Composing Music From Bel Canto

For A Musical Civil Rights Movement --
Every Child Has The Right To Sing!

by Kathy Wolfe

Printed in The American Almanac, 1995.


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Lord William Rees-Mogg of The London Times, a top spokesman for British intelligence, has insisted in a series of articles this year that, in the coming Cyberspace Millenium, the top 5 percent of super-rich elites with their computers, will rule over the other 95 percent of human beings. To accomplish this, he states, most of humanity must be dumbed-down to the level of cows, by the deliberate destruction of education.

To reverse this deliberate plan by the economic royalists, it is now necessary to form a political movement, to take over music in America. That is why the Schiller Institute has begun a drive to form children's and adult choirs in every city in the U.S.A., to teach the old Renaissance art of ``bel canto,'' or beautiful song. The nearest image Americans today might have of bel canto, is that of an opera singer, who can fill a 3,000-seat hall with song, without a microphone.

According to Lyndon LaRouche's book, A Manual on Tuning and Registration (Figure 1), however, everyone reading this, and all of his or her children, should be able to sing better than any star at the Metropolitan Opera. The fact that this is not so, proves that America has been robbed. [fn1]

For 400 years, from the 1430 beginnings of the Golden Florentine Renaissance to the death of Beethoven in 1827, the original high art of bel canto, was taught to every child. The sculptures in Figure 1 are the boy sopranos of the Cathedral of Florence, where children were trained to sing in choirs. These sculptures were placed in the cathedral as advertisements, to urge all the parents in the city to bring in their children for training. Any child, 100 percent of all children, can be taught this.

A child who can sing this way has the ability to think for himself. Such a child will never be a slave. That is not true of any kind of music, except Classical music. This is why the elites, the wealthy families of Europe, have deliberately stopped the teaching of Classical music.


The Language of Music

It is only Classical music which can return us to a human society, because only Classical music is composed according to the creative laws of the human mind. The ability to create new ideas in the mind, is that which God has given us, to distinguish ourselves from the beasts.

Music is a form of language. But to what does the language of music refer? One can spend $100,000 at a music college and be taught that the language of music imitates chirping birds, or dancing peasants who have had too much to drink.

There is even a recent book called The Joy of Classical Music, which says folks should study Classical music, because it will make them feel better than pop music. It's the same idea as two other familiar books, The Joy of Cooking, and The Joy of Sex.

Music, however, is not food, or sex--or anything which is done with the senses. It comes from the human mind, which is universal around the world, and that is why anyone hearing great music experiences it in a universal way, in any nation.

In a 1992 article on Mozart's 1782 revolution in music, Lyndon LaRouche wrote that the language of music refers to human thought objects, coherent new ideas created by the human mind. By thought objects, we especially mean ideas which solve problems, such as the invention of the wheel, or of electricity, ideas which make life better for millions of human beings. We don't mean thoughts which pop up in reactions to the senses--such as: ``boy meets girl ... and gets ideas.''

It is only Classical music which shows us how some of the greatest thinkers in history, men like Mozart or Beethoven, created these kinds of powerful thought objects. They created their music to show us how they solved these kinds of mental problems--to teach us to think like them. [fn2]

Classical music is a science, and you can master this science, and so can your children. In his article, LaRouche gives as an example of a thought object, Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa's Renaissance discovery of the principle behind squaring the circle (Figure 2).

The Greek Archimedes worked with a series of polygons, inside the circle, and outside, to calculate the area of a circle. Polygons have straight lines as sides; in Figure 2, left, are squares around a circle; add more sides, and they become octagons (right).

Most of us were told in school that such a series of polygons becomes the same as a circle. Isn't it a good enough approximation? The answer is no, and that means most people have been lied to in school.

Cusa--to the contrary--discovered, that no matter how many sides the straight-line polygon has, it will never be a circle. There will always be a clear distinction between the straight sides of the polygons, and the curve of the circle.

In fact, the closer the polygons seem to come to the circle, the more corners or vertices they have--the less like a circle they are! The polygons based on the square, based on the straight line, are simply a different species from the circle, which is based on the higher curves. [fn3]

By having the mental rigor to see that the circle and curves which come from it are a whole new, higher, species, Cusa generated a new mathematics to describe the higher curves. He was the first to prove the existence of new numbers, such as the transcendental numbers, of which the most famous is Pi. Many of the benefits to modern science since the Renaissance, depended on Cusa's having the intellectual strength to discover this difference.

Now, one cannot describe in words, what goes on inside the mind there--like putting a label on a soup can--except, LaRouche points out, by metaphor. But unless we communicate what goes on in there, to the next generation, the idea dies! To communicate this, to trigger the same process to occur in others, for future generations, one composes works of Art.


Laws of Natural Beauty

You also cannot fake a proof like this. You must know what is a square, and what is an octagon. You must master the rules of the polygon series--before you can create a higher geometry.

Musicians over the years have thus first studied the laws of Natural beauty, the laws of the biological and physical universe which God made, as an analogy to the polygons--before composing music. LaRouche's music manual emphasizes that God's first law concerning music is that music is based on the human singing voice.

The Renaissance sculptures show that in Florence, children were taught to sing at ages two to five, and kept singing until the voice changed, seven to ten years later. Thus, there was a large population to whom singing, reading, and writing music was a ``mother tongue.'' This explains the frequency in Europe between 1400-1850 of the child ``genius'' composer. It proves that genius can be taught.

After hundreds of years of training children to sing, training not just one or two star pupils but very large numbers of children, whole towns of children, musicians found that, singing up or down the scale, the average child has to make shifts--to change in the way the notes are physically produced, which we call a register shift--at specific intervals.

Teachers found that the children must shift from a lower register, the first register, shown in grey, to a higher register, the second register, shown in white, and do so right in the middle of the scale in Figure 3.

Over the years, it was found that children, taught to think about what they sang, and to make a new quality of voice at this shift, developed beautiful voices, and could sing all their lives, into old age.

That is the why Middle C is Middle C; it's not because it's in the middle of the piano. Our scale is a series of intervals, which goes up the familiar octave: Do, re, mi, fa; so, la, si, do. But it starts on a certain Middle C, because only the octave of eight notes which starts there, will find itself divided in half, by the child's register shift, between Fa and So, at F#, or Fa#.

The register shift was put in the average human voice by God, and the scale conforms to that. Voices which shift here are sopranos, including all children (until their voices start to change,) and many adult women.

As children mature, some girls become mezzosopranos. But these are lower voices, and they must shift a step below the sopranos. So mezzosopranos, also called altos, shift at do-re-mi, on the note E.

At puberty, boys develop a lower octave and grow up to become tenors, baritones, and basses. But the intervals of each voice are still divided up into three or four qualities of the distinct voice registers. In addition to the first register, and the second register, there are also higher registers: the third register, and the fourth register. Each has its own different register shift point.

In fact, we have six species of the adult singing voice--soprano, mezzosoprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, and bass--each containing three, and some even four, different register voices (Figure 4). When a composer sets out to construct a musical composition, he has 6|x|3 or more colors, a well-defined pallette of colors, from which to paint. This begins to show that composition is a science.

Classical music is composed by people, like Mozart, Beethoven, and Verdi, who were trained to sing as children, to think about ideas in their own voices, in this way. So they will often shift to a new voice register, to introduce new ideas into the music.

All music, composed for each of these voices, is and has been, since at least the Renaissance, constructed around the specific register voice-shift point for each voice.

For example, this aria (Figure 5) from Handel's Messiah, ``He Was Despiséd,'' for mezzo, is constructed entirely around the mezzosoprano's register shift at E natural. The singer uses her first register, in red, for notes below the E, and then must shift to her second register, in yellow, for higher notes beginning with E. Thus, the poetry is:

``HE WAS DEspised, despised and REJECTED.''

Handel emphasizes: Not only was Jesus despised, but he was even--what is much worse--rejected. The human voice shifts to a new register to properly emphasize this poetic irony--but only if music is performed at the Classical pitch used from 1430 to Brahms's death in 1897: C|=|256 cycles per second.

Since 1890, however, the mafia which controls our orchestras and record companies has raised the pitch, to C|=|263 cycles per second, that is, A|=|440 -- and higher. This is just enough to unfocus the voice, like wearing the wrong glasses. At modern high pitch, Handel's poetry is distorted (Figure 6). The mezzo is forced to sing certain notes which belong in the first register, in the second register instead. This creates incoherency in the poetry:

``HE was despised, despised and re-JEC-ted....''


Leonardo and Music

In the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci documented a second physical field, another form of ``natural beauty,'' which God put in the voice: The vowels of human speech have their own pitch (Figure 7). Leonardo compares three vowels and puts /a/ highest, at the nose; /o/ is lower, back in the mouth; and /u/ lowest, in the throat. Leonardo's drawing has been verified in the modern laboratory. The vowel changes come from the geometrical shape of the vocal tract when speaking.

An Italian /i/ (``ee'' as in ``Aida''), the highest vowel, is created in the smallest space. The /a/ (as in ``Aida'') is made by opening the mouth more, and /u/ (as in ``too'') is made by opening even more, and extending the lips. This lengthens the ``pipe'' from lips to vocal cords, so /u/ has the lowest vowel pitch.

You can feel the space inside your mouth go from smaller, to larger by saying: ``ee, ah, oo.''

Composers are very attuned to this; Rossini for example set a song for cats singing ``mee-ah-oo'' so that the tune would go from high to low, to follow the vowels. Man is higher than the animals, but even with human poetry, we still can't violate these principles arbitrarily. In fact, every poem is a musical score, based on the vowels. ``Ave Maria'' for example rises from the lower /a/ to the higher vowel /i/, and falls again back to /a/. And different composers, respect this, and treat it similarly. Verdi and Schubert for example both set it to a rising melody to match the vowels.

The instruments, too, as LaRouche outlined in his Mozart article, have been developed since antiquity to imitate the human voice, most primitively the wind instruments. This woodcut (Figure 8) from Michael Praetorius's 1619 Syntagma Musica shows a whole chorus of old oboes, upper right. The longest oboe at the far right, Praetorius calls, in his text, the bass oboe; he calls the next longer one the tenor oboe, and then the alto, and the soprano oboe, all named after the human voice upon which they were patterned. Each player went and stood in that section of the choir, bass oboe with the basses, tenor oboe with the tenors, and played along with that human voice.

In fact, one couldn't buy single instruments. You had to buy the whole choir to go with the human voices, at least four or more oboes or flutes at once. The winds had human voice registers built in.

However, winds have a major limitation: Once a pipe is cut a certain length, it's fixed. Thus, wind instrument registers are fixed, because we change registers on winds by blowing harder into this fixed pipe.

Classical strings, however, were developed to provide a new technology, used by Mozart in his revolution. A violin has four strings, each made differently; the lowest string, G, is thickest, and the others thinner and thinner. That gives the violinist four different registers. But now, a string player can imitate all types of human voices, because he can move from one string to another, by moving his finger and bow, whenever he needs to move, to match any human register change. So, a violin can imitate a soprano by shifting from the G string to the D string at F#. Or, a violin can imitate a bass, by shifting at the bass shift, D.


Motivfuehrung

Mozart developed a way to use the principles of natural beauty much as Cusa used the polygons. Cusa showed, using the polygons, that there remains the need to create a new concept for the circle. So, the Classical composers use the vowel intervals, the poetic voices of the registers, and other forms of God-given natural beauty.

But then, in the mind of the composer, these many forms of natural beauty are transformed, from many, into a One, a single new conception. We call this new concept artistic beauty, for it is man-made.

That is, arraying these natural intervals, vowels, registers, and so on, in a particular way--the great composers cause to leap into our minds, the musical idea in their mind.

This new process is called Motivfuehrung. It means, literally, ``leading by motif,'' a form of verbal action. It's best understood by a certain argument between the poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), after whom the Schiller Institute is named, and his colleague Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).

Now Goethe, who was a good poet but an egotist, would not, to be blunt, allow musicians to creatively develop his poems. In fact, Goethe praised his pet composer, Carl Friedrich Zelter (1758-1832), specifically for his lack of creativity, for the very fact that he never created any new ideas when composing the music! ``The origin of his compositions, as far as I can judge,'' Goethe wrote, ``is never an inspiration, but rather a reproduction of the poetic intentions ... music should show off a poem, as an excellent jacket, well fitted to the body.''

Schiller, however, was more concerned about teaching people creativity. He argued that, if a composer set the words of a poem literally, as in a children's jingle, without change, that, is not music. Rather, Schiller writes, the composer, too, must create something new. A song, he said, is a transformation of the poem, above and beyond the words. The composer, that is, must set the ``unheard sounds'' of the poem: ``Heard melodies are sweet/ But those unheard, are sweeter....'' [John Keats, ``Ode on an Grecian Urn'' 1820]

A truly musical setting of a poem, Schiller wrote, concentrates always upon the unspoken transfinite concept in the poet's mind, never upon his specific words. ``The music may never paint words and meddle with petty trifles, but must only follow the spirit of the poetry as a whole.''

Schiller wrote that a ``basic emotion of music'' was in a sense a cause of poetry itself, an emotion which preceded his every poetic output.

Mozart, in 1785, when first creating the Motivfuerhrung method, created the first modern Classical song, or Lied, from this poem, ``Das Veilchen,'' ``The Violet,'' by Goethe (Figure 9). Consider Goethe's poem as if you were Mozart, and you wished to set it to music. Please read the translation of the poem so the meaning is clear.

Now, a Mozart wouldn't just start ``from the top'' and compose line by line. It is very important to understand that the Motivfuehrung method creates a single coherent idea, one concept. When Cusa discovered that he had to create something higher than the straight-line polygons, to discover the circular curves, he thought of this as a single new discovery.

So, Mozart scanned the poem as a whole to discover the single metaphor, the ``un-heard sound,'' which is the unspoken poetic idea, conveyed by the entire poem. Since it's un-heard, we won't say what it is. You wouldn't explain the punchline after telling a joke; but people ``get the joke.'' Humor is a form of the poetic principle--about the only form we have left today.

A composer will begin hunting the footprints of those sneaky ``unheard'' sounds, by looking for singular events, odd spots. Looking at the whole poem: What's the most unusual point? A violet stood in the meadow. A shepherdess came and sang. Very sweet, but nothing to start a ``revolution in music.''

``It sank, and died,'' however, is pretty dramatic. She might have just broken a leaf.

On top of that: ``it rejoiced''? That is singular. Not the usual reaction to being crushed. He could have written: ``It sank, and died--and cried all night.'' But instead, it rejoiced. And why? ``Because it died at her pretty little feet.''

The moral of the story? Do you know any fellows, who have problems with the girls of this sort?

Does the Violet know this girl? Does he care which girl it is? Or is he ``Standin' on the corner, watchin' all the Shepherdesses go by''? Is he thinking about her mind--or his own ego? Isn't he just in love with love?

Is he in love with love ``above the belt''--or love ``below the belt''? You could say he's so far below the belt, that he ends up below the foot.

Suppose Mozart knew that the world famous leading Poet of the Universe, Sir Herr Doctor Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, had an ego problem, isn't this delicious? He wanted to create something new, above and beyond what's in the poem. He wished to stand above the poem, and make an ironic comment on it.

Let's suppose Mozart began to compose here: ``through her, at her pretty little foot.'' (See Figure 10.) Then, what laws does the poem give us? First, the laws of the vowels, learnable and scientific, as we saw. In German, the words are: ``Durch sie, durch sie!'' That's a rising pitch in the vowels: /u/|-|/i/, /u/|-|/i/. As in ``Ave Ma-ri-a.'' So Mozart sets these words, to a rising musical line.

Second: we must chose a definite singing voice: soprano, tenor, bass--appropriate to the mood of the poem. It makes sense to choose a bass voice for something like ``Deep River.'' But would you have a bass sing something light like this? Mozart set it for soprano or tenor. And once he did that, he had to next respect the register laws, of that voice.

In fact, once a composer chooses a poem to set, and then a species of singing voice, he is already constrained to head to certain key signatures. Now we see how a composer goes about chosing a key! He needs a key which will let the natural voice-register shift of the bel-canto singer, change quality to the new register, at a place where the development of the poem, requires a new poetic voice.

The soprano and tenor shift register on the F#. Thus, the key of G is a clear candidate, because it rises to a high G across a strong register shift at F# for sopranos and tenors. There are four beats in the line: ``Und ich denn, so ich doch, durch , durch .'' If Mozart set this with the four tones: Re|-|Mi|-Fa#|-|So, he gets a register shift on ``Durch sie, durch sie:''

But the real irony, the decisive shift in the whole song, occurs in the previous passage, with the surprising words ``it rejoiced''--``und freut' sich noch'' (Figure 11).

Here Mozart has the piano bass voice sing--as a soprano. Talk about freedom of action and ironies; the bass line arrives at the F#, by playing the intervals: C, D, Eb, E, F#.

Here we really see the musical revolution in instruments. Mozart, beginning with this song in 1785, changed the use of the piano completely. In songs before this, the piano just played along with the voice. Now Mozart has made the piano into a completely independent singing voice.

Then Mozart adds a piano solo, something no one put in songs before this one. Mozart's fortepiano was also an advance over the old harpsichord. By changing from light to heavy touch, a fortepianist can mimic different singing voices. The top voice, in the right hand, is a soprano:

In the left hand are two other voices, a bass (bass is circled), and a tenor (Figure 12). Together and it's a trio.

So this is Motivfuehrung; but where's the motif?

Here is Mozart's opening theme, and it turns out to be based on the same space between ``Re'' and ``So'' which he chose for that line at the end: ``And so I die, at her little foot.'' At the end, Mozart rises from ``Re'' to ``So,'' that is, from the D on ``Und sterb,'' to the high G on the second ``durch sie.''

Here, at the very beginning, Mozart plays with the same musical space, but reverses it. Technically, this is called an inversion. In the first line, he rises instead from ``So'' to ``Re,'' by five intervals. You can count the five intervals, also called a ``fifth.''

Then, in the second line, he has a counter-statement, or apposition, and this one falls from ``So'' to ``Re.'' In the falling direction, it's another inversion. It has four intervals--you can count 4--called a fourth.

A fine opening motif. But, left to itself, it could end up as a Madison Ave jingle, as Schiller remarked.

That's where the Motivfuehrung, ``leading by motif,'' the developing, comes in. What interests Mozart most about this theme is: how fast he can take it apart! And show you how to generate a new one.

If we think of each new theme, with its laws of voice registers, of the vowels and so on, as similar to Cardinal Cusa's polygons, then each polygon can always be superceded by another polygon, with more sides--but none of these is a circle.

The creative composer delights in presenting such a musical idea, only to supercede it with a new musical idea, the same way a scientist loves to invent something new, by overturning what everyone assumes is axiomatically fixed in stone.

Here, Mozart states the first line in the middle register. But then, he has the second line--the counter-statement--make a poetic change, jumping up to a new higher voice register, the third register, to emphasize that not only is the violet standing there, but: He's standing there all alone and unknown.

To create a motion of change similar to Cardinal Cusa's polygon sequence, we need to hear a poetic change emphasized on the second phrase, which impels us in a certain direction. Yet, the entire opening is in just one key, the key of G.

Now Mozart escalates the changes. Here comes the shepherdess, and Mozart takes apart his first theme in G, and creates a new key of D. If, in the first line, we can move up a fifth from G, ``So, la, si, do, re,'' Then, we can from re, move up another fifth, five notes from re to la (D to A):

Actually Mozart does this by inversion again. He repeats the space from the la below, to re. But the effect of playing with the space between re and la, between D and A, is to make us now hear D, as the new key. This is also helped, as musician readers know, by adding a C#. This changes the key, to D.

At the point where the shepherdess sings, what does Mozart do? He has the vocalist suddenly be completely silent--and then, the piano sings. He's changing Goethe's poem completely! The piano sings up another fifth, to a new key, A.

This quality of change escalates throughout the song in a way which shows these changes are one, single idea of change. First, Mozart takes a full verse to explore each new key.

Then, he overturns themes and creates new keys so rapidly that, by the end, new ideas, singularities, are coming at an incredibly dense rate. By ``Es sank, und starb,'' each note in the piano bass creates virtually a new key. Rising through just a few notes, it sings with the register shifts of two human voices, first the mezzo shift from E flat to E, and then the soprano shift, from F to F#.


Resolution

But the main idea to grasp now, is that this passage is dissonant, and unsettling enough, that you would be very unhappy, if the song stopped here!

For example, how would you react, if you heard a scale go only this far: do re mi fa so la si--

You'd be rather upset, and you'd want to hear the scale completed, by adding that last missing note! The very dense and dissonant passage in Figure 11 has the same unsettling effect.

So Mozart, in the passage which follows, completes the idea, just as you'd want the scale completed. Here, that same unsettling F# from the bass, now appears high up in the singer's voice on the first ``Durch sie,'' and then resolves up to the high G on the last ``Durch sie.''

Remember: the high G on ``Durch sie'' gives the main key of the whole song. This resolution, has the effect of confirming that these were very important actions, all those unsettling verbal actions, the sinking, dying, and rejoicing, which took place before.

We hear the transformation propagate and grow throughout the song, just as an idea is at first subsconcious, and then rises into consciousness suddenly; or just as a wave grows gradually, and then breaks.

Mozart has so completely transformed Goethe's poem that he even adds a line of text, something unheard of, as his own comment at the end. Goethe didn't write it, so it's not in Figure 9, but Mozart adds at the end: ``The poor violet. It was a dear little violet.''


Notes

  1. A Manual on the Rudiments of Tuning and Registration, Volume I. Washington, D.C.: Schiller Institute, 1990.

  2. LaRouche, Lyndon H., Jr., ``Mozart's Revolution in Music,'' Fidelio, Winter 1992

  3. LaRouche, Lyndon H., Jr., ``On Metaphor,'' Fidelio, Spring 1992.

Figures and Displays

``For 400 years, from the 1430 beginnings of the Golden Renaissance in Florence, to the death of Beethoven in 1827, the original high art of bel canto, was taught to every child.... Any child, 100 percent of all children, can be taught this.''

``Arraying these natural intervals, vowels, registers, and so on, in a particular way--the great composers cause to leap into our minds, the musical idea in their mind.''

``This new process is called Motivfuehrung. It means, literally, `leading by motif,' a form of verbal action.''

``Schiller argued that, if a composer set the words of a poem literally, as in a childrens' jingle, without change, that is not music.''

``Rather, Schiller wrote, the composer, too, must create something new. A song, he said, is a transformation of the poem, above and beyond the words.''


Slide Show

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A new Schiller Institute slide show in full color, based on these ideas, allows New Federalist readers to present the urgent need to restart fine music in America, to school boards and other community groups. The set includes over 30 color slides, a script, and musical examples on an audio tape. To order, send a check for $30 to:

Schiller Institute
c/o S. E. Literature Sales
9625 Granby St.
#205
Norfolk, VA 23503


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The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The American Almanac. It is made available here with the permission of The New Federalist Newspaper. Any use of, or quotations from, this article must attribute them to The New Federalist, and The American Almanac.


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