Copyright © 2004 Threshold Publishing Company All Rights Reserved
The Death of a Mad Composer
A Symphony in Five Movements
Movement V: Presto, wie schnell als möglich
And Mephistopheles, leaning over the madman in his bed, asks him then, "How do the lives of modern German composers bear a similarity to the plight of Professor Faustus?”
And he replies, querulous, "I am not impressed by your apparent prescience, Demon. You are but a symbol of the Tier-self, embodied in my rampant imagination, as I await the transition to the future life." The Devil's servant chortled then, a wicked sound - he sounded ever so much like Wieck at his most arrogant, nastily reducing his son Alwin to tears after another failure at the violin.
"I am your conscience," he snickered. "And I say, you have forsaken these Fausts, who needed you to lead them to a fuller expression of their music. You could have done so - your second symphony promised much."
"My second symphony was orchestrated with too many horns! It should be burned!" he shouted, unable to tolerate the notion that a demon in his imagination could torment him with his own editorial regrets so many years after the fact. “And that only because there weren't enough pieces in the orchestra to play it!" Details, details, regrets. He should have written for publication, and not for Düsseldorf’s orchestra! Had he known then, that he would not only become known and Important to the Future, but that his expeditious orchestration would somehow live and persist, without a knowledgeable hand to guide the Future arrangers to interpret for the appropriately peopled Grosses Orchester when the moment came. Were there no intelligent composers in the Future to do this thinking? Must he do it all himself?
"Horns are the future of the Orchestra," Mephistopheles wheedled. "The violin is an instrument of the past, it is an instrument of pansies and wags. We need manliness in the Future - we need horns, and Ohrenklangen, and above all, drums. For war is the watchword of the future, Eusebius.”
"Don’t use that name for me!” he barked by way of reply, profoundly distracted by the demon’s use of his invented name, and of the neologism, “Ohrenklang.” It was clear that the thing - whatever it might be - could read his thoughts, or his manuscript! Or both! Or…
“Has someone given you my notes?” he demanded, holding the latest page close to himself protectively. The Demon’s single utterance in reply was a low laugh, which if possible, was more nasty than the previous. Less Wieck, more mad by whole notes.
“War,” he repeated. “War. You will see a new Heaven and a new Hell take their places upon the Earth. The future belongs to us!” he repeated Liszt's hallmark phrase, uttering this last as a threat. But unlike the Count, who vanished as shadow fades in growing sunlight, the demon vanished definitely, as though walking from the room with his fulminating cigar, leaving an oppressive aura behind. Yes - he most definitely looked like Wieck.
It is clear now that the end approaches. For many things begin to disintegrate that once I took for granted. My sense of time, for one -- I do not know the date any longer. When I stare at the calendar, or at my previous entry, they bear no relation to actuality, and it takes an effort of the most exhausting kind, to tell me it is otherwise, and to accept it.
I have ceased taking food, for I suspect there is some insidious compound ground up and introduced into it that the piano wishes now to try on me. This is not an age of deep knowledge of the mind, Hohenheim, and as baffling as I become, my Psychiater grows daily once again more curious about the mystery within, and I hope that this Tone you resound comes soon to discourage him.
I fear leeches and more cold baths are in the offing for me if I continue to refuse to speak or eat. I hungered for a day and a night, and now, no longer do.
Liszt. Wagner…. what does it all mean? Hohenheim, I pray to you, to vouchsafe me enough vision of the Future to see why this appears to me all so prurient, in an inexplicable yet profound way. I cannot rely upon the voice of the Angel only, to tell me that this must not be. I must see it, for I know it - but as yet cannot see it!
As though an omen is sudden-cast, the sky, leaden grey for so many days, begins to snow, lazily, as though an afterthought to the chill wind. And I dream of demons visiting me, tormenting me with their own view of the Future, and wheedle me with offers to take some peculiar leadership! The one insists that I must start work upon a mission in a great war of words and of horns. Ever horns. Is this the legacy of having written the one patriotic song? What, if I am a loyal Saxon, is the harm or compromise in writing a song of patriotic sympathy? I was loyal to my king, and I do believe in the Ideals of my nation. I did not forsake my citizenship in order to enjoy economic success in Wien (though I might have done.) Yet another promises that the march motifs in "Der Peri" will serve to inspire in a way that Wagner's Valkyrie cannot. Wagner's what? I argue him, and thereafter, enter into an obscure argument, then shout his nonsense down. Demons torment me with Politics, it would seem.
How has my one small political decision, attracted the unworthy demons of Politics? This is the only angst I am troubled by at present. Politics. Perhaps it is the angst felt by every member of a nation whose rule has changed so many times, and has seen war from earliest youth, and its aftermath. Our nations are afflicted by war, yet I am not a revolutionary. Did I not flee military service assiduously enough to prove the point? Did I not flee the Dresden uprising? How do I merit the solicitation of the Devil to serve the Politics of the future? I have no experience in that endeavour! I will not serve any political revolution, for that is a compromise as deep as, perhaps deeper than, the compromise of Lust. I am a Composer! Or I was. I ask in prayer, for insight into the Future of this Thema, for it will complete my understanding of how we descend from Ideals, to Chaos.
I am reminded here, in the midst of the rants of the faceless hauntings of demonkind, of the fortunes of Milton in the English uprising. Did he not suffer as a result, even to the point of poverty and imprisonment, from his decision to enter that arena, to speak polemically, with all his poetic might? Did that not shorten his life, and compromise his poetic destiny? Could he have written far greater, a Purgatorio and a Paradiso to his Hell, could he not? And Heine! Ah, I could weep afresh for Heine in exile, sick and dying in Paris, where he suffered the same fate as the better-deserving Wagner, and with far less cause. In answering the charges of these demons of Politics, there are innumerable exemplars. It is different, for philosophers. Poets, certainly, have ever been more tempted, as Artists of the Word, to speak and not hold back, even though it denies them the future promised them by the Angel. Could they not do otherwise? Must I not?
Another vision comes, forthwith:
And I see, like the fabled hordes of Darius at Persepolis, companies of soldiers on the attack. Uniformly drab, covered with muck, with grime, and seawater. And all around, the cannon are sounding, and charges are exploding, here and there, dismembering one of the charging invaders as the bolts strike home. Bright-faced youths, and frequently among them, to my surprise, Africans. This beach, this cold air… it must be the northern coast of Spain, or the west of France, for it is unremitting grey of ocean, and I know the North Sea too well to know it is not this.
They plod through the sea in their hundreds, in their thousands, die gruesomely, and yet, come. Undaunted. On the hills, the defenders, who now openly display their colors, the Merkabahs! The twisted crosses. The New German Army, then. So this must be France. Though these cannot be French soldiers striking their own beach. Britons, then, augmented by African regulars. Guns bark in a throaty roar, and I cover my ears… this is the Music of the Future; It is war. The guns that bark, now others, that spit rhythmically, ever so much like huge, demonic cuckoos demanding their dinner, first from one hill, then the next. All around, cuckoo nests full of hungry cries … Ah the ironies of the future, Germany occupying France. Where are the alliances of yesteryear, where France in its arrogance, annexed Germany? Were that they could tour Time, reconsider their position, and make peace. For to my Modernized mind, it all seems so utterly arbitrary.
Then horribly, horribly! I see a battlefield that was once this selfsame beach, strewn with the corpses of men and pieces of corpses, hacked apart, such as I had seen them after the battles in my early youth on the high road between Zwickau and Chemnitz. The bloated corpses of horses and the men who died on them, corrupted the very summer air then, just as the corpses here, begin to rot and smell in minutes. Even as the Britons gather the dead, the flies are at them… it is nigh summer, as it was after Napoleon's last retreat in 1816. The past and future converge in my mind now. War -- it sickens me.
But then - all of a moment, I am in another place, a city, a thriving place, it would seem. Yet at closer view, it resolves into a scene of the most bizarre devastation. That which could only be wrought by Hell. For the center of the city is reduced entirely to rubble and bricks, and all of a moment. Around me, strewn in the upon the streets, piled against walls, and toward the center of the black central blast, reduced to charcoal lumps, are corpses in their thousands. The stench is horrific, the whiff of infernal brimstone, of hellish sulfur. The sheer preponderance of the silent, burned dead, baffles the mind. An entire city, leveled by a force so incomprehensible that
Incomprehensible - the fireball. This must be what is wrought from the Fireball on the gantry. I had seen it heretofore in its pure form, and here now, its undeniable result. War: the watchword of the Future. There is no doubt. About this, the Demon is utterly correct. I weep.
Later this same day,
It seems, Hohenheim, that a vast period of time has passed. Another vision ensues. I see myself in youth, curled into the hard windowseat that looks down into the Hauptmarkt from my room, and occasionally the front door rattles as a customer enters or leaves. It is my birthday, and I am ten years old. Held in my hands is the two-difficult text of Byron’s “Manfred,” not yet available to me in German, and so I labor over the English original. Why must he be so metaphorical? Can he not, for my sake, use less flowery words, so that I am not constantly jumping up to the dictionary? As I study, a sound comes to my ears. It is my mother, singing. She must be brushing her hair, now. I am drawn away from the puzzling beauty of Byron's verse to the irresistible beauty of her voice. She does this because she knows I am listening.
I wander down the main stair, toward the singing voice as it grows louder and more compelling to my ear, and as I do, I realize that something impossible is happening. It is I, indeed, and I am yet ten, but the angelic voice of my mother is singing “Der Gärtner” which I did not compose until 1842! nor publish until 1851. Then - the singer cannot be my mother, else she herself composed it in 1820 or before, and I took it down later from memory. But this cannot be, because I, here in the finalized Present, know that my mother never composed a tune nor invented any single piece of music, and she learned anew only what I wrote, and then only my student compositions; for my true work did not come until later. So it cannot be.
By the time I reach the bottom of the staircase I behold the beautiful newness of the paint, the grand doors that lead into what is no longer my father’s shop but is now a concert hall! Just as had been done to Ha’s library in the Future! This is my house, indeed, and on what is now a stage, where once lay stacks of cartons of books and Zeitungen, there stands in slimmer guise, with wildly loose hair running free, my mother! Practicing with a chamber quartett! She never wore such a seductive coiffure in 1820, certainly! This is my birthday indeed, for I see she is rehearsing this concert as a gift to me. I enter the room, and milling about are others, dressed for the concert, listening to the rehearsal as they arrange flowers near the stage, and set the chairs in the hall. It must be some hours beforehand.
I stand rapt, listening. The casements are finished in beautifully polished blond wood, the walls shine with bright stucco, new-applied. The Flügel on the stage shines with a rich sheen. This Future is wealthy beyond the dreams of the greediest composer's avarice! And this room, yet another shrine to chamber music.
Do you vouchsafe for me this vision as answer to the pages of bitter regret just past, Hohenheim? For what could touch me more deeply, or move me more joyously than to see my mother once again, so radiant? In voice, perfect, sweetly singing a piece I had composed specifically in her memory?
There is a joy in me difficult to contain, now, for I love her utterly. She is the incarnate presence of the Angel, to me. Despite her moods and petulances, she never said single word of harshness to me. She loved me unrelentingly, constantly. She told me once that she had prayed in song to God to send her an angelic child, to bring her inspiration to sing, and she knew when she was confined with me, that she had Song within her. During that pregnancy she sang continually.
She, my Beloved, was my first Song, and I ill tolerated parting from her. Oh joy, mixed with sorrow! For here, again, she stands. No more than five and twenty years old, and if possible, her voice more brilliantly colored. And standing at the door, invisible in the Ghost Realm, I weep for the soul-stirring vision of her..
It is my birthday.
The moment chimes, the audience - a hundred, more! pack into the room, some with flowers in hand, with smiles, greybeard men, grey-haired women, youths, and here and there a serious-faced child - a violinist the one, another a pianist. I can read it in their faces. Students at the Konservatorium.
Since when has this dull town had a musical Konservatorium, I wonder? Oh dear, it is named for me! I learn. The house, the plaza, the school… how incredibly embarrassing. To go from obscure neglect to a cult-like fame in death. A man should never live to see himself become a figure of reverence. It is not me, it was never me… erect monument instead to the faceless Angel of the Wellspring!
But now, the concert begins. I take my seat. Heart-rending! they begin with Schubert’s D-minor quartett, a personal favorite. Too fast - the future has everything too fast… or the Ghost Realm’s time distorts their tempo… I do not know which. But at the frantic pace they play they do not miscue, nor lose one another… never in my life have I witnessed such incredible precision, except when Joseph and Johannes together played the Opus 121. Though they, these - the demons of my demise - did never play with the soul-dedication of this quartett. These wizards of the quartett refer to the score merely as a conventional habit, for the piece, I see, is in them. Schubert’s soul waits upon them, and they are one, as a quartett is meant to be.
The starker I become
To pray to He
Who soonest sees me run,
To Odenwald by night
To see the Nights
That ever welcome Sun,
I am reFormed
From ever lost
I am the Song resung,
Es, 10 Jun 03
Upon the Light Divine
Upon the hour Late,
Driven by the selfsame Lust
That makes the Light wane great,
Cannot reside in Hate
That waxes loud and Late,
For He who serves in State.
The uncannily, I hear
The peals of the familiar overture of Beethoven's "Leonore"
Ah Florestan, the bold original of whom my poor shade is but a copy!
The condemnation of Florestan proceeds… to my inward hearing, as I sit quietly. I am drawn back again and again to the beauteous vision of my mother, and cannot help but recall the ecstasy into which I fell…and remember:
She was with child! At that concert. How irregular. But if that is she, and I, her youngest, how could she be with child?
Wait! I recompose. This is the Future I see in my vision, for my mother is twenty five years in the grave, in the present, and this I must remember. My sense of time fades yet more quickly as the quiet ages pass.
A letter comes. It is from the Duke von M of Wien, (recently elevated in station, apparently, upon the death of another of Eisenstadt's retainers.) In reply to my cryptic apology, and he writes,
"Your letter is graciously received, but unnecessary. All is known and understood, and no need remains for discussion. Nor is apology needed. If you are what our mutual acquaintance describes, you are naught but a friend to this house and more godfather to the Kurfürst who is robustly healthy and takes to music as a fish to water. There is no need at all, Herr Doktor, to say more. Your concern is unfounded. Your sentiment is both noble and sincere, and I do extend my heartfelt sympathies for your present exigency. These are peculiar times, and call for peculiar mores.
"I regret that I may raise only one son to a future in music. May he succeed as well as you have! And I thank you for your inquiry. God be with you, etc."
Ah, can this be? The insidious mathematician who counts my measures and rests for me, counts out the obvious sum that sits before me. There can be no doubt, since the Duke himself has made such a pronouncement, that at least to von M, my cuckoldry was a blessing to his house, and fruitful. A son! And older by a span of years than my eldest, from the months before my marriage. I am both gladdened and at the same time fearful that the nobility of Wien is richer by an S, but perhaps it is deserving. Hard at such a late date, to realize myself a naïf, when I believed that the smitten Alma M. sought my arms due to regrets over her engagement. She had instead selected me upon being informed at this time of her mate's barrenness, perhaps even deliberately for the musical gifts she desired to acquire to add to her bloodline!
How cold! And yet, is this not how such things are done, among the great? I consider, before burning von M's letter, the manipulative coldness of the great. Will she ever tell little - Ludwig, my God wasn't the child, I heard in some gossip by the bye, named Ludwig? Yet another, they accumulate as though an army of Ludwigs were being raised. Although. It is a noble name, and much blessed in Wien. Not all Ludwigs are mine… I smile to myself. Not everything follows from me, though it would seem, my seed persists beyond my wildest imagining. A yet-unwrit composition, a son with a noble life ahead, without want (for the M's are - were - in this past which is my present contemplation, a powerful and well landed family. Moreso now, by an S.)
I find myself amused for many long hours in private fantasy, of meeting the boy at his debut concert at Esterházy; the moment of recognition… but I know these things do not happen. The son of a Duke is the son of a Duke, and he will remain so, by the accident of passion.
What has Lust to do with Music? Sometimes a great deal! if her Lust was to my Music. She too, perhaps, prayed for Music to grow within her, as did my mother.
Florestan finds this all endlessly entertaining, and I grow lively enough in my accidental fatherhood, to wobble uncertainly down the stairs with my warder, the now-reverent Schneider, who practices daily on the piano reduction of Opus 54, and is at bar 100. His practice is curiously soothing to me, as I mull the bits and pieces of that composition in their original building, over and over, like a beloved puzzle.
I seek in vain for the last of the violets, wilted to brown mud by frost and sleet. Schneider asks, during our walk, whether I would bear another visit from Johannes. Florestan cannot resist reply. "Johannes visits regularly, does he not? And occasionally too, my wife. They simply do not come beyond the window…" and Schneider starts, in utter surprise.
"Know. Of course. I am mad, not stupid. And I have got used to being gawked at while dressing, and while pissing, and while thinking. It must be quite fascinating, is it, Schneider? To watch me think."
Schneider lowers his head. "I do not approve, for what my opinion is worth, Herr Professor Doktor. I too think it is demeaning. But he dares not approach you for fear of agitating you, and yet has the strongest desire to inquire as to your condition."
"Then let him inquire. No need for him to gawk." Florestan's petulance is high, today, after long days of not speaking, it seems to have been stored up as though for such a discussion.
"If you wish I can speak to Herr Direktor…" he offers helpfully, as though for long years he has awaited the opportunity to give Herr Professor this one favor, blurting it out in a moment of anxious excitement.
But I shake my head. "Let Johannes see what Johannes sees. But I have naught more to say to him until he has had that piano delivered."
"Piano - delivered?"
"If you can inquire about the piano, I would be grateful. But please, do not ask on my behalf. Ask him, when you see him, whether Frau S is still enjoying the piano I had ordered from Dreieck. You can say that I spoke of it as one of my most pleasing recent anniversary gifts. Ask him specifically this."
"I will do so, Herr Professor Doktor. Just as you say."
I lay a tender hand on his shoulder. "Please, Schneider. I am just an ordinary man, I did not accomplish anything at school. I am a Doktor only by good will of the king. I was a terrible student, and a worse scholar. Do not grace me with a title I did not earn. It pains me."
"As you will Herr Pro - Herr S. I suppose you would be also pained to know that Herr B. and the others who visit speak of you as "the Master," to one another and to Herr Direktor."
"The - what?"
"How unseemly! No man who has composed a mere four symphonies should be referred to that way! That is a title to be reserved for the truly great."
Schneider stopped instantly, and faced me along the path. "But despite your illness, Sir, I must insist. You are truly great. And that is what they mean by it. Whatever sorrows plague you - this will not change, and even if you write not another symphony!"
"That, I shall not!" I declare. "Not in this century at least. Maybe not even in the next." But something about his protesting insistence made me pause. Perhaps it was the concert with my mother singing. Perhaps Beauty, that mistress I pursued with such indifferent and inconstant passion, will eventually win sway in the world. It is this thought which woos me to rest, at last, at last. And a night, or a century, passes in sleep, and in peace.
8 December 1855
It is all now clear to me suddenly, Hohenheim, what the relation is between Wagner and Liszt, the Faust theme, and the persecution of the Jews. For I read again Wagner's article in the Zeitschrift, because a thought struck me as though by a bolt of lightning, this morning at dawn.
First, I reconsider certain pieces of my own music. The march of the Davisbündler - to my imagining, when I wrote it, was my conception of a small but determined band of composers, musicians, and poets, who did not merely stand but marched! Allegro vivace! against the forces of an apathetic, entrenched Classicism, the empty forms that structuralize Music, and lacking its soul and spirit. I did not conceive, then, that the movement of armies and of political structures were in some way related to these artistic conceptions! It was not a conscious effort on my part! To have written so, and so spontaneously. It was not truly my idea, and I admit it.
I have no political aspiration, but only an artistic one, much as Schubert, or indeed Beethoven. Strong opinions, certainly! But what have these to do with Art? Nothing at all - and yet, from a longer perspective, they have everything to do with it.
At the behest of composers, who themselves are in service to that illusory Voice and must obey it or waste away… movements are promulgated, (and not by their personal intent or formulation), politics develop, armies are raised, passions of a higher and more universal kind, are stirred. And, all unwitting from the hand of the composer, who knows at any time only the rightness of his structure, the perfectness of his rendering of the Real, to the ears of its auditors, which thereby stirs them.
My march, if indeed Skulander led it, was merely to the Philistines of Music. Did I indeed lead it, or was I its passive, unconscious instrument? My position is only with respect to the art itself, and the purity of its conception and rendering. I long wondered whether conducting, as a practical activity, had a deleterious effect upon me, for I wasted so many long hours and days, considering the reactions of the Public, and worrying about them. And it is not the Public with which I should be concerned! Therefore, I theorize, that a Composer, as a servant of the Angel, cannot allow any portion of his art to be concerned with wider issues such as Politics, Religion, and least of all, Economics. The purpose of Art is the Art itself, and these other things are merely the milieu, the matrix from which the jewel is formed by the pressures of the mountain. Utterly unlike that which surrounds it, though composed from the selfsame mineral of which it is formed: and purified, crystalline. To descend to a Political position, to assume or to advocate one, as an Artist, is to derogate the value of the jewel itself to the surrounding medium, and to abandon the clarity of the jewel extracted.
Thus Liszt, in claiming Faust as his personal biograph, distorted himself, and surrendered, at least in part, his role as the exemplar of the beauties of the Hungarian music which he had done so much to further. By this act, he debased the goal of his Art. To do all to one's personal benefit, is to reduce the diamond formed so delicately and in such pure form, back into its constituent undifferentiated sand. I fear Liszt will be remembered mostly for his affair with the Countess, as I shall, only for being at Endenich - or for my patriotic song.
I fear that it is this - the debauchery played on the public stage, is one of the causes of the Future disorganization I have seen proceed. And the catering to emotion only, devoid of Ideal.
Wagner's waxing influence as a composer, and one that caters willingly to the emotional, unchecked by Reason, unleashed from Classical Ideals and their Romantic development, in this article is here made clear. His personal goal: to exhaust his peeve against all Jews, on behalf of particular Jewish composers and those Christians of Jewish descent, as though Judaism were somehow a pernicious disease of the blood, passed down indelibly through the generations. His flimsy excuse, that he serves the mythical Volksgeist of Germany. But I know better. He serves none but himself! It would be no surprise to me to read in Wagner's Future personal biography an unsurprising disregard for morality, decency, the sanctity of marriage, or other Ideals of our religion.
I have found that those who rail loud and long about the sins and failings of others, spend the remainder of their time indulging their own sins and failings in equal or greater degree. I am no saint, nor have I ever presumed to judge anything outside the realm of Music, or beyond the circle of my family and intimates. In mundane life, there is a Right and Wrong of it, and I have had my share of Wrong. I fear that Wagner, as my example, sacrifices his art upon the altar of Egoism. For this, his Art will always heel; it cannot be otherwise. Either one serves the Muse, or forces Her to kneel.
Regardless of my weaknesses, these long-examined causes of my demise, I always knew, as Schubert and Beethoven must have done, that one cannot serve the Muse and serve equally, mundane masters, regardless of the cost.
What would happen, if I, as court composer, I were to write a composition vouchsafing for my liege, a Future of a thousand year reign, himself - its immortal scion? And if he were at base, a Darius of a sprawling yet morally decadent empire? Would I not be serving the purpose of evil? Here in my private musings for the Future, independent of all self-serving aims (being nigh unto Death) I can write what I would dare not in the Neue Zeitschrift. Here, I can say that Music serves the purpose of God, but only its purest, most disinterested form. I fear that this article alone, and Wagner's pernicious Importance, as great as I have seen it grow in the Future, is the harbinger of the endless, total War that I have seen in horrid vision. He seeks hegemony through the loud and unrelenting drama of his operatic forms. The composer as kingmaker, through his opera , calling a tyranny into being.
And into the midst of my most solemn thought, comes Schneider, a bit breathlessly. "Herr Pro - S," he stammers, "And how are you today?" he appends, adding his manners as they file in the door behind him and catch him up to tap on his shoulder.
"I am quiet," Florestan mutters.
"I am sorry, but you asked me to discover in all speed, news of Frau S and her piano."
"You have learned already, have you? It is not even half eleven!" I am pleased, despite my previous Florestanity, and frown quickly to disguise this fact.
"Yes indeed. The news is this, that your friend Herr Professor B said that it was most curious you mentioned this, since just yesterday he had conversed with Frau S about the surpassing quality of the Rosenkranz and its superiority to the Dresdener models."
"Rosenkranz?" Now I am puzzled.
"The make of the piano."
"No no! I ordered a - "
Did I? Another mystery to be puzzled out, Hohenheim. A mystery of Time. I was so certain it was a Dreieck, for she had already the Hammerflügel, the German Stein. How could my memory serve her a Dreieck and it become a Rosenkranz? I could not even afford one! Even after the windfalls in Holland during that most successful tour.
9 December 1855
And yet another mystery, Hohenheim. A note is found tickling my ear, written in a peculiar ink, brownish, like burned milk, on my pillow, when I woke this morning. And the note is a sort of reply to my theory on the purposes of Music.
"It matters only to the composer's purse, how many number the audience for such a well-rendered Work, for when played or sung or remembered, by one, or only a few, it redounds the Perfect Purpose on Earth, and His Will be Done! That is all you need hope for.
Guidenstein? Guildenstern? I am reminded inevitably of Hamlet's friends. Rosenkranz and Guildenstern! Rosen Krantz - the rose wreath, the golden star! And now instead, a note from the golden Stone.
I know that reference, but cannot place it. In sudden frantic activity, I reach for pen and paper and dispatch in normal German, an urgent note to Lamier for instant delivery. There is a manuscript I must have with me, and quickly. It is about an alchemical marriage.
A feel somewhat faint later in the day from an excess of exertion (walking in the garden, looking for more Violettas) and make a list of the key signatures of my compositions, while resting in the cold afternoon light. There are ones I did of distinct purpose, the minor A, the major C modulations, all known - the C was the Chiarina (the Original,) the A was the contrasting Florestan, the D-minor violin settings, all for David, the the minor Es, the Eusebius compositions, and the sonatas in B, for Bergmüller. Yet that was not enough to redound his excellences.
I could not die without completing the work on his D-major, as I had promised him before his death. I could not meet him in the next life and say I did not complete or publish it! It was for Bergmüller I performed the seances, for insight direct from his Geist, into the tempos and orchestration. I had his sketches, but the tone or tenor of it… there was nothing to go by. Eventually, through meditating upon his work, and upon Beethoven's 7th (which his first symphony recalled, curiously,) I was able to do it, and yet I still see a contrast in the styles, for my style is inimitably mine. There was little more I could do, else declare myself incapable. And so, I let it stand. It would either be known as Bergmüller's Second, or my Fifth, but better done than not. I speculate: perhaps the angel of the Wellspring attempted to pour forth to him, and he was rendered sick unto death from it. There were times, such as at Köln, where it took me completely, and was overwhelmed.
For a youth of such delicate constitution as Bergmüller (as with Felix) he could ill tolerate such overshadowing. I can as yet ill tolerate it! There are secrets here, secrets hidden from even from the Composer. Secrets in key signatures, secrets in orchestration, and in the sharing out of the melody between parts. There is something subtle going on, and I make a note to ask for more of my original scores from Charles, to puzzle this out. There is little time, and I have so much more to understand, so as to relate it to my overall Thema.
But I consider again this Note! So - numbers of audience do not matter, Guildenstein? How am I to believe this? Surely there must be an explanation, for how without the numbers of audience can the purity of the Form be conveyed, and thus affect those within hearing? Unless these few, like delegates, thence convey this by some obscure means, to others. Or unless… there is another kind of hearing, such as what I hear when I compose. And that, for every person directly perceiving the work, there are innumerable others who are more subtly affected merely by the sound travelling through the air, or through their audition of it.. Like the subtle influence of birdsong upon the entirety of Creation. This latter is pure speculation; but one or the other must be true, if the numbers do not matter. This hearing that is not of the ears...
Does this also mean, Hohenheim, that in the undeniable modesty of my early success, that this also, meant something? Are all things that are Real (Echte), conveyed at first only to the few? Or perhaps, it is only the few who truly hear, and it is these, who matter to the mysterious ongoing Purpose about which the Count (and this unknown Guildenstein) are so well informed. Were that I could, upon my return, understand the mystery of this Purpose, and so better inform my art? I would be better dedicated, if better informed; of this I am certain.
I send another note to Lamier by way of Schneider, while I am at note-making, as well as a request to the Herr Direktor Piano, to have a visit from him, for I fear that he has ordered away all visitors, leaving me in silence and emptiness (though well spent in achieving your Purpose, Hohenheim,) I have certain worldly concerns that weigh upon me yet. And a note to my publisher concerning certain notes to be finalized regarding Bergmüller (now that I think of him, his work weighs more heavily upon me than my own, which is done for this life.) I wish to face him honestly, hereafter.
I drift into reverie, as the afternoon passes awaiting Lamier's arrival, and in it I see anew a concert hall, done in a style more extravagant than the most excessive indulgences of the fabled redecoration of Versailles under Louis XIV, before they carted so much of it away to melt down for the defense of Paris. Dryads - Muses more like! stand three men tall, towering over the Parkett, and above these, boxed balconies, with puzzled-looking cherubs pointing the way to the Rang seating.
Here file in ranks of greybeards in formal summer dress, tolerantly escorting their frail or robust, slow-or rapidly-moving wives. Besides myself, none are alone, all come in couples… The youth travel to their seats in the Rang beyond, in bands of four to six, in farmer’s canvas hosen and tight underclothing that serve as blousing, tighter still than the most revealing of Renaissance decolletage- it would make Mozart blush. The sight of so much starkly outlined young breast causes me to turn my eyes away - there is no modesty here. Yet, just as with the knees I had seen everywhere in the Köln concert, this form of dress appears as normal as the nakedness of tribesmen on the Kalahari. They would not think to gawk at the expanses of female nudity displayed in daily life. It is a kind of casual nakedness in these, the Future audience. Thus my relief when the orchestra enters in traditional formality. Naked knees on yon Russian violinist might make me weak.
All of the audience claps politely for the orchestra, but then in greater enthusiasm as the conductor comes. I am struck with wonder now! For comes the frail, aging form of King Friedrich August II, my erstwhile patron! And enters the podium. The program tells me otherwise, but it is undoubtedly he. I always knew him as a lover of music, but I discover as the orchestra begins, that he is more than this to my works. His knowledge in the Future of the true dynamic of this symphony is so exact, it is as though I had whispered it all, unforgotten, to him during rehearsal. He does not go too fast, he does not raise them too loudly, or too quickly. He holds back the horns (always a delicate task, for those men are ever on the attack, and those who blow trumpets and trombones are ever male!) No exception here in the modern Future. Their masculinity demands volume! That must wait, wait, wait… his Excellency once the king of Saxony, serves the Muse well, and I am moved to joyous tears, to learn late of the depth of his soul's sincerity. There are times when those who are born to greatness by incidence of birth, display as well a greatness of soul. And I am gladdened utterly - for he did love my symphony.
Here and there, an empty seat, particularly ahead of me in the front, but is otherwise well-attended, enough perhaps to pay the men who labor so painstakingly, seemingly only in my behalf. I am absolutely happy with them all.
I pause in the midst of my meditation for a thought, and I pen in the form of the new Criétude form, a quick fugue for the benefit of my elusive new correspondent, Guildenstein:
“Then how is the composer to live, to offer the meat to the few strong who cannot fill a concert hall? And how do we keep the courage to continue and to be true to this Muse?”
And I fold this piece, and leave it out to be carried to the ether.
And Lamier comes! forthwith! posthaste!
and with manuscript in hand, of the Alchemical Marriage. And I find the correct area of the text at the end,
Und weil jeder da sein Namen schreiben muste, schreib Ich also:
Summa scientia nihil scire.
Fr. C H R I S T I A N U S R O S E N C R E Ü T Z,
Eques aurei Lapidis:
The Eques aurei Lapidis: Knight of the Golden Stone. Christian Rosencreütz. Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern means “Rosencreütz and Guildenstein”… but not ‘two men’ but rather a man and his title. And now, I must ask poor Charles to once again be off to get me a copy of “Hamlet” in the original. And I have a possible challenge to the question of ‘when’ because
If that date is not 1459, but rather some symbolical date (for the manuscript appeared rather later, in the 17th century in fact), then… the date represents some future time.
1859 is too soon. It cannot be the End. If I were to witness the End as predicted by Nostradamus, then that date would be 1999. So perhaps I would come in… 1959 then. That would be past a century's time. 500 years after the dedication of Christian Rosencreütz! Count, you are not all that difficult to figure out. This would also explain the newly sophisticated Eisenbahn, the Flugbahn, and the other techniques of travel that are so instantaneous, the cities of the mind that are so strange. So I have fixed my birth, as I have fixed my death, and I am content. Tell me, Hohenheim, if I have any of these facts awry…!
And Charles, seeing I am far more animated, attempts to engage me in meaningful dialogue. “I was asked if I knew anything about a Dreieck.”
I nodded noncommitally.
“What is this about a Dreieck?”
“A triangle.” (Einem Dreieck.)
“It is a three sided figure.”
“Yes I know,” he peers at me meaningfully. “You asked for a message to be sent to Herr B. on the matter of a triangle? What sort of triangle?”
“A triangle that is also a piano. And now look here, a rose cross that is also a gold stone.”
“What? what? Skulander, I know you are unwell, but you make no sense.”
“I am sorry, Charles, but time presses me, and there are mysteries I must plumb before my departure from this century.” At this, his face took on a quality of both mourning and frustration.
“Why must you persist?”
“Because I am dying, Charles. You cannot change that, Herr Professor Direktor cannot change that. I have jumped in the river and been near death too many times, and my brain is now damaged beyond help. Don’t I have the right to die?”
I pin him down with logic, for at this moment, I desire nothing more than to give him a reason to care to live beyond my death. And if he believed I had good reason to die, and that my soul persist, and that he could help me in this, then I would do so. This became my present purpose.
“But - “ he presses forward the advantage of my garrulousness. “I cannot help but feel the selfish desire for you to remain. I never believed you would die so young! I had always hoped…” and his hand rests lingeringly upon my sleeve, where once the elusive and barely felt hand of the ghostly Hohenheim had implored me on this same issue: that of Charles’s despair.
I take his hand with all sincerity and hope. “Do you wish to make me happy?” And he nodded, suddenly tearful.
“Then there is something you can do that will make me very happy, and make my death and rebirth even happier.” And the light of hope kindled in his eyes.
“Tell me,” he whispered.
“Then live well. Prosperously. Happily. And promise me that you will not do as I have done and seek your death. There are few enough of good legal help, and the composers who come after me will have great difficulty in dealing with defending their work from those who would steal it, change it, then popularize it. My legacy is in my manuscripts. I need you to remain to defend them. And find of all of my associates who now pretend to mourn my anticipated passing, the one you trust the most to preserve them.”
“First - you speak as though I would kill myself, Skul. Why do you say that?” His face was rather pale, as though with shock.
“Well, you were quite distressed with me…” I replied ineffectually.
“I want to know how you know!” he demanded, now querulous.
“You mean - then you have considered this?” Now I grow suddenly fearful for him! I see in the mirror of his eyes the pain that others have suffered from my selfish desire for escape from life, indulged too many times.
“Of course! But it was not for you to discern! How did you know?” He is now quite incensed. As I would be if anyone had divined my long-held plan for drowning myself in the Rhein. This was one of my secret desires in accepting the position in Düsseldorf. To at last commit myself to the holy waters, and be done…. but I had anticipated jumping from the Severinbrücke in Köln, and not the undistinguished toll bridge. This plan for my suicide was planned for at least a dozen years. But not all is as one dreams… and this gives me a sudden idea.
“Charles, how many times do you think I tried to kill myself?”
“Three. That you admitted.”
“I have sought my death more times than this. On that night of our row in Heidelberg, I nearly jumped from the window of your rooms. But I didn’t, since I believed it might ruin you with scandal, and kill my mother. I had to restrain myself with all of my will.”
“My God!” he cried, and his voice broke. “That early! You were two and twenty! At least, I have held off my despair long enough to nurture hope…”
“Love does not sustain me adequately, Charles. If you believe that loving me is enough for you to continue to live, then love me and be sustained. You must not hold me to this life, however, because I have the future to storm. But you can still love me, and help me, by helping those who come after, and by preserving what I leave behind. Will you do this? Will you stave off despair at my death, to help me in the future?”
“Under the single condition,” he said, all emotion coldly suppressed now. “That you explain to me all about the Dreieck, and the Golden Stone, and the secret documents and messages you are writing. I know you are not mad, and I know you are not writing nonsense to no one on these pages. I want to know it all. And now.”
And so, as the endless evening passed, I explained to him about the alchemical marriage, and about you, Hohenheim, and about the Future and my visions. And he implored me to be allowed to take my manuscripts for safekeeping, and I agreed, for it has been much harder getting matches and time to burn the increasing volume of my final essay. I provided him the notation key to the Es clef and the new moveable E clef and the vowel transliterations. And in the midst of it all, he exclaims rather more loudly than I would like (despite the fact that with his purloined key he has locked us in together once again,) “I knew you were not mad. You are must more clever than the rest of us!” More clever by a clef.
I realized in unburdening myself to him, how frustrated I has been for so long, to have no one to discuss it with - these themes, these subjects! The last was my abortive argument with Liszt. The years of my marriage, while traditionally and musically fruitful, were intellectually barren, and that this could be a reason for my wandering desires - they were less a desire for the Tier, and more a desire for a communion of minds. In this I know Lamier has no intellectual limitations, but only the theoretical aesthetic ones. He can appreciate the substance, if not the context, of my music, though he cannot read it or perhaps not even apprehend its aesthetic. This is sufficient unto the day. Even some of the most sophisticated composers of this century, do not apprehend my work, so that is not necessarily because he is not a composer, but because a part of me lives already in the Future, and the Future Aesthetic waits to be informed by what I wrote under the Muse’s instruction.
And as our discussion concludes on the subject of Music, it returns to the two of us, his pleading eyes, his despair, and my impending death. I had explained to him the importance of Johannes, and the role I believed that he had played in my end, which has eased his jealousy somewhat. And now! How well my mind works as I approach Heaven and eschew the mundane! Because I am struck by yet another brilliant idea.
“There is no time for love for us, here, Charles. However, there is something we might try if you are willing. The door is shut fast?” He nods, bewildered, and I instruct him to sit, quietly, as I concentrate. For if it is true that I must again encounter Charles, and our mutual desires, in a future existence, then there will be a future time for us, and for love. It is only for me to focus upon him and to go there.
And the drab room on Sebastianstraße disintegrates, as it has so many times, and I sit, comfortably, with a sweet iced coffee, in Heidelberg, at the Gasthaus Merlin, in the Terrasse. There he sits! with that selfsame look of sweet caring on him, wholly happy. And he speaks, in slightly accented English - we are speaking in English, and the waitress nudges his elbow. Ah, Charles, what sweet eyes you bring with you to the Future! … and I reply.
“Do you not believe,” I am saying, “that there might be some work which you are meant to do here in Heidelberg, or in Frankfurt, that I coulc help with?” and he smiles, nodding. “Because you can’t simply disappear and go back to Rome and leave this all behind, to leave me behind, just as we meet?”
He says, “Oh no, not yet. There is much to do, and I am sure there is something for you.” And he accepts another macchiato from the waitress as we discuss his hopes for marriage and a family, and he gives me the papers he has brought for me from Österreich. They are specification and price for a piano I had inquired about purchasing, from …
And the restaurant in Heidelberg fades definitely, then. Charles’s suit loses its Future informality, and returns him to his 19th century black. His appearance is hardly different! And he peers at me as though waking from a dream. “What - what did you do?” he stammers.
“I brought you to the Future where we will meet under better and healthier circumstances.”
“I - you - I saw your face change.”
“One cannot always maintain appearances,” I joked weakly. “Changed how?”
“You were - well. You were a -“ he stops.
“Apparently I have always been a little too feminine to suit the times,” I replied, embarrassed, remembering the stinging words of Wieck. “That has always been a problem.”
“No - I mean - how did you do that?” he continues to stammer, and appears to have been shaken by what he saw.
“So you - saw that?”
He nods, the remaining color in his face slowly returning. “Then - this is not all in your imagination.”
“No - now you have been there too!” Florestan cannot help but laugh, because the moment of danger to Charles’s mind appears to have passed. “In all seriousness, Charles, please have faith, there is more awaiting us than a miserable end in a miserable little room in Endenich.”
I take his hand and grasp it. “I will not speak much more before my end comes, and you may not understand much more of what I say. But if you are patient, we will once again sit in that café, and there is much, much more to do. Will you trust me on this?”
He weeps again, but nods. Accepting. And I know that while a suicide had visited my hospital today, he was not a suicide when he left it.
Here again comes the piano, and I see immediately with tired acceptance that he wishes to play at a game of medical intervention.
“I have allowed you these - five now? days of abstinence from food since I believe they can be helpful in purging the blood of ill influences. And I see that your fever has moderated somewhat.” He pauses briefly as though to listen, and I remember that he is to be expected to hear a deafening Tone, as I have often done. What may be known as the perfect Music of the Spheres, which will crush a normal man with its power. And what more regal tone, than that of the royal A? Neither minor nor major, simply - A. I can hear it even now, resounding distantly as though I am eavesdropping upon him; it sounds like the dripping of blood into my ear pan. Then, he continues, leaning in.
“Herr S, I bring you some broth that I wish for you to take, to break your fast.”
I shake my head, refusing both broth and speech. I am not sure I could speak if I willed it, now. The scent of the tureen on the tray he holds gives off a poisonous stench, which I find both maddening and nauseating, and I gesture definitely my refusal.
“Water, then,” and I allow him to hold a cup unsteadily to my lips. Invalidism becomes me, somehow. I always envied my father’s illnesses, for he lay ever abed, floundering, whilst my mother dipped crackers in broth, and laid them on his tongue, where he would suck them dry slowly, and then chew absently on what remained for long minutes, while she hummed patiently, praying, or singing to herself, as she waited for him to finish the tiny morsel. I felt thus with the far less patient piano, whose strings veritably thrummed with frustration as I persistently refused all nourishment save water.
At length, he issued what seemed to me a threat, that if another day passed wherein I refused substantial nourishment, he would have to resort to feeding me with a tube. I imagine that is to intimidate me. I did not reply.
As though declaring an end to his frustrating wait, he stood, and seized the shaving mirror from the credenza, and held it before me, so that I could not help but regard myself. And I thought as I saw the reflection, of nothing other than the words of Hamlet as he stared at the skull: “Alas, I knew him.”
I saw there my mortal remains, emaciated to an advanced degree. I regarded myself, nonetheless, with some small amusement, a slight smile. I then smiled the more at regarding Eusebius’s dead smile, and the skull replied with a wide mordant smile of its own.
He withdrew the mirror, with a gesture of outraged disgust, as though personally offended at my amusement.
“Herr S!” he cried. “It pleases me not that you find your wasting away to be amusing! I am not amused. Your friends also, are the opposite of amused. They are frightened. Is this what you want, to frighten them?”
I pursed my lips then, for Florestan found irresistible the temptation to reply, and issued one rasping syllable:
10 December 1855
And lo, he comes, Hohenheim. In the resoluteness of his rectitude he comes, a vengeful angel, with apparatus to enforce my obedience to the Rule of Life, and my own angel behind him, grim-faced, ready, unwilling and yet compliant at the last.
A bit of business wherein the piano gets one of his fingers nipped, but eventually he succeeds in prying open my mouth from which comes not even a gurgle of assent… and interminably later, the horrific deed of forcing my breakfast upon me is over. He is quite a bit more distressed than am I by this, for I suffer only the imagined further loss of my dignity, and later, a sore throat. But he, it appears, suffers from the fear that his earlier suggestion of fasting has given me an idea that has magnified in potential for an otherwise restrained suicide to escape from life. He sees now in my determined countenance, my firm resolution to die. Despite him. Despite all.
And comes upon his heels, the harried, and no less determined Wolf, who spends a half an hour pleading with me, for the sake of my immortal Soul, for the sake of Music, for the sake of his sad and mourning Uschi, to eat.
I have not been instructed to ignore him, but I can see now that Wolf in his compliance to the will of the piano, would do as he is told, not what I would ask, now that so much appears to matter. But I try anyway.
After sipping some water to soothe my surgically tormented throat, I speak. “Franz, you must let me go. I will stay with you until the wedding and that is all. Then the birds must all be shorn.”
“The what, the what?” he cries, agitated. His demeanor is suddenly enlivened by the fact that I have actually spoken to him, though to him, the words are nonsense.
birds…” and another vision ensues
I stand upon a high seawall, facing a cool, rising breeze which rushes in from the sea. It is a shore I do not recognize: the sea, steely grey and wind-stirred. This is the Pacific, and across the wide expanse of open sky I see many flying things. At first, I believe them to be birds. But their formation, ever perfect, is soon accompanied by sounds. They are Flugzeuge, approaching, perhaps to land… and they come in low, so low I am wont to duck my head beneath them, the grinding of their engines malevolent by many times the factor of the Eisenbahnen.
They come. To my shock, around me everywhere drop charges, let fly from these craft, and answering defenders from within the jungle, the selfsame cuckoos, hidden in nests of thick verdure. Then the jungle bursts into hot flame! reaching greedy tongues toward the mean thatch hovels below. As fire explodes upon their roofs, children and parents, women naked to the waist, old men in loincloths - cripples, strangely beardless, run for their lives at impossible speed. A small, brown-skinned boy, no more than nine, is frozen in mid-leap, shrieking, his skin now alight with lurid orange flame. The jungle is an inferno, hellishly burning with an unholy roar, while in the clearing, the people scatter and disappear one by one into the trees. Now, the lone child, his flesh completely black and consumed, crumples into a heap, whimpers, shrieks from time to time, then dies.
I am a helpless inhabitant of the Ghost Realm, non-physical. There is no harm to me, only a raw shock. Is war any less brutal, in this Future, than that fought with spears, lances, and horse? Nay, it is moreso; flaming bombs fall from an indifferent sky, annihilating villages of the poor, full of innocent children, and hobbling old men. Eerily, outrageously, I hear the sound of that A, and a cadence of the march of the infidels from “Peri” as was foretold by the demon. War is the watchword of the Future.
“No, Franz…” I say again. “The future comes, and I must try to understand it before I am sent there.”
When I find myself again waked, I am alone, and it is dark, and I hear nothing but
This cannot be. My end must come soon, for I cannot bear these helpless visions about which I can do nothing! Nothing! I shout into the night:
Outside my window, the cold light grows into a merciless cold dawn. How fitting that winter closes in around me while I dream of burning jungles and charred bodies. Strangely, it seems I cannot get cool, and I go to the window and gulp the fresh air. Oh, what a time for inspiration to strike! For a new music introduces itself to my unwilling, unprepared ears… developing delicately into a sad and beautiful theme that haunts me. And now I must find my pen. But it is dry, and my ink has been mislaid.
There is no ink. In a state of agitation, then, I take the nib and lay open the vein at my elbow, so often opened for the less worthy purpose of Morphia injections, and after a fashion I have an ink, and manage the major voice of the theme, which dries to a less visible brown by the time my warder, Schneider, returns. I have managed to conceal my surgical improvisation adequately to keep suspicion at bay, and make it known that I am missing my inkwell, and he scurries to find ink. I cannot afford the blood it would take to pen all of this to you… soon he brings a bottle of blue! with his apologies. I despise blue ink. But it is better than my own blood, and a part of the day is consumed with my traditional occupation, until Charles comes. At which time I entrust all to him.
He regards the peculiar page of the early morning with a raised eyebrow. “And what is this piece?” he inquires.
“The opening of my Opus V.”
“You already have an Opus V.”
“This is my next Opus V,” Florestan argues.
“How is that possible?” he scratches his head.
“I will show it to you when it is time, the next time.”
“When will that be?”
“After the End,” I reply.
Lamier, who previous to my confession to him, may have sighed with frustration, nodded quietly. “Until the End, then. I should keep this until then?”
“Give it to the man whom you trust the most, before you die. The one who appears most true to me, and to the Future of Music. You will know who that is.”
“I already know,” he responded. “I was not so beside myself yesterday that I did not hear your request. We have already met, and he has agreed to take charge of your as-yet unpublished work, and promises not to alter it.”
I am ever more pleased! “And who? It could not be Johannes… or Liszt…”
“Of course not.”
“Johannes cannot be trusted to keep watch over a nine year old boy!”
“Yes, it is not Johannes.”
“And G is dead, and K is out of the country in permanent exile.”
“No. No. It is Joseph.”
Ah. Of course. The quiet one. I had thought his disapproval of me and my work in Düsseldorf had caused a permanent rift. But Lamier had met with him!
“Then he must be…”
“He is in Köln.”
“Will you bring him to see me?” And with a promise of more ink of the proper color, and plans to bring Joseph, he left me.
Now I must return to my Thema, that of Politics and Music. For it can be no accident of the ghost Realm that I am now haunted by these tormenting demons, and equally, by visions of a brutal Future War. Did I not face this before, in the pernicious form of Wieck, and more perniciously, in the form of Wagner? Indeed I must, for were it not for my Saxon patriotism I could have become an Austrian citizen and had a far more lucrative career as a journalist than I ever did as a composer or even as a conductor. I had no ambition to conduct, save for the fact that a composer without an orchestra is hampered in his ability to orchestrate his symphony. Perhaps Schubert was beyond all need for hearing the work, for there were no errors in his symphonies, such as I made, not even in his first autographs. Certainly Beethoven was equally beyond this, since his most sublime work was accomplished when profoundly deaf - heard he the inner voice more perfectly?
I am not either of these. And other composers of my class and less Important, have demonstrated this same limitation.
And to have an orchestra available one must either have directorship, or be the intimate of one. And that was denied me due to Politics, after Felix went to Berlin. I was denied in Leipzig due to the spite of Wieck and the cow-like complicity of his circle. Likewise in Dresden, as word of my defiance of the Important One had spread. However, these are mere personal considerations, though telling.
The larger issue of Politics and Music has to do with the patronage and sponsorship system of the new Political Class, who desired German artists of all kinds to flock to their cause, and write of it. And those who were seduced by the post-revolutionary regimes rightly became, to my mind, a new set of Philistines.
How appalled I was to watch Liszt join them! Worse, to attempt to recruit me to it!
I had no truck with this new Reich. I did not believe that a revolution would do more for us, as composers, than Napoleon’s occupation had done, which was nothing. Composers have enough to worry about in their Art without having to concern themselves with whether the tone or tenor of their Thema has adequately and convincingly supported the prevailing Power, and whether it would be acceptable to the Patron in the current Political climate. This Volksgeist idea of Wagner’s…
Pernicious in the extreme, because it promulgated the idea that a composer does more than describe the Real World, but in some fashion, is its Author. And here is where Politics become anathema to Art, and where the wise do not tread, out of fear of offense to the Angel and to God Himself. Men do not tell God what Beauty is! And a composer, make no mistake, is never the author of the Idea, but always, ever, its auditor and scribe. A mere witness, as it were.
Many were the silly and self-congratulatory letters from Wagner I received! After a time, when I saw the characteristic flourish and the Bayern postmark, I would throw them away.
I had nothing to say to a man who had decided he is the source of all authentic German music, and I certainly did not need any help in defending what he described as my own Volksgeist (apparently, he admired me) against the enemies of the Volk and of Art. I dismissed him as an obsessive, whose preoccupations would in time, distract and ultimately, silence him. But clearly, this did not happen. Were it not for stupid Ludwig - it would. Wagner had his infernal Source to promulgate his Volkstheater, in defence against his imaginary Jewish enemy.
But what is this hatred of Jews, then, Hohenheim? This part, I do not understand. What twist of personal hatred possessed Wagner to carry his grudge against the Parisian, no less of Felix, and parade them in the Zeitschrift?
Were that I had not destroyed his letters, I might have adequate evidence of his incipient madness to influence favorably the Future War. But no
I am not a Politician. I did the right thing, then, destroying them. And still. I ignored the Unimportant. I could not have done any more to discourage his Popularity than I did. I never staged one of his works, nor scheduled one. Felix went a step closer to him in amity and produced Tannhäuser which he found the least horrible of his operas. But that was only because he would have been questioned closely had he not. And that would require making an actual statement that Felix was unlikely to do, even under pressure.
Oh yes, Felix and I had a row on this point as well, Hohenheim. And in memory of Felix, and his less adventurous scruples while in Berlin, I utterly refused to perform anything by Wagner, and made it a condition of my position in Düsseldorf. In this, at least, my masters there did not differ with me. At least, not until everything changed.
But I spend too much time looking back. I pause now, since Wolf himself brings me a lunch of some stew, with a profoundly reproachful countenance, and in sympathy for his fears, I make a show of sipping on a spoonful or two of the revolting stuff, at the same time requesting, with pitiful pleading, for wine. He is gone for some long minutes and brings me, to my surprise, an unopened bottle of the Rothschild. How had he produced it with no notice?
“I was saving it for you to have at the reception,” he replied without prompting. “But I think you could use it now.”
He poured for me, and I offered it to him, and he sat and took the second glass. Apparently the moment of normality reassured him that I was not truly at the threshold of the next existence (as yet.) We drank in silence for some time, and upon draining the second glass he opened his mouth.
“Must you then?”
“I know your religion condemns suicide, Franz. So I know that this torments you. But despite this there is no other choice for me. I am sorry.”
Then - boy of sudden impulse that he is, Wolf throws himself to his knees again! And cries “Herr Professor Doktor please! Let me bring a priest to you, so you can confess! Then your soul can be saved at least!”
I looked at him with an abashed curiosity. “A priest cannot save me from destiny, Franz. And I am not a Catholic. Have the last glass.” I had lost my desire for wine, suddenly. He struggled back to his feet, filled with a strange shame, and reassumed his seat. Then reluctantly drained the bottle into his glass.
“Then I will pray for you every night,” he whispered miserably. I nodded, and said no more. Hohenheim, please assure me that I will not be born to the Future a Catholic! They are such misery-ridden creatures.
At this, I disappeared from the Present, and reemerged in the Future.
Amazing! I sit with dozens of others in an auditorium, and witness a presentation. Around me, my colleagues listen in rapt attention, to the speaker whose German is otherwise perfect but strangely accented, and I have trouble following. Perhaps this speech is a future German, for the clothing of the women is yet more daring by quarter notes. One displays an almost entirely bare back to the rest of the audience, and my eyes wander repeatedly to gaze at it. I balance on my knee a small but thick dictionary, struggling with words such as ‘movement’ and ‘creation’ and find my overall understanding of his subject distracting, except for the fact that this topic is deeply familiar to me.
We retire then, in silence and solemnity, to a Temple, wherein a brief but sacred ceremony is held. And there, in meditation, a vision comes. I see a great army gathering, preparing themselves for battle. Assembling them are men with bright faces, their hair, lustrous, such as the portraits of saints, but more generalized and unselfconscious. This, I realize with a start, is an answer to a question concerning the Jews. For here is a scene of great antiquity, an army of ancient people, ready to march under the orders of angels. These are the True, the army of King David. Here, in greater detail, is my vision from early childhood - the assembled might of the Hebrew nation. In antiquity, raised by God to preeminence. This is far, far earlier than any Christian thought - the Chosen, as described in the Old Testament. And a vision I have long had, in fragmentary dreams.
These march, over desert hills, over barren fells. To utter exhaustion they march, hundreds of thousands - they fill the plains. Greater than any army fielded by Alexander. Greater still than his enemy Porus at the great battle of the Hydaspes at Jelum. Greater even than the numberless Persian hosts of Darius at the monstrous battle of Tyre. Greater than all of these combined, and yet greater.
Who opposes? Who would dare to stand against God’s people? Then they meet their enemy, as hopelessly undaunted as the Britons and their African regulars at the battle of the French Shore.
And their enemy appears, but what are they? Unholy, these. Led also by graceful men with gloriously effulgent crowns, made more brilliant by the slowly rising Sun, is a force of that which might be man, but is in some peculiar way, changed. Fierce, aggressive, beastly in aspect. Tall, impossibly so in contrast to their leaders, misshapen and assymetric, some impossibly huge in build and height. Monsters. “There were giants in the earth in those days…” these words sound as though intoned.
And the legions of the Unholy men and their angels, similarly armed to the Davidites, shout then and engage, slashing indiscriminately into the more timid line of far more cautious men, and slay them by the hundreds, by the thousands.
Decimated, the defenders of the True remain undaunted. They come. They die. Still, they come. (Sie kommen, immer noch.)
An unheard-of slaughter, of unbelievable proportion. Endless. The Monstrous cry and shriek in sheer blood lust and lay about them in frenzy. The Davidites shout vain encouragement to one another, and struggle in the dust with hoarse cries, and die. Hacked to pieces, cloven from breast to loins by the axes of the Monstrous.
At the end, the Monstrous, both more numerous and more powerful, drive back the men, and the Davidites retreat, finally in despair, dragging or carrying as many of their injured as they can. The cause of their haste is soon clear. What ensues then is horrible beyond all words, for the Monstrous army, flushed with their victory, fall upon the bodies of their enemy, tear with teeth into the flesh of the fallen, and eat! These are not men. These are no men I know.
Up to now, I had stood aside, in the normal attitude of passive watching I have adopted in the Ghost Realm - but this is not the Future. For one of the bright-headed leaders marches quickly forward, and with a salute, fixes his eye on me, more bold than my poor Ludwig in his prison, and speaks, his lip curled in barely-restrained disgust.
“Do we let them continue, Lord, or shall we reassemble them for attack?”
And I, the inhabitant of this realm, reply! “Let them gorge themselves. It is now their nature, and we cannot change that any longer. When they slacken, pull them back. Destroy any who do not obey. This battle is ours.”
The Unholy army - led by me? To my immense relief the horrid vision ends. I am back in the Temple.
There is a disease in the blood - a disease of blood lust - but whence comes this disease? And it is not in the Jews but in those who oppose them. The remainder of the Unholy army. They are among us, even today. And even today, they seek instinctively, to destroy. Hohenheim, my heart beats slowly with a great dread. Why do these daemonic personae torment me, and what is this ancient vision of me that is so horrible? What had I to do with these daemons?
Many were the times I have been told I have the Devil in me, but like all schoolboys, I did not take this in a literal sense!
If I am to be utterly frank, there are times when I do not understand this facile skill I seem to have, to transcend time, to see the sweep of History, to hear the singing voice of the Angel and to write it… and at the same time
I do. I fear there is another meaning to my S, which I cannot now face. And then
a period of darkness ensues, and I am no more.
11 December 1855
My angel comes early with Schneider and Herr Doktor P, whom I had seen when first I came to Endenich, but not since. And before addressing me, P. spends some time reading a pile of close-written notes in the piano’s hand, which I casually observe along with him. Having spent many an hour sitting across from my mother as she read her music and Zeitschriften, I am as adept at reading backwards and upside down as I am at reading straight on, and I see, to my alarm, the most recent entries are dated June!
How can this be? It is December!
I attempt to conceal my confusion. While I slept, it is possible that seven months had somehow passed in a great slip of Time? That despite your reassurances, I have become truly mad? Or is it only that as you had warned, Hohenheim, time should change for me as the End approaches?
He is now addressing me: “Herr Professor Doktor S, I am here today at the request of Herr Direktor Richard, who is indisposed. He has suffered from a lapse in his hearing and can no longer care for you.”
“He cared for me little enough as it is,” Florestan replied, remarkably clearly, considering my recent periods of profound silence.
“What is that you said, Herr Doktor?” he leans closer in, and cocks his head to listen.
“I said!” Florestan shouts, now annoyed. “You are also quite deaf I see!” And my angel looks away when she sees my searching eyes.
He makes a scribbled note which I read as he pens it. “Speech is unintelligible, appears distressed.” Very good, Herr Doktor P.
He strides Importantly across the room to a tray on which glitters a new-filled needle, shiny with malevolent potential. I shake my head meaningfully. “The Count assured me there would be no more of those!” I object loudly, distinctly, and I defend myself valiantly with my pillow as he comes. But he is no piano, and upon witnessing the dramatic increase in my distress, desists. He apparently will not do to me, nor make me do, what I desire not. I hope that plan extends to lunch.
And how happy I am! For Lamier comes with Joseph at last, and I am beside myself with joy when I see him. We take a turn in the garden, for I am feeling quite fine, though I dress warmly against the winter wind. Curiously, I do find a bloom of Violettas, and purloin them all to place on my desk, for I have something to write today. Joseph and I have a serious discussion about the Romances, and I explain what Johannes had caused to happen. Why I can no longer trust Johannes with manuscripts old or new, and give Joseph my reason.
Joseph, as always, is quite direct, and he stops my walk with a heavy hand on each of my shoulders. “My dear friend,” as though beginning a speech in my honor, “You are talking to the man who refused to replace you on the podium, out of respect for your person and your work. I certainly do not intend now to presume to replace you as the editor and composer of your work, nor to interpret your intention, were you to predecease me.”
I laugh at his noble pretense. “There is no ‘if’ Joseph. Find the Romances, if you can. Find what Johannes did with them. And for God’s sake don’t let him publish the original arrangement of the D-minor. He has the autograph manuscript, but that does not entitle him to produce it, or make money on publicizing my indiscretions.”
Joseph nodded, unspeaking, and I press him. “You should keep all the pieces I wrote after 52. Keep them as a legacy. You will marry; Bequeath them to your son, and give him a proviso not to publish them for a hundred years. He can put that in a will, can he not? You can specify that in your own will!”
“My son isn’t even born yet!” he objected, suddenly querulous at the prospect.
“A hundred years,” I repeated. I should be back by then, or shortly afterward.”
“I will draw it up and give it to Lamier,” he replied, unsmiling.
“I wrote the last concert for you,” I persisted. “I wrote nothing for Johannes. Remember that.”
“I shall,” he replied.
One more thing, and did I dare?
“What is the date, Joseph?”
“It is the 11th of July, Robert. And I might add, much too warm for that jacket. I don’t know how you endure the heat.”
A gasp escapes me. “What happened to the Winter and Spring?” I cried. Oh Hohenheim, nothing less tragic than the death of Schubert, or the death of my beloved Schiller, could have shaken me as did Joseph’s reply! And I can no longer deny that the seasons of Winter and Spring had fled while I dreamt. And I begged Joseph to return with me to the library to explain what had happened while I lay dreaming in the lunatic asylum.
My fourth symphony was performed by W in Bonn and by V at Esterházy. My last published Concert became the most popular piece for teachers of klavier in Rotterdam and in other Konversatoria, and to my deep embarrassment, the city of my birth ennobled me by initiating the work of a Konservatorium and also a music festival in my honor, starting the previous year. He brought with him a daguerreotype of the first festival’s opening ceremony which had taken place on my birthday.
And I was ashamed, curiously. Not forgotten or spurned in the madhouse as I had thought… even now as I am busy about my dying.
However, Joseph brought also a heavy piece of news that bothered me deeply. “Even now, W in Bonn prepares a book to be released upon your death. Its argument is that you went mad from syphilis.”
“The devil!” I cried. “He always coveted my position!”
“Ah, no real worries. Your wife has no intention of letting him print it,” he replied. I laughed, bitterly.
“She is good for something at least,” Florestan sneered.
At length Joseph returned me to my place, and took his leave, and I became tired, tired unto death, Hohenheim. I believe I will not last until Christmas.
And I dream…
My sons are with me, and we are walking the promenade along the Mulde, searching for violets. There, I see a man I seem to know, and I send the boys ahead to search the rocks by the shore, while I speak with the approaching stranger.
He greets me, and I recognize him. “Guildenstein.” He nods. “You are the friend of Hohenheim.”
“Yes, you might also call him Rosenkrantz, or Rosencreütz. They are the same.”
“Because they are not names, but symbols.”
“Of course. An image. I am just an image, too. I come to answer a question regarding the Devil.”
“Oh!” I cry, now fearful.
“The answer to your question is yes, and no.”
“And - no?”
“In ancient times, men as you know were not quite as they are today. And those which seduced them to such an excess of violence was not a single Daemonic personality, but rather a class of them, and their host.”
“Then I - “
“Are merely one of these. Hopefully now, redeemed. The Devil, like the Rosenkrantz, is but a symbol. But you are of interest to the Forces of Disharmony right now, because of your order of birth. You are now the oldest of this class now to walk among men as a man. And the one who now endures their Temptation.”
“What of -“
“The others? You mean, others such as me?” He smiles. “I am not in this world at present. I am however, due to return shortly. At that time, my Temptation will be similar to your own. My challenge will be to avoid the lure of both flesh and power, in order to preserve the light that grows in the Russian empire and beyond. That is our next concern. I will likely fail. But I will try.”
“So I am part of a class?”
“Everything is connected, my dear Eusebius. We are a class of beings, in most respects utterly human. No longer truly angelic, but never fallen all the way to what is considered an average man. For we have gifts, of arts, particularly. And we choose our sex, though we are more akin to our heritage, which is never quite man or woman, but both. And one cannot fall without provoking despair and a sense of loss in the others. Likewise one cannot rise without achieving its opposite.”
“Prepare to rise.”
“Wait!” I shouted. “What happened to the Winter and the Spring?”
“These Seasons have also been lost. We are left with two only, until the End. Summer, and Fall. And if we are very unlucky, we will be left with Summer only.”
“What does it mean?” I cried, now more desperately confused.
“It is an Allegory,” he replied, Sphinxlike. “Meditate upon this. For Summer comes nigh.”
My vision ended, my son came running back to me with a handful of violets.
“Where is your brother?” I asked him.
“My what? I do not have a brother.” he answered. “Are you feeling all right, mother?”
12 July 1856
Now the date in the mundane world is superscribed here, the world I descend to in order to preserve a record, but in which I do not live. I know it is the 12th of December, 1855. I live in two times, moving between worlds and a third point in the future which unfolds after the End.
I am now merely amused by this dislocation of time, and three pieces of me on a curious dance together in Time. I do not know why, or how, but the facts are here laid bare. We, who remain in material form, are the same souls who previously provoked what literature has referred to as the Fall of Man, as written of in the poem, but not with hosts of angels did they fight, but of men. And we, the most peculiar, fallen angels. Myself among them, for there can be no doubt now in my mind, that I am other; neither heavenly nor earthly, but between the two. Heaven-born, and Earth-bound. And soon to be freed to a more heavenly home. (einer Himmlischer Heimat.)
I find once again pinned to my pillow a new, more curt note over the signature of Guildenstein:
“Rules for this World:
Do not dally with its natives
Leave no issue thereby
Eschew strong spirits
Seek the Rose and Gold Cross.”
I record these instructions in the movable E clef.
a long period of darkness ensues
A handsome young couple visits me and asks me to bless their union, for they are getting married today in the newly-erected cathedral on the Sebastianstraße. I cannot attend, since I am sick unto death, but they show me their printed Banns.
The bride is visibly pregnant, a slight embarrassment. Holding her intended’s hand as they stand beside my chair, she asks shyly if I will put my hand upon her belly, where protrudes its head.
“He will know it is you,” she says. Feeling both solemn and silly, I do this thing she asks, and say a brief quote in Latin from the Mass in C, and as I intone the words I feel a peculiar movement of the living child under my hand.
“He kicked!” she cried. “He knows you!”
“She. It is a girl,” I remark wryly. Their faces register the same surprise.
“How do you know?”
“How is a sonata composed?” I replied. “I can more easily explain the latter than I can the former. It is a girl.”
Herr Doktor P comes with a letter he has composed to my wife, explaining that I have not eaten now for several weeks and my death is now imminent.
“I am not much of a traditionalist,” he explained. “But I think it will go better in the long term for your children, if you give a good memory to your wife, and demonstrate that you love her. Otherwise, they will live long and in pain with the torment that you scorned her until the moment of your death. I do not believe you want that. For them.” He shows me the daguerreotype of my children, and I weep.
Yet I hold forth for days! against his argument, but at length, relent, and agree to see both her and Johannes, with Joseph. I will not live to see the end of that day, I vow. I set the date for the visit, and instruct him to send for them to arrive on the last day of July.
But they come too early.
the manuscript ends
Coda: Molto Adagio
I am the Count von Hohenheim, born and baptised Theophrastus Bombastus Gottfried von Hohenheim, of Württemburg, known in life as the itinerant physician and scientist Paracelsus. I live still.
By my hand, I attest that all written herein was written and entrusted to me by the composer from his hand. I saw destroyed the medical records concerning his hospitalization and daily treatment, and left intact only the report of the autopsy, a final act done by Herr Doktor Professor Richard, my friend, at my request. I firmly believe that the future science’s greater powers will verify that he died of no madness known then or in any future time to have originated in the brain, nor of syphilitic dementia; but only from wounds, and of starvation to his brain which caused unrelenting pain; and that he remained utterly lucid to the end.
This manuscript was not written as a defense of history, nor as a personal confession. It is instead presented as an example. It is an instruction that we, the Hierarchs of a secret society of the Illumined, believe to be of value to the artists, composers and musicians who must live now and face the difficult times ahead. For all bear a unique similarity, and many have even now interred themselves under medical or psychiatric care, to little effect, and for little purpose.
In obedience to his dying wish, these pages were kept safe and uninspected until a hundred years passed, as did his final compositions.
But the World is in darkness, and we in our wisdom, determined that a hundred years was not adequate time in which to prepare to introduce the Allegory. So we present it now, when it can do the most good to those for whom it was prepared.
As for S, he, under our most careful care, went to a realm in which Music Absolute reigns, as he had foreseen. You, dear Reader, need not be concerned for him. He has been granted everything for which he had prayed. And he worries not about the size of his audience nor his popularity. May he remain there happy at last, where he may in time publish the Romances for String.
July 29, 2003
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The Death of a Mad Composer Index
[ Prelude ]
[ Movement I ]
[ Movement II ]
[ Movement III ]
[ Movement IV ]
[ Movement V ]
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