The African-American Spiritual and the Resurrection of Classical Art --
Not Force, But Beauty, Will Change America

by Dennis Speed

Printed in the American Almanac, October 9, 1995

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The Schiller Institute's National Conservatory of Music Movement, in its sponsoring of a concert entitled Let Freedom Ring! on Oct. 15, one day before the Million Man March scheduled in Washington, D.C., continues an intervention-campaign which has become familiar to residents of that city over the past three years. The idea, that the performance and composition of Classical music, is the most effective weapon against the moral degeneracy that has descended on contemporary America, well resonates with the announced theme of the march, "A Day of Atonement."

Several of the lieutenants of Dr. Martin Luther King have endorsed the march, and are participating in it. One of those, the Rev. James Bevel, offered the conception that "atonement"--the re-alignment of the soul with the proper harmony of the Creation, and its Creator--was appropriate, not only as a "rally theme," but as the only practical action possible, in a nation so tragically out of touch with a positive sense of mission.

The Institute's advocacy of the singing, and performance, of music at the naturalized pitch of C=256 (A=430)--the tuning used by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, and their students (including the erroneously named "Romantic" composers such as Schumann and Schubert)--makes the same point."Justice" for these composers consists in demanding performances of their work faithful to the poetic and dramatic intention for the which these works were composed. That is impossible to achieve, when these works are tuned artificially high, as is regularly done in the recording industry, as well as in live performance.

The professional musical world, which is increasingly identical to that of organized crime, needs to atone for the butchery of Classical repertoire that has resulted in the homogenization of voices, and the resultant pulverization of counterpoint and polyphopny that has rendered most Classical performances today boring, if not downright unlistenable. If those musicians, promoters, managers, record producers and others, are not at the March, they will hopefully heed its message, since they have much for which to repent. The willful production of ugliness, is, after all, a moral crime against humanity.

In the De Musica, written in 389 A.D., St. Augustine states:

"Say then, we can love only beautiful things, can't we? For although some people seem to love ugly things.... it is yet a matter of how much less beautiful they are than those things pleasing most people. For clearly no one loves those things whose foulness his sense is offended by.... These beautiful things are sought by number, where we have shown equality is sought. For this is found not only in that beauty belonging to the ears or in the motion of bodies, but also in the very visible forms where beauty is more usually said to be."
Further, he states:
"[N]ow examine the force and power of reason (ratio) in so far as we examine it in its works. For reason itself, to mention the most extraordinary thing it attains in its operation, first has considered what is good measure, and considered it in a free movement, and yet seen it to be to the end of its own beauty...."
Thus, the idea of justice, or equity in proportion to natural harmony (natural law), is most readily taught to the young through music. The Florentine boys choirs depicted in the reliefs of the Florentine sculptor Luca della Robbia, were taught the bel canto method of singing, "the just shaping of tone," which produced the most clear, penetrating loud or soft tone at will, completely devoid of force.

Former slaves recruited as members of the Fisk (College) Jubilee Singers, learned elements of this method. J.|B.|T. Marsh, a biographer of the Fisk Jubilee Singers reports in his The Fisk Jubille Singers and Their Songs,:

"The Berliner Musik-Zeitung, a severely critical journal, in a long and discriminating article took up the concert programme, piece by piece. Of ``Steal Away," and "The Lord's Prayer," it exclaims, "What wealth of shading! What accuracy of declamation! Every musician felt that the performances of these Singers are the result of high artistic talent, finely refined taste, and extraordinary diligence. Such a pianissimo, such a crescendo, and a decrescendo at the close of "Steal Away" must raise envy in the soul of any choir-master.... Thus the balance turns decidedly in the favor of the Jubilee Singers, and we confess ourselves their debtors. Not only have we had a rare musical treat but our musical ideas also have received enlargement, and we feel that something may be learned of these Negro singers if only we will consent to break through the fetters of custom and long use.

And the critics of the Volks-Zeitung, the Burger-Zeitung, the Tagblatt ... were all of one accord in the same favorable verdict...."

Unless bel canto methods of singing were being used by the singers, these feats could not have been accomplished. We also know, that the instrumental instruction emphasized the "singing quality" so necessary for good ensemble and keyboard playing. An 1860s catalog from Fisk refers to Bach's two and three voiced inventions--not ``two-part and three-part inventions," as in the modern usage.

America's Musical Inheritance: The Spiritual

The deeper motivation of this Let Justice Ring! concert, is to resurrect an idea that was advocated by turn-of-the-century musicians, such as Johannes Brahms, Harry Burleigh, and Antonin Dvorak: that the Africa-American Spirituals, so beautifully performed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, are the precious musical inheritance of our nation, a treasure not only to be protected, but to be developed as the basis for an American Classical culture.

The African-American composer, teacher, vocalist, and instrumentalist Harry Burleigh's views on this matter deserve to be better known. They are, perhaps, as controversial today as they were when, in 1922, he first stated them, and, certainly, they are no less correct.

"The growing tendency of some of our musicians to utilize the melodies of our Spirituals for fox trots, dance numbers, and semi-sentimental songs, is, I feel, a serious menace....

"In [the Spirituals], we find a mine of musical wealth that is everlasting.

"Now, since this body of folk-song expresses the soul of [a people] it is a holy thing. To use it and not artificialize or cheapen it calls for reverence and true devotion to its spiritual significance. Yet these delinquent musicians contemptuously disregard these traditions for personal, commercial gain." (See box.)

In a different location, Burleigh spoke of his "sacred crusade" in composition as one to make the musical potential of the Spirituals "intelligible"--that is his expression--through submission of their prosody to the rigors of Classical polyphony, in the same way Brahms had done with several generations of German folk-songs. Rejecting the racist view of Classical music as a "German" or "European" form, Burleigh recognized that the way of thinking embodied in the Classical compositional method, and the later statements of this method by Brahms, as well as Brahms's friend and student Antonin Dvorak, were a knowable, teachable, and reproducible body of ideas.

As a student of the New York-based National Conservatory of Music, founded by Jeanette Thurber, Burleigh informed Antonin Dvorak of the merit of the African-American Spiritual, not didatically (for Burleigh was, at the time, no great proponent of the Spiritual per se), but by simply singing the Spirituals for him. The 26-year-old Burleigh, who was, besides being an excellent baritone, a first-rate music copyist, became a near-fixture in the home of Dvorak, then in his 50s.

Burleigh's grandfather, a conductor (though blind) on the Underground Railroad, as well as his mother, a Classical scholar who spoke French and taught Greek and Latin (and also aided runaway slaves), taught Burleigh the Spirituals. Burleigh's singing-sessions with Dvorak must have been rich in story-telling about slavery and the liberation therefrom.

The Colombian Exposition Concert

Remember also that Burleigh had been on the program of the famous 1893 Colombian Exposition Concert, planned by violinist Will Marion Cook, which featured Frederick Douglass.

The story of that concert bears retelling, as it illustrates the power of the method of fighting for justice through beauty.

The Chicago World's Fair, also known as the "Colombian Exposition" of 1893, had been designed to promote the doctrine of white supremacy, by using the fledgling pseudo-science of "ethnology"--today called anthropology--to classify the various cultures of the world as "primitive" or "advanced," not according to those cultures' contributions to world civilization, but according to skin-color, with "white culture" classified, resultingly, as the most advanced.

Civil rights activists such as Ida Wells advocated that the fair simply be boycotted. That, however, would have done little good, since "coon shows" and other nefarious forms of "entertainment" would have been supplied anyway. Yet, attending the Exposition posed the equally difficult question: Would, by attending, one legitimize the whole sordid, racist affair?

Artists such as the violinist Will Marion Cook, a former student of Brahms's friend and collaborator Joseph Joachim, had urged Frederick Douglass to participate in the fair, to bring dignity to it. Also, there was to be a Haitian pavilion, and, since Douglass had occupied the position of U.S. ambassadior to Haiti, it seemed natural that he would preside over the event. Douglass agreed to do so.

The plan of the fair's co-ordinators was to have watermelon salesmen show up the morning of "Colored People's Day," and to have pictures taken, and cartoons drawn, of the "Darkie's Day at the fair." Douglass, Wells, and the others got wind of the plan. When, that morning, the press showed up for coverage of "Darkie's Day," they were greeted by "No Watermelon" leaflets, written by Wells, that protested the concept of racial stereotyping permeating the Exposition as a whole. Very few African-Americans were present.

Instead of Frederick Douglass, whom the press had expected to interview, they found Paul Laurence Dunbar, whom Douglass had hired as an assistant. Dunbar informed the reporters that they would have to return to see Mr. Douglass in the afternoon. About 2 p.m., throngs of African-Americans, as prearranged by the organizers, suddenly appeared for the real cultural festival, planned for them by program director Cook, Douglass, and their associates. Cook "enlisted Paul Laurence Dunbar to read his poems, Douglass' grandson, Joseph, to play violin, and Harry T. Burleigh to sing in his rich baritone," according to researcher Jean Snyder. William S. McFeeley recounts in his biography of Frederick Douglass:

"Douglass introduced clergyman after clergyman.... The introductions over, Douglass rose once more, put on his glasses, and began ... reading a paper, `The Race Problem In America.' Suddenly he was interrupted by `jeers and catcalls' from white men in the rear of the crowd. In the August heat, the old man tried to go on, but the mocking persisted; his hand shook....

"Then to the young poet's [Dunbar's] surprise and delight, the old abolitionist threw his papers down, parked his glasses on them, and eyes flashing, pushed his hand through his great mane of white hair. Full, rich and deep came the sonorous tones, compelling attention, drowning out the catcalls as the organ would a penny whistle.

"`Men talk of the Negro problem,' Douglass roared. `There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people haved loyalty enough, honor enough, and patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution'....

"Joseph Douglass played [his violin with Cook] there was a duet from an opera Cook was composing, and Dunbar read `Colored Americans,' which he had written for the occaision. Douglass, together with the musicians and the poet, had redeemed the day."

One can imagine the laughing pleasure with which Dvorak, who loved nothing better than a good joke, enjoyed hearing Burleigh tell this story--if Dvorak, who also attended the Exposition, had not in fact witnessed the incident himself.

A Cultural Civil Rights Movement

Burleigh came to New York to attend the National Conservatory in January 1892, before the Czech-born Dvorak had arrived in America. After Dvorak's arrival, and his dicussions with Conservatory founder Jeanette Thurber, it was decided to admit African-American students free of charge. Dvorak's concert projects, in which he featured his composition and instrumental students, many of them African-American, provoked intense racialist reaction. For example, the 1894 concert in support of the New York Herald's Free Clothing Fund, which featured Burleigh and soprano Siseretta Jones as soloists with the Conservatory Orchestra, was declared by one reviewer to be "of anthropological interest only."

When Burleigh deployed to the Exposition in August 1893, his intervention occurred in the early stages of the Conservatory's attempt to break new ground, as a cultural civil-rights movement that would even successfully integrate various "all-white" institutions, as we shall see. Dvorak, who became a member of the Czech parliament some time after he had left America in 1895, and was a republican by political outlook, could not have been oblivious to his, and Thurber's, iconoclastic challenge to the "culture-vultures" of New York (and London).

We can conclude that Burleigh, an aspiring artist, but also the grandson of a slave--whose mother was prevented from teaching Greek and Latin at the Erie, Pennsylvania Public School #1 because she was black (and was later hired to work there as a "janitress" after her busband's death in 1872)--would have sought every opportunity to "set the record straight" for Dvorak, the master-artist from Europe, to whom Truth and Beauty were inseparable. In this political regard, the teacher was taught by the student.

For a composer, nothing is so beloved as lawful change. In the National Conservatory was embodied a commitment to the teaching of that science of lawful change, Classical composition, to be made intelligible and taught to "the least of these," the African-American former slave. Scientific mastery of such laws, in the area in which the African-American had made a fundamental (and the only American) contribution to world-culture, as was recognized by Dvorak, and Burleigh, would translate to excellence in every other endeavor so disciplined.

It was Dvorak who recognized that the prosody of the Spirituals, the potential for the development of the richness of their "musical line," including in polyphony, and not simply their literal themes, that would supply the basis for the advancement of music (as well as poetry) in America. Supplied with the breakthrough in composition which Dvorak called the "durch führung" and which is called "motivführung" otherwise, the Spirituals would become the seed-crystal for the new school of composition. Said Dvorak:

"They are the folksongs of America, and your composers must turn to them.... In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music."

Out of Darkness, Light

The short-lived achievement of the National Conservatory was the final rally of the republican cause in post Civil War America. "The last decade of the nineteenth century and the opening decade of the twentieth century marked the nadir of the Negro's status in American society," wrote Dr. Rayford W. Logan in The Betrayal of the Negro. "In the presidential election of 1896, the Negro was almost completly forgotten, except in the South where the specter of a new era of Negro `domination' was invoked to keep the South solidly Democratic. The Democratic platform ... condemned the increasing centralization of of states rights. It also asserted that the (formerly Confederate) Democratic Party had `always been the exponent of political liberty.'"

By 1896, all of the African-American congressmen and senators who had been elected in the Reconstruction era had been driven from office. They had been a unique, and proud grouping, a grouping from whom all of today's Congress could learn much--at least those who, unlike Newt Gingrich, are not significantly below even the moral "bell curve" that prevails in those premises. There had been Blanche K. Bruce, the U.S. Senator from Mississippi, one of Frederick Douglass's closest friends. There was Hiram Revels, the first African-American in the Senate, who filled the old seat that had been occupied by Jefferson Davis. There was war-hero Robert Smalls of South Carolina, whose descendant, Amelia Boynton Robinson, would play a central role in securing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There was the Rev. Richard H. Cain of Charleston, a forerunner of Adam Clayton Powell, whose Emmanuel A.M.E. Church was respected as one of the most powerful religious, and political, organizations in the state.

In various ways, and for various reasons, all were removed, from 1870, when Joseph Rainey of South Coarolina became at age 36 the first African-American to enter Congress, until 1896 when the last African-American congressman left office. The same pattern occurred in state governments, where, as early as 1868, the Civil War gains had already been lost. In the Florida Legislature, for example, the rightfully elected constituional convention body had been supplanted, at midnight, by a coup, as early as February 1868. Other states, like South Carolina and Mississippi, drove the most able, and educated African-Americans from their midst, under pain of death.

Assassinations were often carried out by other elected officials. In the case of former State Senator Charles Caldwell of Mississippi, shot in the back on Christmas Day 1875. "Community leaders, judges, politicians, men of substance he had known all his life" did the job, Lerone Bennett writes in his Black Power, U.S.A.:

"The assassins, smelling death, moved in quickly for the kill, shouting, `dead men tell no tales.' With one last painful effort, Charles Caldwell pulled himself erect, smoothed the wrinkles in his blood-stained coat and said: `Remember when you kill me you kill a gentleman and a brave man. Never say you killed a coward....'

"The assassins opened fire. Caldwell crumpled and his body was `grotesquely turned completely over by the impact of innumerable shots fired at close range.'"

The harassment of African-American elected officials returned to the U.S. Congress as soon as they did. Although William Dawson of Illinois, who came to Congress in the 1930s, was not indicted, the segregation in his day was so severe that he had to eat his lunch in the congressional bathroom, rather than the lunch room. Adam Clayton Powell, who, besides insisting on a more pleasant setting for his meals, led his House Labor and Education Committe to amass the most successful legislative record of any committe in Congress up to that time, was stripped of his powers beginning in 1966, and kicked out of the Congress. He was destroyed, not through a physical assault, but the even more cowardly tactic of character assassination that is rampant in the treatment of African-American elected officials today.

The most hopeless point in this downturn, the 1890s, was the point at which the Conservatory, and its members, fought back with the most powerful of weapons--Beauty. That contribution, today unappreciated because up to now it has been unsituated in its proper, tragic historical context, was invaluable.

Burleigh at Work

Not only did Burleigh place his voice, and his compositions, at the disposal of the Freedman's educational institutions such as Tuskegee Institute. (Burleigh accompained Booker T. Washington on fundraising tours for Alabama's Tuskegee Institute through the years 1900-15, and also raised money for Fisk, Hampton Institute, and several other schools.) In discussions with poets, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and James Weldon Johnson, one of the founders of the National Association of Negro Musicians (f. 1919), Burleigh urged the need for a "re-birth" of the Spirituals--the actual start of what became later known as the "Harlem Renaissance" Movement. (The Harlem Renaissance, once in the hands of financial "angels"--actually devils--like Mabel Dodge and Otto Kahn--was, unfortunately completly undermined, commercialized, and ruined.)

Burleigh even conducted, with the help of his associates such as the indefatigable Jeanette Thurber, a one-man integration movement in downtown New York, which successfully integrated the two richest congregations in the city--St. George's Episcopal Church, and Temple Emmanuel-El. When Thurber urged him to try out for the position of lead singer at St. George's, around the corner from the National Conservatory, Burleigh applied. The test was given behind a screen, so that no favorites could be picked. When the church fathers found that they had picked Burleigh, consternation erupted. "That's the one you picked, and that's the one you should have," announced the Reverend William S. Rainsford, the congregation's new pastor.

When Burleigh sang at his first service, the entire congregation walked out of the church. Though Burleigh was discouraged, the minister urged him to return the next week. The minister let it be known to his congregation that, "If you feel that you can't come to this church because of that, well, we'll do without you."

Burleigh sang at St. George's as their lead singer for the next 52 years. He never missed singing the Palm Sunday service there, the most widely attended of the year. From 1923 on, he did an annual Vespers service of Spirituals. This was continued until 1955, six years after Burleigh's death, by his friend, organist George Kenner. Burleigh even appeared in Ripley's Believe It Or Not and The Guiness Book of World Records for his feat.

Burleigh was also the only African-American to ever hold the position of cantor at Temple Emmanuel-El, a post that he held for 25 years. Here, he even adapted the Spirituals to the Hebrew worship service, at one point using a choral setting of "Deep River" for the prayer, "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Reedemer," Psalm 19:14.

Throughout New York, Burleigh was known as an eminent musical authority. Kurt Schindler, assistant chorus master at the Metropolitan Opera, told James Weldon Johnson, "on a question in the theory of music he would accept Mr. Burleigh's decision as quickly as that of any other musician in New York."

America's Failure

Yet, despite the insight of Dvorak and Burleigh into the potential of the Spiritual, and the more than half-century of work done by Burleigh, along with the Fisk (and Hampton) Jubilee Singers, Roland Hayes, and others, the cultural pessimism already entrenched in Europe by the time of Verdi's death in 1901, coupled with the resurgence of American racism, and the triumph of Teddy Roosevelt's Jim Crow laws, after the assassination of President McKinley in the same year, nearly eradicated the effort.

Supplanting this was the "nostalgia for the mud" racism of the "slumming set," the aristo-trash who were attracted to the "seamy, sensual, passionate side of the Negro." These were the people that tried to play off Burleigh and Roland Hayes against Paul Robeson, claiming that the untutored Robeson, born in Princeton, New Jersey, was a more authentic singer of the Spirituals than either Hayes, who had grown up on a plantation in Georgia, or Burleigh, who had learned the Spirituals directly from his grandfather, a former slave.

(Later, Robeson would fall victim to the same criticism, particularly after his performance of Shakespeare's "Othello" in 1941, the first integrated cast performance of the play on a major stage in the United States. He would be declared "out of touch with the people's art." Robeson's misfortune, of being picked up by members of the British Communist Party in the early 1920s, was that he failed to realize, or to appreciate, the fact that a) the party was itself a playground of the royals, that b) its members were largely racists, and that c)the promotion of Robeson as the primitive alternative to particularly Roland Hayes came from the same outlook that placed the African pygmy, Ota Benga, on display in the Bronx Zoo, complete with his "primitive musical instruments." The words "Cortegani, vil razza damnata" ("courtiers, you vile, damned race") properly describe such creatures.

While many, such as George Gershwin, claimed to be conducting the same project in composition as Burleigh, in truth, only a few, undemoralized members of the Conservatory Circle actually worked rigorously on Classical method. Hall Johnson demonstrated in his settings of the Spirituals, an exact idea of what Dvorak meant, surpassing Burleigh's settings in many cases. Most other American would-be composers "aped" the worst of Americana, giving us innumerable not-forgettable-enough movie scores that sound like what Richard Wagner might have been thinking after a pornographic night with his concubine Cosima.

Primarily because of racism, neither Burleigh, nor others, were able to establish the seed in America that Dvorak had sought to transplant during the years 1892-95. The subsequent century has witnessed, instead, a production of junk that is probably unsurpassed by any world-leading nation in history, in the domain of the arts.

That-- not the flowering of American popular culture, not the creation of "new art forms," not "democracy in culture," but the rejection of the African-American Spiritual, as the vehicle for the importation of, and perpetuation of, the Classical musical method of thought, is the most important fact of American cultural life in the twentieth century. "Tin Pan Alley" and vaudeville, with its "coon songs," "ragtime" and "new Orleans jazz," and the completely synthetic organized-crime phenomenon known as "rock and roll," would have been, at best, musical curiosities, had the work of Burleigh been accepted. However, coming from African-Americans, Classical culture was too hard for America to accept. It went against the (Scottish Rite-dominated) racist assertion, implicit or explicit, that Classical culture was "white culture," just as medical science was what Hitler and Bertrand Russell termed "white science."


These historical facts, are not well known, nor are they taught, or likely to be taught, in any music conservatory or history class in this country. Nonetheless, they are the truth.

The thinker and statesman Lyndon LaRouche, in a series of ground-breaking papers published in the 1993-94 period, attempted to instruct his contemporaries on the method of investigation of history. In writings such as "History As Science" and "How Bertrand Russell Became An Evil Man," the idea of isochronicity--the viewing of physical space-time, and events occurring therin, from the standpoint of devising, those mental-physical actions which most efficiently enfold the individual, and his society in all of time--is advanced.

From the standpoint of an "isochronic view", there is no such thing as a "current event." Earlier, in a 1970s formulation, LaRouche might have said, there are no such things as "facts" as we normally describe them. What are termed "facts" are actually judgments which are a means of bounding the relatively arbitrary apparent-continuum of "experience," or what would today be termed "virtual reality." These judgments, from which we derive what we choose to call facts, may correspnd either to truth or to falsehood.

The academic reader, or musicologist, not familiar with the story of Harry Burleigh, Antonin Dvorak, and the National Conservattory of Music, would see these facts, though perhaps accurate, as "stretched to make a political point." They are enlisted in the service of a set of "assertions" that "no (or few) credible authorities support."

Individuals do not necessarily view "hard facts" as reality. "Only the facts that are acceptable"--which may be completely untrue--are "reality."

Take the case, recounted on a segment of the television show Tony Brown's Journal, devoted to African-American soldiers in World War II: A student, in 1975, took a class on the history of the war, and was instructed that there were no black piolts in World War II. She, however, had a relative who had been a member of the famous Tuskeegee Airmen. When she corrected the teacher, the teacher replied, "I'm sure he meant well by telling you that, but there were no black pilots in World War II." When she brought pictures into the classroom of her relative in pilot's gear, in front of an airplane, the teacher, who was white, thanked her, and never mentioned the matter in class.

Modern history, which is the domain of the "historical facts" we have sought to here represent, is dated from LaRouche's insistence back to the fifteenth century, with the Council of Florence (1438-39) as its starting-point. For the purposes of any researcher on Classical music this is especially true, since this is the same period that the bel canto singing schools are brought to their highest degree of development. Bel canto, the invention of the highest art of singing, its application to instruments, and the transmission of this science, through the work of Classical musicians, including Brahms and Dvorak, to Harry Burleigh and the National Conservatory of Music, transformed American history.

It is this transformation of thinking, and the effect of that transformation on social practice, which is the only proper subject of history. That is the only thing which actually "happens."

Now, we have a proper standpoint from the which to view the nature of "historical facts." They are judgments made upon a virtual reality, the nature of which, is only knowable in truth through its transformation by means of what are termed "singularities"--new, demonstrable realities in the change of man's knowledge about some fundamental law of the universe. Discovering the laws, by the which the mind can willfully investigate its own capacity to create such "singular" transformations in human knowledge, is the true domain of the science behind physical economy, of the which, LaRouche is the world's most successful practitioner.

LaRouche's standpoint is equally effectively utilized to determine the value, and merit, of events in "current history" (not the non-existent "current events"). The topic of this article, and its timing, is offered for the insight that it might provide the American people into the potentially deeper significance of events occurring this month in Washington D.C., such as the Million-Man March, the "Day Of Atonement," called by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and the concert entitled Let Justice Ring!

Let us use the occasion to further point out how to view some of these "current events"--events of current history--from an advanced standpoint, outside of the confines of the media. Let us first consider the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan, not as a threat, or an extremist, but as a religious leader, and musician.

The role of music in violinist Farrakhan's actions, particularly in the past two years, has been highlighted by New Federalist. Farrakhan, however, as we have already shown, is not unique among people of African descent that have been renowned, and world-renowned, for their mastery of the instument. In Europe, George Bridgetower's performance with Ludwig van Beethoven of what was initally called (by Beethoven) the "Mulatto Sonata" ("Sonata Mulatica"), and later the Kreutzer, is legendary. Also, the violinist and orchestra and opera director, Le Chevalier de St. Georges, an associate of Haydn, was key in bankrolling Haydn and (probably) Mozart during 1785-86, at the height of their musical dialogue on the principle of Motivführung, which LaRouche has termed the "Mozart Revolution."

Nor is Farrakhan's combining of music with politics unique, as we have shown above. Frederick Douglass, the statesman, had learned to play violin while a slave in Baltimore, and remained an avid amateur violinist throughout his life. His grandson Joseph Douglass, realized the goal of virtuoso violin-playing that was most assuredly inspired by his illustrious grandfather, whose last admonition to his younger followers, in 1895, was to "Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!"

The Reverend Ben Chavis, the executive director of the Million-Man March, is descended from the Rev. John Chavis, the first African-American ordained a minister in the Presbryterian Church. Chavis, born in 1763, also served in the Revolutionary War. A Latin and Greek scholar, Chavis was prevented by law from teaching African-Americans to read in North Carolina, and, after the Nat Turner Rebellion of 1831, was prevented from preaching. He was eventually bludgeoned to death for violating the ukase against literacy.

The last sermon that Reverend Chavis was able to publish, but unable to deliver, was called "The Extent of the Atonement." From everything known about him, Chavis never denounced those who abused him, but believed in, and practiced, the concept of atonement until the end. That his descendant, Rev. Ben Chavis heads a march entitled "A Day of Atonement" is therefore, historically fitting and proper.

The point: It is wise to attempt to situate individuals, ourselves, and our actions, in the context of current history, and that, in turn, in the context of modern history. Thus, we avoid cheapening the importance of what individuals may do, or represent, for good or ill.

Frederick Douglass was able to avoid that mistake, in his accurate assessment of the Emancipation Proclamation and its significance. While others denounced the document for what it said, Douglass recognized the document for, not only what it did not say, but for what the document could not say--that, once the idea of freedom was communicated to the African-American as his legal right in any form, he would act to seize that freedom. significance of the "inconsequential" Emancipation document, was not lost the Northern-based British agents of the Confederacy, who used its passage as the pretext to organize the July 1863 anti-Union race riot called the Draft Riots. They certainly thought the Proclamation meant something.

We also, in this way, make those individuals, and ourselves, accountable to history. We make the past and future live in us, because we bring them to be "at one" with us.

When Classical music, which demands that the emotions and the mind be "at one" in performance, is placed at the disposal of such a view of history, then the possibilities for the best emerging from humanity, is made evident. The best may not emerge, but we have acted, in the name of our ancestors and descendants, to give the human race a chance to know in what way it might redeem itself. That is the sacred task for the which music was invented, and for the which, only that which is truly music, can be used.

Harry Burleigh wrote the following letter to the NAACP for public dissemination on Nov. 10, 1922:

"The growing tendency of some of our musicians to utilize the melodies of our Spirituals in fox-trots, dance numbers and semi-sentimental songs, is, I feel, a serious menace to the aesthetic standing and development of the race.

"These melodies are our prized possession. They were created for a definite purpose and are designed to demonstrate and perpetuate the deepest aesthetic endowment of the race. They are the only legacy of slavery days that we can be proud of--our one, priceless contribution....

"In them we have a mine of ... local wealth that is everlasting. Into their making was poured the aspiration of a race in bondage, whose religion--intensely felt--was their whole hope and comfort, and the only vehicle through which their inner spirits soared free.

"They rank with the great folk-music of the world and are among the loveliest of chanted prayers....

"Now, since this body of folk-song expresses the soul of a race, it is a holy thing. To use it and not artificialize or cheapen it calls for reverence and true devotion to its spiritual significance. Yet these delinquent musicians contemptuously disregard these traditions for personal, commercial gain....

"Skilled musicians can detect instantly the flagrant misappropriation, the amateurish perversion. There are others, the unskilled musicians, and particularly our young people, who cannot detect the misuse of these prayer-songs; who cannot distinguish the false from the true, the make-shift from the real, the spurious from the genuine, the theatric from the spiritual, and who are thus being fed with a wrong idea, a false valuation of all our beautiful melodic inheritance--unless this pernicious musical trickery is stopped."

The trickery was not stopped. The tragic result followed.


"Said Dvorak: `They are the folksongs of America, and your composers must turn to them.... In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music.'"

Prints and Photographs Division/Library of Congress
Frederick Douglass with his grandson, concert violinist Joseph Douglass.

Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan with his violin.

"The African-American composer, teacher, vocalist, and instrumentalist Harry Burleigh said in 1922: `The growing tendency of some of our musicians to utilize the melodies of our Spirituals as for fox trots, dance numbers, and semi-sentimental songs, is, I feel, a serious menace...."

Singer, teacher, and composer Harry T. Burleigh.
Fisk University Library

Roland Hayes with Fisk University undergraduates.
Fisk University Library The Fisk Jubilee Singers, in an 1873 portrait by S. Edward Oppenheim.
Prints and Photographs Division/Library of Congress

Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial, site of her historic 1939 concert.

Burleigh: `Don't Desecrate the Spiritual'

Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., Aristocrats of Color, Indiana University Press. By kind permission of the author.

"The last sermon that John Chavis was able to publish, but unable to deliver, was called `The Extent of the Atonement.' That his descendant, Rev. Ben Chavis heads a march entitled `A Day Of Atonement' is therefore, historically fitting and proper."

Benjamin Chavis, coordinator of the Oct. 16 Million-Man March in Washington, D.C. and his great-great grandfather, the Presbyterian minister and educator John Chavis.

"In the National Conservatory was embodied a commitment to the teaching of that science of lawful change, Classical composition, to be made intelligible and taught to `the least of these,' the African-American former slave.

Civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Negro Musicians.

Blanche K. Bruce, U.S. Senator from Mississippi from 1875 to 1881.

Archibald Grimké, graduate of Harvard Law School and a founder of the NACCP.

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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

See Fidelio from the Winter of 1995, for the article "African-American Spirtuals And the Classical Setting Of Strophic Poetry", by Dennis Speed, in an issue entitled "The Creative Principle in Art and Science".

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