Tag Archives: Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven, Guest Blogger

My main reason for beginning this blog was to try to start conversations between people who are having experiences with the nonphysical world, to help them feel that they have permission to share this aspect of their lives. It’s been a great gift to receive communications from people around the world who have been willing to do that. I’m hoping and expecting that today’s presentation is going to resonate with a lot of readers and that they will share their insights.

It amazes me to realize that not only do the “dead” have to get messages through our thick skulls* and our thicker layers of preconceived notions, but in order for the living to communicate at great distances about all that, we rely on little marks that seem to magically appear on screens in front of our eyes, which depend on electrons finding their way through wires and photons streaming through thousands of miles of fiber optic cable that has improbably been strung across entire ocean floors. It’s that part that seems far more incredible to me!

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned some contacts with “Lou” van Beethoven, both my own and those of others. He seems to be in touch with people and events on the Earth plane quite a lot. Recently I’ve had the good fortune to correspond with someone who has described a connection with Beethoven that has a great deal in common with my connection with Chopin. (It turned out that there were aspects we had in common that neither of us had disclosed publicly before.) I had never before met someone who was in so much the same situation as I, and it has been fascinating to compare notes.

Some issues came up in this correspondence that I found a bit confusing, and I hoped to get Fryderyk’s take on them, since he does the same sorts of things and also, as far as I know, is familiar with Beethoven as he is now. On 7/7/15, I was able to have a good conversation with him about his view of Beethoven and his current activities on the Earth plane.

I sent my summary of that conversation to Beethoven’s friend, who has asked to remain as anonymous as possible. We exchanged a number of messages, which I have condensed into a single document here.  She reported that she had received input from Beethoven, and I am extremely pleased to present his comments. You will find those in bold and italics, while what his friend wrote is in regular bold. My original description of the visit I had with Fryderyk is in regular type, and I have added asides in brackets. I hope the formatting will help you to navigate through this three-way/two-world communication, which I have been given permission to share.

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There was a sense of Beethoven being an extremely large entity, not a “mere” human being anymore.

To this, he told me that he is still human, still LvB. He has not morphed into anything else. [I hadn’t meant that he was no longer human, but that he was manifesting more as his expanded, unlimited self.]

As far as I experience him, Ludwig has “form”— still a very human one and with the clothing styles of his era! I don’t believe in the new agey idea that on entering the spirit realms people become diaphanous like white masses of light that float about. They have form, just on a different vibration/frequency to us on earth. They are still human. (It is as far as I can see, different for different life forms like elementals). They do however move differently, their form is looser, they can present themselves at different “ages.” Sometimes I see him as he was in his 40s, and other times as he was in around 1803 (the Hornemann portrait). He once made me laugh by showing himself with his 1803 haircut and in a 1940s style suit; it was brown with a waistcoat and he asked me if it suited him. I told him he looked very handsome, but I did prefer his early 1800s clothes if he wanted an honest opinion. I think they suit him more. He is also amused by the new agey views of afterlife people being white floating masses or all white and wearing white robes! That is so not what he is. He is still the same LvB, just in another dimension, but without the problems he had when here on earth.

It may surprise you to know that he still likes food and coffee; he experiences them through me at times. He likes the rain, baths, showers and the woods. He lives life fully. He also has a home— yes, a home! He showed me his house. It is in the woods.

He showed me a sort of expanse of Beethoven-substance extending in all directions over a vast landscape and penetrating into its various corners. I could see [his friend] enfolded in this field. I asked how this was like or different from relating to an individual person as such. That didn’t receive a clear reply.

At this he gave me a German word right into my head, and I got a faint image of energy flowing. [Searching in an online dictionary for a word with that sound, she discovered that it meant “projection.”] He was quite excited when I was looking the words up and even more so when I saw what vorsprung means— it is in the context of something projecting like a rock, and he gave me this word to show the literal movement of what he is doing. I really love it when he does this; he gives me German words, so that I can get a literal meaning that my own mind can’t make up. I’m getting an image of him in his coat and old hat throwing sparks into the sky and laughing to himself.

I have many times seen human beings as much more expansive than they seem to be while living in bodies, and I think of that larger self as the fundamental reality of what a person is, living or dead. So I said, “But isn’t that the same as what you are, or what anybody is?”

He’s showing me that energy fields can vary in size, according to purposes, states of mind, aims, health, etc.

I am sort of understanding this a little. Not long after he started visiting me I was walking in town and I had this real feeling of expansion and I could feel him like in the sky/air. It’s very hard to explain. I see it as his way of reaching through to me, expanding his aura. Other times it is of a more intimate nature, that his aura/being is right inside me, flowing into me, and it feels so good and pure.

I think that this is Ludwig’s ability to extend himself— he can be in more than one place at once. I didn’t quite understand how he can do it, but it has something to do with people in the afterlife existing outside of time and the physical body. When one thinks about it, if we can travel in OBEs and shamans can go further than this, why wouldn’t afterlife people have superior abilities that go even further?

Fryderyk replied that he was not like this image of Beethoven, that he was much smaller and more focused, and wrapping close around me, he gave me an impression of having tightly delineated boundaries that were not much bigger than the physical volume of a human being like myself.

*He’s saying something about penetrating barriers, and layers, and that it is not always easy, “even for me.” He’s showing an image of himself knocking on my head and me not hearing him, or “not listening.” Also about believing one can do it[If I had a dollar for every time Fryderyk has said, “You are not listening!”]

Strong emotion washed through me as he conveyed a great longing and aspiration to be something more, to be able to do more good and reach more of the world, as he perceives that Beethoven can do. I told him what he might well have told me, that we all have our place in the scheme of things. I said that it seemed to me that his special ability is to bring our attention to details and to intimate, personal experience and to connect that to the universal, rather than to express the gigantic and universal directly in the way that Beethoven has done. I certainly don’t see his own “superpower” being any less. Fryderyk has always been conspicuously modest. He also seems to be relatively young, perhaps not yet as far along in development as some; perhaps Ludwig has access to more of All That Is than he does?

I got an image of Ludwig standing there, saying no, not development, but role.

Perhaps Fryderyk is equating Ludwig’s “abilities” with his music— like the Ninth of which the theme is universal brotherhood/humanhood, the heroic “Eroica,” the triumphant feelings and determinations to succeed against the odds, etc. It’s true that Ludwig was concerned with these themes/this work, but he also went to the opposite with the internal, spiritual experiences in his late piano sonatas and quartets. It is all important.

I was waiting for his response to how Fryderyk feels. He certainly doesn’t see Fryderyk as any less than himself. Ludwig knows how people view him, past and present, how people are (and were) often in awe of him (I had a problem with this when he first started visiting me), but that could/can be isolating for him. He said he has always been a force of nature, that when Goethe said that he was an “untamed personality” he was correct. He didn’t know how to “fit in”— he could only be himself, even if it caused problems for himself or the people around him. He says he was, and is, kind of wild and he can’t help it! But he accepts who he is. He said that Fryderyk has a very different personality and energy force which he admires. Very focused! Good at concentrating.

He connects with the raw energy of nature, like the wind. He said why do you think I spent so much time walking outside in the woods? (True, he even went on walks in cold weather).

He shows me that we all have access to allthatis (however you view it or experience it) and we all will connect with it differently, he doesn’t see it as more or less.

I must say, Beethoven has always seemed exceedingly large and powerful to me, too. I remember writing that I perceived him as being “like a huge bear hug that could wrap the whole world,” or something like that. And Fryderyk does seem to be built on a much smaller scale, but that is not to say that he is weak or ineffectual.

No, not smaller, he is saying. Different. Like breeze and wind, you see? Both the same source, but different. Is breeze less than the wind?

[Regarding Beethoven’s giving the impression of being so large despite a height of only about 5’4”:] It is his personality, his life force I think. And yet, his letters show his vulnerabilities and his emotions; he had both. People said he could be almost childlike, a kind of innocence about him; he was and is authentic. And he is incredibly gentle with it. All this mix makes him so compelling and extraordinary. It can be heard in his music.

Mary Montano wrote about something like this field of Beethoven-ness in Loving Mozart, if I remember correctly. She said that all the devoted players and listeners form a kind of symbiotic group organism with a composer, contributing back into the work the composer creates. (The Wolf Gang? The Fryc Field? The Beethovensbundler?) I like that theory very, very much and hope it is true. It’s how the situation does feel to me.

I got like goes with like. He’s also given me something that makes me feel warm inside as well as kind of honored and humbled— never underestimate how important you are to us. He knows I just sit here thinking what do I do? boring courses, shopping, cleaning, sometimes writing (never enough time for that it seems), but that the connection we have with the composers means a lot to them, the energy we share with them they can channel into their work, use to inspire them. We help their work in ways we cannot quite know.

So yes, I see it as we can be their muses, and them ours, like a flowing of ideas, sharing.

I had mentioned to [his friend] that I’ve never heard Fryderyk say anything in Polish, despite begging him to do so. She asked why that is; she does sometimes hear Ludwig speak in German, a language she doesn’t know herself, and has been able to write down some of the words so that she could look them up. On this same night I bugged Fryderyk about it yet again, and at last got some clarification. It was obvious once I saw it. He gave me images of the mechanics of our communication, the way we were doing it right then, so that I saw how I was going about taking in raw ideas and fishing for words to express them. I remember Mendy Lou saying years ago that he communicates psychically rather than verbally, which didn’t entirely make sense to me at the time.

I read this to Ludwig and he thinks it is a good idea to tell you how he gives me the German words. Maybe you and Fryderyk can try it. I usually lie down, or at least sit comfortably; he usually lets me know he wants to give me German words. I get a feeling or I start to hear him faintly. Then I just lie still, not thinking any thoughts of my own, not having any ideas. If he is going to answer a question I gave him, I just listen and wait till he gives me the word(s) and then write it down and look in the online dictionary. I can always feel his energy flowing into me when he does it. It takes a quiet mind and concentration. So we don’t manage big whole sentences! But it is great for clarification.

To be sure, on occasion I do get crystal-clear, pre-formed words from him, but those times are the exception. Generally I am performing the “translation” into speech and so the message ends up in my own language, with my very limited vocabulary in Polish not really adequate for this process. I still hope that we may come up with a more robust line of communication that will facilitate more precise verbal messages, but this may not ever be the way our particular minds work together, and if so, that’s all right, I suppose. The imagery and emotional tones he gives me often convey far more information than words could.

I asked again, also, about why he couldn’t or didn’t transmit any Polish phrases through Leslie Flint (since others did transmit messages in languages not known to the medium) except for one episode when Flint woke in the middle of the night hearing a foreign language. He began to show me something about working through the medium’s nervous system, brainstem maybe, and vocal anatomy, even though the sound was not coming through the medium’s vocal cords. I never found out much about that because at that point I drifted off to sleep.

He is showing that mind to mind is much easier for them— faster too! The biggest barrier seems to be us, busy minds, and doubting that we are indeed communicating with them.

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I’ve had a day of feeling extremely inadequate, and here I am writing about Chopin feeling inadequate and being reminded of my previous post about Beethoven feeling inadequate during his life too. Point taken.

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Filed under channeling, music, spirit communication

The Music of Rosemary Brown from a Pianist’s Perspective

(Revised 7/19/16; originally posted May 15, 2011)
This is a blast from the past, an article I wrote in 2007 for the journal of the Society for Spirituality and Paranormal Studies.  It was reprinted in the online magazine
The Ground of Faith, and occasionally someone contacts me because they found it there.  I thought I had already posted it here, but it seems I’d let it slip past me.  That’s just as well, though, because Franz Liszt was the instigator and central figure of the Brown project, and now, in the midst of his bicentennial year, it’s the perfect time to bring attention to his efforts.  (That other guy who had his 200th birthday last year was his main assistant.)

I had thought that all Rosemary Brown recordings and sheet music were out of print, at the time I originally posted this back in 2011 I certainly could not find any available except as a few pieces being passed from person to person.   It turns out that Arends Musikverlage, a small German company, has been publishing it, in their Keturi line.  When I hunted for Mrs. Brown’s works they never showed up in search results, but recently Sonja Arends contacted me and now I have the ordering information.  There are a number of pieces I had never had an opportunity to see before.  Some samples of recordings can be found here:  http://www.arends-musikverlag.de/rosemary-brown/  There is a short biography of Mrs. Brown and a link to a page where you can order sheet music, all in English.

Some samples of the sheet music, provided by the publisher, are included in the following links.  You will need  to click on the name, then do the same on the page that comes up next, to view the PDFs.

Bagatelle E-Dur Keturi Musikverlag

Consolation Keturi Musikverlag

Fragment Keturi Musikverlag

Impromptu Keturi Musikverlag

Reve en Bateau Keturi Musikverlag

The Rosemary Brown Piano Album appears to still be available from Novello, as well:
http://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.action?itemid=14027813&

My own recording of Liszt’s “Grubelei,” created with engineering help from Guilherme Tavares, can be found here: https://app.box.com/s/isl0e5ybqgm84ljdusvi

 

I’m posting the article just as it appeared originally:

The Music of Rosemary Brown from a Pianist’s Perspective

by Elene Gusch, B. Mus., DOM

“Distinguished musicians could again be called upon to commend the work of Rosemary Brown.  I would rather take this opportunity to do it myself, for a music publisher supports a venture in the most convincing way possible.  He risks his own money….

“I have undertaken publication of the music because I believe in its validity, and because it is necessary if widespread performance is to take place.  How else can the efforts of these composers and Mrs Brown be rewarded?…

“From the first manifestation of Mrs Brown’s gifts as an intermediary in the mid-sixties, cynics have attacked the weaknesses in the music, whilst enthusiasts have counter-attacked with the many splendid passages.  Both extremes leap to the eye without difficulty.  The real difficulty lies in looking at the phenomenon as a whole and comprehending the boundaries that have been crossed in its making.  Inconsistencies will remain in the quality of the music until communication gets easier (assuming that it can).  But the triumph of contact at this level is so overwhelming that no musician should ignore the results.”   –Basil Ramsey, publisher, in the introduction to An album of music for children of all ages

A great deal of ink has already been spread about on the subject of Rosemary Brown, one of the most publicized mediums of the late 20th century.  Much of that, unfortunately, has consisted of misquotes, inaccuracies, and thoughtless derision, rather than intelligent consideration of the facts of her life and work.  Mrs. Brown herself (possibly with a ghostwriter, no pun intended) wrote four books, though only two, Unfinished Symphonies and Immortals at my Elbow, have been available in recent years.  Another book, an analysis of Mrs. Brown’s musical output by Ian Parrott, has been out of print for some time, and I have not been able to get hold of a copy.  Some recordings were made, but to the best of my knowledge they are out of print too, along with all of the sheet music.  It so often happens that events which seem unexplainable to mainstream thought make a splash at first, and for a while everyone talks about them, but then they are forgotten.  Rosemary Brown’s music has shared that fate.

Although there have been many examples of musical mediums, Mrs. Brown’s activities were extraordinary in that her work has been transmitted to us in written form.  The story is that, beginning in the early 1960s, she took dictation from a team of well-known deceased composers, writing down hundreds of pieces of varying length and complexity, mostly for piano solo.  Some musical authorities of the time, including Leonard Bernstein, found the works to be convincingly like those of the composers who were supposed to have created them, but unsurprisingly, many other people have scoffed and insisted that Mrs. Brown was a charlatan, or that the composers were only “imaginary friends” of hers.  Yet, it has to be admitted, even by the most skeptical and materialistic minds, that something highly unusual was going on.  The sheer number of pieces is impressive, even ignoring the fact that they comprise so many disparate musical styles.  It would have been difficult for even a very able and well-trained composer to come up with them all, especially to produce them at the speed with which they came through, and it is a documented and indisputable fact that Rosemary Brown had only the most minimal education in music.  (She lived in the same house most of her earthly existence, and there would have been no opportunity for her to get extensive training out of the sight of her friends and neighbors.)  If we are going to postulate that this woman produced such a huge and varied opus purely out of her own unconscious mind, having no idea what she was doing, we still have to explain how a thing like that could be possible.  We are stuck, one way or another, with a realization that human potential must be much greater than we thought.  It is impossible to believe that this music was produced by purely “normal,” everyday means.  Simply saying that it is fake, as someone told me just the other day, does not begin to explain the observed phenomena.

Of course, there are people among us today who can produce music that is convincingly similar to the work of well-known composers.  One of them is Bruce Adolphe, who produces “Piano Puzzlers” for American Public Media’s program Performance Today.  He recasts a familiar tune in the style of some recognizable composer, and a contestant is supposed to guess both the name of the tune and that of the composer.  It’s generally not hard to figure out, because the composers’ styles are so distinctive.  Bruce Adolphe is amazing, and it’s not entirely beyond belief that Rosemary Brown could have been doing something similar, but for the reasons mentioned above it seems unlikely indeed.

The Brown project, we are told, was the brainchild of Franz Liszt, who believed that if people on Earth could receive musical compositions from the other side that could not possibly be produced by ordinary means, they would have to believe that there is more to life than our physical existence.   In Liszt’s own words, given in an introduction to Robert Schumann’s “Twelve Cameos,” “We in spirit hope to help people to realise that they are evolving souls destined to pass into the realms of non-matter where they will continue to evolve.  This realisation should give them a whole new dimension of thinking, and raise their self-image above its earthbound limits.”

Liszt was aided and abetted by Fryderyk Chopin, who acted as second-in-command, and a number of other heavy hitters, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Sergei Rachmaninov, Franz Schubert, Edvard Grieg, Johannes Brahms, Robert and Clara Schumann, Claude Debussy, Hector Berlioz, and even J. S. Bach.  Still other composers made occasional appearances.

Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with classical music knows that each of these composers possessed a unique and distinctive style, which one might expect to be recognizable in any new works they produce.  In fact, having them write in recognizable styles was crucial to the success of the project.  Liszt explained, “The music transmitted is not put forth with the object of surpassing previous musical achievements.  The aim is to pour through a sufficient measure in terms of musical expression to give clear demonstrations of the personal idiom of each composer concerned.  Therefore, each composer endeavours to filter through the essence of his own spirit rather than to attempt gigantic works of technical virtuosity.”

Although the composers all have individual styles, a number of them lived during the same time period, influenced each other, and were influenced by the same historical forces, so there are certain resemblances even among their “real” works.  Late Chopin, for example, sounds to me somewhat like Brahms.  Some of the composers—Liszt, Chopin, and Berlioz—were friends during their material existence.  Brahms loved Clara Schumann, and was an important part of her life.  The lifespans of Beethoven and Schubert overlapped those of the Romantic-period composers.  Even among those who were not contemporaries, there are connections; Chopin worshipped and closely studied Bach, Debussy was inspired by Chopin, Liszt was a great exponent of Beethoven, and so forth.  It’s not surprising to find this group of artists working together.

I have lived with this body of work for the better part of a decade, and although proof of Mrs. Brown’s claims is not possible, I cannot avoid believing in her sincerity and veracity.  I would like to describe what the music is like from the point of view of a pianist.  I am not going to attempt a rigorous musicological analysis; I am only hoping to give a subjective sense of what playing and hearing the music is like, since the reader has probably not had the opportunity to come into contact with it.  I am going to discuss only the pieces for which I have sheet music.

I first heard of Rosemary Brown in 1998, five years into my own contacts with the spirit world.  I didn’t have much trouble accepting the premise that the music had been channeled, and because I had done some very limited channeling at the piano myself, I was vitally interested.  It took me about a year to get hold of any of the printed or recorded music, though.  I was fortunate enough to meet Jane Ellen, a composer based here in Albuquerque, who happened to have a copy of one recording, as well as a number of the books of sheet music.  Since all the sheet music is out of print, what I have is in the “Xerox edition,” and I have been unable to acquire any more.

Holding that music in my hands, and actually playing it, was strangely disturbing at first, even for someone with my background.  The sheer weight of it, the concreteness, was stunning.  Instead of being a vague, it-might-be nice concept, the vitality of the composers, their inarguable aliveness, lay in my hands as a physical fact.  And yet I still balked at believing one hundred percent, and despite all the evidence, part of me continues to doubt a little.  So I do understand, just a bit, why this work has been swept under the very large rug that covers so many signs of survival after death.

One might expect that, since the method of transmission was so arduous, the pieces in this collection would be quite simple.  That is not the case.  While they are not “gigantic works of technical virtuosity,” many require fairly advanced pianistic skills.  One finds successions of four and even five-note chords in each hand, as well as passages using crossed hands.  Considerable speed is often called for.  Some of the pieces are surprisingly lengthy;  Liszt’s “Woodland Waters,” for example, runs 14 pages.  The majority of the pieces are only a few pages long, and they are relatively accessible to the amateur pianist.  Still, there are a number of pieces that I cannot play up to tempo at this point.  Since recordings are not available for most of these works, I have not been able to hear them the way they should sound, and I can’t give you a complete evaluation of them.

Earlier pieces are coyly marked “Inspired by…,” but in the later publications one finds “From… as dictated to Rosemary Brown.”  The pieces were largely received without marks of expression, tempo, etc., but there are notable exceptions, particularly with Liszt and Schumann, both of whom used elaborate, untranslated verbal directions that sent me running for my dictionaries.  The editors needed to fix a number of quirks in the notation that were caused by Mrs. Brown’s lack of musical expertise, such as E’s being written instead of F-flats.  Some oddities of notation remain, and some notes may simply be mistakes.  Mrs. Brown made no pretense of being absolutely accurate.  In Immortals at my Elbow, she wrote, “To get anything as elaborate as a piece of music across clearly without any mistakes in transmission, is an almost impossible feat.”  It is common to find errors and discrepancies in the notation of earth-plane composers as well, so this is not surprising.

Many of the pieces with programmatic titles cited in this article are from An album of music for children of all ages.  Apparently there had been many requests from the public for easier music that could be enjoyed by a wider audience, and this book was the result.  It’s a good place to start if one has access to the printed music.

By far the greatest number of pieces came from Franz Liszt, and they are also the longest.  Even a cursory look at the pages gives a strong impression of his style.  As always, Liszt favored heavy religious and philosophical themes, like the arpeggiated, undulating “Jesus walking on the water in the midst of the storm.”  His Italian fluency is on display in marks of expression such as “strepitoso” (noisy) and “sordamente” (muffled).

I have an extremely unscientific but reliable method of recognizing Liszt’s work: when I hear it I tend to giggle uncontrollably.  The more seriously he is taking himself, the less seriously I can take him.  I find this effect in Mrs. Brown’s Liszt pieces as well.  Even the quiet and simple “A Rainy Day,” from the album for children, has a certain pomposity.  I do like it very much, though.

Liszt’s “Grübelei” (Meditation), in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above most of the pieces in the Brown repertoire.  As you can probably tell, I am not much of a Liszt fan, but this piece is wonderful.  It is daunting at first—mostly because the right hand is in 5/4 and the left hand is in 3/2— but it greatly rewards the player who sticks with it.  I have returned to it again and again, and I always find something more in it, which I think is the sign of great music.  Even if Mrs. Brown had produced nothing else, one would have to say that something interesting was going on.

The genesis of “Grübelei” is an amusing story.  Liszt began it during a taping by the BBC in 1969.  The producers wanted to film the process of receiving the music right as it was happening.  Mrs. Brown was nervous at being tested in this way, and made sure that the BBC people understood that they might end up with nothing at all, since a medium cannot count on getting a message at any specific time.  “Be sure you give me something spectacular!” she said to Liszt.  When the taping began, Liszt appeared immediately and set to work, but the piece made no sense to Mrs. Brown, having those two time signatures juxtaposed, as well as constant changes of key and accidentals thrown about everywhere.  She attempted to play some of it, but found herself unable to cope with the difficulty, and had grave misgivings about the whole thing.  She asked Liszt if perhaps it might be better to do another Hungarian rhapsody or something of that nature, but he assured her that “Grübelei” was going to impress the listeners far more.  A member of the BBC team then asked to try playing the piece, which he was able to do without much trouble.  His comment was, “Mrs. Brown, I think you’ve got something here.”  The piece was later taken to Humphrey Searle, who was a Liszt expert.  Mr. Searle was also impressed with it, and noted a spot which resembled a cadenza in one of the Liebestraums; Mrs. Brown believed that Liszt had intended that measure to be a clue to his authorship.  (Unfinished Symphonies, pp. 88-93)

Most of my time at the piano is spent with works of Chopin, and I know his style intimately.  When I first played through the Brown pieces of his that were available to me (a prelude, a nocturne, a waltz, and six mazurkas), I felt a little uncomfortable with them.  The mazurkas, in particular, struck me as odd, more angular and less flowing than the familiar mazurkas from his lifetime, and seemed far from his best work.  However, it was hard to imagine anyone else having written them.   More recently, as I have played them again and again, they have grown on me, and I hear parts of them as quite delightful, but I still see them as a relatively weak link in the Brown repertoire.

While working on this article, I found myself embroiled in an online discussion of the Nocturne in A-flat, transmitted in 1966.  The opinion of the other writers was that this piece didn’t sound like a nocturne, certainly didn’t sound like Chopin, and was “banal.”  I find their position strange.  Since the piece has a slow, lyrical, flowing melody above a wide-spread, arpeggiated accompaniment, it is in fact very much in the mold of an archetypal nocturne.  As to whether it sounds like Chopin, there is one section in which I hear his voice so clearly that it brings me to tears, but I suppose that is a matter of opinion.

I tried running this nocturne past my husband, a professional woodwind player, without telling him what it was or who was supposed to have written it.  His first comment was that it made him think of a certain “warhorse” piece—one that is played frequently, maybe almost to death—and the warhorse turned out to be Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat, Op. 9 No. 2, which has the same type of accompaniment and begins with the same gesture of a rising major sixth.  My husband also noted the vocal quality of the melody and its resemblance to Italian opera, which had a huge influence on Chopin.  The Brown nocturne, to me, is also reminiscent of the Cantabile in B-flat, KK IVb/6. The Chopin prelude is interesting, stylistic, and not problematic, but it has to go extremely fast to sound right, and so I have not yet heard it properly.

The mazurkas, angular and 20th-century-like as they are, do sound Polish.  They are built largely of short melodic cells that repeat either literally or in sequences, a characteristic of mazurkas often found in Chopin’s known works.  In the set I have, the keys of the six pieces descend by half steps, and they are unified in style and general mood.  They are simple in construction but not particularly easy.

Looking at “The Waltzing Doll,” from the album for children, gives a Chopinologist like me something of a turn, since Chopin abhorred programmatic titles and never gave anything but generic names to his works.  However, this piece was meant to fit into a collection in which everything has a cute title, and it is intended to appeal to children, so I suppose he had to conform.  It is pleasant, straightforward waltz with a sinuous melody, and darn if it doesn’t sound exactly like a waltzing doll.  It also sounds like it was written by the same person who wrote the mazurkas.

Only two of the Rachmaninov compositions are in my possession.  One is a chromatic, étude-like prelude, and the other is a charming piece from the album for children, “Sleigh Ride.”  When I play “Sleigh Ride,” it’s as if I can feel snow falling all around me; the tessitura is high throughout, and its steady, tinkly eighth notes give it a crystalline quality.  My only complaint about this fun piece is that the introduction is a little bit hokey.

The Beethoven scherzo and bagatelle fit right in with his shorter and easier known pieces, and their forward-rushing energy and expansiveness feel like him to me.  They are fast, and while they are not truly difficult, they are on the tricky side.  There is also a much easier piece in the album for children, “A Little Carol.”  It reminds me of the sprightly middle movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata.

Johannes Brahms contributed two intermezzi and a waltz.  They contain large chords and dramatic melodies, and they cover a wide swath of the keyboard, as Brahms is wont to do.

I’m not an expert on Schubert, but I’m sure I hear characteristic gestures of his in the two pieces labeled “Moment Musical,” as well as the tuneful, singable melodies one expects of him.  I’ve also noticed that Schubert seems to be inordinately fond of C-flats, and plenty of them do occur in his Brown project pieces.

I have listed Clara Schumann among the composers, and indeed she was a composer in her own right, but in the Brown project she acted only to bring works of her husband to the earth plane, often appearing with their friend Johannes Brahms.  Robert Schumann apparently could not manage the kind of focus necessary to transmit the pieces himself.  Liszt tells us, however, that Schumann is in much better mental health these days than he was during his life.  In the introduction to “Twelve Cameos,” he says, “The pieces illustrate some enchanting facets of the multi-sided genius of Robert Schumann.  He lost his way on earth because the mirrors of his mind reflected false images to him.  Now, of course, his mind is clear, and he shares in the delight of an unclouded vision of the beauty of Creation and its Creator.”

The “Twelve Cameos” form an organized whole, with the keys of the pieces rising chromatically from D-flat to C.  Each piece is very brief, and is named for an emotion or psychological state, such as “Uberraschung” (Surprise) or “Nachdenklichkeit” (Thoughtfulness).  All the titles and markings are in German, and for me, complex enough to make a dictionary imperative.  The only thing that strikes me as being different from what I would expect of Schumann is that the two hands do not overlap or intertwine in the way his work often requires.

There is also a more extended Schumann piece, “Longing,” which is not part of the Cameos, despite the similar title.  It is a sweet and not at all difficult piece, one of the most enjoyable and accessible in the group.

I have two rather atmospheric and decidedly impressionistic pieces attributed to Debussy, both concerning avian subjects.  In the midst of writing this, I played “Le Pâon” (The Peacock) in the presence of my husband, who couldn’t see what I was supposed to be playing and had not heard the piece before.  I asked, “Who wrote that?” and without hesitation, he replied, “Debussy.”

Grieg is represented in my collection only by “A Song of Childhood,” which is gentle, lyrical, and easy to play.  It has a sparse accompaniment and the feel of a folk song.

I also have only one piece attributed to Bach.  It is a prelude in the typical Bach mode of a repeating pattern that relentlessly continues throughout the piece.  I’m afraid it is not especially interesting, though I cannot say that there is anything specifically wrong with it, or anything that is absolutely not Bach-like.

Mrs. Brown found Bach rather intimidating, not someone to chat casually with like Liszt or Chopin.  She said that in the beginning he gave her a few pieces that followed his known style, to establish his identity, and then he moved on to new material that we might not recognize as his.  This brings up an important point: there is no reason to expect a composer, or anyone else, to be exactly the way they were many years ago or to produce exactly the same kind of work.  It is daunting to imagine how one might reproduce a style one used at a much younger age and under very different circumstances.  Yet, for the most part, the composers of the Rosemary Brown project have done just that, and we clearly hear their living voices.

Bibliography

Brown, R. Immortals at My Elbow (in the US, Immortals by My Side), Bachman & Turner, London, 1974

Brown, R. Unfinished Symphonies, William Morrow and Co., Inc., New York, 1971

Books of sheet music:

Music from Beyond, Basil Ramsey, 1977

An album of piano pieces for children of all ages, Basil Ramsey, 1979

The Rosemary Brown Piano Album, Novello & Co. Ltd.

Six Mazurkas for piano solo from Frédéric Chopin, Basil Ramsey, 1981

Twelve Cameos for piano solo from Robert Schumann, Basil Ramsey, 1980

Individual pieces:

Intermezzo in A flat, inspired by Johannes Brahms, 1978

“Le Pâon,” inspired by Claude Debussy, 1978

“Woodland Waters,” inspired by Franz Liszt, 1977

Elene Gusch has been working as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine since 1996, but her bachelor’s degree is in classical guitar performance.  She has performed extensively on Renaissance lute as well as guitar, and over a period of three decades taught private music lessons on a number of instruments, most often piano.  Her main musical interest is the work of Fryderyk Chopin.  She has gotten the Piano Puzzlers right just about every time.

 

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More on “Lou” van B.

I promised to tell you something about my own impressions of Beethoven.  Here goes:

Ludwig van Beethoven, I think, is one of the few excuses for the existence of our whole sorry species.  Beethoven, deeply flawed, wondrously transcendent.

Sometime in the late 1990s I was playing a lot of Beethoven on the piano, which was a major stretch at the time, and still is not at all easy or natural for me.  I didn’t feel equal to the task, and I decided I would like to contact the composer and ask his advice.  I had been introduced to the Rosemary Brown project*, and I thought that since Beethoven had made himself so available on the Earth plane, he might be willing to accept my overtures.

The first time I attempted to contact him, I ran into something totally unexpected.  I felt my head bowing down under a great weight of shame.  There wasn’t much more to it, just the sense of shame and inadequacy, perhaps self-hatred.  I didn’t know what to make of it.  I did not have a sense of being in touch with him as a conscious person; it was more like I had encountered a recording of this aspect of his life.

When I went to my next piano lesson, I mentioned this to Jane.  With an odd expression on her face, she got up and rummaged through some papers.  She came back with a copy of Beethoven’s “Heiligenstadt Testament,” the letter he wrote to his brothers when he became certain he was going deaf.  (This was in October 1802, when he was just short of 32 years of age.)  Jane had just been teaching her music appreciation class about it.  I had only a sketchy outline of the composer’s life in my own head, and hadn’t taken notice of this famous letter myself.  Here is part of what we read:

“From childhood on, my heart and soul have been full of the tender feeling of goodwill, and I was ever inclined to accomplish great things.  But, think that for six years now I have been hopelessly afflicted, made worse by senseless physicians, from year to year deceived with hopes of improvement, finally compelled to face the prospect of a lasting malady (whose cure will take years or, perhaps, be impossible).  Though born with a fiery, active temperament, even susceptible to the diversions of society, I was soon compelled to withdraw myself, to live life alone.  If at times I tried to forget all this, oh how harshly I was I flung back by the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing.  Yet it was impossible for me to say to people, “Speak louder, shout, for I am deaf.”  Ah, how could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection, a perfection such as few in my profession enjoy or ever have enjoyed.   —Oh I cannot do it; therefore forgive me when you see me draw back when I would have gladly mingled with you.”  [From www.all-about-beethoven.com]

I was shocked to find that this great man could be so burdened with feelings of inadequacy.  But if even he could feel that way, I thought, it was certainly understandable that I should sometimes (well, often) suffer with those feelings myself.  I felt all the more compassion toward struggling human beings everywhere.

The second time I contacted Beethoven, it felt like I was communicating with a real person in real time.  I asked him if he could suggest how I might play his music more effectively and be truer to his vision.  In reply, he lit up my heart chakra like a small sun and blasted energy out from it through my arms!  I felt wonderful for hours afterward.  When I played next, I tried centering myself in my heart, and it truly did feel different.  Try it for yourself.

Beethoven, to me, is a being of tremendous warmth, like a huge bear hug that could wrap the whole world.  He once told Rosemary Brown that he “longs to pour forth great torrents of music which would really stir us into greater understanding; he wants to pour out his music for us in fountains of compassion.” (Unfinished Symphonies p. 161)

*Rosemary Brown is the British lady who channeled music from a number of major composers during the 1960s and ‘70s.  While one may find some aspects of her work not entirely convincing, there is some absolutely wonderful philosophical material as well as plenty of worthwhile pieces of music.  I haven’t yet gotten around to including my article on Mrs. Brown here, but I’ll do it soon.

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Leopold and “Lou”

A couple of readers have rather snidely asked why only Chopin is showing up in communications from the beyond, and not other composers.  Well, duh.  Of course other composers have done the same.  In fact, sightings of famous deceased musicians seem to be rather common.

I can’t warrant the following stories as absolutely for sure contacts with dead folks; in fact, in one case, the person who had the experience interprets it as mere imagination.   However, each of these Earth-based musicians received critical information at just the right time and was able to make good use of it.  One cannot deny the practicality and specificity of the communications, no matter what “really” happened.

My former piano teacher, Jane, told this story about an odd experience she had while at music school.  She was preparing for a recital and having a serious technical problem with one of the pieces.  She couldn’t solve the problem, despite having applied great effort, and time was getting short.  One night Leopold Godowsky came to her in a dream and told her exactly what to do.  She knew that was who he was, because he identified himself.

The funny part was that at the time, Jane had never heard of Leopold Godowsky.  She had to look him up in books, where she found pictures that looked like the man in her dream. Godowsky, she learned, had been a pianist of such extraordinary ability that Chopin’s études were too easy for him and he felt the need to write extra parts to make them challenging.  He was the perfect person to give advice on technique.  (For those who don’t know, Chopin’s études are somewhere between hard and impossible for most ordinary mortals.)

Since Godowsky was a well-known figure in the piano world, it’s conceivable that Jane had heard of him at one time, had forgotten, and had reconstructed him in her time of need, but she felt certain that this was not the case.  For the record, I hadn’t heard of him either at the time she told me the story, even though I had a better-than-average education in music history.  So let’s accept this anecdote at face value for the moment.  Then we must ask, why had Godowsky come to her?  How did he find her, and how did he know that she needed help?

I can think of two explanations.  One is that Jane had some kind of personal connection with Godowsky, even though she didn’t know about it consciously, and thus he heard her distress call.  The other is that somehow the musicians of the past are monitoring the musicians of the present, finding opportunities to communicate and give guidance wherever they can.  I think that is the more likely option, but it is unnerving in a way, at the same time that it is comforting.

At any rate, Godowsky’s advice did the trick, and Jane performed the piece successfully.

Another pianist-composer I know personally has always felt a special attraction to Beethoven.  A few years ago, she had a bizarre experience that involved a vision of him.  She got into her car, and happened to glance over at the passenger seat, where she was shocked to see the image of Beethoven, just as if he were a solid human being sitting there.  He asked her a very odd question: “How do you get the perfect cut of meat?”  Naturally, she had no answer.  Beethoven continued, “You trim away all the fat.”  My friend took this as advice about how to compose more effectively, and says that it has been a great help.  However, she also insists that the vision was nothing more than her extremely vivid imagination.

In 2008, she e-mailed the following to me:  “I’ve been composing up a storm, as I’m going to try to make a solo piano CD of all my own original pieces.  I’ve had the last week to myself… uninterrupted.  No students etc.  Doing this for myself each month.  So on the third day of non-stop composing, I looked over to my right and… there he was.  Said to call him Lou.  My overactive imagination right.  It’s not like an actual visual thing, which admittedly, I’ve had my share of true visions… but that’s for another time.  These are more like perceptions, but they are very distinct.  These happen regularly.  Anyhow, it was indeed him.  Old gruffy Ludwig himself!  Am I getting too tired?  I’ve been composing for 6 hours straight by now.  He’s looking over my music, and nods approvingly.  He likes quite a bit of it, but pulls me back to this one passage and says he doesn’t like it!!  Why??  This was one of my favorites!!  So I proceed to have a discussion with him over it.  I even argue my point and dismiss this encounter for my crazy tired imagination!  Later, I go back however and try to figure out what he was talking about. Finally, I think it may have been a rhythmic thing in the melody, but I’m still too stubborn to change it.  Plus he’s too old fashioned to really get today’s more modern music right?

“So I was in the [local sheet music store] today, and while I was waiting for them to add everything up which takes three days!… I happened to look up to see a statue of Beethoven, and there he was in my head again.  He tells me to go look at some of his music to see his point!  LO AND BEHOLD!  I’ll be damned.  I’d never noticed it before.  Indeed this particular practice now makes so much sense!!  Not only in Beethoven’s work but others!  It’s like I had a free lesson!  I don’t suppose I can really go wrong with that kind of influence, now can I?”

This composer gave me permission to share her anecdote as long as I did not identify her.  When I asked her if she’s had any more “Lou” experiences, though, she again insisted that it was all her imagination.  It sounds like a bit more than imagination at work to me, but what do I know.

There is ample precedent for my friend’s Beethoven contacts.  The British pianist John Lill not only has seen him, but claims a long-term relationship with the composer.  I have not been able to find out many details about what he perceives, but at any rate this is not a secret; Lill has spoken openly about it, and an incident is recounted in Rosemary Brown’s Unfinished Symphonies in which Lill stood up at one of her appearances and said that he believed in her experiences because he had had similar experiences himself.  According to Lill, Beethoven assured him that he would win the Tchaikovsky competition in 1970 (which he did), and provided emotional and technical support during that time.  Beyond that, I know little except that Lill is well established as an interpreter of Beethoven, and has claimed to get help with interpretation from the composer.  Apparently Lill does not typically give a great deal of information about his experiences in public– at least I haven’t been able to find much– and tries to avoid being thought of as a “quaint loony,” as he told one interviewer.

My own impressions of “Lou” will have to wait for another post.

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