31 Mar Classical Music & Composers: The Prophets of the Invisible
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Now, on to today’s reading, which is edited and adapted from The Rhythm of Life by Charles Brodie Patterson, published in 1915.
Our work tells the story of our inner life. If it is the work of a Michael Angelo, a Leonardo da Vinci, a Beethoven, or a Wagner, then such work must be a true expression of that person’s highest self. There is no way for you to attain lasting greatness save through the development of your own innate powers and possibilities.
All greatness comes from within, but in order to benefit humanity or the world, it must take form in the world, and the tree must become known by its fruit. It is expected of all that each shall live their own life, and live it to the full on every plane of being, from the material plane to the spiritual plane, so that each person will, eventually, contain within themselves the full record of all life, because they have lived to the full on every plane of being.
Rhythm and melody are both true expressions of our inner life, but they must become fully expressed in our outer life, so that there may be the perfect correspondence between inner and outer. The greatest composers will ever resort to the inner, but they will seldom if ever be unmindful of the outer form.
The vision is first, the form is last, and the composer who tries to reverse this order will never be able to produce great or soul-satisfying music; Mozart and Beethoven both employed a great variety of rhythm because they were true interpreters of what might be called the higher or celestial music. But no composer however great has ever been able to reach the limit of musical rhythm, because the rhythm of music comes to us from infinity itself. Therefore, it must have an infinity of variety.
Mozart and Beethoven were among the greatest masters of rhythm, and both introduced into their music much that was new in the way of rhythm. It is doubtful whether any poet ever lived who exceeded Tennyson in variety and beauty of rhythm, and yet the rhythm used by either Mozart or Beethoven far exceeded in number and variety that of Tennyson.
Poetry, while more nearly related to music than any other of the arts, is nevertheless greatly restricted in its expression, because the poet, in his or her effort to give expression, draws more from the external side of life; consequently the mind is used more than the soul.
There can be beautiful, descriptive poetry, such as is to be found in the poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Moore, or Lord Byron, where mentality alone is used almost entirely — we might call them word painters of nature. But music is in no way dependent upon the spoken word. Too often do the words associated with music serve only to detract from its value.
There is no doubt in the mind of the writer that the librettos for Mozart’s operas, and the verses used for other of his music, too often kept him from doing his best work. A composer cannot become very much inspired by the work of another which in every way falls so far short of their own. And it is to be observed that wherever the verse was of a high order, Mozart was always at his best.
Rhythm enters into the life of everything, and there is just as much variety of rhythm as there is variety of sound, color, or form. The individual who is in closest relation to all that is greatest in life will give a far truer and better expression than the one who looks at life in a superficial way. Let the composer realize that music is the language of the heart, and that this language should not be abused by prostituting it to ignoble ends or purposes, when they have the power through the language of music to talk to others of the very highest and most wonderful things in life.
If the music of every composer were a true expression of the indwelling Spirit, then we would have less poor music than we have at the present time, and we would have far more originality, because, if each composer, instead of trying to copy after someone else whom, perhaps, they think a greater master than themselves, should go directly to the Fountain-head, they would get something new, something original, that would be better than anything they could possibly copy from another.
The composer who is only an echo of someone else, is of practically little use to themselves or anyone else. If one can do but a little and does that little in a true way, both the individual and the world at large profit much more than if there is only a copy or a poor expression of what someone else has already done, in a better way.
The world needs today more of original temperament, more of original thought, and more of original expression. There is a demand for it in every department of the world’s work. No person should ever allow themselves to become a mere recorder of what other people have thought and done: you should be a living man, a living woman, true to the highest expression of what the Creator intended you to be — strong, persevering, courageous, self-reliant, feeling, thinking, and acting for yourself.
A person is able to express in an original way only that which they thought and felt for themselves, and so life can only become great to those who are able to discern the greatness that lives within their own lives. Said Wagner: “The power of the composer is naught else than that of the magician. It is really in a state of enchantment that we listen to one of Beethoven’s symphonies.”
It is not every composer, of course, who can be a Beethoven or a Wagner. But there are many who are able to add valuable contributions to life, and by so doing greatly enrich the musical world. I am convinced that in practically every human being there is a latent force that, to a marked degree, is unknown, and consequently unused, but which, if called into a state of conscious activity would enable one to accomplish four or five times more work of either a mental or a physical nature than is commonly done at the present.
I believe music can be used as a means for the liberation of this energy, and not only this, but that it may be used as a means of enabling one to do one’s work in a natural, rhythmic way, so that the same amount of energy used will give far greater results than can be obtained by ordinary methods.
There are many tense and abnormal ways of doing things which give comparative little result, yet use up a great deal of energy, but if we could introduce natural methods into all our work, mental and physical, we would find that the same work could be done with far greater ease and with less expenditure of energy.
From first to last there is a unity of law in music, but an infinite diversity of expression. No two composers are alike, and if they make their compositions a true expression of their inner thoughts and feelings, each will give a new expression of the law, or each will produce original music, something that is not merely a copy of someone else.
The production of new music can never cease. As long as the soul feels and the mind thinks, music will continue to give expression to thought and feeling, bringing to life an ever unfailing supply. Probably in the last three hundred years greater things have been accomplished by composers than have ever been done in the world’s history, and the fields opened have shown still greater possibilities for musical achievement. And because the highest music is an expression of one’s soul, or, I might say, an expression of the Universal Soul, it comes nearer to the heart of the Infinite than perhaps anything else in life. Music can, therefore, never have a real beginning or ending.
There is a music of the spheres wherein worlds, and suns (and countless systems of worlds and suns) in their movements sing praises to creation in a beauty, and in a glory of sound and color, not yet conceivable by the mind of humanity. Knowledge, as we understand it, may pass away, prophecy may cease, but music will exist when time shall be no more.
We might say that music is the foundation of all the arts, that all the varying arts are only different expressions of the great law of rhythmic music. I have said that great composers draw their inspiration from a Universal Source, but before they can do this they must, in a sense, have become attuned to that Source. If their music is to be really great they must go beyond the limitations of the self. Through their own development, call it character if you will, the composer is able to reach out and touch something in life that is greater than any mental knowledge of which they are conscious.
I think we might truly say that the greatest composer is the one who feels after God, or who, through their feeling, consciously comes into vital relation with the source of all feeling. Let us remember that feeling is the very soul of music, while thinking only determines the form that music should take. The highest feeling is involuntary and has no limitations save the limitations that mind makes in its efforts to direct or to give form to the feeling.
Let us also remember that all form is, at best, only an expression of inner feeling. The great composer must be so sensitive and magnetic that they will instantly respond to the touch of feeling, whether it be that which comes from another soul, or from the Universal Soul. Such a development is bound to express itself in vivid imagination, so that all the inner feeling will tend to give color and beauty to the composer’s thought pictures, and such ideas, in turn, will become perfect forms of expression; so that we have feeling, idea, and expression corresponding in turn to soul, mind, and body.
Humankind does not yet fully appreciate the service that the world’s great composers have rendered. If there were real appreciation, we would build more wonderful monuments to the Mozarts, the Haydns, the Handels, the Beethovens, the Wagners, than any we build to our greatest warriors or statesmen. There is something of far grander and of a more lasting value to the world’s spiritual progress contributed by the great composer than anything that can be found in any other profession or walk of life.
In many walks of life, the people who have been great or who have done great things have received perhaps the full recognition due them from the world at large. But the composer who has influenced life often to a far greater degree, has received only a partial recognition of their worth, and that from a comparatively small number of people. We take what they have to give and enjoy, and benefit by it, but the composer is forgotten in their work. Perhaps, after all, this is the truest way — to let the work speak for itself.
Composers have often wrought better than they have known. Through their compositions they have brought to fuller life perseverance and courage, brightness and hope, joy and gladness, order and beauty. They have done much to inspire people who were in doubt and despair, much to lift people from the sordid and the earthly, and to give them glimpses of a newer consciousness wherein all the real melodies and harmonies of life and beauty exist. And although, as I said before, it is doubtful whether the world has as yet any real appreciation of their worth, somewhere and at some time, the true appreciation will come and they will reap the harvest they have sown.
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