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"Jesu Meine Freude"
September, 2006- The LaRouche Youth Movement (LYM) has taken up the challenge to master the concept of the Pythagorean comma as a dymanic, not mechanical concept. Work on Bach's Jesu meine Freude, his 11 movement unaccompanied motet, has served as a "science driver" for the youth movement, in addition to intensive work on the method of bel canto singing.
In a message to some of his musician friends, Mr. LaRouche commented, "The time has come that we must treat the matter of the Pythagorean Comma in a less perfunctory way. This means looking at the role of the division of the sequence in thirds, etc, from the standpoint of the arithemetic-geometric mean. The "Art of the Fugue" proffers an appropriate subject of reference.
"The division of the sequence of intervals within a voice, versus a different sequence of intervals in an accompanying contrapuntal voice is already sufficient to pose the issue of the generation of the relative values of the commas according to the prinicple of the arithmetic-geometric mean.
"Here, the Lydian interval comes into its glory."
Listen to Maestro John Sigerson with the East Coast LYM work through this idea in this audio from September 2006. The translation of the text of Jesu Meine Freude, by Johann Sebastian Bach, is below, along with earlier comments made by Lyndon LaRouche in 2004.
Translation by Alan Ogden (2006), edited by Frank Mathis
Jesu, meine Freude
Music for An Die Freude (Is a PDF file)
The person who understands what a human being is, knows we're immortal, because he knows we're not an animal: Knows that we have the power of creativity, to discover and employ the laws of the universe, to mankind's advantageand to God's advantageto make the universe a better place, by means of our work, than it was without us.
This transmission of immortality takes the form of ideas: Such as, ideas of principle, which are transmitted from generation to generation, so that people who do good, real good, can die with a smile on their face, not because of pleasure, but simply because of confidence that their life has meant something. It has brought honor to their ancestors and brought benefits to their posterity. And this benefit is chiefly, the transmission of ideas which have been discovered, or products of ideas which have been discovered, to coming generations. As we benefit, today, from the discoveries we re-enact, of the greatest discoverers in physical science, over thousands of years before us. When you sense that your life, is brief, as between the bookends of birth and death, but the book goes on; the book you represent, goes on, is a benefit and honor to your ancestors and your descendants: You can be happy in being a human being. And you can be a Christiana real one! Not one of these fake ones, these fundamentalists. [applause]
Because you see yourself as caring for your fellow human being. You are here, to do for the dead, what they can't do for themselves, they wish they could have. You are here, to make your grandchildren possible. You are here, to make the planet bettermaybe to make the Solar System better! And things beyond that. When you have that, you have the strength to say, as Jeanne d'Arc did, for example, to accept a mission, even if it means death, because the mission is your identity, not your possession of that fragile thing called "mortal life." And your development as that kind of person, is what's precious to you.
Now, that's what we're talking about, for example, in two thingsand let's go to music at this point. As has been explained by the youth and others, many times, the Jesu meine Freude came into existence as a Lutheran hymn, in Germany, under conditions following the great, terrible, Thirty Years' War, the genocidal Thirty Year's War, of that century.
It was a simple hymn, which Bach used, as he did many other things, as part of the process of creating music, a principle of music. A work in this direction, we can trace back from the ancient Greeks; we can see relics of it, for example, in Vedic poetry, which takes us back about 8,000 or 9,000 yearsthese principles of musicality. But, the idea of modern polyphony, modern, Classical polyphony, which was sought by people like Leonardo da Vinci, in his largely lost work De Musica. Which was practiced in the Renaissance, 15th-Century Renaissance, in Florence. As we sculptures on the wall of the Cathedral of Florence, which show, Florentine bel canto voice training, in practice there. And from looking at the stones themselves, the carvings themselves, you can know what they're singing.
So, this became, a part of what? It's an outgrowth of the greatest characteristic of language, which is called poetry, Classical poetry. It is through Classical poetry, that, before the extent of writing, that the communication of ideas by peoples over thousands of years was made possible. The natural part of the languagewhich is taught against, in schools today; taught against, by television announcers todayis the art of irony. The art of being able to create with a poem, a clear communication of an idea, which did not exist in the vocabulary of the language before then.
Now, this is done by certain rules, which are natural rules of the human mind and body, which we can call "musicality." The accomplishment of Bach, as expressed in the Jesu meine Freude, and other works, was to develop a sense of what's called well-tempered composition, well-tempered polyphony, which brought to the fore a possible perfection of that art of communication. And that is what you see reflected in the transformation of a simple Lutheran hymn, Jesu meine Freude, into a motet, which expresses, in fact, what you heardexpresses all of the potentialities of Classical musical composition and performanceall of it.
There's another aspect to that, which is expressed by the fact that these young people did the presentation under John's direction here, today. From the start, the performance was not perfect, by any means. They started singing, and singing competently according to rule. But, you know, the idiot thinks that a chorus is a bunch of people, each singing their own part. Now, if you've ever heard that process, it's pretty bad: Because choral music, which is the essence of all competent music, is the singer of one part, hearing his or her voice within the performance of all of the parts. Which means, that there has to be a moderation in pitch, a tuning process, of tuning the individual voices to perform within hearing the total effect of the chorus as a whole, as they sing their part; and to adjust their singing of their part in that place, according to the effect of that upon the whole.
Jean-Sebastien, who led a pedagogical at the recent conference, showed, in the case of this "Trotz" section of Jesu meine Freude, that you have a dissonance buried in there: But, the dissonance is there, but resolved by Bach in the performance. And the most powerful aspect, the pivotal aspect of the entire motet, is that pivot, where Bach introduces a dissonance, but resolves it at the same time, so that when you hear the performance, you don't hear the dissonance. But, if you don't know the dissonance is there, you don't understand the performance.
So, what has happened is more. So, John has done what I asked him to do, and he was willing to do it and happy to do it, was to go a deeper level: And what we did, is we concentrated on a group of people who had been a core of the singers in the Boston Convention operations. And thus, is to try to perfect the process of doing the motet by going into these kinds of problems, these kinds of deeper problems; and getting a consciousness, through a kind of program which does require about two hours a day, of daily training, of daily reliving of the process, to come to a perfection of the composition.
Let's take another example of this: You have the case of the Negro Spiritual, which is an integral part of American culture. Without the Negro Spiritual, and understanding it, you don't know anything about the United States. Now, what came along, was, Antonin Dvorak, a great composer, came to the United States, after having worked on folk music in the footsteps of Johannes Brahms in Europe. And he came into the United States. And he was looking for what he would call a basis for study of possible American folk music in situ. And he picked two areas to look At: some of the music of the American Indian, the folk music ofthe American Indian; and the folk songs of the descendants of American slaves. And out of this, together with an expert in the subject, Harry Burleigh, Dvorak and Burleigh, crafted the American Negro Spiritual.
Now, this is not simply an arbitrary art form. This is a form of song, which was condemned by the Grand Inquisitor of Spain to become property. And slavery in the Western Hemisphere came from Spain and Portugal, under the influence of this fascist gang, headed by the Grand Inquisitor of Spain, of that century. So, we brought into the Americas, people who were hunted down and herded, like wild animals, in Africa. The strong adult men were slaughtered; the old women were slaughtered; the young women and children were put on boats and hauled into the Americas, principally, into the new colonieswhere they became property. Just like wild animals, who've been rounded up, herded, selected, and so forth, and turned into property.
But, they weren't property. They were treated as property, but they were human beings. And human beings have within them the quality of a human being. By calling them "property," you can not make them un-human beings! So, the human beings developed a means of culture, including that of slaves in the field, out of which came a distillation of exposure to the Bible, largely by oral tradition, and ideas which existed among the slaves, who came out of slavery, remember, only something like 140-odd years ago! That, in my time, we knew people who had been slaves, who were still living. Many people are descendants of slaves, two or three generations, today, in the United States.
You have a similar thing, as I've emphasized, from Mexico: The same Spaniards, who classified the African as "animals," classified the native, indigenous population of Mexico as "animals," or "semi-animals," with touches of humanity. And said, therefore, they had wild passions and they had to be treated as if they were animals and herded as peons. We have, in the Americas today, in Mexico and in the United States, the right-wing tradition of the Spanish, who classified the Mexican indigenous population as semi-animals. So, we have, in the United States today, a legacy of a disregard for the quality of man which distinguishes man from the beast. We have a revolt against that in the United States, which was passed down to people like Burleigh, and into the work and studies of Dvorak, called the Negro Spiritual. And it works!
It works, because, just as Bach took Jesu meine Freude, a hymn reflecting what had happened to Europe, under the Habsburg influence, of the slaughter of the Thirty Years' War, and the freedom from that slaughter, expressed in joy as this simple Lutheran hymn, is now transformed by Bach, in the same way, that Burleigh and Dvorak looked at the Negro Spiritual and some of the Native Indian music: Is to realize, that buried within this music is an expression of the aspiration of humanity, which is a part of our culture. And thus, all over the world, wherever the Classical form of Negro Spiritualthat of Burleigh, or typified by Roland Hayes, and Marian Anderson and so forthwherever that is performed, and performed competently, it reaches people! Because something from inside the slave, which is human, asserts itself in its aspiration, in a way which is resonant with us today.
And that's the significance of this Bach. The taking, through music, through the weapon of music, through the art of music, and taking that which is a most intimate expression of ideas, which is the musical expression of ideas, the musical choral expression of ideas, and bringing that into modern society, to establish our viable links to the generations that have gone before us, and to give us a sense of immortality! To give us a sense of the immortality of the slave! The immortality of the peon, subjected to fascist conditions by the Spanish monarchy, and that sort of thing to this day.
Now, this also happened here: It happened, because the young people, who were in Boston, who remained in this part of the program, particularly the Jesu meine Freude featured program, also have undergone steps of improvement, in going more deeply, and deeply, into the deeper implications of this particular motet and how it has to be performed, what you have to take into account, what Bach took into account.
You have the same thing in great music, generally. You have the case of a great conductor, Wilhelm Furtwngler. Wilhelm Furtwngler was the one who really taught me the inner principles of musicjust by hearing his recorded performance, of all things, a Tchaikovsky symphony, sitting overseas in India in January of 1946, after the end of the warand I heard something coming out of that recording, which was amazing. And then, I understood it. It was what he referred to, as "performing between the notes."
And that's the secret, here. Already. The secret of the Bach motet, is, "performing between the notes." And, John had, I think, some great fun in helping people see more clearly, what it means, "singing between the notes," in order to get the connection of the whole composition to each part within it, and how the parts relate to this whole idea.
This is the social process. This is what society really should be like: Is, to look at ourselves, in this way; to look at ourselves, as an immortal kind of creature, which is born in the flesh, and dies in the flesh, but participates in immortality, between those bookends and beyond. To reach out to generations like those of slaves and others, before us, and to hear their voices singing to us; when we sense that they are immortal, because they left us something, which lives in us, today. And that we do not fully understand these gifts, when they are first presented to us. And part of our development, is to relive those gifts. And, as these young people did with the chorus, is to work deeper and deeper, into an understanding, of nuances, which are not something that we added to it, precisely. In the case of this work, Bach already intended it. When people are learning to perform the thing better and better, today, they are realizing what Bach already intended. When Furtwngler made great conducting of Beethoven exceptional quality, he was doing what Beethoven intended.
So, this relationship of development in the individual, development in the composer, development in the audience, development in those who come after us, is an expression of that immortality.
The same thing is true in physical science: We discover things which we can not see with the senses, but which are the most powerful forces in the universe. No one has ever tasted gravity; or chewed it. I've never seen itbut it's a very powerful principle. We can describe it. We can master its functions. We can apply it. But, you can't see it with the senses. True ideas can not be seen with the senses: They lie between the cracks. They lie in those discoveries of principle which no animal can make. They lie in the transmission of the experience of discovering principles, from one generation to another. And that is precisely what this society lacks.
To read thefull text of Mr. LaRouche's presentation, visit
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