Tag Archives: Rosemary Brown

Things You Can Do When You’re Dead! and Some You Can’t

Whatever he’s doing, it’s not this.

Lawrence Spencer wrote 1001 Things You Can Do While You’re Dead: A Dead Person’s Guide to Living, which looks absolutely hilarious.

Tricia J. Robertson wrote Things You Can Do When You’re Dead!: True Accounts of After Death Communication, which looks intensely interesting.

I haven’t read either of these books yet, but I can definitely say that both authors are among the not-dead. Descriptions of the lives of the dead— you can see that language gets tangled right away— by dead folks themselves are abundant, but not necessarily all that clear to those of us still on this side of the veil.

 

On 9/10/19, after reading through some short Mozart pieces that I hadn’t been familiar with at the piano, I got to wondering if Fryderyk has any kind of relationship with his idol, or ever sees him. I was pleased to find myself easily getting in touch with him and able to have a clear conversation, which is still a fairly rare occurrence.

It seems that nobody really has a relationship with Mozart or gets to talk with him these days, from what Fryderyk told me. He is something of a recluse (we both struggled to find the best word for his situation). I was surprised, since I think of Mozart as a pretty gregarious person. He is secluded in a kind of chamber in which he is in meditation and in communication directly with the Divine Source. The image of a huge column of light streaming down, cascading into him, was strong, but I can’t say I really understood this whole concept. It had almost a science fiction movie flavor.

I wondered if Mozart had become almost a sort of deity himself. I’ve thought of him as something like that, but at the same time, the original earth-based Wolfgang seems so down to earth. It’s interesting to contemplate.

I wondered if they have any involvement with trying to help our dire situation on our dying planet. He said, firmly, that this is the responsibility of those who live on the planet at present, that we wanted and intended to be here and deal with this, that it is “your burden.”

But obviously Fryderyk is involved heavily with the earth plane.

I asked about his relationship with Liszt, having recently heard a 1955 Leslie Flint track* in which the Chopin voice spoke of his friendships with Liszt and Mendelssohn. What is Liszt getting himself up to lately? Is he still involved with us groundlings too?

He showed me Liszt reaching toward us on earth, like a hand reaching down into the atmosphere to tweak things here below. 

How is that different from what he does himself? He works by entering directly into the human heart, from the inside, he said, instead of imposing something from the outside.

But seriously, I insisted, things are not looking good around here. I asked if he had any advice for those of us tasked with getting through the next few decades. He said, “Your love of life must become greater than your love of death.”

 

I was trying to ask about what they do all “day,” something I am endlessly curious about, especially since it is more or less what we all will be doing eventually. In the Leslie Flint session I mentioned, the Chopin voice described having a salon in which he and other musicians played over their recent works and gave each other suggestions. We’ve heard before that at least for the more recently dead, life feels much the same as it did when they inhabited physical bodies; they appear to wear clothes, live in houses, walk about in gardens, etc. At the same time, we are told that there are so many aspects of their existence that we can’t fathom with our limited senses.

Perhaps those two things are not contradictory. I’m reminded of an anecdote from Rosemary Brown, in which she described a visit with Debussy, who brought one of his new nonphysical paintings to show her. If I remember correctly, the subject of the painting was a peacock; whatever it was, it moved around and morphed in a way that physical paintings can’t manage. Apparently he was having a lot of fun with this art form.

Michael Tymn’s latest blog post uses the Eiffel Tower as a clever metaphor for the various planes or spheres in which spirits find themselves at different levels of development.
http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/month/2019/09/
He also discusses the naive and fallacious supposition that spirits should be expected to know anything and everything simply by virtue of being spirits. This is useful. My only quibble with his construction is that it is overly linear; spirit communicators tell us that they do exist in “higher” or “lower” spheres, but we are also told that any one spirit personality (or personality here on the planet) is only a part of a larger entity, and that the parts of that larger entity may have more or less expanded awareness. I think we need to consider that linear time, which is necessary for the concept of development or evolution, is not really fundamental to reality, but more a product of our way of experiencing it. Again, I don’t pretend to have a thorough understanding of these matters.

 

*https://www.leslieflint.com/chopin-july-7th-1955
  There are a number of new Chopin recordings and transcriptions at this site since I last wrote about it here, and the website is easier to use. Note that they are using Mary-Rose Douglas’ beautiful and evocative transformation of the 1849 photograph for their portrait of Chopin, this one:

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Where Does Music Really Come From? More on Rosemary Brown

Rosemary Brown at work on the mazurka in D flat

The music of Rosemary Brown is the subject that has brought people to my blog more than any other.  My writing about her has put me in touch with some fascinating people in faraway places, and just recently that has led to my being given another album of Brown pieces as .mp3s, plus a collection of Brown sheet music I hadn’t seen before.

Through a series of e-mails begun with, if I remember correctly, a reprint of my original article on Mrs. Brown in The Ground of Faith, I’ve had the good fortune to become acquainted with a Brazilian musician and composer, Guilherme Tavares, who has supplied me with a lot of these materials, and also did me a tremendous favor by editing my own recording of “Grübelei.”  A circular sort of Web process brought some of the recordings to Guilherme, involving other people with strong interests in the Brown phenomenon:  Ademir Xavier left a comment on my blog about Érico Bomfim, who is trying to record all of Mrs. Brown’s work, then Guilherme contacted Érico, who sent recordings to him, which he passed on to me, and I am now making available to you.

Guilherme also found a BBC radio program about musical mediumship, from three years ago, and recorded the section about Mrs. Brown.  He asked me to transcribe it, and I am posting it here.  It includes the moment when “Grübelei” came into the world– a fascinating moment in which the most hardened skeptic would be hard pressed to believe Mrs. Brown was faking.  I’m going to save further comments on the new material and on Mrs. Brown in general for the next post, but for now, I’ll say that I’m especially intrigued by what she said about all composers perhaps getting music from a central source beyond themselves, possibly transmitted to them by intermediaries, just as the composers themselves were transmitting music to her.  This has been my meta-question about Mrs. Brown’s work all along– where does music really come from?  If Liszt or Beethoven or whoever give music to Mrs. Brown, where are they getting it?

I remember one of my piano teachers, Jane Viemeister, who’s a competent composer herself, saying that music is like an endless waterfall; all you have to do is take your bucket and scoop some up, and there’s always more where that came from.  Arlo Guthrie once said that music was like a stream going by, and it was his job to dip out the good stuff before Bob Dylan could get it!  Many composers have reported feeling that they were simply writing down music that was being dictated to them by some higher Source, perhaps even God.  Yet, every composer has a recognizable, individual style.  I still find this all mysterious– especially when a poem pops unbidden and fully formed into my head.  I can’t write music, but my best work does tend to happen in much the way those composers describe.

The conclusions, or rather non-conclusions, reached during this radio program are pretty close to my view of the subject.  Except that, having lived with a spirit close by much of the time, getting mixed up in my daily life, I don’t have any problem believing that Liszt could advise Mrs. Brown on the price of bananas in the supermarket.

“Music from Beyond the Veil,” hosted by Professor Paul Robertson on BBC Radio 4, first aired July 14, 2009.

[A rather rough recording of “Grübelei” plays in the background.]

Mrs. Brown:  It really began when I was a child.  I had a vision of Liszt, but at that time I was not aware that this was Liszt, because I was too young to have seen pictures or photographs of him.  And he told me that when he was on the earth, he was a famous composer and pianist, and that when I grew up he would give me music.  After Liszt had established a link with me, he first brought Chopin, but then he began to bring others, and there is now quite a group communicating fairly regularly.

Robertson:  A group which included many of the greats, Brahms, Debussy, Schumann, Schubert, even Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.  This piece of music, recorded in 1969, is attributed to Franz Liszt, yet it was recorded nearly 80 years after his death.  He chose as his musical intermediary, if we are to believe her account, a quietly-spoken, unassuming housewife from Balham.  Her name was Rosemary Brown, and she created a stir in the late ‘60s, when her musical mediumship added dozens, and eventually hundreds, of new compositions to the musical canon of Liszt and his group of famous friends from beyond this earthly veil.  As a musician myself, a violinist who spent most of his career leading a string quartet, you could say that I too am a medium, but when I aim to express some long-dead composer’s intentions and emotions, I believe I’m working from a musical score.  Yet, I’m fascinated by the mysterious connection between music and our spiritual lives, not least the question of where seemingly transcendent musical inspiration comes from.

In 1969, BBC Radio 3 broadcast “Music From the Dead Composers,” an hour-long program which took a close look at Rosemary Brown’s claims.  During the program, Rosemary described how she received new compositions from beyond the grave.

Mrs. Brown:  Liszt, who was the first one to give music to me, has a way of controlling my hands.  I think quite a few people will have heard of something called automatic writing, where a spirit controls the hand of a person here, and writes through them.  Well, in this case, Liszt somehow contrives to control both my hands, so that he can make them play the music, and he plays the same phrases over several times, while I watch and try to memorize the notes, and then I’ll write it out afterwards to the best of my ability.

Robertson:  In May 1969, during the making of “Music From the Dead Composers,” presenter Geoffrey Skelton and his producer Daniel Snowman visited Rosemary’s home, a small end-of-terrace house in Lakewood Road, Balham, to record with her as she received her music.  Forty years later, Daniel Snowman can still remember how Rosemary sat at the piano waiting for inspiration to strike.

Snowman:  It was a very emotionally low-beat occasion; there was no sense of a séance or of magic or tables moving or all those things.  We simply turned the machine on and sat there, with her obvious agreement– she gave us a cup of tea and all that– and we sat.  And she would, every now and then, mumble various things– not sure whether they were to us or for us, or to somebody [chuckles] from the dead.

Mrs. Brown:  I’m becoming aware of their… they’re present.  At least they’re here, see.  They’re going to transmit.  I can see Liszt quite clearly.

Snowman:  And then she said, “Oh, yes, Liszt, Liszt is here now.”  And Liszt apparently dictated to her a difficult piece called “Grübelei.”  And she was mumbling back and forth with him, in English, “What? Five-four in the right… and a different… and the key signature, how many sharps?  And three-two in the left?”  You know, kind of, “If you say so, Maestro.”

Mrs. Brown:  [slowly picking out notes, scratching on paper]  I don’t know what I’ve left out.  What have I left out… left out… left out?  Oh, yes, you said repeat that, that goes there, yeah.  No….

Snowman:  And then gradually the thing seemed to come together.  She tried to play it, couldn’t, Geoffrey had a go, and it came together as an interesting piece.

The most extraordinary thing to me about that piece she produced in our presence, “Grübelei” by Liszt (supposedly), was that somebody of the ability and authority of Humphrey Searle, a great Liszt expert at the time, you know, looked at this piece and said, “Yeah, it’s very much like the kind of piece he was experimenting with towards the end of his life.”  It’s an extraordinary piece for somebody to simply do a pastiche of Liszt, to come up with something like that.

Willin:  Well, I had quite a lot of correspondence with Rosemary when she was alive, um, and I’ve looked at a lot of her music and I’ve done a lot of tests on it, and I’ve discussed it with possibly thousands and certainly hundreds of people.

Robertson:  Dr. Melvyn Willin describes himself as being a paramusicologist.  As well as being a music teacher and performer, he researches cases where music apparently meets the paranormal.

Willin:  And what do I have to say?  Um, I think that she was genuine, I think she was tapping into something.

Robertson:  So when you say genuine….

Willin:  She wasn’t fraudulent.

Robertson:  She was sincere.

Willin:  Sincere, yes.

Robertson:  OK.  But do you think she was, in your terms, a genuine medium for something she couldn’t otherwise have achieved?

Willin:  I think she believed that she was genuinely in touch with the composers that she said she was in touch with.  Um, and hey, perhaps she was.  I would be happier to think that she was in touch perhaps with something that was within her, that she was perhaps getting some help from externally.  But I don’t believe that Beethoven or Liszt was telling her the price of bananas in the supermarket, etc.

As to her music, it’s always come across to me, and to others, as a rather good pastiche of the actual composers.  But having said that, I wouldn’t say always, and that’s the frustrating thing, because I can’t say that no, I think all her pieces were pastiche.  I have to say that I think an awful lot were, but there was the odd one or two, that I just think, I don’t know how she did that.

Robertson:  So where does that leave us with the intriguing case of Rosemary Brown?  Not even her most ardent critics accused her of being fraudulent, or of somehow deceiving the public, and she was clearly sincere in her belief about where her talents came from.  It’s interesting, though, to hear her in an interview of 1967, describing her composer friends from the other side as themselves intermediaries for something greater.

Mrs. Brown:  Well, it seems to me to come from a central source of inspiration, as if there were spheres of music, and I think it is channeled down to me, as perhaps it is channeled down to other composers, by various intermediary beings, spirits, whatever you like to call them.  And in this instance, I think there are people who have been composers upon the earth, trying to channel the music to me.

[Background music: a tenor singing “O Sole Mio.”]

Robertson:  I’ll leave the last word to Leo May, who is as certain in his conviction as Rosemary Brown was in hers that he’s channeling the spirits of dead musicians, in his case, those of Enrico Caruso and Mario Lanza.

[An interview begins]  So in a way, it’s not a million miles different to having a talent and then having a duty to serve that talent.

May:  I’m a servant, yes.

Robertson:  And is that quite important, to feel that?

May:  It is indeed important, yes.  Indeed it is, to serve it.  I want to serve the spirit world, which I know, if anybody says to me, “do you believe in the spirit world?” I say, “No.  I know it.”  And there’s the difference between knowing it and surmising that it might be there.  I know it.  Without a doubt.

***********************************************************************************

http://www.arends-musikverlag.de/rosemary-brown/
Where you can buy Rosemary Brown sheet music and recordings.

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

http://www.youtube.com/user/xavnet2
Ademir Xavier’s YouTube Channel, where you will find Érico Bomfim playing some Brown works, as well as a couple of interviews with Mrs. Brown.  Xavier has a blog, Era do Espírito, at http://eradoespirito.blogspot.com.

https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/the-music-of-rosemary-brown-from-a-pianists-perspective/

My earlier post, “The Music of Rosemary Brown from a Pianist’s Perspective.”

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Delfina: Drama and Trauma with Fryderyk

Delfina Potocka

Delfina Potocka by Ary Scheffer, 1840 (Image via Wikipedia)

Excerpts from my chapter about the relationship between Fryderyk Chopin and Countess Delfina Potocka, and what that has to do with me and with the story I related in my last post.  There’s a lot more, which you’ll get if I ever do manage to finish the danged book.  It’s too long to put all of it in a blog post.  Here I’ve left out a lot of the more personal parts about how I came to discover this material, and focused mainly on what I know and don’t know about the relationship itself, and what the historical record tells us.

As you’ll see, there is a great deal of controversy over whether these two ever had an affair at all.  For a long time, I had trouble believing it myself, despite the intensity of my experiences.  

Mme Potocka had had a frightful life in some ways.  Locked into a painful marriage to an abusive husband, she had further to endure the deaths of five children at birth or soon after; she never did bear a child who survived.  After six years of marriage she said good-bye to the husband and took off for Paris—right about the time Aurore Dudevant, the future George Sand, did the same.  In 1832, at age 25, she became a student of the 22-year-old Chopin.  Their relationship lasted in some form till the end of his life, but exactly what passed between them remains a vexing puzzle to historians for reasons I’ll attempt to make clear below.

….

The next time I felt able to get some information about Delfina’s life, I asked specifically about Chopin.  There was nothing but sobbing.  Delfina, or the recording of her in my mind, seemed overcome with grief, and she went on and on sobbing and whimpering until I got tired of it and shut her up.  Still no information, except that Chopin obviously was important to her.

Over time, I had opportunities to pick up more impressions.  In general, the relationship between Mme Potocka and Chopin felt positive and comfortable to me.  I was a little surprised to see that, given both of their highly sensitive personalities and her history of emotional and sexual trauma.

It wasn’t until late in 2000 that I ran into anything dramatic, problematic, or traumatic in connection with Chopin.  One night I was searching for an old poem, and in a notebook from a couple of years earlier I found a piece I had started that concerned him.  There wasn’t much of it, and I wasn’t sure where it was going.  I remembered that when I had originally worked on that poem, I had been feeling angry and resentful toward him, but that hadn’t seemed to make any sense.  It had felt like something was trying to come up but never made it to the surface.  I began to work on the poem again, and got this far:

They say that no one ever knew your thoughts.

You never gave yourself, but only lent;

you mastered all the forms of politesse,

which built for you an icy castle wall

that ordinary mortals could not breach.

The prince within your realm, you always judged

the commoners with merciless disdain.

They really did say those things about him.  But I couldn’t figure out why I myself was saying them.  That description could not possibly have been less like the being I had spent so much time with over the past nearly eight years.  Yet, I couldn’t deny the powerful emotions that were attached to the nascent poem.  Without resolution, I went to bed.

It was the next evening, while driving home, that the flashback hit.  In the past, I had experienced plenty of what seemed to be past-life “bleedthroughs,” but usually they were more like emotional states with little specific content.  This one was like actually being there.  It felt as if I were being screamed at, an impression of a terrible quarrel.  I hung on to the steering wheel and thanked God that my car was stopped at a red light, because I couldn’t see or breathe for a few seconds.  Fortunately, I wasn’t far from home.

When I pulled up in the driveway, I sat for a while, still with a death-grip on the wheel, and made my best attempt to get a clear view of this episode.  I asked what Chopin and Delfina were saying to each other, and it was as if I were watching a soap opera on TV with the volume low, barely able to catch the dialogue.  His tirade seemed to focus on telling her that her behavior was disgraceful and totally unacceptable.  “You slut!” was the general drift.  He was disgusted with her and telling her so rather brutally.

Delfina had the wind completely knocked out of her.   She was terribly hurt, all the more so because she had trusted him, because he had been gentle with her in a way that her husband, father, and brothers never had.  It felt as though she actually collapsed to the floor.  But then she picked herself up, arranged her dignity around her, and told him off.  She was not going to let this little squirt, three years younger than she and of a lower social class to boot, get the better of her.   “How dare you judge me?” she retorted.  “What do you know, you with your easy life, your perfect parents and your perfect sisters?  When you have actually lived, you can come back and tell me how I should conduct my life.  Until then, keep your opinions to yourself!  If you want me, this is what I am.  If you don’t want me, I will go elsewhere.”  And with that she sailed out the door, trying not to show how much she was trembling.

What had Delfina done to arouse such wrath?  I couldn’t perceive that part.  We are told that Chopin was extremely possessive and jealous later on with Mme Sand (to some extent there were valid reasons for this, but it seems he may have gone overboard), and if this was true, he may well have been the same way a few years earlier.  Mme Potocka, if we believe the contemporary accounts, made Sand look like a nun.  Adam Mickiewicz, the premier Polish poet, referred to her as “the Great Sinner.”  I doubt that she was very good at focusing entirely on one man.  In fact, she may well have been seeing someone else at the same time that she was involved with Chopin.  Unfortunately, I have very little access to any chronological information about her many lovers, and what I do have says nothing regarding the period of 1832-1835.

Whether this flashback-like vision was literal history or only metaphor, it was overwhelmingly powerful, and so I took it very seriously.  I was ruminating over it the next day, in the car again, when I found myself behind a truck with veteran’s license plates and a bumper sticker that said I BRAKE FOR FLASHBACKS.  “Amen, brother,” I thought.

Much later, in March 2007, I was again hit suddenly with impressions about the breakup.  Sometimes I can understand why a “past attack” hits at a particular time;  I may be working hard at delving into a related psychological issue, or I may be doing something with bodywork that unleashes an episode of memory.  But many times it’s been totally out of the blue, and often damned inconvenient.  I feel a certain pressure or a sense of dread, and I know it’s coming.  This was one of those times.

I had come home from an extra-long work day in Grants, New Mexico, where I see patients once a week, and was feeling exhausted and stressed.  I thought I would play the piano for a few minutes before I went to bed, in order to relax and have a little something to enjoy.  After playing through a nocturne I had never taken much notice of before, I felt like trying more, and I leafed through the rest of the Henle edition, which listed the dates of composition at the beginnings of the pieces.  My eye fell on the “1835” printed at the top of one page.

Suddenly it was 1835, and it was a bad year.  “Oh, crap!” I thought.  I really didn’t want to deal with it right then, but I’ve learned that it’s best to get these things over with.  I found myself again in the midst of the breakup of Fryderyk and Delfina’s relationship.  The pain in my heart was intense and physical, and felt exactly like the losses of love that I’ve experienced in my current life, something I had hoped never to feel again.  It went on and on, with no relief.  I was angry at myself for dredging this up; I couldn’t see any possible use to it, since I already knew that this had happened and had already been through so much of it in the “I brake for flashbacks” episode.

I wanted to pull some kind of new insight out of this, something to make the pain and obnoxiousness worthwhile.  I found that I was able to look at the situation from his point of view.  It seemed that he didn’t especially want to get out of the relationship, but he felt that it had no future.  Since they wouldn’t be able to marry or build a life together—in his estimation—he thought that the affair had to end sooner rather than later, and that if he waited it would only be harder.

All that might have been only my supposition, but what came through next, with unmistakable clarity, was immense anger on his part.  He was absolutely enraged, so angry that I wondered at first if he might have become violent.  Delfina didn’t seem to have any idea why he was so upset.  When I questioned my “inner countess,” she insisted that she had done nothing wrong and that he was being totally unfair and unreasonable.  She honestly seemed to feel that she was being victimized.  The pain was worse because of her inability to understand.

I was left with only the theory I had had to begin with, that Delfina had in some way shown interest in another man, or perhaps more than one, and that Fryderyk’s possessiveness had taken over.  I couldn’t get anything more.

I went to bed feeling, yet again, like I had been beaten all over with a baseball bat.  The release and relief that usually comes after a flashback did not appear.  For about the next week and a half, in fact, I continued to feel sad and angry.  I thought that something else must be trying to come up—otherwise there would have been a resolution and I would be feeling much better.  I did everything I could to search for a connection to any other bothersome material that might be lurking just beneath the surface.

But that wasn’t what I found.  Instead, all of a sudden, a completely new experience manifested itself.  Suddenly I felt the reality of the rest of that relationship, all the sweet and joyful moments that they had shared before things went bad.  These new feelings poured in on me all at once.  It was the first time that I could recall having anything positive bubble up from the past, anything other than pain, fear, or rage.  I felt wildly in love, much as I had when I first encountered Fryderyk in 1993.  As I had then, I also felt more in love with my husband than ever, and I was able to pour lots of extra affection and attention over him.  I appreciated my husband all the more because he has never put me through such terrible angst.

When the flashback first occurred, I didn’t want to have anything to do with Fryderyk for a while.  It was just as well that he didn’t show up for a couple of weeks or so, because I would no doubt have taken those old feelings out on him.  Eventually, though, after things lightened up, I did want to tell him what had happened.  I took the opportunity for some channeling practice.  I explained what my experience had been, and asked if there was anything he could tell me about his feelings toward Delfina and why he had felt it was necessary to end the relationship.  The only answer I could get was, “I just couldn’t get through to you.”  I heard this over and over, but I couldn’t figure out what it meant.  You will see later that what I heard fits perfectly with other statements he has made since.

Does my memory jibe with history as we know it?  That’s harder to answer than it should be.  The historical record tells us just enough about Chopin’s relationship with Mme Potocka to be tantalizing, without revealing much of anything solid; it is a matter of considerable controversy.  We know that they met in Dresden late in 1830, at her mother’s home, and in a letter to his family he mentioned this and referred to her as “the pretty wife of Mieczyław,” who was already an acquaintance of his.  Many years later, in 1847, he told the family about a visit from her, adding “you know how I love her,” using a word for love that means something more than a casual fondness.  [“Pani Delfina Potocka (którą wiecie, jak kocham)….”]  This tells us very little, and there is not much else in the way of actual documentation of his attitude toward this woman.

We know that Delfina and Chopin were often seen in public together; many people assumed that they were a couple.  And that’s about all we know, except that we can be sure that there was not any officially or publicly declared alliance.  There is an anecdote told to an early biographer, Ferdinand Hoesick, by the widow of Chopin’s roommate Dr. Aleksander Hoffmann.  She related her husband’s story that Mme Potocka would often stay for a long time after her lessons, sometimes even till the next morning.  Unfortunately, this tale told fifty years after the fact is in no way proof of an erotic attachment, and apparently this lady was not considered a reliable source anyway.

There is also nothing to definitively disprove my suppositions.  The fact that there was no public acknowledgement of a romance means little in the light of Chopin’s usual what-will-they-think worries and secretive nature, combined with Delfina’s unfortunately married state.  I’ve read that Chopin specifically denied the existence of a romantic liaison when Liszt asked about it, but then, why should he have told him the truth?  Though large-hearted, Liszt was quite capable of gossip, some of it on the vicious side, and Chopin probably did not entirely trust him.  In fact, Liszt did later prove himself to be untrustworthy by using Chopin’s apartment (without permission, of course) for an assignation with Marie Pleyel, the wife of Camille Pleyel, Chopin’s friend and the manufacturer of his favorite pianos.

Perhaps, during the 17 years that Chopin and Mme Potocka were friends, there was only a brief period of physical involvement.  Perhaps they knew each other for quite a while before that happened, and were only actually lovers for a time during the year 1835.  That would leave more room for Delfina’s “official” liaisons, and would mean that when Chopin denied an affair with her to Liszt, he could have been telling the truth as it stood at that moment.

We do have one letter written by the countess three months before the end of Chopin’s life, the only bit of authenticated correspondence between them.  This letter shows that the two had been in recent communication; Delfina had been working with her contacts in the government to secure permission for Chopin’s sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, to visit him in Paris.  It is also apparent that they planned on seeing each other again.  However, there is nothing in it to suggest a romantic relationship, even one years in the past; it is hard to imagine this missive passing between two people who have been truly intimate, particularly since Chopin is addressed by his last name, and she signs herself that way too.  (Though this kind of signature is not unusual in letters of the period, and Chopin often signed letters, even letters to Mme Sand, simply “Ch.”)  Yet, there is also no absolute contradiction of a past romance, and it must be said that much correspondence of the period sounds oddly formal to people of our own time.  It is also possible that Delfina wrote in a restrained manner because she thought the letter might be read by persons other than the intended recipient.  At any rate, we do get a hint of her emotional state—she whines about injustices visited upon her and sounds either depressed or simply histrionic, I’m not sure which.  Perhaps this is her way of expressing her feelings of sympathy toward her friend; she seems to be replying to some reference to Mme Sand’s lack of support.  But it sounds unlikely to bring any cheer to someone coming to the end of his life!

The following translation of the letter comes from Bernard Gavoty’s book Nocturne: A Life of Chopin.  Since it must have started out in Polish, then been translated to French, and only after that ended up in English, it’s hard to say how close it is to the original either in ideas or in tone.  (I did get a glimpse of the original wording at the Chopin museum in Warsaw, but was unable to copy any of it down.)  I have no idea who the “excellent grandmother” might have been.  Mme Etienne was the concierge where Chopin lived.

Aix-la-Chappelle, July 16, 1849

Dear Monsieur Chopin,

I do not want to bother you with a long letter, but I cannot remain a long while without news of your health and your future projects.  Do not write me yourself, but ask Mme Etienne or that excellent grandmother who dreams of cutlets how your health, your lungs, your breathing, etc. are.  You must think seriously of Nice for the winter.  Mme Auguste Potocka has replied: she will leave no stone unturned to get permission for Mme Jędrzejewicz but she tells me there are great difficulties in that unhappy country.  I suffer when I hear of your being so abandoned in illness and unhappiness.  I beg you to send me a few words here at Aix-la-Chappelle, general delivery.  I would like to know if that Jew has called on you and if he has been of some service.

Everything here is sad or boring, but life for me everywhere goes along the same way: provided that it passes without more bitter griefs and ordeals, for I have had enough of those already.  For me as well, happiness has not smiled on this earth.  Everyone I have wished well has repaid me with ingratitude or with other tribulations.  All in all, this existence has been only an enormous dissonance.

May God keep you, dear M. Chopin!  Goodbye until the beginning of October, at the latest.

                                                                                                                 D. Potocka

The journal of Eugène Delacroix, the painter and close friend of Chopin, gives us a tiny insight into Chopin’s friendship with Mme Potocka, and is flattering to the countess.  On March 30, 1849, he wrote, “Saw that enchantress Mme Potocka this evening, at Chopin’s house.  I had heard her sing twice before, and thought that I had never met with anything more perfect, especially the first time, when it was dusk and the black velvet dress she was wearing, the arrangement of her hair, in fact everything about her, judging by what I could see, made me think she must be as ravishingly beautiful as her movements were certainly graceful.”  We can surmise that the countess was spending a fair amount of time with Chopin, because Delacroix again mentions her in an entry for April 11: “I think it was this evening that I met Mme Potocka again at Chopin’s house.  She sang as beautifully as ever.  Parts of the Nocturnes and piano music by Chopin and, among other things, the Moulin de Nohant [!], which she had arranged as an O Salutaris…. She tried Le Lac, by Lamartine, the one with Niedermeyer’s vulgar and pretentious setting.  I’ve had this cursed tune on the brain for the last two days.”

These meetings occurred during the last spring of Chopin’s life.  At some point Delfina returned to her home in Nice, but when she heard that her friend was on his deathbed, she hurried back to Paris to be with him—a substantial trip even today—arriving just a couple of days before the end (not at the beginning of October after all).  At some time during those last days he asked her to sing for him, which she did, hampered by tears and interrupted by his coughing.  Those who were present reported conflicting memories regarding which songs she sang; this has been a matter of intense interest to all of us vulture-like historians who must know the name of the very last piece of music Chopin heard on Earth.  I don’t know any more than anyone else, but for the concert Jane and I gave on the 150th anniversary of his death, I picked the Handel aria “Vouchsafe, O Lord,” from the Dettingen Te Deum, because to the best of my knowledge, Delfina herself is on record as saying that was what she sang.  Just one more uncertainty.

A friend, Charles Gavard, recounted that upon Delfina’s arrival at his bedside, “Chopin exclaimed, ‘God has delayed so long in calling me to Him; He wished to vouchsafe me yet the pleasure of seeing you!’” (Szulc, Chopin in Paris, p. 399)

All this would be confusing enough, but there is a far greater source of confusion and frustration for historians, and for me along with the rest.  In the 1940s a Polish woman named Paulina Czernicka revealed what she claimed to be correspondence between Chopin and Mme Potocka.  The letters were not only erotic but positively in bad taste (one sin Chopin was rarely, if ever, guilty of), as well as nastily anti-Semitic, and they created a huge stir in Poland at the time, with linguistic and graphological experts weighing in on their authenticity.  Eventually Czernicka was discredited because, among other factors, it was shown that certain words had been used which did not exist in the Polish language during Chopin’s lifetime.  In some cases, Delfina could be proven to have been elsewhere at times when the letters said she was with Chopin.  The fact that Czernicka did not produce original letters, only “transcriptions,” did not help her cause.  Despite the weakness of this body of so-called evidence, a number of biographers (Gavoty being one of them) have wholeheartedly embraced this story of a torrid affair, and there is even a film based on those letters.

Paulina Czernicka committed suicide in 1949, the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s death.  (There are conspiracy buffs who believe she was murdered.)  I can’t fathom the depth of disturbance that must have affected this woman.  Although she must have craved both money and attention, perhaps there was something more to her obsession with Chopin.  I have to wonder if, despite her apparent derangement, there was some basis for her feeling of connection with him.  Her story is sobering to me, a cautionary tale.

Yet, the proof that some or most of those letters were faked doesn’t end the story or our confusion.  The experts of the time were left with the suspicion that at least one of the letters was genuine.  It appeared possible that Czernicka, a relative of the Potockis, had come across something real and decided to make the most of it.  To the best of my knowledge, that is where the situation stands.

Early in the process of getting to know Fryderyk, before my apparent memories surfaced, I read some excerpts from those letters in a book by an author who accepted them as genuine.  I remember feeling flabbergasted because they seemed so uncharacteristic, and again, they were in such poor taste.  (Not to my own taste, at any rate; if I had received such communications from a lover, I wouldn’t have been pleased.)  However, at the time I was not aware of the evidence against their authenticity, and I had to accept what the author was telling me.

When Fryderyk visited next, I casually asked, “So, are those letters for real?”  I wasn’t at all prepared for the answer I got.  Suddenly the inside of my head went a dark maroon, and I found myself being held down by what felt like hands around my neck.  I probably could have moved if I had tried really hard, and I wasn’t being hurt in any way, but I felt immobilized, and I became a bit alarmed.  Immediately I tried to withdraw my question.  “Then the letters are fake?” I asked.  Nothing changed!  I was still being held down, and my mental viewscreen was still maroon.  A little panicky, I cast about for the right thing to say.  “Okay,” I ventured.  “The letters weren’t real, but something did happen between the two of you.”  Right away the pressure on my neck released and everything went sunny yellow.  Apparently he was happy with that option.

….

Was Chopin perhaps involved with someone other than Delfina Potocka in the early 1830s, being young, single, and already famous?  His letters mention temptations to which he did not succumb, but there is also an early, cryptic reference to someone in Vienna, named Teresa, who left him with some sort of unpleasant souvenir of their encounter, making him unwilling to accept other offers.  No one knows for sure what that may have been.  Most biographers have assumed that it involved some sort of sexual encounter and a brush with a sexually transmitted disease, which would have had to be a minor and curable one; in that case, it may have given the inexperienced young man quite a scare and stopped him from experimenting further.

I never tried to ask him about this until the spring of 2009, at Mendy Lou’s.  I didn’t receive any impressions myself, but what Mendy got was this:  He didn’t do anything inappropriate with Teresa at all, but someone, probably her father, thought he had, and was extremely angry at him.  Eyes widening with horror, Mendy reported, “They threatened to break his hands!”  Well, that would give him about the biggest scare one can imagine, and would make him extremely reluctant to get into a situation like that again.  It’s certainly a plausible solution to the mystery.

But there’s an even more tantalizing mystery.  A phrase in a letter from Chopin’s composition teacher, Jozef Elsner, written in November 1832, refers to “the young lady with whom (according to your sister Ludwika) you are about to be united.”  (Samson, Chopin, p. 88)  Perhaps Elsner had heard something about a relationship but had gotten the story wrong; Chopin himself wrote nothing that we know of about any intention to be married at that time.  It’s possible that something had gotten back to Elsner about the woman that Chopin was known to be spending a great deal of time with, Mme Potocka.  In any case, there is no possibility that anyone thought a marriage could take place between those two, since Delfina, to her eternal regret, was thoroughly married already.  There is no other known reference to the young lady Elsner mentions, and my best conclusion is that he was mistaken.

Yet, to make matters even worse, in her Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), George Sand tells us that at one point in his youth Chopin was engaged to a Parisienne while at the same time being attached to a young woman back in Poland, and that he was torn between the two.  Supposedly he dropped the French girl over a tiny slight, but we don’t find out why he never married the other one.  Sand was using this story to illustrate Chopin’s inconstancy, which simply does not seem to be a characteristic of his, then or now.  I find her account exceedingly difficult to accept, although if I ever find any evidence in its favor, I will have to deal with it.  For now, I will only remind the reader that Mme Sand was a writer of fiction, and that Histoire de ma vie contains plenty of, shall we say, exaggerations.  The man himself has certainly never brought up anything like this.

Rosemary Brown casually mentioned, in Immortals By My Side (p. 183), that Chopin, like Liszt, had made many romantic conquests, but that unlike Liszt, he didn’t boast about them.  (Chopin was not given to boasting about anything.)  I have to assume that she meant she had heard this from Chopin himself, because no official sources have ever said such a thing.  Mrs. Brown is a fascinating source, with her own questions of reliability and authenticity, which you may find discussed in my post “The Music of Rosemary Brown from a Pianist’s Perspective.”  However, while Chopin may have made other romantic conquests in some sense, my understanding from him is that he was physically involved only with Mme Potocka and Mme Sand.  Which makes me a little sad, as I had held out a slight hope that he might have had a bit more fun during that life, maybe a fling or two at some point, especially after Mme Sand banished him from her bed.

(Leonard Bernstein once asked Mrs. Brown this extraordinary question: “Chopin used to be a very sexy man.  Is he still?”  What a one-track mind!  When I read that, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ask such a thing about a person who, as far as we know, spent a good deal of his life celibate or close to it.  Then I realized that Bernstein must have read those fake letters to Delfina and gotten a totally wrong impression.  At any rate, Mrs. Brown replied that she hadn’t noticed, but she didn’t think so.  The word on this matter from her friend Franz Liszt was that once we no longer have our bodies, sex as we know it no longer exists.  That is not my experience, but then I probably have a pretty broad definition of “sex as we know it.”  And even if sex in any form were impossible in their world, I’m sure Bernstein would find a way.)

I ask you to think of the “Delfina question” this way: A young man moves to the big city and makes the acquaintance of a woman he finds extremely attractive, a woman who is known to be sexually aggressive and uninhibited, and who finds him attractive as well.  They share meals, piano lessons, duets, concerts, and social occasions of all sorts, are seen together often in public, and develop a friendship that lasts until the end of his life.  Although there is ample opportunity, nothing physical ever happens between them.  He remains a virgin until the age of 28, at which point he begins a liaison with the only lover he will ever have.

Did that sound likely to you?  Me neither.

We can’t judge by contemporary standards, though.  Unfortunately, in terms of official history, there is little clarity about Chopin as a sexual being.  He gave an impression of being almost incorporeal, yet he wrote the most sensual music ever composed for a keyboard instrument, and his profession required the finest possible control and coordination of his physical self.  Jeremy Siepmann summed up the matter like this: “Indeed his sexuality remains for the most part a closed book, proof against the massed pryings of biographers and psychologists alike.”  (Chopin: The Reluctant Romantic, p. 117)  Even for me, the book opens only so far.  However, my understanding is that Chopin was considerably more a normal guy than people like to think, that is, he was as interested in sex as any guy might be expected to be.

[In this chapter I didn’t take up a discussion of the exact parameters of his sexual orientation, because it is not relevant here.  For anyone who is about to comment that he was most likely interested in men as well to at least some degree, yes, I know.]

….

I would like to recount a set of occurrences which shed some light on the questions I’ve raised in this chapter, and also nicely illustrate some of the difficulties inherent in after-death communication.  The week before Christmas 2007, I was looking for some pictures to show a patient of mine who had suddenly developed a burning interest in both Chopin and Sand.  Along with the pictures, I found a copy of the letter quoted above, and became intrigued anew by the question of what had passed between Mme Potocka and Chopin at that time.  I felt that Fryderyk was accessibly near, and I decided to ask him about it then and there.

I got him on the line, and at the same time I dived into the memories I felt beginning to well up.  Delfina, it seemed to me, was in a state of panic when she wrote that letter.  She knew she would lose him soon, and was terrified of that happening.  There was no other more specific information to be had.  Working in a sort of weird stereo (and feeling like quite the virtuosa for it!), I asked Fryderyk what had been going on at the time he received the letter, and I was immediately sent into an abyss of despair.  He longed to be with Delfina, but believed that she was already lost to him.  He could find no hope at all, about anything.  The pain transmitted to me was severe, and I hated terribly to think that “I” had contributed to that suffering in any way.  I couldn’t understand, though, why he thought that Delfina was so completely inaccessible, and why he could find no comfort in the fact that she was writing to him, since I knew that her feelings for him were very much alive.  “What do you mean, that you’ve lost her?” I asked.  “Are we really talking about Delfina?”  I wondered if I might be tapping into his despair at the loss of Mme Sand instead, but he indicated that he did mean Delfina.  I was quite confused.  I took the opportunity to time-travel through their relationship as best I could, asking both of them about their feelings at various stages, and except for that period near the end of his life, everything looked to me as it always had.  Just in case I still didn’t get it, he made sure to remind me that they really had been physically involved, embracing me ever so lightly, just enough to give me a few tingles in the relevant spots.

I spent a lot of time on this experience, doing my best to get clear about everything.  It was already late at night when I started, and the whole thing was exhausting, especially when I was asking about the very end of his life and I found myself unable to breathe.  The only thing I really did get clear about was that Chopin had experienced tremendous emotional pain on account of this phase of the relationship.  I couldn’t just leave it at that, not if I bore some responsibility for it.

A couple of days later, on December 21, I had the opportunity to visit Mendy Lou and see if she could make any sense out of all this.  I showed her the text of the letter and told her that I had received some impressions about it, but I didn’t want to cloud her mind with any other information until she had told me what she perceived herself.  I mentioned that the letter seemed very formal and a little odd to me.

“Oh, I’m just seeing love,” Mendy began.  She didn’t think the letter sounded as strange as I did, but then, as she kept looking at it, she did feel that there was something negative going on.  “Delfina is angry,” she said.  “She’s put off.”  Delfina was unhappy about the years of not being able to be loved by Fryderyk; she wanted to be the center of his world, and she was not.  She wanted to be with him, to help take care of him, and she didn’t understand why he didn’t come to stay with her, or why he didn’t ask her to come to Paris and be with him.  Mendy saw Delfina as being rather self-absorbed, but also genuinely concerned about Chopin.

Turning to look into Chopin’s situation at the time of the letter, Mendy saw the same absolute hopelessness and despair that I had encountered (that is, she saw it herself before I told her what I had experienced).  As soon as she finished telling me about that, she announced that Fryderyk had been standing by, politely waiting to give his own answers to my questions.  At that point, I wasn’t yet in touch with him myself, but I wasn’t surprised, since it was typical for him to show up at Mendy’s; apparently he finds her congenial and easy to work with.  This session marked a great change in our interactions with him, though, and was the first time we had an actual “conversation” rather than just a general sense of his presence.

I apologized for once again rehashing long-past events that probably didn’t mean much to him anymore, but he/she/they said that he realized that I wanted to understand this situation and rectify it, that it was important to me.  He seemed eager to explain his point of view.  I hadn’t expected anything like this—though he had been very much present before in Mendy’s office, he had never attempted to speak to me— and I hadn’t brought a tape recorder.  I did have a notebook, though, so I scribbled down what I heard as fast as I could, which unfortunately kept me from relaxing enough to communicate directly with Fryderyk myself.   As it came through Mendy, he said that things were askew at that time, nothing was correct; promises couldn’t be kept because of his illness.  He had no physical strength left and didn’t want Delfina to see him in that depleted state.  Upon receiving the letter, he had felt utter hopelessness, despair, and sorrow.  He said that she had inspired great things in his life, and that he regretted the “fragile, fragmented passion” of that relationship.

He was not one hundred percent positive in his feelings toward Delfina, it seems.  He said that he had great passion for her, but she “could not hear the depth of his soul,” whatever that meant.  He felt that she was “tainted” by the beliefs imposed upon her by society.  I didn’t like hearing that—I had already spent years trying to get over Delfina’s feelings of being tainted.

Fryderyk asked me to understand that my emotional interpretations of the past are not how he feels now—a point I had wondered about.  He has seen past the emotional issues since the resurrection of our relationship, he told me, but I have not.

Mendy/Fryderyk continued to speak for 20-30 minutes, advising me on my spiritual and artistic development.  Over and over she reported that he was saying he loved me.  He loves me without conditions, she said, and he asks me to let go of all the conditions so that I can grow as he has.

I’ve been having a something of a pronoun problem while trying to convey this message to you.  I can’t be sure who should get credit for those words; the presentation appeared to be very much a joint effort.  Some of the speech was couched in Mendy’s distinctive, rather convoluted style of expression, while other bits sounded like things Fryderyk had been known to say in other contexts.  One thing that struck me as truly “him” was that he told me how fortunate I was, but then hastened to add that he didn’t mean I was fortunate because I had him!

I thought a great deal, after that session, about the limitations of mediumship and the impossibility of keeping the medium entirely out of the mix.  Mendy has told me that Fryderyk mostly communicates psychically rather than verbally; he impresses raw ideas upon her and then she has to do most of the actual verbalizing herself.  (I have had this experience with him since.)  I could see that sometimes she had to search around for the right words and never did get quite clear about what she was supposed to say.  For example, she couldn’t decide between “the creative truth” and “the truth of creation.”  I wish my notes were more lucid regarding that section of the session, in which Fryderyk was trying to describe what he is doing on Earth with me and with others, and what he considers to be his mission here.  It had something to do with helping us to understand our creative potential and to transcend what we see as our limited physicality, but I don’t have the precise words.

So it must be remembered that my notes are translations upon translations and cannot be taken as holy writ.  I got to thinking about how many layers of meaning and interpretation go on in a communication like this, how many separate operations must be accomplished.  First, Fryderyk had to get to us from wherever the heck he comes from.  He had to remember exactly what was going on in July of 1849 and call up the feelings he had at that time—probably not easy.  (Or maybe not so very hard, since his fans incessantly think, talk, and write about his life, and no doubt we keep reminding him of events that are now irrelevant to him.)  Then he had to think about why he did what he did and felt what he felt and make an interpretation of his own long-gone psychological state, which he probably did not entirely understand, since we know very little about our own minds.  Then he had to impress all that upon Mendy’s brain in some way and wait for her to come up with words to express each piece of it.  Mendy had to do the actual speaking, attempting to give a clear presentation and interpretation and at the same time trying to keep her own ideas out of the way, keeping up her concentration over a fairly long period of time, and constantly checking back with Fryderyk for accuracy.  As the communication went on, they both had to deal with concepts that are difficult to verbalize under the best of conditions.  And since at Mendy’s office it’s often like the doors to the heavens open, and that small room gets filled to the ceiling with light beings of all sorts, they even had other entities breaking in at times with thoughts that were only tangentially related to the subject, adding more distraction and difficulty.

And there I was writing as fast as I could, never having studied shorthand, and missing a fair number of words in the process.  I decided to just keep writing rather than stopping to ask for clarification, in hopes that the communication would flow better if interruptions were avoided.

As he has done many times, Fryderyk insisted that I am in communication with him, much more than I realize.  He said that I need to look at the soul communication rather than the senses.  Also as usual, he exhorted me to remember my own divine nature, to believe in myself, and to use my creative powers to the fullest.

After all that, I was still left with a certain degree of confusion, but I had gained some crucial answers.  He had told me, incontrovertibly, that he had passionate and intense feelings for Delfina.  I had a little more insight into what had gone wrong between them.  Perhaps most importantly, I had received some information about why he visits our planet so regularly.

Since then, I’ve also looked into the period after Chopin’s breakup with Mme Sand, in 1847, to see what may have happened between him and Delfina at that time.  I had been under the impression that their love was rekindled to some degree, and that is indeed what I found.  However, sad to say, the barriers and difficulties that I had found at the end of his life were in operation then as well.  Delfina seemed to be paralyzed by fear where Fryderyk was concerned.  His illness terrified her, all the more so since it brought up the memory of watching her children die.  In addition to the dread of losing him to death, she was afraid he might decide to leave her again; she didn’t quite trust him, and she could not entirely open her heart to him.  On his side, there was terrible frustration and despair, a feeling that he could never reach her, that she could never really belong to him, and that he had missed whatever chance he might have had with her.  Despite Delfina’s sincere love and high regard for him, that self-absorbed quality, the inability to see past her perception of her own victimhood, must have made a true, complete connection with anyone problematic for her, contributing to the sense that he “couldn’t get through to her.”

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Filed under channeling, history, 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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