The Secret of Ludwig van Beethoven
Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.
This article was written in April 1977 by Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., then US Labor Party Chairman, and was published in the May 10, 1977 issue of the weekly newspaper New Solidarity. We reprint it now in March 2010 as a window into the process of discovering and mastering the creative process in music, science and epistemology.
Ludwig von Beethoven
WIESBADEN, April 18, 1977--Wherever modern European culture has extended itself, except among the brutally underprivileged, it is axiomatic--and properly so--that Beethoven's work is an Everest, which dwarfs even Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Schumann and Brahms to be its approaching and receding foothills.
Thousands of times admiring musicians have attempted to reach the peak, falling back short of the summit. Thousands of times mean, spiteful envy has attempted to chop that peak down to foothill height. Bad performances, slanderous musicology, and, ultimately, the shattering din of frenetic modernist cacophony have attempted to drive that great summit from the eye and ear of the petty mind. Yet a merely credible performance of a few Beethoven compositions suffices to show us once again that that summit stands, as unreached as ever before.
There are no unreachable summits for man, since everything in existence conforms to the lawful ordering of the universe. There is always a method and a path which lead efficiently to the summit of the Everests of all kinds. These possibilities are mainly matters of technology and knowledge. What we are able to do is limited by the progress of our technology; whether we can successfully achieve what available technology implies is a matter of knowing the appropriate path and mustering the enduring determination to follow that course.
On these very premises, we may regard human colonies on Mars as a task of the century beginning about 1990-1995. For the same reason, the mastery of Beethoven is something we should have been capable of effecting before this. Beethoven was a product of the same European culture that produced our American Revolution and established our republic.
Yet heretofore, although great performers and conductors have reproduced powerful approximations of Beethoven's intent as embodied within the compositions themselves, so far no one has mastered the knowledge of music to approximate the quality of production of such compositions. Let all the musical theorists insist as fearfully as they choose on this or that proffered explanation of Beethoven's compositional method. To date, they can only make childish parodies of what appear to be Beethoven's idiosyncrasies; they could not produce a composition which reflects efficient understanding of the actual rules Beethoven himself employed.
Let as now bring such a frustrating predicament to an end. Although what is provided here does not yet represent the necessary musical elaboration of the required conception, it does represent the key to the door through which such musical research must go. In the room beyond that door, the complete solution to this problem lies waiting to be grasped.
The approach to the key provided here involves two background considerations. The first of these two subsumed aspects of the approach is the fact that great performers can usually interpret Beethoven's compositions efficiently, while at the same time manifestly lacking the informed willful impulses indispensable to replicating a comparable quality of composition. The second, situated within the broader implications of the first point, is the writer's own special personal relationship to Beethoven's music.
On the first point, we brush aside as epistemologically incompetent, as wildly speculative metaphysics, the notion that Beethoven embodied some governing, extraterrestrial spark of "intuition." There is no miraculous quality involved in what are termed the characteristic phenomena of genius.
Genius in the physical sciences is located in the distinction between the practitioner who has assimilated a body of knowledge and the scientist who manifests the more advanced deliberate powers to create new, generative categories of such scientific knowledge. The ordinary scientist shows creative powers to the extent of insights which effect necessary repairs and improvements within an existing, immediately consistent array of scientific conceptions and methodological principles. The creative scientist generates categories of new conceptions, thus changing the totality of existing scientific knowledge in such a crucial, revolutionary way.
The superior quality of creative scientific work is not a succession of accidents. It is rather a result of raising the scientific outlook in general to a higher--"transfinite"--level: to apply the methods of scientific outlook to the empirical body of practice represented by the lawful ordering of successful crucial hypotheses. This is what is properly termed epistemology.
That the occurrence of a great scientific discovery is regarded as miraculous by the ordinary sort of scientific mind--or is, to the same effect, explained away as merely a logical outgrowth within the existing body of knowledge--merely reflects the fact that to ordinary scientific workers, their own important discoveries occur in a way which is--in their mistaken view--unexplainable. They are ignorant of the lawful principles governing the successful ordering of crucial hypotheses.
If the implications of this demonstrated epistemological fact, of scientific progress is taken as the basis for examining creativity in music--and other important forms of art--the proper approach to understanding the rigorously lawful principles of Beethoven's compositional process is established. Also, viewing the problem identified as the first subsumed point in this same light, that apparent paradox is solved. The empirical evidence of Beethoven's music directly, uniquely corroborates the solutions reached in this way.
To the great performer or conductor, the results of Beethoven's compositional process are an established fact of musical-scientific knowledge. The performer or conductor establishes appropriate insights into a particular Beethoven composition most immediately by not only taking Beethoven's compositions as a whole, but also by viewing the relationship among these works as a lawfully ordered process of Beethoven's musical self-development--hence the importance of dating a Beethoven composition, of research into Beethoven's sketch-books. The musician also properly situates Beethoven with respect to--most notably--Bach, Mozart, and collateral Italian influences which reveal their influence in various ways, in the ways in which Beethoven assimilates and willfully rejects such delimiting influences. The great performer or conductor, just because he or she is steeped in the domain of music surrounding Beethoven, is enabled to arrive at conceptions which more or less efficiently represent both the general distinctions of Beethoven, and the special distinctions of a particular composition and its included coherent features.
This conception of the composition exists within the performer's or conductor's mind as a Gestalt, a generative notion of the composition as a process of coherent development. The practical action of the musician, guided by that generating notion of the composition adopted as his own informed willful impulses, is to bring the empirical practice of the performance into approximate agreement with the requirements of the generating notion. He has heard the essence of the composition in his mind. He has thus assimilated with an informed mind's inner ear what has been created. Hence he can interpret magnificently--provided he has developed the practical musical skills to do so--even without acquiring the additional qualifications necessary to create such music.
It is a most important corollary of this same fact that the inherent failure of virtually all notable musicologists and musical theorists to date is that they have attacked the problem of attempting to discover and explain Beethoven's generative compositional process from the formalized standpoint of the accomplished performer or conductor. They have thus placed themselves stubbornly on the opposite side of the fence from the location in which the object of their search is to be found. They recognize only preconsciously, the notion of a Beethoven composition; they do not know the higher notion of willfully generating such particular notions.
The problem is not a musical problem per se. The solution to the problem must be empirically demonstrated within the domain of music, because--as we emphasize--Beethoven's essential quality is that of an epistemologist, but one who developed his own epistemological world-outlook by treating music as a rigorously lawful domain of human practice. To restate this: the key to discovering Beethoven's creativity is to view him as one of the greatest creative scientific minds in history, whose compositions, taken within the process of his musical self-development, are the subsumed predicates of a process of fundamental, epistemologically ordered discoveries.
Background of the Solution
This writer has been specially advantaged to solve that aspect of the problem on two interrelated grounds. First, because music--most emphatically Beethoven's music--was established early as most agreeable and beneficial to his own internal mental self-development. Second, because this writer has pursued a course of intellectual self-development throughout his life which has, during the past two decades, brought him to the forefront among the intellectual influences contributing to a fundamental, epistemological breakthrough in our understanding of the nature and implications of what we call science.
The interconnections among these two elements within the writer enables and obliges him to defend Beethoven from Beethoven's mean enemies and misguided admirers of today. Not so much to defend the importance of Beethoven's music, but the identity of Beethoven himself, the living Beethoven who created the music.
Although this writer has been conscious for some years of the nature of the solution to the problem of Beethoven's creativity, and has attempted to motivate musicians to pursue the appropriate specialized lines of musical research, he has heretofore limited his public interventions into the matter to summary provocations, aimed at stimulating fresh vigor and broader engagement in the musical research as such. Most recently, there has been a relevant qualitative change in circumstances, so that he is qualified and obliged to publicly intervene to positively define the solution more efficiently in the manner accomplished here.
A summary of relevant autobiographical facts is essential to situating the way in which that solution is presented here.
The writer, who has been characteristically engaged in creative work most of his adult life, constantly confronted the same categorical problem as anyone else similarly engaged. The heteronomic clangor permeating day-to-day life is alien and poisonous to the special quality of concentration efficiently creative work demands. Accordingly, anyone engaged regularly in creative work develops what some such persons identify more or less as a set of tricks, ways of building a kind of psychological wall around themselves for the period of their concentrated efforts. At the outset of such periods, these tricks have the directed function of pushing away the clangor from the mind: some sensuous device (cathexis) by which the mind is enabled to focus on a certain mood within itself, and to focus out the internal, reverberating echoes of the clangor.
This writer has resorted to a now-habitual set of such "tricks" for that purpose. These tricks are not of an accidental quality; they are not of the fetishistic-cathexis sort which are, admittedly, employed for the same overall purpose by many others. Those used are of two types, properly distinguished as positive and negative.
The positive ruses all have the common feature of establishing a direct intellectual relationship to stimulating creative minds through the medium of their writings or music. Through such means, as a byproduct, one comes to know the inner self of personalities across great distances of time and space. If one knows history, the period surrounding such writers and artists, one in fact comes to know such personalities more accurately and intimately than the person next door or, often enough, even members of one's own family.
The negative sort of useful environment is a piece of writing, work of art, or so forth, which focuses one's anger against the evil or stupidity (often, morally, the same thing) one has thus encountered.
The way in which the writer's mind responds to these various "psychological environments" for concentration is not uniform, homogeneous for all cases. It is Beethoven's notable compositions, which have a precise agreement in a certain definite way with the aspects of the writer's own internal mental life, which are empirically demonstrated to evoke the most efficient aspect of his own creativity.
It is a correlative of this that the writer's personal relationships to others tends to be selectively determined by the influence of Beethoven upon them. This is not a matter of agreement in personal tastes--it would be nothing but the most contemptible stupidity to suggest such an "explanation"--it doesn't function that way. The response is not determined by knowing whether or not the other person has such "preferences," but rather that agreeable personalities prove to be individuals who are specially susceptible to responding to Beethoven in a certain way, whether or not they have previously established such a preference.
Conversely, not everyone who professes a Beethoven "preference" is an agreeable personality--occasionally, quite the contrary. It is the creative aspect of Beethoven which is crucial here.
There is a further aspect of this relationship to Beethoven which is most relevant to the principal point at hand here.
Although the roots of the business go back earlier, it was an internal revolution prompted by the study of Georg Cantor during 1952 which launched this writer onto a course of directed creative efforts, the successive marches of directed self-developments leading into the present. Since that time, the writer's characteristic mode of life has been defined by periods, extending over days, of concentrated attention to working through an original insight into a finished or semi-finished elaborated form, increasingly in written form. In this process, Beethoven performed an integral role, to the effect that the aspect of Beethoven under consideration here was, beyond doubt, the most powerful and characteristic intellectual influence contributing to the shaping of the writer's elaborated outlook into its present form.
In a sense, Beethoven came to life actively within the writer's own directed course of self-development.
This occurred in the only way in which such a development could lawfully occur. Within this process, the way in which Georg Cantor's work triggered the internal revolution into self-regenerating, directed motion has a crucial bearing on the process, as we shall see below.
Over the years, Beethoven became increasingly important to this writer's projects.
Whenever clangorous influences threatened to make the creative processes "go stale" for a moment in the initiation or continuation of concentration, listening to Beethoven's music or poking through one or several of his compositions, looking for deeper insights into the "why" of its development, proved the most efficient means for restoring the necessary focus and vitality to the concentration-span.
The completion of an especially satisfying project--exertion demanded music in large doses--late Mozart, some aspects of Bach, Schumann, Schubert, Hugo Wolf, Brahms, but everything else was only a promise, a useful contrast for what existed uniquely in Beethoven. The completion of an important creative effort, especially one which seizes one totally over a period of days or longer, demands a kind of socialized "unwinding" which must be in moral agreement with those aspects of one's own nature which have dominated the creative effort.
In this process, it was the inner aspect of Beethoven, the ordering principle expressed in the developmental features of his music, rather than the music in itself, which the writer's needs seized upon as "something social which echoes my sense of the quality of humanity resonating within me from the preceding work." As the writer has deepened his moral agreement with Beethoven, his successive outbursts of new and deeper insight into Beethoven, that process has always occurred notably in the immediate aftermath of some sustained creative effort.
The writer has just completed his The Case of Walter Lippmann, probably the most important piece of writing, by far, he has undertaken to date. It was a project which had been lingering--an analysis of the "American ideology" so-called--in various mooted topical forms since the late 1960s, and as the "Lippmann project" since the late Autumn of 1975. It was thus, as all efficiently important such undertakings must be, a deeply rooted effort at inception whose outcome was developed under control of a generating conception and purpose, a conception governing content and literary objectives from the outset.
Like all such projects, the elaboration of the generating conception into the form of a successive development building a conception for the reader, is the most intense sort of sustained, self-conscious mental activity a human being can know. It is, in fact, what occurs in Beethoven's music. This concentration began on March 30 and ended on April 16, and occupied every moment of the writer's conscious and sleeping life--except for an average of three hours a day devoted to the developing world strategic situation.
That was the setting for a ruthless determination to settle, once and for all, the problem of the concluding chorale movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
That, in turn, had a special contributing feature. The Case of Walter Lippmann was undertaken with the customary preparatory development of concentration, a focus on Beethoven. In this particular case, the Beethoven problem was situated in respect to the fruitful and dismaying internal features of the Beethoven celebrations in East Germany (D.D.R.)--on which the writer collaborated with Anno Hellenbroich. The middle section which this writer contributed to that joint HellenbroichLaRouche article, restated the problem in a most relevant way, but necessarily, lacking the inclusion of the musicological solution described. circumscribed the task for further work, rather than comprehensively solving the crucial musicological problem identified.
Because of the nagging internal epistemological immediate-identity between major internal features of The Case of Walter Lippmann and the Beethoven problem, it was necessary to repeatedly, temporarily drive away the Beethoven problem during the course of writing the Lippmann piece, among the numerous similar exercises of editorial judgment concerning thoughts about valuable, associatively relevant material not directed to the immediate overall purpose of that work. That problem, too, is a characteristic feature of Beethoven's practice.
Hence, the subsequently unleashed savagery of the concentration on the troublesome final movement of the Ninth Symphony.
A day and a half, spent going over the Ninth intensely, again and again, searching ruthlessly for the secret the writer knew in advance to be hidden there, was fruitful. The writer reported his findings to Anno Hellenbroich, requesting that Hellenbroich compare this thesis with Heinrich Schenker's treatment of the Ninth. Hellenbroich's work will establish a tension between the writer's and Schenker's theses, which tension could then provide a yardstick of reference for coordinating the musicological aspect of the further work as such. Meanwhile, that done, the writer's own fury continued, in the form of comparing the perception of the Ninth with remembered features of other Beethoven compositions of direct relevance to the point.
The difficulty of the performances of the "chorale" movement of the Ninth Symphony begins with the fact that the orchestral aspect of performances under superior conductors is, by itself, more or less satisfactorily real Beethoven. Even with qualified voices, the vocal parts are not. To make the point by stressing the worst case, one has the impression that the soloists and chorus are performing an anthem while the orchestra is governed by a different generative principle--the orchestra being relatively correct in this aspect of the matter.
This discrepancy is aggravated practically by the way in which the chorus is prepared for the performance. A chorus director and a pianist rehearse over weeks with a chorus. In known cases, the better sort of chorus director is not wanting in a certain sort of competence, but his approach is enslaved typically to interpreting the movement mainly from the standpoint of the presumed "anthem" itself. The bringing of the orchestra and voices together for rehearsals and performance represents to one degree or another a hashed compromise between two conflicting generative approaches imposed upon the performance of the combined forces.
The result is a notorious problem within musicology. Brushing aside the disgusting romanticist trash flowing into program notes concerning the inner meaning of Schiller's poem, the fact is that the post-1812 Beethoven would never have put onto the end of such a symphony the kind of musical conception emphasized in standard performances. Moreover, acknowledging the fact that Beethoven chose this final movement over another existing, musically excellent alternative, Beethoven's purpose was in no sense a matter of impulse. To imagine otherwise is to exhibit total ignorance of Beethoven.
Obviously, the last movement of the Ninth serves some powerful purpose coherent with (most notably) the opening movement. In fact, it does; the last movement of the Ninth is properly viewed from the standpoint otherwise established by the Grosse Fugue (opus numbers 133 and 134). Although the last movement of the Ninth is not the Grosse Fugue, it should be performed as if it were Grosse Fugue for orchestra and voice!
The last movement as a whole may be approached by the layman music-lover according to the following descriptive standpoint. This is descriptive, but no distortion is introduced in principle by simplifying the matter in this way.
Think of the last movement of the Ninth as a rather "standard" last movement among some of the works of the late Beethoven. It begins with what is in fact an improvisation (like the last movement of the Opus 106 "Hammerklavier" Sonata for piano). This improvisation passes into the core of the movement through a recitative for bass, in which the key to the core of the movement proves to be the passage written for the voice for the single word "Freude." The core of the movement is governed by the late-Beethoven principle of double-fugue, and is concluded by a coda.
The descriptive analysis of the composition is, briefly, this. Regard the passage associated with "Freude" in the opening recitative as a device Beethoven evolved to supersede the fugal stretto in Bach. This transformed notion of the stretto, analogous to the after-the-fact addition of the two opening notes to the adagio sostenuto movement of the Klavier Sonata, becomes, in respect to its implications within Beethoven's mind, the generative notion governing the development and developmental objectives of the double-fugal process. The code "satisfies" the middle portion, by asserting the scientific discovery accomplished through the driving creative developmental process of the middle portion.
The writer knows this method very well. He acquired it in the main from Beethoven. It is the same method he employs in his own creative practice, occurring in Beethoven in musical rather than literary political-scientific form.
Now, listen to even a fair standard performance of the Ninth as a whole from that standpoint, and abstract with the aid of that point of view what is respectively right and wrong with the performance.
One's impulse must be to grab the chorus director (especially) by the shoulders and shake him until his mental block becomes unstuck.
"This, friend chorus director, is absolutely not some kooky notion of an anthem, which you must plough through respectfully because of Beethoven's titular authority. It is not an anthem with orchestral accompaniment. Your voices are integral parts in what is perhaps the most tightly composed and most driving pieces of contrapuntal development in all music. The clearest prosody of the libretto is musically significant; the words in and of themselves are, relatively speaking, not. It is not to be performed as Schiller set to music!"
One might continue, bringing the conductor in to settle the matter: "I demand--for Beethoven's sake--the excitement of his counterpoint.
"I demand surprise, contrapuntal ironies. Look at the voices as instruments, like the voices of the orchestra, and develop the contrapuntal tension of enunciation, intonation to the point that the last drop of romanticist's sentimentality is expunged from the performance. The singers and instruments are not a worshipful chorus of Greek monks before the Shrine of Apollo, nor are they celebrating a dionysian frenzy. This is promethean music, in which constant discovery is piling upon new discovery, constantly transforming the comprehension of what has been already heard."
There is only one word in the libretto which has governing musical significance. That word is "Freude" (Joy), which Beethoven proves through music to mean "Freiheit" (Freedom). Look to the musical value Beethoven attaches to that stressed word in the opening recitative, and see what implications Beethoven has attached to that musical seed in the development.
"You will then discover, dear chorus director and conductor, that this movement was composed in fact by the matured Beethoven. It is a typical Beethoven pun--Freude and Freiheit--to which he gives a musical value, and uses that conception as the generative idea for a coherent elaboration. Your duty is to represent that process of elaboration and make the generative principle stand out."
The final movement of the Ninth Symphony is reestablished as actually a composition by Beethoven.
That is why the human race needs Beethoven's music. He expresses and celebrates that which uniquely distinguishes man from lower beasts, feudal serfs, and lunatic Fabians. He celebrates, above all, man's unique quality of mind, the power to create entire new bodies of scientific knowledge. He celebrates, and expresses the fact that the causal principle of knowledge and human practice does not exist even in Bach's sort of preordained, fixed universe defined in terms of a priori space and time, but according to a universal, causal principle which governs the successive, lawfully ordered emergence of one entirely new, lawfully ordering geometry from its predecessor, He demonstrates that truth does not lie in any one of those subsumed geometries, but in the whole process subsuming those transformations.
The truth within such a Beethoven composition is not that it arrives through development at a final resolution, but that in its resolution it looks back upon the process by which this progress was realized. Hence, both in musical and in epistemological principle, the key to the generative idea of (especially) a late-Beethoven composition is those phrases which perform the revised function of a stretto. A Beethoven idea is not something translated from words into musical form--except as Beethoven may make his musical notion of concepts such as Joy or Freedom the generative idea in musical terms. Beethoven ideas are musical ideas, not musical interpretations of clauses, sentences, or slogans.
In the deepest sense, Beethoven's music is political. It is the musical "political literature" of promethean humanism. Substitute same other approach to the interpretation, and the resulting production must be a musical travesty--even of a Beethoven composition.
This notion of generative principle in Beethoven is identical with that notion of causality is a truly relativistic space which is presently indispensable for comprehending the relationship between ordinary physical space and the negentropic order of high-energy physical space.
The causal relations (linearity) ordinarily attributed to the Aristotelean (Lagrange, Maxwell, Einstein-Weyl, et al.) misperceptions of lower order physical micro-space do not, in experimental fact, determine the results experienced by transformations leading into higher-order physical space. Hence, ordinary notions of determinism break dawn experimentally at exactly the place epistemology (Riemann and Cantor, notably) predicted they must collapse even for ordinary physical space: on the astronomical and microphysical scales of phenomena. It is through study of microphysical phenomena under conditions of transformation into high-energy physical space that the solution to the fundamental paradoxes of the old physics comes into view.
We must abandon, from physics, all notions of Aristotelean and analogous determinism in the universal lawful ordering of reality. Universal laws persist, with greater empirical authority than ever before for knowledge. Law is associated uniquely with that notion of causality which is primarily defined in respect to the transformations from one space to another by causal action applied to the former.
That is the physics made theoretically possible by Riemann-Cantor; that is the secret, the principle of Beethoven's creativity.
Now, let the musicians study Beethoven, to learn in that process how to create great music as well as perform it. Then they will also perform it better.