Beethoven og kreativitet, af Michelle Rasmussen

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This article appears in the March 5, 2021 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Beethoven and Creativity

by Michelle Rasmussen

[Print version of this article]

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Lithograph by August von Klöber, 1818

Ludwig van Beethoven

Feb. 23—If there was one principle at the center of Lyndon LaRouche’s life’s work, it was that the crucial factor in the progress of human civilization is human creativity. It is human creativity which distinguishes man, and woman, from the beast. It is, or ought to be, the mission of society to foster the potential creativity, which, like a seed, lies dormant in every child, just waiting for loving nourishment to cause it to bloom, to create the most beautiful flower, which, in turn, delights and inspires all others to, themselves, develop their own creative potential. But, you may ask, how do you learn about, and teach creativity?

There is perhaps no better creativity teacher than Ludwig van Beethoven, he who was born 250 years ago, in another time, in another place, whose life-long struggle to perfect his own creative powers, has been, is now, and will forever be a monumental source for the study of creativity. This he was for LaRouche, who would often listen to Beethoven to get his creative juices flowing before sitting down to write. And this he can be for you, dear reader, and all of us, so that we may, also, be creative, that we may “Think like Beethoven.”[fn_1]

And what is the purpose of such creativity? As Beethoven put it, “to work by means of my art for needy humanity.”[fn_2] Not art for art’s sake. Beethoven, like Friedrich Schiller, was conscious of great art’s ability to raise the moral level of humanity, to better enable human beings to form a more perfect society, one where, in Schiller’s immortal words, “All men become brothers,” the very words which Beethoven set to music in his Ninth Symphony.[fn_3]

Beethoven wrote that art and science, “Give us intimations and hopes of a higher life” to unite “the best and noblest people,” and to “raise men to the Godhead.”[fn_4]

To a female friend, urging her to devote herself entirely to music, he wrote: “You who have such feeling for all that is beautiful and good. Why will you not make use of this, in order that you may recognize in so beautiful an art the higher perfection which sheds its rays even on us.”[fn_5]

Concerning his immortal mass, the Missa Solemnis: “In writing this great Mass, it was my chief aim to awaken, and to render lasting, religious feeling as well in the singers as in the hearers.”[fn_6]

Plato wrote that music was the most important education for the soul—to fill the soul with beauty, and make it beautiful. People would then praise beauty, receive it with joy into their souls, and become beautiful souls.[fn_7]

Beauty, Schiller said, ennobles our emotions and our intellect. Not just raw emotions which dominate us, without intellect and reason. Not just intellect and reason, without compassion and agapē—love for our neighbor. But through the freedom of mind and heart, which arises while in the act of play, and especially when experiencing the beauty of great art, the two sides of our nature can be reconciled by rising to a higher, subsuming state of mind, which we call the aesthetical state of mind.

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Friedrich Schiller, in a portrait by Ludovike Simanowiz.

Beethoven quoted Schiller’s play Don Carlos in a letter from 1797: “Wisdom is for the wise, Beauty for the feeling heart; and both belong to each other.” (Die Wahrheit is vorhanden für den Weisen, Die Schönheit für ein fülend Herz; Sie beide gehören für einander.)[fn_8]

Beethoven wielded his creative powers to touch our souls through the beauty of his music.

The Creative Process

To be creative is a process of perfecting the ability to imagine what no one before you has ever thought about. In modern terms, to think “outside of the box,” the box of “This is how it has always been done,” “These are the rules,” “These are the unquestionable doctrines.” And, to be self-conscious about how to do that. But how do you put yourself into a state of mind, where you can think freely? How can you become self-reflective about the creative process and look into your own mind?

The thought process we call the imagination, is not only the key to creativity in the arts, but, also, in scientific discovery. Lyndon LaRouche put it this way in a speech called “Creativity as Such,” in 2011:

And it’s in the process of metaphor, in which we acquire access to experimental knowledge and use of principles which lie outside the domain of sense-certainties, that mankind distinguishes himself from the beasts…. This is the special genius of Classical musical composition…. [Y]ou look at the question of irony, and you take the case of a Bach fugal composition as the perfect test to demonstrate this.… This aspect of the human mind is the location of human creativity. And the promotion of that aspect of the human experience, Classical artistic culture as an expression of the principle of metaphor, is the principle of ordinary discovery, principled discovery. And when you take this kind of thinking over into the department of the practice of physical science, the same thing! And there, you have an example of the role of Classical musical composition, as in the illustrative cases of both Max Planck and Albert Einstein, in particular—and [Vladimir] Vernadsky also! You get a demonstration that in the department of Classical artistic composition, in which the mind is experimenting with the attempt to discover principles, and expresses the yearning for that experimental result as the incentive of creativity for the human mind. That is creativity.[fn_9]

Albert Einstein, better known as a great scientist, lesser known as a devoted amateur violinist, made his greatest discoveries not in a laboratory, but through “thought-experiments.” He had an intriguing insight into the power of the imagination, which he used to make his discoveries, and, also, the power of music to stimulate his own imagination.

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Photo by E.O. Hoppe

“The power of imagination is the ultimate creative power.”
—Albert Einstein.
When he became stuck in solving an intellectual problem, Einstein often played his violin to liberate his mental powers.


The power of imagination is the ultimate creative power … no doubt about that. While knowledge defines all we currently know and understand … imagination points to all we might yet discover and create. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.[fn_10]

Imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.[fn_11]

Imagination is the language of the soul.[fn_12]

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.[fn_13]

Einstein recounted that when he became stuck in the process of solving an intellectual problem, he would play his violin, and that would often liberate his mental powers.[fn_14]

Beethoven wrote this about the challenge of writing fugues in his late quartets: “The imagination, too, asserts its privileges and today a different, truly poetic element must be manifested in conventional form.”[fn_15]

In 1823, Beethoven wrote suggestions on how to stimulate the imagination to Archduke Rudolph, one of his very few composition students, and an important financial and political supporter:

I hope that Your Imperial Highness will continue to acquire special practice in writing down your ideas straightaway at the piano; for this purpose there should be a small table next to the piano. Not only is the imagination strengthened in this way, but one also learns to pin down the remotest ideas at once, it is likewise necessary to write without a piano. Nor should it give Yr. Imperial Highness a headache, but rather the considerable pleasure of finding yourself absorbed in this art, to elaborate a simple melody at times, a chorale, with simple and, then again, with more varied figurations in counterpoint[fn_16] and so forth to more difficult exercises. This will certainly not give Your Royal Highness a headache, but rather, when one finds oneself absorbed in art, a great pleasure. Gradually we develop the [ability to] express just exactly what we wish to, what we feel within us, a need characteristic of all superior persons [noble-minded men in A.C. Kalischer’s translation].[fn_17]

This power of the imagination involves our ability to think about the future, about how something could be, not bound by what is, in the here and now.

The concept of the imagination is related to forecasting the future effects of current causes, as in LaRouche’s economic forecasts, in which he always proposed alternative courses of action to avoid the dangers stalking in the future as the result of current wrong policies. And, likewise, deciding what to do in the here and now, based on your vision of where you want to arrive in the long-term future, the “future determining the present,” as he put it.

In classical music, imagining the future requires, on the one hand, having an insight into the pregnant possibilities of a single new musical theme or motive, but, on the other hand, the ability to invent a musical idea, which is not a theme, but a generative, developmental process, a specific quality of change—the real subject of a unified composition, which acts upon the themes as objects of creative transformation.

The seed-crystal of this development process is in the mind of the composer from the very beginning.

Beethoven from 1815: “I have always a picture in my mind, when I am composing, and work up to it.”[fn_18]

Regarding his opera Fidelio, “my custom when I am composing even instrumental music is always to keep the whole before my eyes.”[fn_19]

There is a tension between what Plato called “the one and the many”: the one unifying musical idea, and the many motives, developments, and transitions—the unfolding of the unified idea. The great German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler spoke of the tension between near-hearing (nahhören), the music heard at that moment as it is unfolding, and far-hearing (fernhören), the future, completed, composition.

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EIRNS/Philip Ulanowsky

“The seed-crystal of the development process is in the mind of the composer from the very beginning.” Norbert Brainin, primarius of the Amadeus Quartet, described and demonstrated the process of motivic thorough composition, the subject of Beethoven’s enormously fruitful musical creativity. Here he is (right), with his long-time friend, Lyndon LaRouche, on December 4, 1987.

Beethoven was a master of this process, which we call motivic thorough composition or, in German, motivführung. Just think about the first movement of his Fifth Symphony, and how the first famous four notes—da, da, da, dum—became the object of Beethoven’s enormously fruitful musical creativity. Or the motivführung that traverses several of Beethoven’s late string quartets, as described by Norbert Brainin, the late Amadeus Quartet primarius, at a Schiller Institute seminar, where he started with Op. 132.[fn_20]

Paradoxically the one, unifying musical idea must subsume many free, independent voices. Beethoven wrote the following upon being asked by a composer to criticize his composition:

[N]ot indirectly, but frankly, as is my wont, I only tell you that you might pay a little more attention to the separate conduct of the parts in future works of this kind.[fn_21]

Creativity is not linear. LaRouche emphasized the role of surprise, paradox, metaphor, irony, even jokes, and puns, all of which Beethoven was a master. The listener is consciously led into a trap, where, suddenly, the unexpected occurs. A dramatic new element takes you by surprise, and you are forced to make a mental leap into the realm of the imagination, away from linear thinking. Afterwards, an emotional release occurs, for example, when you “get the joke.” In metaphor, there is a juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated elements in a surprising way, which can only be understood from a higher, subsuming level. (See box: Beethoven Thought
in Metaphor

In the process of unfolding the musical idea in a polyphonic (many-voiced) musical universe, sometimes the different individual voices come into conflict with each other, and dissonances emerge in the contrapuntal process, which urgently demand to be resolved, thus driving the unfolding process forward in a non-linear way.

This is similar to a human dialogue of cultures, where, sometimes, conflicts emerge. These conflicts, however, can be solved through the process of creating a higher unity, the which Nikolaus von Kues (Nicholas of Cusa) called the “coincidence of opposites.” This is actually a common metaphor in Danish known as things “going up in a higher unity” (at gå op i en højere enhed.) In music, the higher unity is the overall musical idea of that particular piece.

The creative process also entails great emotional tension in the midst of problem solving, as if you are hanging on a psychological cliff, or lost in no-man’s land. You begin to doubt if the problem can ever be solved. But the great thinker, whether in music, science, or elsewhere, develops a power of concentration, sometimes lasting years, based on an underlying consciousness of the importance of his or her endeavor, a striving passion, until a breakthrough occurs, as if in a flash of insight, and the problem is solved.

The creative struggle involves trying out new solutions, which are not in the rulebook, and not in your own past productions. To be self-reflective about the creative process requires not only being conscious about new methods of composition, as Beethoven sometimes explicitly wrote that he had invented, which Plato referred to as a “higher hypothesis,” but, also, to be self-conscious about the increasingly creative quality of compositional methods, which Plato called the “hypothesis of the higher hypothesis.”

From Beethoven to a publisher in 1802 regarding Piano Variations Op. 34 and 35:

Both sets are really worked out in a wholly new manner, and each in a separate and different way…. I myself can assure you that in both these works the method is quite new so far as I am concerned.[fn_22]

[W]hen feeling opens up a path for us, then away with all rules.[fn_23]

In fact, LaRouche wrote that Beethoven should be considered a physical scientist, because of his ability to make one creative breakthrough after another, to discover new worlds, new modes of musical expression. In science, we discover new physical principles of nature, even creating new states of matter, never before seen in nature. Opening your mind to the existence of a paradox, that which does not fit into the accepted theories, spurs the mind to seek new, higher, hypotheses, and design crucial physical experiments to prove, or disprove them.

In art, we use the same cognitive powers to discover new artistic principles, and, also, something new about our own creativity, which we can share with others, be they musicians or listeners. We can communicate the power of creativity, itself, to move men’s souls.

Beethoven was a master in making use of known musical forms (for example, the sonata form), and imbuing them with surprising, new, revolutionary content.

Beethoven’s Struggle to Approximate
Divine Creativity

Beethoven was self-conscious about his own divine spark of creativity, that which LaRouche devoted his life to better understand, that Götterfunken (godly spark), of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”: Freude, schöne Götterfunken[fn_24], the which Beethoven set to music in his monumental Ninth Symphony. LaRouche pondered, what does it mean for man to be in the image of The Creator? It is this capacity for man, also, to be a creator. That, stressed LaRouche, is what separates men and women from beasts. (See the section on the divine spark in every individual in LaRouche’s article in this issue, “In the Garden of Gethsemane,” written in his prison cell in 1990.)

Beethoven wrote to publisher Breitkopf & Härtel in 1812: “my heavenly art, the only true divine gift of Heaven,” and in 1824: “I am free from all small-minded vanity: only the divine art, in it alone is the main-spring which gives me strength to devote the best part of my life to the heavenly Muses.”[fn_25]

After seeing a collection of Schubert’s songs, Beethoven’s friend Anton Schindler records him as saying: “Truly, this Schubert is lit by a divine spark.”[fn_26]

Resenting publishers who line their pockets with profits from an author’s work, treating them as “tasty brain-food,” Beethoven wrote:

The author [Beethoven] is determined to show that the human brain cannot be sold either like coffee beans or like any form of cheese which, as everyone knows, must first be produced from milk, urine and so forth—The human brain is inherently inalienable.[fn_27]

Beethoven was very conscious of his mission in life: to be as creative as he could be, in order to uplift needy humanity with the power of his music. To adopt the immortal mission of the artist: to ennoble the present, and future generations. There was no standing still or entropy, but, instead, what LaRouche called anti-entropy. Motivated by his love for mankind, Beethoven willfully became more and more conscious of his own creative powers, and constantly strove to leap up to the next higher level of creativity, with the explicit goal of more closely reaching the power of God’s own creativity. (See box: Beethoven: ‘To Spread the Rays of the Godhead’)

The Sublime

Beethoven’s passion to fulfill his mission gave him the power to rise above personal adversity, in the form of his increasing deafness. As he put it in his moving Heiligenstadt testament, he was in anguish about losing that very sense which he ought to have in perfection.

Schiller calls this the sublime—our ability to rise above sensual pain, for the purpose of a higher mission.

In 1813, Beethoven wrote: “Lend sublimity to my highest thoughts, enrich them with truths that remain truths forever!”[fn_28]

He copied from another source: “Everything that is called life should be sacrificed to the sublime and be a sanctuary of art.”[fn_29]

Beethoven wrote to his good friend Dr. Franz Wegeler, in about 1801, about his anxiety during the previous two years because of his increasing deafness, and recent happy moments due to a woman he was now in love with, continuing:

For me there is no greater pleasure than that of practicing and displaying my art. My strength, both in body and mind, for some time has been on the increase. Every day brings me nearer to the goal which I feel but cannot describe. And it is only in that condition that your Beethoven can live. There must be no rest—I know of none but sleep…. I will seize fate by the throat; it shall certainly not wholly overcome me. Oh! life is so beautiful. Would that I could have a thousand lives![fn_30]

A year later, in the testament Beethoven wrote in Heiligenstadt addressed to his brothers, but never sent, he penned that he was so desperate, that he had considered taking his own life. But he could not morally allow himself to do so, because he knew that he had so much more music to give humanity:

But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair; a little more of that and I would have ended my life—it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me…. “Divine one, thou seest my inmost soul thou knowest that therein dwells the love of mankind and the desire to do good.” Ever since my childhood my heart and soul have been imbued with the tender feeling of goodwill; and I have always been inclined to accomplish great things.[fn_31]

This became Beethoven’s moral imperative—Beethoven, the musician, and Beethoven, the man.

On September 17, 1824 to publisher Schott, after writing that his health was poor:

Apollo and the Muses will not yet hand me over to the Scythe Man, for I still owe them much; and before my departure for the Elysian Fields I must finish what the spirit suggests to me [or, as another translation has it: what the Eternal Spirit has infused into my soul[fn_32]] and commands me to finish. It is to me as if I had only written a few notes.[fn_33]

In art, there is a seeming paradox. The artist’s thoughts are often light years ahead of the general population, yet the mission of the artist is to ennoble just those people through the aesthetical experience—to raise the sights of the people to the stars. Beethoven, especially, felt this paradox, but was determined to compose at the highest level he could, despite complaints that his works were either unplayable, or not understandable.

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Beethoven, sculpted by Hugo Hagen in 1898.

Beethoven for Us, Today

Though he could not hear music with his ears, Beethoven heard music in his mind and felt it in his soul. He would go on to produce what many consider the greatest music in human history. That is why people all over the world still perform and listen to his music. That is also why we must strive to present Beethoven’s music to those, emphatically including young people, who don’t know the beauty they are missing. Let us give it to them, as Beethoven’s present to everyone, on the occasion of his 250th birthday.

Dear reader, take the opportunity to celebrate Beethoven’s birthday by immersing yourself in listening to, and even playing and singing, his works, so that you may better understand the creative beings that we are. Notes on paper represent not just tones, but the keys to Beethoven’s creative mind. Thereby, you can confirm a positive image of man, which also had a political dimension for Beethoven—the pursuit of freedom.

Six months after leaving Bonn, Beethoven quoted from Friedrich Schiller’s play, Don Carlos in the commemorative leaf that he wrote for a woman: “Do well where one can, love freedom above all, never renounce the truth, not even before the royal throne.”[fn_34]

As Schiller said, the road to Freedom goes through Beauty. That was Schiller’s solution after the French Revolution, which did not end like the American Revolution, but in a bloodbath.[fn_35] It is not rage and anger that will transform our society for the better, but reasoned future-oriented policy proposals based on the most noble image of man.

Beethoven characterized humanity as “we mortals with immortal minds.” His creativity can speak directly to you from his place in the “simultaneity of eternity,” the place LaRouche often spoke of, outside of space and time, where the emanations of the most creative people in history are found.

From a letter to a painter: “Continue to paint and I shall continue to write down notes, and thus we shall live—forever?—yes, perhaps, forever.”[fn_36]

“I would rather set to music Homer, Klopstock, Schiller, although even these would cause difficulties, but these immortal poets are worth it.”[fn_37]

To fellow composer Luigi Cherubini: “True art is imperishable, and the true artist feels inward pleasure in the production of great works.”[fn_38]

We can drink from this fountain of creativity, and nourish ourselves, so that, hopefully, we may contribute, each in his or her own way, to enriching the flow.

And ye musicians: strive to master Beethoven’s compositional principles so that we may rediscover the almost lost art of composing beautiful and profound music, and, maybe, even, go beyond.

Let Beethoven aid us in developing our own creative powers so that we may generate nothing less than a new global renaissance, for the sake of needy humanity.

Read the author’s other articles on culture at

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EIRNS/Sylvia Spaniolo

“The true artist feels inward pleasure in the production of great works.” —Beethoven. Here, the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus and orchestra in a concert on Schiller’s birthday, St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York, November 18, 2018. The Schiller Institute encourages members of the public to join the Chorus.

[fn_1]1. Lyndon LaRouche, Think Like Beethoven, paperback available here[back to text for fn_1]

[fn_2]2. Dr. A.C. Kalischer, Beethoven’s Letters, With Explanatory Notes, Dover, 1972, page 160. [back to text for fn_2]

[fn_3]3. Michelle Rasmussen, “ ‘All Men Become Brothers’: The Decades-Long Struggle for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” EIR Vol. 42, No. 26, June 26, 2015, pages 38-51[back to text for fn_3]

[fn_4]4. Maynard Solomon, “Reason and Imagination: Beethoven’s Aesthetic Evolution,” in Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations, by Stephen A. Crist and Roberta Montemorra Marvin (editors), University of Rochester Press, 2008, page 189. [back to text for fn_4]

[fn_5]5. Kalischer, page 68. See note 2. [back to text for fn_5]

[fn_6]6. Kalischer, page 331. [back to text for fn_6]

[fn_7]7. From a more extensive footnote about Plato written by Edgar A. Poe in “The Colloquy of Monos and Una.” The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Modern Library, 1938, page 446. [back to text for fn_7]

[fn_8]8. Written in Lenz von Breuning’s album, Kalischer, page 11. [back to text for fn_8]

[fn_9]9. Speech delivered to the Schiller Institute conference, “Classical Culture, an Imperative for Mankind,” held in Rüsselsheim, Germany, July 3, 2011. EIR Vol. 38, No. 27, July 15, 2011, pages 30-38. [back to text for fn_9]

[fn_10]10. [back to text for fn_10]

[fn_11]11. Albert Einstein, Einstein On Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions & Aphorisms. [back to text for fn_11]

[fn_12]12. [back to text for fn_12]

[fn_13]13. /quotes/albert_einstein_121643. [back to text for fn_13]

[fn_14]14. Read the article, “Einstein the Artist,” by Shawna Halevy, one of LaRouche’s collaborators. EIR Vol. 39, No. 19, May 11, 2012, pages 58-66 [back to text for fn_14]

[fn_15]15. Solomon, “Reason and Imagination,” in Historical Musicology, page 194. See note 4. [back to text for fn_15]

[fn_16]16. Counterpoint is the art of writing two or more lines, or voices, of music designed to be in dialogue with each other, from “point against point,” writing a contrary note to a given note, or point. [back to text for fn_16]

[fn_17]17. Michael Hamburger (editor), Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations, Thames & Hudson, 2007, page 199. [back to text for fn_17]

[fn_18]18. Maynard Solomon, Beethoven Essays, Harvard University Press, 1990, page 127. [back to text for fn_18]

[fn_19]19. Solomon, “Reason and Imagination,” in Historical Musicology, page 194. [back to text for fn_19]

[fn_20]20. Over September 20-22, 1995, the Schiller Institute sponsored a series of seminars featuring Lyndon LaRouche’s close friend and collaborator Norbert Brainin, at the Dolná Krupá castle in Slovakia. Watch Mr. Brainin demonstrate the principle of motivic through composition in Seminar No. 4 here, or read more about it here[back to text for fn_20]

[fn_21]21. To Baron Carl August von Klein in 1826, Kalischer, page 365. [back to text for fn_21]

[fn_22]22. Solomon, “Reason and Imagination,” in Historical Musicology, page 191. [back to text for fn_22]

[fn_23]23. Op. cit., page 192. [back to text for fn_23]

[fn_24]24. A word coined before Schiller, by Johann Georg Adam Forster in writing about Benjamin Franklin. [back to text for fn_24]

[fn_25]25. Kalischer, page 330. [back to text for fn_25]

[fn_26]26. Manuel Komroff, Beethoven and the World of Music, Dodd, Mead, 1961, page 164. [back to text for fn_26]

[fn_27]27. Solomon, “Reason and Imagination,” in Historical Musicology, page 190. [back to text for fn_27]

[fn_28]28. Hamburger, Beethoven: Letters, page 122. See note 17. [back to text for fn_28]

[fn_29]29. Birgit Lodes, in William Kinderman (editor), The String Quartets of Beethoven, University of Illinois Press, 2020, page 186. [back to text for fn_29]

[fn_30]30. Kalischer, page 23. [back to text for fn_30]

[fn_31]31. Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, Vol. I, revised and edited by Elliot Forbes, Princeton University Press, 1991, page 305. [back to text for fn_31]

[fn_32]32. Maynard Solomon, Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination, University of California Press, 2004, page 93. [back to text for fn_32]

[fn_33]33. Kalischer, page 332. [back to text for fn_33]

[fn_34]34. To Theodora Johanna Vocke in Nuremberg, May 22, 1793. Joseph Schmidt-Görg, ”A Schiller Quote from Beethoven in a New Perspective,” in Günter Henle, Music, Edition, Interpretation, 1980, page 423. [back to text for fn_34]

[fn_35]35. Beethoven actually expressed his desire to travel to North America. “If only God will restore me to my health, which to say the least, has improved, I could do myself justice, in accepting offers from all cities in Europe, yes, even North America, and might still prosper.” Beethoven received a request for an oratorio from Boston’s Musical Society, which, in the end, he did not write. Kalischer, page 289. [back to text for fn_35]

[fn_36]36. Solomon, Late Beethoven, page 98. See note 32. [back to text for fn_36]

[fn_37]37. Kalischer, page 321. [back to text for fn_37]

[fn_38]38. Kalischer, page 296. [back to text for fn_38]

Beethoven Thought in Metaphor

Even when he was not composing, Beethoven thought in metaphor. In response to a letter from his brother which was proudly signed “landowner,” Beethoven signed his letter, “brain-owner.”a[fn_1]

From a remembrance by music critic and literary figure, Johann Friedrich Rochlitz: “Once he is in the vein, rough, striking witticisms, droll conceits, surprising and exciting paradoxes suggest themselves to him in a continuous flow.”b[fn_2][fn_3]

From his student Karl Czerny: “He could introduce a play on words anywhere.”c For example, “As regards Frau v. Stein [stone in English], I beg her not to let Herr v. Steiner be petrified, so that he may still be able to serve me.”d[fn_4]

Or he could make up funny words, calling a fugue “tone-flight-work.”e[fn_5]

Here is an example of the great fun Beethoven had when writing to Tobias Hasslinger, publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner’s assistant, who later became the publisher (Beethoven usually called Hasslinger the “little adjutant,” Beethoven being “Generalissimus”):

I dreamed that I was taking a far journey, as far as Syria, as far as India, back again as far as Arabia; finally I came indeed to Jerusalem. The Holy City prompted thoughts about the Holy Writ [Bible], when, and no wonder, I thought of the man Tobias [from the Bible], and naturally that led to my thinking of our little Tobias and our pertobias[sen] [making the name a verb, then a noun meaning to turn the name ‘Tobias’ into musicf[fn_6]]; now, in my dream journey, the following canon occurred to me:g[fn_7]

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Beethoven then forgot the canon*[fn_8], and when he remembered it again, it had turned into a three-voice canon, which he held as strongly as Menelaus had held Proteus.

His letter to Tobias Hasslinger continues:

Soon I shall send in something about Steiner, too, just to prove that he hasn’t a heart of stone. Farewell, very dearest of friends, we wish you continually that you may never be true to the name of publisher and may never be publicly humiliated…. [The pun on Verleger (publisher) and verlegen (embarrassed, at a loss) was one of which Beethoven was especially fond.]h[fn_9]

Enclosed in a letter to a publisher in 1825 with some canons, Beethoven includes:

[A] supplement, a romantic description of the life of Tobias Hasslinger in 3 parts. First part: Tobias is an assistant of the celebrated authority, Capellmeister Fux—and holds the ladder to his Gradus ad Parnassum [steps to Parnassus, the mountain where the Muses live, the name of Fux’s pedantic book on counterpoint]. As he is now inclined to practical joking, through shaking and pushing the ladder he causes many of those who had got fairly high up to fall headlong and break their necks, &c. He now bids farewell to our clod of earth and reappears at the time of Albrechtsberger [a leading counterpoint teacher who gave Beethoven some lessons].

2nd part. The already existing Fuxian nota cambiata [changed note] is now treated in conjunction with A[lbrechtsberger]. and the changing notes thoroughly expounded; the art of creating a musical skeleton is carried on to the highest degree, &c. Tobias, now a caterpillar, is turned into a grub [butterfly larva], is developed, and appears for the third time on this earth.

3rd part. The scarcely formed wings now hasten to the Paternostergässl [the address of the publisher]; he becomes Paternostergässler Capellmeister, and having gone through the school of the changing notes [Wechselnoten] he retains nothing of them but the change [Wechsel], and so gains the friend of his youth, and finally becomes a member of several inland empty-headed societies, &c. If you ask him, he will certainly allow this account of his life to be published.i[fn_10]

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[fn_1]a. Russell Sherman, Piano Pieces, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 30, 1997, page 114. [back to text for fn_1]

[fn_2]b. Oscar Sonneck (editor), Beethoven: Impressions by His Contemporaries, Dover Books, 1967, page 128. [back to text for fn_2]

[fn_3]c. Solomon, “Reason and Imagination,” in Historical Musicology, page 223. [back to text for fn_3]

[fn_4]d. Kalischer, page 229. [back to text for fn_4]

[fn_5]e. Kalischer, page 356. [back to text for fn_5]

[fn_6]f. The Free Dictionary Language Forums, by Farlex, “Beethoven’s writing: question.” [back to text for fn_6]

[fn_7]g. Kalischer, page 281. [back to text for fn_7]

[fn_8] [WoO 182: O Tobias!, трехголосный канон Бетховен (] [back to text for fn_8]

[fn_9]h. The Unheard Beethoven website, “Canon, O Tobias, WoO 182.” [back to text for fn_9]

[fn_10]i. Kalischer, page 229. [back to text for fn_10]

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Beethoven: ‘To Spread the Rays of the Godhead’

In a letter to Archduke Rudolph, Beethoven wrote:

There is nothing higher than to approach the Godhead more nearly than other mortals and by means of that contact to spread the rays of the Godhead through the human race.j[fn_1]

To Emilie, a girl of 8 to 10 years old, who had written to him in 1812:

Persevere, do not only practice your art, but endeavor also to fathom its inner meaning; it deserves this effort. For only art and science can raise men to the level of gods…. The true artist has no pride. He sees unfortunately that art has no limits; he has a vague awareness of how far he is from reaching his goal; and while others may perhaps be admiring him, he laments the fact that he has not yet reached the point whither his better genius only lights the way for him like a distant sun.

I should probably prefer to visit you and your family than to visit many a rich person who betrays a poverty of mind. If I should ever go to H., then I will call on you and your family. I know of no other human excellences than those which entitle one to be numbered among one’s better fellow creatures. Where I find people of that type, there is my home.k[fn_2]

In the 1790s, he wrote about the need “to strive towards the inaccessible goal which art and nature have set us.”l[fn_3]

When asked which of the string quartets opera 127, 130, 132 was the greatest: “Each in its way. Art demands of us that we shall not stand still…. You will find a new manner of part writing and thank God there is less lack of fancy than ever before.”m[fn_4]

For the artist “there is no more undisturbed, more unalloyed or purer pleasure” than that which comes from rising “ever higher into the heaven of art.”n[fn_5]

Freedom and progress are the aims throughout creation:

[T]he older composers render us double service, since there is generally real artistic value in their works (among them only the German Handel and Seb. Bach possessed genius). But in the world of art, and in the whole of our great creation, freedom and progress are the main objectives. And although we moderns are not quite as far advanced in solidity as our ancestors, yet the refinement of our customs has enlarged many of our conceptions as well.o[fn_6]

Dr. Kalischer commentsp[fn_7] on a letter of Beethoven to a court lawyer, Dr. Johann Baptist Bach: “We may recall the fact that the composer thought of writing an Overture on the name [B-A-C-H: B-flat, A, C, B-natural in German letter notation]; there are many sketches, the following is among some for the Tenth Symphony:

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In a letter to the new directors of the Royal Imperial Court Theatre in Vienna, Beethoven wrote: “[T]he undersigned has always striven less for a livelihood than for the interests of art, the ennoblement of taste and the uplifting of his genius towards higher ideals and perfection.”q[fn_8]     [back to text]

[fn_1]j. Solomon, “Reason and Imagination,” in Historical Musicology, page189. [back to text for fn_1]

[fn_2]k. Emily Anderson (editor), Letter No. 376, in The Letters of Beethoven, Vol. 1, W.W. Norton, 1986, pages 380-381. [back to text for fn_2]

[fn_3]l. Solomon, “Reason and Imagination,” in Historical Musicology, page 191. [back to text for fn_3]

[fn_4]m. Ibid., page 192. [back to text for fn_4]

[fn_5]n. Ibid., page 192. [back to text for fn_5]

[fn_6]o. Ibid., page 192. Words in parentheses from Kalischer, page 270. [back to text for fn_6]

[fn_7]p. Kalischer, page 326. [back to text for fn_7]

[fn_8]q. Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, revised and edited by Elliot Forbes, Vol. I, Princeton University Press, 1991, page 426. [back to text for fn_8]



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This article appears in the March 5, 2021 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

January 17, 1990

In the Garden of Gethsemane

by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

[Print version of this article]

Editor’s Note: This essay was first published in EIR Vol. 44, No. 37, September 15, 2017, pages 19-21.

A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.

—Matthew 13:57

Those of us who find ourselves in Gethsemane—a Gethsemane where we are told that we must take a role of leadership with our eye on Christ on the Cross—often experience something which, unfortunately, most people do not. We tend to look at things from a different standpoint. Before trying to situate how I see the recent period, and the period immediately before us, I should try to communicate what my viewpoint is, a viewpoint which I know is shared in some degree of very close approximation by everyone who has gone to Gethsemane with the view of the Cross in his eyes, saying, “He did it, I am now being told that I must, too, walk in His way.”

What I suggest often, in trying to explain this to a person who has not experienced it, is to say: “Imagine a time 50 years after you’re dead. Imagine in that moment, 50 years ahead, that you can become conscious and look back at the entirety of your mortal life, from its beginning to its ending. And, rather than seeing that mortal life as a succession of experiences, you see it as a unity. Imagine facing the question respecting that mortal life, asking, “Was that life necessary in the total scheme of the universe and the existence of mankind, was it necessary that I be born in order to lead that life, the sum total of that number of years between birth and death? Did I do something, or did my living represent something, which was positively beneficial to present generations, and implicitly to future generations after me? If so, then I should have walked through that life with joy, knowing that every moment was precious to all mankind, because what I was doing by living was something that was needed by all mankind, something beneficial to all mankind.”

If I am wise, then 50 years after my death, in looking back at my mortal life, I know that from the beginning with my birth, to the end with my death, that my truest self-interest was the preservation and enhancement of that which made my having lived important to those around me and those who came after me.

That is the beginning, I think, of true wisdom; that is the beginning of the Passion, which sometimes enables each of us when called, to walk through our own peculiar kind of Gethsemane. It is from this standpoint, that the mind of an individual such as our own, can efficiently comprehend history in the large.

A second point, which I often raise, I think is essential to understand the few simple observations I have to make here. It is that, in human reason, in the power, for example, to effect a valid, fundamental scientific discovery, which overturns, in large degree, previous scientific opinion, we see a fundamental distinction between man and all beasts. This power of creative reason, typified by the power to make a valid, fundamental scientific discovery, and also the power to transmit and to receive such a discovery, is that which sets man apart from and above the beasts.

The emotion associated with that kind of human activity, whether in physical science, in the development of creative works or performance of creative works of classical culture or simply in the caring for a child to nurture that quality of potential for discovery in the child, is true love. Creative activity is human activity, and the emotion associated with that kind of activity, is true love.

We start from that and say that society must be based on these considerations, that. every human being, being apart from and above the animals, has the right and the obligation to live an important life. Every human being has the right to do something, such that if one looked back 50 years after the death of that person at his or her whole mortal life, one could have said, that life was necessary to all humanity. At the same time, one could distinguish some use of this creative power of reasoning as the activity which made that life important, simply, sometimes, the development of that creative power.

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Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

Two Conflicting Views of Mankind

We have, in the entirety of the approximately 2,500 years of Western European history, which includes the history of the Americas, two conflicting views of mankind. One view shares more or less the standpoint I’ve just identified: We view the human individual as bearing the divine spark of potential for reason, as a sacred life; a spark of reason which must be developed by society, nurtured by society, given opportunity for fruitful expression by society; a quality of activity whose good works must be adopted by society, protected by society, and preserved by society, for the benefit of present and future generations. That is the republic, the republic as conceived by Solon’s constitution of Athens—a notion of republic, which, in our time, is made nobler by the Christian understanding, which transforms and elevates the contributions of Solon and Socrates after him.

On the other side, there is the conception of Sparta, a privileged oligarchy, brutalizing the helots, the slaves, the so-called lower classes. That, too, is a model society, not a republic, but an oligarchy.

The struggle between these two views of mankind is epitomized by the struggle between President and General George Washington, on the one side, and King George III on the other. George Washington was a soldier and statesman of the republic, not a perfect one, but a good one. On the opposite side was poor King George III, the puppet of the evil Earl of Shelbourne, and the epitome of oligarchism, the heritage of Sparta. The tradition of King George III, which deems that some men must be kept slaves, is an oligarchical view, which hates the idea of the equality of the individual in respect to the individual human being’s possession of that divine spark, the individual human being’s right to the development of that spark, the nurture of its activity, and the defense and perpetuation of its good works.

Such is the conflict. In our time, the great American Republic, by virtue of the cultivation of ignorance and concern with smallness of mind, and neglect of the importance of what comes after us in the living of our mortal lives, has been so undermined, degraded, and corrupted, that we as a nation no longer are the nation we were conceived to be, but instead have become a nation brain-drained in front of our television sets, thinking with greater passion about mere spectator sports or mere television soap-opera than we do about urgent events in real life. We are a nation seeking gratification in drugs, in sordid forms of sexual activity, in other sordid entertainments, in that kind of pleasure-seeking, which echoes the words Sodom and Gomorrah.

And so, oligarchism, that which George III of England represented back in the eighteenth century, has taken over and rules the land which was once George Washington’s.

What this leads to is this. Today, there is a great revolution around the world against tyranny in all forms. So far, this revolution has manifested itself within the communist sector against communist tyrannies. But it is coming here, too. Wherever the divine spark of reason is being crushed by oligarchical regimes, with all their cruelties, the divine spark of reason within human beings inspires them to arise, to throw off the tyranny—not out of anger and rage against tyranny, but because the divine spark of reason in each person must be affirmed. We seek not merely to be free from oligarchy; we seek to be free from oligarchy, because not to do so would be to betray the divine spark of reason in ourselves and in others.


The secret of great revolutions, of great civil rights movements, as Dr. King’s example illustrates, is this capacity, which the Greek New Testament called agapē, which Latin called caritas, which the King James version of the Bible calls charity, which we otherwise know as love. Whenever this power of love, this recognition of that divine spark, setting us above the beasts, prevails, wherever people can approximate that view of the sum total of their lives, as if from 50 years after their deaths, whenever movements arise which, out of love, produce people who are willing, not fruitlessly, but for a purpose, to lay down their lives, so that their lives might have greater meaning, for this purpose—there you have the great revolutions of history.

If we were to project events on the basis of what is taught in the schools about revolutions and other struggles of the past, then the human race at present were doomed. If we say that people struggle against this and that oppression, and so forth, and out of rage or whatnot, overthrow their cruel oppressor, we should lose; the human race would lose. However, if we touch the force of love, the spark of divine reason, we unleash a force, a creative force, a divine force, which is greater than any adversary, and we win. Those revolutions, which are based upon the appeal to this divine spark of reason within the individual, prevailed. Those which worked otherwise produced abominations, or simply failed.

Yes, we must struggle against injustice. But it is not enough to struggle out of anger. We must struggle out of love. And that we learn best, who have had to walk as leaders of one degree or another, through our own Gethsemane, with the image of the Cross before us.

That is the best I can say. I might say it better, but what I try to say with these poor words, is the best I can say summarily, on the subject of current history. I believe, that the great upsurge of humanity, implicit in the optimism I express, is now in progress. I am persuaded that we shall win, provided that each of us can find in ourselves that which makes us the right arm of the Creator, a man, a woman of providence, within the limits of our own capacities and opportunities.

Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

Dictated from prison

Rochester, Minnesota

January 17, 1990