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Old 04-01-2021, 05:23 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Earlier, I mentioned a Bach advocate named J. A. Birnbaum. What do I mean that he was a Bach advocate? What did Bach need an advocate for? To answer that, we must return to Johann Mattheson and his attempts to update and demystify music. Mattheson wanted to take music away from the musicians and composers and give it to the listener, primarily those who attend opera, but any listener of note. Bach’s friend, Johann Heinichen, took Mattheson’s side. He felt the composer “consists once and for all in the art of making his music, as a matter of course, popular and pleasing to the reasonable world.” Mattheson was even more forthcoming: “Really we should not follow our own inclinations, but those of the listener. I have often composed something that seemed to me trifling, but unexpectedly attained great favor. I made a mental note of this, and wrote more the same, although it had little merit when judged according to its artistry.” What Mattheson appeared to be getting at is that the time for music as theoretical exercise and meditation was over and now the time had come for music purely as entertainment. To put it more succinctly, the Mattheson camp was advocating for popular music. They wanted to discard esoterica in favor of pop. So this post-baroque period or what we call the galant or rococo period was the beginning of the concept of pop music and easy listening. Don't challenge the ear--please it! Most people don't want their tastes challenged and hence the music won't sell. Want to sell music and make a comfortable living? Give 'em what they want to hear no matter how puerile it is.

Here, in a nutshell, is the dilemma in Bach had inadvertently landed—that of the idea that the composer should no longer be judged by his peers but by his audience, by how popular he was. In 1738, up rose a former student of Bach, Johann Adolph Scheibe, who took it upon himself to criticize his former-teacher as ignorant of philosophical knowledge and critical skills. Scheibe wrote that Bach “has not studied the science/humanities which actually are required of a learned composer.” Bach’s works were flawed because, Scheibe wrote, “How can a man who has not studied philosophy and is incapable of investigating and recognizing the forces of nature and reason be without fault in his musical work?” Scheibe was not merely criticizing Bach, he was attacking his character and talent and making no secret of it. Bach, Scheibe went on to say, was a dull man of questionable taste due to his lazy nature in failing to observe and to investigate (presumably the new music). As a result, Bach’s works had neither movement nor expression. Scheibe, at the apparent urging of Mattheson, also attacked canon and counterpoint which he alleged to be the result of “disheartened diligence, of worthless toil, and of a pedantic spirit.”

So, up from Leipzig University jumped a teacher and amateur musician named Johann Abraham Birnbaum to Bach’s defense. Bach was hesitant to engage Scheibe publicly. This kind of sparring was not something in which he was skilled at much less inclined to engage in. Private correspondence perhaps but not in an arena where the public had front row seats. Scheibe also did not hesitate to take advantage of Bach’s unwillingness to confront him and very rudely mocked the man by referring to him as a musikant—essentially, a musical moron— not educated enough to write books nor engage in philosophical investigations and who scarcely deserved the title of Leipzig’s Musical Director and Saxon Court Composer.

Bach, it is true, did not have a university education. He was teaching at Leipzig University--true enough--but he never got a degree himself. He was largely self-taught when it came to furthering what he had learned from his relatives when he was a boy and all the royal patrons he had worked for over the years. But, in addition to German, Bach spoke excellent Latin and French. His Italian, however, appeared to be lacking or at least Bach seemed to feel that way. Bach was afraid that, at some point, Scheibe might cross him up on some academic point or other and humiliate him publicly so Bach decided it was better to get a university representative to speak publicly in his stead. Scheibe knew about Bach’s educational deficiencies and sought to draw him out publicly with insults but Bach was too wary to fall for it and, despite his quick temper, wisely held his tongue.

Clearly, Scheibe was doing everything he could to provoke a response from Bach even, apparently, risking his own reputation to do so. Birnbaum, however, was not defending an indifferent or diffident Bach. The evidence indicates that Bach was quite engaged with Birnbaum and furnishing him with the necessary material to fire back at Scheibe. In Birnbaum’s responses to the jabs of Scheibe, he makes references to obscure works that Bach was known to be studying but which Birnbaum himself would have known nothing. There is little doubt that Bach was employing Birnbaum as a surrogate, a mouthpiece, almost as an attorney.

The public war between Scheibe and Birnbaum was closely followed by virtually all professional musicians and composers as well as the general public. Scheibe was not without his detractors and a great many of them. It is difficult to say what was motivating Scheibe in his attacks on Bach. The inflammatory articles were published in Scheibe’s periodical, Critischer Musikus and some wondered if Scheibe was simply attacking Bach in order to increase readership. But to go after his old instructor was seen by a great many as bad form. Whatever, the cause of the drama instituted by Scheibe, Bach had a great many defenders. Scheibe’s nastiness was alienating even those who essentially agreed with his views about the new music. They felt he was coming on far too strong and damaging their position rather than helping it. Still others supported Scheibe in everything he wrote because Bach represented everything they hated about musical academia, especially considering that Bach did not have a degree, and we must conclude that Scheibe himself had come around to that view. Through it all, Bach never actually waded into the debate himself—never wrote a letter, never publicly complained of his ill treatment, never signed his name to any document concerning this squabble.
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Old 04-03-2021, 09:44 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Harmonia Nascentis Mundi means "The birth of the world's harmony" or "Harmony of the birth of the world." From Kircher's "Musurgia Universalis" (1650). The intention is that the world was created with six harmonies. From God's massive pipe organ, the six days of creation stream through the pipes. The first day is labeled as "harmonia primi diei" or harmony of the first where light is created. We see the spirit of God as a dove flying around what may be an alchemist's retort inside of which is the phrase "Fiat lux" or "Let there be light." On the second day of harmony, God separates the skies and the seas. On the third day, God creates the land and vegetation. On the fourth day, God creates the dome of the heavens decked with stars, planets, sun and moon. On the fifth day, God creates the birds and sea creatures. On the sixth day, God creates animals and humans.

These things are created harmonically with six different pipes on the organ for each day making 36 pipes in all. There are 36 decans in the zodiac. A decan is how far the sun travels in ten days. 36 is known as the number of creativity and balance. The number 6 is the number of completeness and perfection and 36 is its square. It's amplified perfection and balance.



In this depiction of heaven, we see a scroll with a cantus firmus on it and the angel on the left bears a message that says: "Canon Angelicvs 36 Vocvm" or "Angelic canon for 36 voices." On the other side, it says these voices are divided into 9 choirs.



At the bottom of the picture shown blown up here, we see a philosopher--what looks, at first glance, to be Pythagoras. He leans on a block upon with is engraved the number 1-6 and symbol known in Freemasonry as the 47th problem of Euclid. It is a version of the Pythagorean Theorem and shows what is known as the 3-4-5 triangle. If the rise of a right-angled triangle is 3 and the run is 4, then the hypotenuse will be 5. The smallest square of the Euclid's emblem is a 3x3 matrix which represents the magic square of Saturn. The middle-sized square is a 4x4 matrix and represents the magic square of Jupiter. The biggest square is a 5x5 matrix and represent the magic square of Mars. These form a 3-4-5 triangle. Moreover, if we want to calculate the area of that triangle then it's 1/2 base x height which will be 6.

The magic square of the sun is a 6x6 matrix using the numbers 1-36 which, when added together, equal 666, the pagan number of the sun. So, 6 is associated with the sun--the Light of the World. The sun transforms the earth from a dead rock to a living planet and hence it was regarded at the Philosopher's Stone. Hence also the 6 harmonies of creation shown earlier using 36 pipes of the organ. Both 666 and the hexagon were considered emblematic of the Philosopher's Stone. This may also have something to with why Bach was so drawn to the number.

The name Moses (Mosheh) in Hebrew gematria equals 345 (mem=40, shin=300, heh=5). God identified himself to Moses as I AM (eheyeh=21, asher=501, eheyeh=21). In gematria, I AM is 543. So Moses is 345 and God is 543 and hence Moses is called a "reflection of God." This is interesting because in learned counterpoint, the cantus firmi lines are often mirror-imaged to make contrapuntal harmony. So Moses and God represent double counterpoint.

So Bach's use of 6 in his pieces comes clearer. It represented perfection because all its factors--1, 2, 3--are the first three numbers and add up to 6. Multiplied together--1x2x3--also equal 6. 6 is the number of nature's wisdom. Nature forms 6-sided polygons to make them easier to pack and hence hexagons form the bee and hornet nest chambers, quartz crystals are hexagons. snowflakes are hexagrams, tissue cells are also hexagons:


Human skin cells. Plant cells are also hexagons.

The hexagon has 720 degrees total. Also 6! (known as six factorial) is 1x2x3x4x5x6 which is 720. The Greek word for "mind" is "nous" which in isopsephia (where every Greek letter has a specific numerical value) adds up to 720. Qabbalah was quite popular at this time and had been for a good 200 years prior. At the 6th sefirot called tiferet (tiphareth}, the elements are conjoined. They are represented by upward- and downward-pointing triangles, two of them--air and earth--have horizontal lines passing through them. When you overlay the triangles, you get the Magen David or the 6-pointed star. It represents synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Tiferet also represents awareness or consciousness and this corresponds to the hexagon in the center of the Magen David. Tiferet is also represents beauty and the sun (whose magic square we've gone over).

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Old 05-31-2021, 07:46 PM   #13 (permalink)
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The type of occultism that informed counterpoint and canon was hermetic in nature and largely taken from alchemy and magic. However, by "magic" I don't mean the type practiced by crude, medieval fellows who disinterred corpses, decapitated them, buried the heads in the soil sprinkled with the ashes of a black dog sacrificed on the full moon and then watered with menstrual blood, toads' entrails and white cat bile while chanting incantations in Hebrew in order to transform the head into a device by which to communicate to the world of the dead and command demons--that was a wholly different type of magic that typified the Middle Ages.

The magic we address here was Renaissance magic. To be more precise, it was this magic that gave us the Renaissance. The man responsible for it was Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), the son of the Prince of Concord in Northern Italy. Pico was very well educated and had attended universities in several cities including Paris. At age 24 in 1487, Pico had his work, De Hominis dignitate, published in Rome. We know it by its English title, Oration on the Dignity of Man.

This was intended as the opening speech of a debate which never took place and so it was published in written form. Pico carried with him, 900 theses of Hermetic, Islamic and Jewish wisdom and his Oration was a defense of the system that he had formed from reading them. Since these theses were not Christian in nature, he was forbidden to publicly debate their merits in Rome. But the Church had done Pico a favor at their own expense. The Oration became immensely popular among the intelligentsia. Nearly everybody who was anybody had read it.

So popular is the Oration that it is available to this day in many libraries, bookstores and online ordering houses. Pico's view of humanity was anathema to the Church who asserted that humanity was degraded by Original Sin and could only hope to reach Heaven if it submitted itself to the Church's dogma. Pico, instead, held that the human being occupied a special place in God's Creation because man was given a great intellect.

Pico writes:

God the Father, the Mightiest Architect, had already raised, according to the precepts of His hidden wisdom, this world we see, the cosmic dwelling of divinity, a temple most august. He had already adorned the supercelestial region with Intelligences, infused the heavenly globes with the life of immortal souls and set the fermenting dung-heap of the inferior world teeming with every form of animal life. But when this work was done, the Divine Artificer still longed for some creature which might comprehend the meaning of so vast an achievement, which might be moved with love at its beauty and smitten with awe at its grandeur. When, consequently, all else had been completed (as both Moses and Timaeus testify), in the very last place, He bethought Himself of bringing forth man. Truth was, however, that there remained no archetype according to which He might fashion a new offspring, nor in His treasure-houses the wherewithal to endow a new son with a fitting inheritance, nor any place, among the seats of the universe, where this new creature might dispose himself to contemplate the world. All space was already filled; all things had been distributed in the highest, the middle and the lowest orders. Still, it was not in the nature of the power of the Father to fail in this last creative élan; nor was it in the nature of that supreme Wisdom to hesitate through lack of counsel in so crucial a matter; nor, finally, in the nature of His beneficent love to compel the creature destined to praise the divine generosity in all other things to find it wanting in himself.

At last, the Supreme Maker decreed that this creature, to whom He could give nothing wholly his own, should have a share in the particular endowment of every other creature. Taking man, therefore, this creature of indeterminate image, He set him in the middle of the world and thus spoke to him:

"We have given you, O Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgement and decision. The nature of all other creatures is defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you, by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine.''


So, the human being had the ability to determine his own destiny! Man did not fit into the previous molds that God had made for the other creatures but was malleable and able to inhabit any and all of them but could not solidify into them but always remain fluid in order to experience everything the world has to offer as well as what heaven has to offer. What a unique position man holds! Neither mortal nor immortal, neither divine nor mundane, self-fashioning and with total free will! Man is virtually an angel!

Of course, none of this sat right with the Church. When Pico issued his Apology, Innocent VIII promptly banned it. Pico realized he was now in trouble and retracted his claims but when he realized this would not satisfy his opponents in the Church, he fled to Paris but was apprehended there and imprisoned. But the damage to the Church's previously unassailable position had been done and the Renaissance had begun.

Instead of a human being hobbled by sin already damned just by coming into the world, Pico transformed man into a creature with a brilliant godlike intellect with the entire universe thrown open before him, its splendors could not be denied him and, in fact, were freely and exuberantly offered if only he would accept them.

Suddenly, the Europeans sought the great ancient learning of the Greeks which had been hidden for so long. The Jewish learning, so long ignored and despised, was now openly sought and celebrated. The Islamic learning was also investigated and embraced. The effect was felt all through European Christendom and affected the entire culture including the arts and music.


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Old 06-01-2021, 06:03 PM   #14 (permalink)
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So, if the Renaissance magic was not the same type of magic found in the medieval period, then what type of magic was it? Renaissance magic was the highest realization of all philosophy or what Agrippa termed "occult philosophy" as per his three books published from 1531-33 (De occulta philosophia libri tres). By 1650, The Divine Pymander of Hermes Trismegistus was translated from the Arabic.

The occult philosophy was woven together of three primary strands:

1. Neoplatonism.
2. Jewish-Christian qaballah.
3. Hermeticism.

We've touched on all three of these already but it is Hermeticism that we are most interested in. the discipline of Hermeticism is named for Hermes Trismegistus or "Thrice-Great Hermes." He was said to be an Egyptian of great wisdom and an actual descendant of the god Hermes or, perhaps, in Egyptian, Thoth. His written works disappeared altogether from Europe and survived on in handwritten texts among the Ottomans who had taken over Byzantium--the last vestige of the Roman empire. There were supposedly originally 42 works but only 18 survived and these became known as the Corpus Hermeticum.

Another bit of Hermeticum that was highly important to the Renaissance was known as the Emerald Tablet which contained 13 alchemical maxims originally carved on a tablet of emerald and hence the name. This entered Europe through the Arabs and served as the very foundation of European alchemy. The alchemists regarded Hermes as a god-man.

Another Hermetic work that was complete but found only in a Latin translation from its original Greek was called Asclepius (aka The Perfect Word). Asclepius is the Greek god of healing and he reveals that while there is a God, humans can perfect themselves to godhood or, in Buddhistic terms, achieve enlightenment.

While the Hermetic view is monotheistic, the Hermetic God is very different from the Christian one. Instead of God that created a world sullied by mankind, the Hermetic God IS the world, the deepest part of it, and everything is a part of this God and partakes of its nature. The cosmos is alive, quickened by an anima mundi or World-Soul. It is a great thought or idea or mind or dream of God striving to know Himself. Because of this, the Hermeticist knows why God created the universe as opposed to the Christian who can only guess why his God would create a universe He then wanted no part of and even attempted to destroy it and yet somehow failed.

So great were the Hermetic ideas that Copernicus attributed his idea of the heliocentric universe to "Trismegistus." Copernicus learned of the idea through the works of Aristarchus of Samos from the 3rd century BCE. But the idea of an earth moving through space while rotating on its axis and while moving around a sun came from the Hermetic ideas. In Asclepius Copernicus found:

"The class persists, begetting copies of itself as often, as man and as diverse as the rotation of the world has moments. As it rotates the world changes. but the class neither changes nor rotates."

In Treatise XVI of the same work, Copernicus read:

"For the sun is situated at the center of the cosmos, wearing it like a crown."

And also:

"Around the sun are the eight spheres that depend from it: the sphere of the fixed stars, the six planets, and the one that surrounds the earth."
,
This is nothing like the Ptolemaic universe that the Church subscribed to. That scheme placed the earth at the center of the universe. Here, the sun is clearly described as the center.

Even more striking is that Hermes is referred to as "Thrice-Great" which is taken as an honorific. However, if we use isopsephia where each letter of the Greek alphabet is assigned a numerical value, we find that the name HERMES = 353 and if we multiply that by 3, we obtain 1059. The value of a half-step in a 12-tone equal temperament (or TET) scale is the 12th root of 2 or 1.0595! Even more amazing is that the TET scale was not yet invented or even calculated! In Greek mythology, Hermes was the younger brother of Apollo who was the god of music. Hermes made the first lyre and gave it to Apollo.

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Old 06-05-2021, 04:59 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Counterpoint has its roots in the music of the Renaissance. Bach's heavy reliance on the counterpoint was already under attack before he was even born. In the city where the Renaissance was said to have been born, Florence, arose a group of literati called the Camerata (Italian for "dormitory" betraying its university roots) around 1590. The Camerata claimed that poetry was mangled by counterpoint. Poetry was "laceramento della poesia" or "torn to pieces" by counterpoint. This gave birth to something integral to opera called recitative. Opera was just a few years away with the production of the first known opera which was Dafne in 1597-8. The fully intact libretto was written by Ottavio Rinuccini and the mostly lost music by Jacopo Peri and Jacopo Corsi. Corsi was a count in Florence and one of the founders of the Camerata along with another count name Bardi.

When one listens to a singer in opera (or in oratorio) singing a line with every word in a single note and some words almost spoken along with gasps, cries, laughs, shouts, grimaces and so on, that is recitative. The purpose was to imitate natural speech. This was in direct opposition to counterpoint although Bach learned to use recitative in his oratorios to great effect (he wrote no operas unless one counts the so-called "Coffee Cantata" as a mini-opera). This became a staple in opera and the effect was to put the music under the control of the words.

The defenders of the Renaissance stated that extreme emotions projected through music was improper. They felt, as Ficino and Zarlino, that the orator and the poet should model themselves on musicians. But the Camerata felt the opposite--the musician should model himself upon the orator and the poet. This attitude led to the founding the Baroque Period. To put it another way--the Renaissance composers believed in speech-song while the Baroque composers believed in song-speech.

The Renaissance composers believed only in the laws and rules of music. Music could not be subjected to any external influence. The baroque composer saw music as a means to express words. The words and the emotions transcended music. This is odd considering that Renaissance and Baroque music have their roots in the same genesis--the ancient Greek learning and music.

The biggest difference between Baroque and Renaissance music, however, the way each treated dissonance and this is why Bach, for all his love of using outdated counterpoint, was nevertheless a Baroque composer. Renaissance composers dealt with dissonance strictly as occurring on weak beats or as suspensions on strong beats. In other words, dissonances were treated as intervallic harmony--a group of intervals rather than a chord. Baroque, on the other hand, treated the harmonies as chords unfolding by building said harmonies from the bass allowing the dissonances to occur in the higher registers allowing the dissonances to resolve to the next chord by either upward or downward motion unlike Renaissance music in which resolution was achieved only in downward motion.

Because the bass was pronounced in Baroque, it led to the basso continuo--something entirely lacking in Renaissance music but which was integral to Baroque. Bach made terrific use of the basso continuo--which built the chords that the rest of the orchestra played over--although his harpsichord and organ works have no continuo.

But how does this tie in to Bach's occultism?

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