelberg, Germany is the text: Nun aber bleibet Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, diese drei; aber die Liebe ist die größeste unter ihnen. In English: And now abideth Faith, Hope, Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love. That’s from Paul, I Corinthians, 13. These are the words of the last of the Brahms Four Serious Songs.

Furtwängler, who died in 1954, wrote in his Notebooks in 1936:

Love—love that is forever being seized and shaken by the work—can never be replaced. Love alone creates the preconditions for the visionary and correct understanding of “the whole” in the work of art, for this whole is nothing but love.

By love, Furtwängler, as in Corinthians, means the Greek idea of agapē; which is holy love, not sensual love. This agapic love, this passion, is the real motive force of all great, creative work: it the uplifting of humanity. It is reflected, certainly, in the love amongst individuals, but agapic love is the source.

Furtwängler continued:

Each individual part can be more or less understood intellectually, but the whole can only ever be grasped by the living feeling of love. It is the only thing which is appropriate and fitting to the whole work of art as an image of the active and living world. Everything else, however skillful it may be, is limited, and therefore profoundly boring to me.

LaRouche on Brahms and Agapic Love

In 2002, a few of us approached Mr. LaRouche to talk about the Four Serious Songs, because we were thinking about performances of it. Mr. LaRouche had always talked about the 1951 performance by a very great baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who was then working very, very closely with Furtwängler, and being coached by him on the piece.

That discussion was very well prepared by Mr. LaRouche, much more than we had expected. He presented to us, over the telephone, a beautiful, 26-minute exposition of his entire idea of the significance of the Four Serious Songs and Brahms, from the standpoint of universal creativity. Here is that presentation:

LaRouche: I’ve been working on this for the better part of, what is it now?—about 55 years. It’s slightly ripened and cured, after sitting in the hothouse all these years.

It started with my work in dealing with a question of poetry, as Classical poetry. And the relation between Classical poetry, as composition, and proper rendition, and the communication of ideas which correspond by the nature of their discovery, to universal physical principles.

Poetry does this in a way which the educated, school use of the English language does not do, even back then, before it degenerated as much as it’s degenerated recently. People do run-ons. They don’t speak. They don’t think. They recite words in a string. We once had a few people who could actually think, when they spoke poetry, for example some of the best Classical actors.

This became clearest, for me, in the course of the period from about 1947 into 1952-53, it became more and more clear to me, that the Classical German Lied in its use of the human voice, is not merely a way of singing, the bel canto way of singing—of course it’s perfectly clear in the Italian, the Italian Classical works, such as Verdi. But the German has a very specific characteristic to it, in the way it develops around Classical poetry, the communication of ideas.

The Four Serious Songs of Brahms

The combination of all of this, in terms of all of the qualities which I located in the Classical German expression of music, was the Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge. And Gesänge, the Four Serious Songs—particularly, the very last part of it, the sostenuto part, the “aber die Liebe.” The transition, sung by the best singers, from the “drei” to the rest, and then to the “aber die Liebe,” when properly articulated, so there’s really a continuity—you have a rest, but no rest, because, in a sense, the hearer is hearing the last note of “drei,”—it is suspending that, and it is coming a half-tone up, but into a different modularity. It’s still in the same key, the known key signature, but it’s a different modularity, and it’s done in a different voice. The transition from “diese drei,” to the beginning of the “aber die Liebe,” is actually the introduction of an idea, and when it is phrased in such a way that the continuity bridges the irony, bridges in a sense a kind of dissonance, between the last note of the “drei” and “aber,” across this rest—when that occurs, you have a very striking effect on the mind.

Now, in order to do that, you have to have a bel canto singer, a really Classical, Florentine bel canto singer. I was acquainted with some bel canto singers, but my experience from 1952 and 1953, was with this Fischer-Dieskau performance of the Vier ernste Gesänge. It was this particular last part of the performance, which particularly struck me, this transition across the rest from the “drei” to the “aber die Liebe,” because this expresses an idea.

Now, this is the way music has to be approached. That is, anything that is worth [being called] music. You don’t start from theory, to interpretation, to text. You start from idea, which has to be ironical, paradoxical, and yet a resolved paradox, an idea. You start from the idea, to how are you able to effect this effect, more efficiently than you can in Classical poetry as such—within music? And how must music be developed to do this?

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

A Spiritual Exercise

Now, Vier ernste Gesänge has another characteristic, which is, it shows that some of our greatest composers, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Brahms, concentrated some of their best and most intensive composition on religious, or shall we say “spiritual” themes. You have Bach in particular, the St. John Passion and [the] St. Matthew Passion, and other works of that character, express this business of starting with a religious idea, and how do you express this poetically in music? Now, the question is how do you use a text, a literal text, as your libretto, and use that in the music as a way of presenting an idea which is an idea, which you are bringing out as a composer, and presumably a performer, from the text, that is from the overall musical text, by singing. That means that you must perceive and find something in the composition, which enables you to make those spiritual exercises, which are these transitions, like the transition to which I referred in the closing section of the fourth part of the Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge.

That was my starting point. It involved a lot of things over the preceding years, a lot of the Schubert Lieder, as done, especially, by bel canto singers. This opened the door for me. Because, I was concerned, with what? That ideas are applied not only to what we call, universal scientific principles, but they also apply to the method by which we communicate ideas of that quality, one to another, from generation to generation, and across cultures—such as the revival of the Classical culture, by the Renaissance in particular, by the 15th-century Renaissance. This transmission of ideas, which is the ability to cooperate around ideas, efficiently in society, this is the crucial distinction of man from the beast. And this is expressed best, in terms of social relations, social functions, by music of this type.

Brahms was in his own way quite aware of this. And the position of this work, in his life’s work, it’s almost his last will and testament. It is an intensely religious work, which goes through using four hymns in succession, to come to the point of the last of the hymns, which is the I Corinthians 13. Now, I Corinthians 13 expresses the most profound conception in all science, and in all social relations, the concept called, in Greek, agapē. This is what Liebe is. Liebe is the German translation of this Greek conception, which is also passed through the Latin as caritas, and into such forms as “general welfare, common good, love,” and Liebe, in English and other usages. But the concept is the same.

General Welfare, Common Good, and Love

So Brahms is, is actually putting the person through, the stages of development of an idea, in which the idea, from beginning to end, is what is disclosed at the end, with “aber die Liebe,” at the end, the last passage.

We must say that all single-issue religion is fake, single-issue morality is a fake. Human morality has to be based on a principle, which is consistent with the distinction between man and the beast.

So now in the case of Brahms, you have this clever fellow, and he shows how clever he was, what he did with the Fourth Symphony, which was a master work of conception—and a thorough master work of conception—so this fellow who has worked through a lot of Bach, worked through the contributions of Schumann and others, and gone through a lot of ancient music as well, in order to understand modalities. And you find in these works, there are a certain number of modalities. If you try to think of a major/minor key system, you miss the point, because the well-tempered system is not a major/minor key system, it’s not an equal tempered system, it’s a well-tempered system. This system was designed to subsume the continued use of modalities, of the ancient Greek, for example, type of modalities. For example, Lydian is one of those modalities, which was brought into modern composition from the Greek, the Lydian mode, and so forth. You have the Phrygian mode, these various modes. And then you have things like the Hungarian minor, which Brahms played with it. Liszt tried to play with it, too, in his own way, not too successfully.

But, these kinds of modalities also turn up, and they turn up as contrapuntal features of all kinds of compositions in all kinds of ways. These modalities also have certain characteristics, certain internal coloration, and implicitly they have a somewhat different key characteristic. When you use the modality, you’re actually bringing in something like mood, an actual mood; and all these elements are there.

Johannes Brahms in 1889.

Brahms, the Great Master

So here’s Brahms, who’s used all this sort of thing, who worked through Bach—for example, take the fugue, earlier in Brahms’ work, in the fugue in the Opus 24, the Variations on a Theme by Haydn, and the fugue there, attests to Brahms’ mastery of the art of the fugue in there. It’s a very tight, beautiful, little work. But Brahms is a mastery, becoming always a master.

So we come to the end of the greatest musical masters, the terminal phase of his contributions to music, Johannes Brahms, and we look at two works which are sort of afterthoughts to his previous life’s work, the Opus 20, the two clarinet-piano sonatas; and then immediately following, his Vier ernste Gesänge, and they have certain related qualities in terms of composition features.

So here’s Brahms, who represents the pinnacle in the summation of a whole span of composition, from Bach, notably, and Handel, also, but Bach essentially, through Brahms;, and here’s Brahms taking in the most serious theme, sort of a last will and testament, Vier ernste Gesänge, to convey one idea, by these four songs: That idea is the idea of agapē, the supremacy of agapē. And he does it by using I Corinthians 13, which is, shall we say, the most concentrated expression of agapē, in a systemic way, in the Apostolic writings.

Now, you see the same thing in Bach, which I referred to earlier, Bach in the Passions. What is the function of the Passions? To understand the music, you’ve got to understand the purpose of the musical composition. The purpose of the musical composition and the occasion for which it is designed, is the experience of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ, such that the singers, the soloists, the congregation, the other instrumentalists, are all participating in reenacting on the stage of their mind, but actively participating, to reenact in the stage of their mind, to relive, the experience, as a spiritual experience, of the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ. So, Bach is not merely a good composer, who can do things on themes of Church themes: Bach is an intensely religious person, in this sense. So is Brahms: This work is an intensely religious work, it is not merely a series of hymns, it is an intensely religious work, focussed on a single principle: the most important principle that distinguishes man from the beast, the essence of all spirituality. And it’s there.

William Warfield

So, that’s the reason I picked on this at this time, because Bill Warfield had been a little bit ill, as you know, and he loved this piece, this Brahms. And I knew it. So, I wanted to get him to see himself as he should see himself: He’s over 80, and physically, he doesn’t have the punch he used to have, he doesn’t have the physical range of capabilities he used to have. (The mechanism does wear down a bit, as you go along; I try to slow it down a bit, somewhat successfully—but it does slow down a bit.)

And his great value is not as a performer. It doesn’t mean he shouldn’t perform, but his great value at this point, is to lay on hands, and pass the mantle, of understanding and insight to new generations, so that we do not lose, what previous generations have contributed. Which is not merely a matter of writing books and doing exercises and so forth; you actually have this personal interchange, as the teacher and the student, in a transmission, as a spiritual experience, which is an interpersonal relationship; it is not an abstract, classroom, blackboard relationship. It is not a performance demonstration technique. It is actually getting inside the mind of the student, the person who’s going to do the performing, next, and get that student to experience the notion of principle, which is embodied. And once they get it inside them, they may not have mastered it, but at least now they have a sense of their objective, in the performance. Without that interpersonal relationship, it never works.

So, what happens then, in modern times, you have people running around calling themselves musicians, or “trained in music.” You say, “What’s that worth?” Well, not too much. You have all kinds of people who are “trained in music,” or so-called “musicians.” Some of them are worse than music could be, but they’re considered “experts.” Some of them are butchers, monsters, criminals, who destroy music: They’ve mastered it enough to be able to destroy it more efficiently. And when they think from a musicological standpoint, they don’t understand music! Because music is something which is typical of human beings: The human singing voice is different than that of the birds, for example. It’s different than that of animal cries.

Start with the Human Singing Voice

So that we start with the human singing voice, in its most natural form, that is in the use of the whole physiological mechanism, and mental mechanism associated with it, in such a way, that we bring forth what this instrument can do. We then try to find, using the standard provided by that instrument, or those six types of instruments and their variations, we use that as saying, “this is our palette, this is the color palette; this is what we can work with to make our painting, or portrait.” Then we discover the laws of this: How can we use this palette, to convey ontological paradoxes, of the type we associate with spiritual exercises, that is, with the actual act of confronting a paradox, and discovering an experimentally verifiable, universal physical principle? How do we bring that experience, as a social relationship between the performance and the audience, for example, how do we bring that into actuality, as social relationship, in the sense of the purpose of the Vier ernste Gesänge? Which is not to be an achievement in music, per se, but is to convey a conception, which for Brahms, made the meaning of his life, it expressed the meaning of his life.

So it is not a musical composer, doing a professional exercise. It is something in which you start from the objective, of conveying important ideas, ideas corresponding to, or equivalent to universal physical principle. Then you turn to your palette, what music can do; you turn to the Bach counterpoint conception of well-tempered counterpoint, and what comes out of it; because you use that because the essence of the Bach counterpoint is irony, it’s ontological paradoxes; using the paradoxes inherent in music, and bel canto music, using those paradoxes, as counterpoint, in order to create the tension, which builds up, through successions of such paradoxes, to a musical idea, of a whole composition.

Now, having developed that technique, you then go back, from the idea to be expressed, and you bring all that you’ve discovered about music from that standpoint, to bear on a composition. And that’s a far different way of looking at it, than is generally taught today, and among us. I see most of the follies among us, on music, are a result of trying to say, “I am going to try to qualify myself, or pass for an expert on music. Or pass for doing a credible job in performing.”

The Toad to the Centipede

Generally, it’s like this disgusting character, who’s now deceased, probably the best thing he ever did: Sir Laurence Olivier. Who, when interviewed toward the end of his life, and asked, “Mr. Great Man”—it’s like the toad speaking to the centipede—“Great Centipede, why are you so beautiful?” So, this toad of a reporter or interviewer, is asking this crawling thing, Sir Laurence Olivier, how did you become an actor? Why do people become actors, great actors, like you? And he turned to the guy and said, “Look at me!” He’s on stage performing like a child, curtseying at Miss Marple’s coming out party, and curtseying, waiting for the applause. They’re out there performing, not to deliver a message, not to do a work of art, but in order to be admired—personal, sensual, admiration. Like a prostitute, posing on a street corner!

Now, many people in music do exactly that—or wish they could. They get turned down so many times,—“there must be a little problem here. I have to go to school to learn how to become a better prostitute.”

That’s the nature of the problem, is, with us, there’s too much of this—and you had this with Peter Wyer, that instrumental music is the standard. He praised John [Sigerson], because John knew the piano, and therefore, John could sing. Well, John could touch the piano because he could sing, not the other way around! Because it was a sense of how to make the piano sing! How to make the ’cello sing, how to make the instrument sing, like human beings, which is the art of performance. It’s a tactical art of performance, not how to make these instruments squawk, squeak and so forth, according to some set of rules.

And the great actor, as I’ve emphasized repeatedly, does not try to appear on the stage, in the mind of the audience. The great actor tries to get the stage, the actual, physical stage, out of the mind of the audience, to perform a part which is being created, on the stage of the imagination of the member of the audience. And then a sense of the interaction among the members of the audience who are experiencing a performance on the stage of their imagination, not the visual stage, not the heard stage.

Under the Skin into the Mind

The same thing is true in music. The objective is not to perform, to be admired. The objective is to get under the skin, so to speak, into the mind, and to convey an idea, using the power of developed bel canto, well-tempered musicality, as a weapon of poetry, a weapon of prosody, to get efficiently inside the mind of the audience, to convey an idea, which emerged on the stage of the audience’s imagination.

Then, when the music stops, the audience awakens from its trance, looks at the stage, and says, “That bum was making all this beauty?” [laughter] That’s the objective of the audience. That’s why the performers often grin at the applause of the audience. “Here I’m in this ol’ ugly thing up here, slogging away, and these guys are fascinated with what I did! And they look at me, and they say, ‘who is this guy? What’s he doin’ in that stage? Here was this beautiful idea, and now he pops in!’ ha ha!”

And that’s the objective of the great artist, is to create a character, an idea, a message, in the mind of the audience, a kind of spiritual exercise, where you bring to life an idea, you bring it to life in their mind; the performance of that idea in their mind becomes a kind of spiritual exercise, in which paradoxes are resolved as the intuition of principles. Essentially, these are principles of social relations, as typified by the Vier ernste Gesänge, which is a beautiful example; but you look at this from Bach, through the greatest composers, especially those who use these spiritual themes, through Brahms, and you have a picture of the objective of music.

Now, our problem in music, essentially, as I’ve seen it, what I’ve run into as problems over the years, is precisely this: It’s like Dave Goldman. Tell Dave Goldman, look, you want to understand music, you’ve got to get into Kepler, understand what the Kepler harmonics means, where it comes from, study it. And he said, “No!” “I was perfected at the age of 22, at Columbia University, and I have nothing new to learn since.” And that’s the kind of problem we’ve had.

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Lyndon LaRouche, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, and Gertrude Pitzinger share an afternoon of great culture on Pitzinger’s 93rd birthday.

The Great Classical Tradition:
Gertrude Pitzinger

Sigerson: Gertrude Pitzinger was born in 1904, and lived to the ripe age of 93, dying in 1997. During the 1920s and the ’30s, she became one of Germany’s leading singers of Lieder. She went to every town and every city in Germany, singing concerts of the beautiful Lieder of Schubert, Brahms, Schumann, and so forth. On the eve of World War II, in 1938 and ’39, she was invited to sing a concert series in the United States, and so she came here. She was accompanied by Hubert Giesen, who later on, after the war, became the major accompanist and coach of Germany’s leading tenor, Fritz Wunderlich.

She came to the United States, having prepared all sorts of songs in English, but as she went around to various cities and towns, people said, “We don’t want to hear those English songs, we want to hear the German Lieder!”

Many of the concerts of Beethoven’s Ninth, with Furtwängler, were done with her singing the alto part. In 1955, one of Furtwängler’s closest friends and associates, Eugen Jochum, gave a concert at the Salzburg Cathedral of the Mozart Requiem, which although it was not billed as such, it really was a requiem for Wilhelm Furtwängler, who had just died a couple of months earlier. Gertrude Pitzinger was the alto in that performance as well.

The Schiller Institute became acquainted with her in the late 1980s. Up to her death, she had a very close relationship with members of the Schiller Institute and with Lyndon and Helga personally. During the course of that, she gave us a tape of the Four Serious Songs from her private collection. As far as I know, that performance has never been commercially released.

In that recording, the audience could hear for themselves what LaRouche was saying about the transition at the very end, the transition from “drei” to the “aber die Liebe.” Note that that’s at the very end of the last two lines of song four, “These three, but the greatest of these is love.” If you follow along, you’ll be able to hear that transition, which I think Gertrude Pitzinger does almost as equally well as Fischer-Dieskau does; it’s from the same sense.

Liliana Gorini studied with Pitzinger during the 1990s. Lyndon and Helga LaRouche were able to help Gertrude Pitzinger celebrate her 93rd birthday. We are a living tradition of this creative, loving idea of beauty, and must bring others into this living idea.

The class closed with Pitzinger singing the last two of the Four Serious Songs.

Brahms’ Vier ernste Gesänge, the Four Serious Songs

Third and Fourth songs, text in the original German and English translation

3. From Ecclesiasticus 41:1-2

O Tod, wie bitter bist du, wenn an dich gedenket ein Mensch, der gute Tage und genug hat und ohne Sorge lebet; und dem es wohl geht in allen Dingen und noch wohl essen mag!


O Tod, wie wohl tust du dem Dürftigen, der da schwach und alt ist, der in allen Sorgen steckt, und nichts Bessers zu hoffen noch zu erwarten hat!


O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that liveth at rest in his possessions, unto the man that hath nothing to vex him, and that hath prosperity in all things: yea, unto him that is yet able to receive meat!


O death, acceptable is thy sentence unto the needy, and unto him whose strength faileth, that is now in the last age, and is vexed with all things, and to him that despaireth, and hath lost patience!

* * * * * * * * * * *

4. From I Corinthians 13:1-3, 12-13

Wenn ich mit Menschen- und mit Engelzungen redete, und hätte der Liebe nicht, so wär ich ein tönend Erz, oder eine klingende Schelle.


Und wenn ich weissagen könnte, und wüßte alle Geheimnisse und alle Erkenntnis; und hätte allen Glauben, also daß ich Berge versetzte; und hätte der Liebe nicht, so wäre ich nichts.


Und wenn ich alle meine Habe den Armen gäbe, und ließe meinen Leib brennen; und hätte der Liebe nicht, so wäre mirs nichts nütze.


Wir sehen jetzt durch einen Spiegel in einem dunkeln Worte; dann aber von Angesicht zu Angesichte. Jetzt erkenne ichs stückweise; dann aber werd ichs erkennen, gleichwie ich erkennet bin.


Nun aber bleibet Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, diese drei; aber die Liebe ist die größeste unter ihnen.


Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.


And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.


And though I bestow all of my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.


For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.


And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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