Marx and Engels on Music

In 1857 Charles Dana invited Karl Marx to contribute to the New American Cyclopaedia.  Marx was the European political correspondent for the daily New York Tribune, of which Dana was the editor; Dana and George Ripley, his former mentor at the utopian colony of Brook Farm, were co-editors of the encyclopedia.  In due time Marx supplied nearly seventy entries (and was paid two dollars per page).  Some were biographical, like “Bolivar y Ponte, Simon,” but most were on military subjects and so may have been written by, or at least with help from, Engels, whom Marx’s children used to call “the General” because of his presumed expertise on military topics.  Among the entries Marx was asked for but declined to write was “Aesthetics.”  He remarked to Engels in a letter of May 23rd, “It is a puzzle to me how ‘Aesthetics’ should be treated ‘fundamentally’ on a Hegelian basis, on one page.”  On the 28th Engels replied, “Dana must be crazy to stipulate one page for aesthetics.”1

If Marx and Engels had written a comprehensive article on aesthetics, what would it have said about music?  Their available writings do not discuss music enough to give us a very good answer; but they do contain many suggestive hints, and exclude certain possibilities.

One could try to deduce Marx’s and Engels’s views on music from an analysis of what they said about art in general; but for clarity and reliability will here consider mainly the remarks they made explicitly about music.  Even rather casual remarks can reveal a significant attitude.  We will also find reflected some interesting differences between Marx and Engels in personality and intellectual style.  Let us begin with Engels.

Friedrich Engels was born and raised in Barmen, an industrial town where his father owned and managed a textile factory.  After graduating from high school in 1837, he appears to have spent a year in his father’s firm before being sent, at the age of 17, to the port city of Bremen for nearly three years as a business apprentice, that is, a clerk in an export firm.  Of his 46 letters from Bremen which are known to have survived (mainly to his sister Marie and his school friends Friedrich and Wilhelm Graebner), twelve speak of music.  They show that young Engels not only attended concerts and the opera, but also performed in a chorus, cultivated a taste for music from the first half of the 18th century, and tried his hand, in a gentlemanly and very amateurish way, at composing.  The letters show a nice broadening of interest and growth of critical acumen:

[To Marie, August 29, 1838]  I have just come back from the parade which takes place every day on the Domshof [i.e. in front of the cathedral].  The parade lasts the whole of two minutes.  But the music is good, wonderful, beautiful, say the Bremeners.  Yesterday one of these Hanseatic soldiers, who had deserted, was brought in.2

[To Marie, October 9-10]  Last Friday I was at the theater.  They played [Kreutzer’s] “Nights in Granada,” an opera which is quite pretty.  Tonight they are doing “The Magic Flute.”  I must go to it.  I really must manage to see what kind of piece it is.  I hope it will be really good.  October 10th.  I went to the theater and I liked “The Magic Flute” very much.  I wish you could come along with me sometime, I bet you would love it.3

[To Marie, late December]  I would also like to tell you that I am now composing; actually I am setting a chorale.  But it is terribly difficult; the meter [signature] and the sharps and the chords give you a lot to do.  I haven’t got very far yet, but I would like to give you a sample.  It’s the first two lines of “A mighty fortress is our God.”

I haven’t yet been able to do it for more than two voices; four voices is still too hard.  I hope I have not made any mistakes in notation, so try and play the thing sometime.4

[To Marie, January 7, 1839]  Listen now, composing is a difficult thing, you have to pay attention to so many things — the harmony of the chords and the right progression — it’s a lot of trouble.  But I’ll see if I can’t send you something again next time.  I am now working on another chorale, in which the bass and the soprano voices alternate.  Look at this.

The accompaniment is still missing; I’ll probably still change some details too.  It is obvious that most of it, except the fourth line, has been stolen from the hymn-book.  The text is the famous Latin “Stabat mater dolorosa. . . .”  Please excuse the many mistakes in the bass part.  I am not used to writing music.5

[To Hermann Engels, Friedrich’s younger brother, March 11]  I still practice my singing and composing regularly.  Here is a sample of the latter for you.6

You can sing “The Blind Man” [a silly text] to that melody or you can leave it.7

[To Wilhelm Graebner, October 8; after a long discussion of contemporary German poetry:] My studies of Goethe’s divine songs8 show that I am not forgetting the old [in my concern] for the new.  But one must study them musically and best of all in different musical settings.  Here for example, I’ll give you Reichardt’s setting of the “Bundeslied”:

I have forgotten the bars again; get Heuser to do them for you.  The melody is splendid and, because of its simplicity in always holding to the chords, [is] better suited than any other to the poem.  The rise at line 6, from E by a seventh to D, comes off splendidly, also the sudden fall at [line] 8 from Ba by a ninth to A.  I will write to a letter to Heuser about Leonardo Leo’s “Miserere.”9

[To Wilhelm Graebner, October 21]  Today has been a dreadfully boring day.  Half-dead from slaving in the office.  Then choir-practice, tremendous enjoyment.10

[To Marie at boarding school in Mannheim, February 18, 1841]  About the “Stabat mater dolorosa” etc., it occurs to me, please check whether this thing was composed by Pergolesi.  If it is, please get me a copy of the score if possible.  If instruments are included, I don’t need them, just the voices.  But if it is by Palestrina or somebody else I don’t need it.  The day after tomorrow we are going to perform Mendelssohn’s “St Paul”, the best oratorio that has been written since Händel’s death.  You will know it.  I seldom go to the theater, since the local one is shamefully bad.  I go only occasionally, when a new play is being shown, or a good opera that I don’t know yet.11

[To Marie at Mannheim, March 8-11]  I was very glad that the “Stabat mater” is by Pergolesi.  You must in any case get me a copy of the piano arrangement containing all the vocal parts with the score showing the singing parts above those which have to be played, as in a piano arrangement of an opera. . . .  In one way you are less fortunate than I.  You can’t hear Beethoven’s C-minor symphony today, Wednesday, March 10, while I can.  This and the Eroica are my favorites.  Now, practice Beethoven’s sonatas and symphonies well so that I shan’t be ashamed of you later on.  I am going to hear them not just in the piano arrangement, but [played] by the full orchestra.  March 11th.  What a symphony it was last night!  You never heard anything like it in your whole life if you don’t know this wonderful work.  What despairing discord in the first movement, what elegiac melancholy, what a tender lover’s lament in the Adagio, what a tremendous, youthful, jubilant celebration of freedom by the trombones in the third and fourth movements!  Besides this, a wretched Frenchman also let himself be heard yesterday, who sang something that went like this:

and so on, no melody or harmony, a pathetic French text, and the whole joke was called “L’Exil‚ de France.”  If all French exiles indulge in such caterwauling, then nobody will want to have them anywhere.  This boor also sang a song called “Le toreador,” which means the bullfighter, with the refrain every so often, “Ah, que j’aime l’Espagne!”.  This was if possible even more pitiful, and indeed sometimes with leaps of 5ths, sometimes twisting about in chromatic passages as if to signify an attack of belly-ache. If it hadn’t been followed by the tremendous symphony, I would have run away and left the crow to squawk in his miserable thin baritone.  Meanwhile, next time send me a better-folded letter.  This way is very unpractical and in bad taste.  It must be like this or like this , please take notice.  Semper Tuus[,] Friedrich12

Engels had meanwhile begun his career as a journalist, publishing under the assumed name “Friedrich Oswald” a stream of articles on cultural and social matters in such journals as the Morgenblatt für Gebildete Leser and the progressive Hamburg Telegraph für Deutschland.  Some of the articles are said to have caused a stir and to have made their author something of a celebrity.13 They refer occasionally to Italian or French opera:

[Morgenblatt für Gebildete Leser, October 19, 1840]  However much one complains about the decline of spoken drama through the domination of opera, even Schiller and Goethe may find empty houses, while everybody rushes to hear the tootling of a Donizetti or a Mercadante.14

[Telegraph für Deutschland, #5, January 1841]  We want to leave to the Russians their pentarchy,15 to the Italians their papism with all its trappings, their Bellini, Donizetti and even Rossini if they want to make him out greater than Mozart and Beethoven, and to the French their arrogant opinion of us, their vaudevilles and operas, their Scribe and Adam.16  We want to chase back home where they came from all the crazy foreign customs and fashions, all the superfluous foreign words; we want to cease to be the dupes of foreigners and stand together as a single, indivisible, strong and, God willing, free German people.17

A more ample image of Engels’s musicality is to be found in his general account of musical activities at Bremen in the Morgenblatt für Gebildete Leser, January 18, 1841.  Notice the sly reference to “young office employees” (presumably he had in mind some particular acquaintances) and his affection for the chorus conductor:

The best thing about Bremen is its music.  There are few towns in Germany with so much and such good music as here.  A relatively very large number of choral societies have been formed and the frequent concerts are always well attended.  Musical taste, moreover, has remained almost quite pure.  The German classics, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven — among the more modern composers Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and the best song composers — are decidedly preponderant.  The new French and Italian schools have an audience almost only among the young office employees.  One might only wish that [Johann] Sebastian Bach, Gluck and Haydn were less pushed into the background.  Nor are more recent compositions rejected; on the contrary, there are perhaps few places where the works of young German composers are performed as readily as here.  There have also always been names here which enjoyed a high reputation in the musical world.  The talented song composer Stegmayer conducted the orchestra of our theatre for several years; his place has now been taken by Kossmaly, who will have made many friends [elsewhere], partly with his compositions, partly with the articles which he publishes, mostly in [Robert] Schumann’s Neue Zeitschrift für Musik.  Riem, who conducts the choir and the most of the concerts, is also a recognized composer.  Riem is a lovable old man with a youthful, infectious enthusiasm in his heart; nobody knows as well as he does how to inspire both singers and intrumentalists to a lively performance.18

When his apprenticeship in Bremen ended in 1841, Engels returned home to Barmen and then enlisted for a year in an artillery regiment in Berlin.  He was now less active musically, but no less discriminating.  He wrote to his sister from Berlin on January 6, 1842, “The local theatre is very fine — magnificent sets, splendid actors — but mostly bad singers.  So I don’t go very often to the opera.”19  In another letter from Berlin (dated April 16), he told her:

Mr. Liszt has been here and enchanted all the ladies by his piano playing.  The Berlin ladies were so besotted by him that there was a free fight during one his concerts for possession of a glove which he had dropped, and two sisters are now enemies for life because one of them snatched the glove from the other.  Countess Schlippenbach poured the tea which the great Liszt had left in a cup into her Eau-de-Cologne bottle after she had poured the Eau-de-Colonge on the ground.  She has since sealed the bottle and placed it on top of her writing-desk to his eternal memory, and feasts her eyes on it every morning, as can be seen in a cartoon which appeared about it.  There never was such a scandal.  The young ladies fought over him, but he snubbed them frightfully and preferred to go and drink champagne with a couple of students.  But there are a couple of pictures of the great, charming, heavenly, genial, divine Liszt in every house.  I will draw you a portrait of him. Liszt by Engels  Here is the man with the Kamchatka hair style.  By the way, he must have earned at least 10,000 talers here, and his hotel bill amounted to 3,000 talers — apart from what he spent in taverns.  I tell you, he’s a real man.  He drinks twenty cups of coffee a day, two ounces of coffee every cup, and ten bottles of champagne, from which it can fairly safely be concluded that he lives in a kind of perpetual drunken haze, which may also be confirmed.  He has now gone off to Russia, and one wonders whether the ladies there will also go as crazy.20

This is delightful, but omits the fact that the more than 80 works which Liszt performed in Berlin included not only his own music and transcriptions but also compositions by Bach, Händel, Beethoven and other leading masters; Liszt thereby departed from the traditional role of the traveling virtuoso and anticipated the modern solo recital of serious works by first-rate composers.21  An un-sympathetic modern reader of Engels’s letter might say it shows a readiness to oversimplify which would later lead him to some silly ideas in his Dialectics of Nature (first published in 1927) and in parts of Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886), where he said dialectics had “reduced itself to the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought — two sets of laws which are identical in substance. . . .”22

In May 1842 Engels wrote the last and perhaps most interesting of his youthful comments on music that have been brought to light.  In an article published in the Rheinische Zeitung on May 14 he compared the three-day festivals traditionally held in the Rhineland at Whitsuntide to the ancient reek Panathenean festivals and bacchanalia, and attributed the greater emphasis on music in the German festival primarily to differences in climate, social conditions and technological development.

Berlin, May 6th.  There are certain times of the year when the Rhinelander gadding about abroad is seized by a very special longing for his beautiful homeland.  This longing comes particularly in Spring, around Whitsun, the time of the Rhenish music festival, and is a really dreadful felling.  Now — he knows it only too well — everything on the Rhine is in bud; the transparent waves of the river ripple in the spring breeze, Nature puts on her Sunday best, and at home they are getting ready for the song outing, tomorrow they will set off, and you are not there!  Oh, it is a fine festival, the Rhenish music festival!  The visitors come pouring in from all sides, on crowded steamers decorated with greenery and flags flying, to the accompaniment of horn and song, in long railway trains and lines of stage-coaches, with a flourishing of hats and waving of kerchiefs, cheerful men, young and old, beautiful women with even more beautiful voices, all Sunday people with laughing Sunday faces.  There’s pleasure for you!  All cares, all business are forgotten; not a single serious face is to be seen in the dense crowd of arrivals.  Old acquaintances are renewed, new ones made; the young folk laugh and flirt and chatter incessantly, and even the old, forcibly persuaded by their dear daughters to take part in the festival, despite gout and podagra, cold and hypochondria, are infected by the general merriment and have to be cheerful since they have come along.  Everybody is preparing for the Whitsun holiday, and a festival that derives from a general emanation of the Holy Spirit cannot be more worthily celebrated than by surrendering to the divine spirit of bliss and enjoyment of life, the innermost kernel of which is enjoyment of art.  And of all the arts none is so well suited as music to form the centre of such a convivial provincial parliament where all the educated people of the area come together for the mutual renewal of the joy of living and youthful gaiety.  If with the ancients it was the presentation of comedy and the contest of tragic poets that attracted the people to the Panathenaean festivals and bacchanalia, in our climate and social conditions music alone can play the same role.  For just as music which is merely printed and does not speak to the ear can give us no enjoyment, so tragedy remained dead and estranged to the ancients unless it spoke from . . . the living mouths of the actors.  Today every town has its theater where plays are performed daily, while for the Hellenes the stage came alive only at great festivals; today printing spreads every new play throughout Germany, while among the ancients only a few could read the written tragedy.23  Hence, drama can no longer serve as the center for great assemblies, a different art must help, and only music can do that; for it alone admits of the participation of a great multitude and even gains considerably thereby in power of expression; it is the only art where enjoyment coincides with live performance and where the range of effect is as wide as that of ancient drama.  And well may the German celebrate and foster music, in which he is king above all nations, for just as he alone succeeded in bringing the highest and holiest, the innermost secret of the human heart, to light out of its hidden depth and in expressing it in sound, so it is given to him alone to respond fully to the power of music, to understand the language of instruments and song through and through.  But here music is not the main thing.  What is then?  The music festival.  Just as the centre cannot form a circle without a periphery, so music is nothing without gay, convivial life which forms the periphery to this musical center.  The Rhinelander is thoroughly sanguine by nature. . . .24

It was after his year in the army (but before his first period in Manchester, 1842-44) that Engels met Moses Hess, became a communist, and, among other things, evidently stopped writing about music.  However, the alertness to salient detail that he had developed in his musical activities at Bremen is still apparent in a letter to Eduard Bernstein of May 15, 1885, where he complained, “You and Kautsky, you seem to blow so much gloom against each other that a whole concert in minor [keys] could be made from it; it’s just like the trombone in Wagner which also always lets loose whenever something dire happens.”25  Of course he was not disparaging trombones per se,26 but was citing them to evoke that awesome portentousness without which Wagner’s music would never have proven so valuable to obscurantist causes.

A hundred years ago Wagner was a more formidable musical personality than today.  Marx commented wryly in a latter to Engels from Karlsbad in 1876 August 19), “Everything here is ‘the Future’ since the rumbling of ‘the music of the future’ in Bayreuth.”27  In 1915 Eduard Bernstein recalled that in the late 1880s and early ’90s Engels and Charles Bernard used to argue about Wagner:

A socialist of the Marxist school, he [Bernard] . . . was also a passionate admirer of Richard Wagner, making regular pilgrimages to Bayreuth. . . .  [He] had a fine, sonorous baritone voice, and sang with great artistic knowledge.  Wagner was the occasion of many a dispute between him and Engels.28

Marx devoted a substantial letter, now lost, to the subject of Wagner, but perhaps without explicit reference to his musical skills; Engels recalled apropos in a footnote to his Der Ursprung Der Familie (1884) that “In a letter in the Spring of 1882 Marx spoke out in the strongest terms about the total falsification of primitive times which dominates Wagner’s Nibelungen text.”29

As a listener, Marx approached music in a different way from Engels.  Whereas Engels appears to have perceived music with a kind of gallic clarity and was capable, at least to a certain extent, of identifying his likes and dislikes with specific features, Marx would form an impression of the spirit and quality of the whole without taking stock of particular details along the way — quite the opposite of his approach to literature.  A youthful poem of his, the title of which referring explicitly to Gluck’s opera, Armide, recounts how he allegedly “sank, mute, in the tones” of the music, whereupon a rather shallow young lady seated in the box calls him a fool for preferring the music to her vaunted charms.30  Some thirty years later, another poem describes the same kind of “global” musical experience in the spring of 1867, when Marx was a house-guest of the Kugelmann family, at Rheda (130 km northeast of Cologne).  The daughter of the family, Franziska Kugelmann, recalled many years later:

My mother’s best friend was Mrs. Tenge, née Bolongaro-Crevenna, from Frankfurt am Main. . . .  The friends often visited each other, and Mrs. Tenge called a little guest-room, in which she would always stay when visiting us, “my room.”  My mother wrote to her now about the interesting visitor [Marx] and asked her to come to Hannover to get to know him.  Mrs. Tenge gladly accepted the proposal and reported that she would be coming for the next few days.  Marx’s bedroom just then was “her room,” and my mother therefore requested him to shift to another room during her visit.  The lovable woman, who played the piano artistically, pleased Marx extraordinarily.  Those were wonderfully beautiful days, which, spent in the most animated conversation and happy frame of mine, are still all unforgettable [to me]. . . .  Marx had the most noble taste in poetry.  Among the Spaniards, Calderon was his special favorite.  He had various poems by him with him now, and often read them aloud.  In the evenings, and best of all at dusk, we listened to Mrs. Tenge’s masterful piano-playing.  She happened to have brought along with her to Hanover her guest-book, in order to have its binding renewed, which could not be done as well in little Rheda [the village where she lived] or in nearby Bielefeld [a small town] as in the larger town [i.e. Hanover].  As she was now about to return home, she asked Marx to inscribe himself in her guest-book since he had lived in her room and had also been her guest [as it were].  Marx fulfilled her wish and wrote:

“La vida es sueño, un frenesí, una ilusión,
So lehrt uns Meister Calderón.
Doch zähl ich’s zu den schönsten Illusionen,
Das Fremdenbuch Tenge-Crevenna zu bewohnen.”

“Life is a frenzy, an illusion;
Master Calderon teaches us this.
And I count it among the most beautiful illusions
To reside in Tenge-Crevenna’s guest-book.”

After Frau Tenge had left, my mother happened to find a sheet with verses [written on it by Marx], from which the ones shown above had been taken.  They read:

“La vida es sueño, un frenesí, una ilusión,
So lehrt uns Meister Calderón.
Doch wenn Tonmeere Deiner Hand entschäumen, Möcht ich für alle Ewigkeiten träumen.

Es zähmt des Lebens wilde Phrenesie
Der Zauber weiblich edler Hermonie, Doch zähl ich’s zu den schönsten Illusionen,
Das Fremdenbuch Tenge-Crevenna zu bewohnen.”

“Life is a frenzy, an illusion;
Master Calderon teaches us this.
And when your hand’s seas of tones shower forth,
I would like to dream on for all eternity.

The wild frenzy of life is tamed by
The magic of womanly noble harmony,
And I count it among the most beautiful illusions
To reside in Tenge-Crevenna’s guest-book.”

My parents regretted very much that only a fragment of these beautiful thoughts had been written down [for Frau Tenge], but Marx countered that these strophes might be too much for a guest-book.31

What kind of music did Frau Tenge play?  More likely Schumann or Chopin than opera potpourris, to judge by the poem: at any rate lyrical and tending to Innerlichkeit (suited to dusk), and presumably well fashioned for the piano.32

Although Marx was undoubtedly less aware of technical features than Engels, he regarded musical composition as a serious and difficult activity rather than an amusement; he felt a certain nationalistic pride in the achievements of Beethoven, Mozart, Händel and Haydn; he cited musicality as a prime example of the potential richness of human sensibility; and he said it would be a debasement of art to be made an explicit vehicle of dogma.

The statement about music in relation to dogma was made obliquely, in the course of discussing, in the Rheinische Zeitung (12 March 1843, shortly before the journal was suppressed), a book by Friedrich von Sallet entitled Laien-Evangelium (“Layman’s Gospel”).  As Marx obseved, “Sallet believed . . . that rational truth could be rendered valid only in opposition to holy truth.”33  Sallet expressed his philosophical beliefs in verse, which Marx regarded as “unpoetry”; and he commented:

[A]nd what a perverted notion [it is] in general to want to handle theological controversies by means of poetry!  Did it ever occur to a composer to set dogma to music?34

A carefully articulated statement relating to music appears in the economic and philosophical manuscripts written at Paris in 1844-45:

Just as only music awakens in man the sense of music, and just as the most beautiful music has no sense for the unmusical ear — is [no] object for it, because my object can only be the confirmation of one of my essential powers — it can therefore only exist for me insofar as my essential power exists for itself as a subjective capacity; because the meaning of an object for me goes only so far as my sense goes (has only a meaning for a sense corresponding to that object) – for this reason the senses of the social man differ from those of non-social man.  Only through the objectively unfolded richness of man’s essential being is the richness of subjective human sensibility (a musical ear, an eye for beauty of form — in short, senses capable of human gratification, senses affirming themselves as essential powers of man) either cultivated or brought into being.  For not only the five senses but also the so-called spiritual senses, the practical senses (will, love etc.), in a word, the human senses, the humanness of the senses, comes into being first through the existence of its object, through humanized Nature.  The formation of the five senses is a work of all of preceding world history.35

Some of the main implications of this fascinating passage are that: (1)without social development and without the (physical) ‘humanization’ of our natural surroundings (die vermenschlichte Natur), not only would such widely recognized hallmarks of our humanity as our capacity for love and for intelligent, purposeful action (Wille) be stunted beyond recognition, but even the subjective capacities of our five senses would be so stunted as to be of a different and distinctly less-than-human character; (2)not to have an ear for beautiful music would be a perfect example of this kind of stunting of one of the five senses; (3)music-making is an example of the physical humanization of our natural surroundings which, together with social development, may rightly be described as the objective (gegenstandlich) unfolding of the richness of man’s essential being; and (4)the cultivation (die Bildung) of the subjective capacities of our five senses is an age-old and still-continuing task of mankind.

All this invokes our aesthetic impulses so warmly — at least it does mine — that it may be worthwhile to observe that Marx was not the kind of musical gourmet who would take only ‘champagne’ music and frown on “table-wine” music (nor indeed at picnic music on a Sunday on Hampstead Health36).  Nor did he advocate a way of life characterized by pathologically exorbitant melomania.  As a moralist he might have said that a well cultivated musicality is not a license for such vices as snobbery, greed, rank laziness, social indifference or reactionary antiquarianism.  As a critical historian he did say, in his manuscript Grundrisse der politischen Ökonomie (1857-58), that even though “the single [human] individual appears fuller at earlier stages of social development,” nevertheless:

[I]t is as ridiculous to yearn for a return to that original fullness as it is to believe that with this complete emptiness [characteristic of Victorian capitalism], history has come to a standstill.  The bourgeois viewpoint has never advanced beyond this antithesis between itself and that romantic viewpoint, and the latter will accompany it as legitimate antithesis up to its blessed end.37

Such a passage reminds us that a proper analysis of Marx’s aesthetic views would require an awareness of the various dimensions of his thinking.

It was under special circumstances that Marx expressed, in April 1854, his pride as a German in the accomplishments of Beethoven, Mozart, Händel and Haydn.  By now he had been living in London for five years; Edgar Bauer, an old friend from university days, was visiting the city, and together with Wilhelm Liebknecht (who later described the occasion) they decided to undertake a Bierreise, that is, to enjoy beer

. . . in every saloon between Oxford Street and Hampstead Road. . . .  [A]t the end of Tottenham Court Road . . . loud singing issued from a public house. . . .  [A] club of Odd Fellows were celebrating a festival.  We met some of the men . . . and they at once invited us “foreigners” with truly English hospitality to go with them into one of the rooms. . . .  We followed them in the best of spirits, and the conversation naturally turned to politics — we had been easily recognized as German fugitives; and the Englishmen, good old-fashioned people, who wanted to amuse us a little, considered it their duty to revile thoroughly the German princes and the Russian nobles.  By “Russian” they meant Prussian nobles.  Russia and Prussia are frequently confounded in England. . . .  For a while, everything went smoothly.  We had to drink many healths and to bring out and listen to many a toast.

Then, the unexpected suddenly happened. . . .  Edgar Bauer, hurt by some chance remark, turned the tables and ridiculed the English snobs.  Marx launched into an enthusiastic eulogy on German science and music — no other country, he said, would have been capable of producing such masters of music as Beethoven, Mozart, Händel and Haydn, and the Englishmen who had no music were in reality far below the Germans who had been prevented hitherto only by the miserable political and economical conditions from accomplishing any great practical work, but who would yet outclass all other nations.  I have never heard him speaking English so fluently. . . .  The brows of our hosts began to cloud. . . .  Edgar Bauer . . . began to allude to English cant; then a low “Damned foreigners!” issued from the company, soon followed by louder repetitions.  Threatening words were spoken, brains began to be heated, fists were brandished in the air and — we were sensible enough to choose the better part of valor and managed to effect, not wholly without difficulty, a passably dignified retreat.38

Marx’s share of the conversation shows that he was not indifferent to the musical banalities of mid-19th-century London.

At a sober and thoughtful moment some three years later (and just a few weeks after Dana asked for the article on aesthetics), Marx made an even more remarkable reference to music in the course of describing, in the Grundrisse, the qualities which labor would regain after it would have, as a result of the capitalistic stage of development and the socialist revolution, the fulfilling quality of an unalienated activity:

This does not mean [he went on] that labor can be made a joke, or amusement, as Fourier naively expressed it in shop-girl terms.  Really free labor, the composing [of music] for example, is at the same time damned serious and demands the greatest effort.  The labor concerned with material production can only have this character if (1)it is of a social nature and (2)it has a scientific character and at the same time is general work, i.e. if it becomes the activity of a subject controlling all the forces of nature in the production process.39

The criticism of Fourier here is not very accurate.  Fourier did number among the necessary conditions for ‘le travail attractif‘ in the phalanstery: that people be freed, by a guarantee of well-being, from uneasiness about themselves and their families; that they have the right to engage in such work as they might be pleased to select, provided they give proof of integrity and ability; that work be carried out in clean and elegant surroundings, by groups of friends united “spontaneously” and stimulated by very active rivalries with other groups doing fairly similar work; and that since it is impossible to remain enthusiastic longer than a couple of hours in any particular kind of industrial or agricultural work, everyone belong to various different groups, take part in several different pursuits during he course of the day, and vary them the following day.  He also said that productive industry when thus rendered attractive would become a succession of pleasures energetically pursued.40  But he did not suggest that it would become an aimless pastime, as Marx’s terms blosser Spass and blosses amusement imply.

Nor did Fourier suggest, however, that the workers would cultivate any particular awareness of their role as social transformers and rulers of Nature.  (He seemed rather to feel that he would supply the Weltanschauung and they the passionate enthusiasm.)  So, work in the phalanstery would indeed lack the “scientific” character which Marx considered a sine qua non of free industrial or agricultural labour.

But to come back to our subject: ‘Komponieren‘ here means musical composition.  Contemporary dictionaries show that the word would refer to music unless the context suggested some other meaning.41  As a music historian and a reasonably well informed observer of current musical life, I would say that composing is not always such a “damned serious, intensive struggle” as Marx believed.  That is too romantic a view.  I imagine that if he had been better informed he might, instead of implying that musical compositions are always produced by free labor, have considered such questions as whether — and if so, to what extent — a composer’s work must, like material production, have a social and “scientific” character in order to be free.

At any rate Marx was here saying that musical composition is a form of work and not a mere game, and that it can exemplify the free and unalienated quality of labor in a socialist society.  Elsewhere he had suggested that in a socialist society (as indeed in a phalanstery) such artistic efforts should not be limited to a few full-time specialists:

For as soon as the distribution of labor comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape.  He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulated the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd, or critic.42

Where would people find the time?  By working part-time — in a similarly fulfilling and exacting way — with advanced machines:

The theft of others’ labor-time upon which wealth depends today seems to be a miserable basis compared with the newly-developed foundation which has been created by heavy industry itself.  As soon as labor, in its direct form, has ceased to be the main source of wealth . . . the surplus labor of the masses has ceased to be a condition for the development of wealth in general, in the same way that the non-labor of the few has ceased to be a condition for the development of the powers of the human mind in general.43

Such conditions of universal affluence and versatility would differ from those of a society whose leading members were still so bent upon the expansion of capital that they made aesthetic values peripheral and thus “the piano-maker would be a productive worker, but not the pianist”: a pianist might be considered indirectly productive,

. . . inasmuch as he renders our individuality stronger and more active, or also in the banal sense that he awakens a new thirst for the satisfaction of which a greater use of assembly-lines in direct material production will be applied.44

In the capitalist perspective, as described by Marx,

A singer who sells her singing on her own is an unproductive worker, but the same singer when hired by an entrepreneur to sing in order to make money [for the entrepreneur] is a productive worker because she produces capital.45

(This assertion was supported by a citation showing that according to Malthus’s Principles of Political Economy, a “productive” laborer is one who “directly” increases “his master’s wealth.”)

From his observations in this vein it seems fair to infer that Marx would have regarded as historically ephemeral — an aspect of consumerism — the phenomenon of star performers inspired by their own publicity to attain extreme eights of charismatic projection or virtuosity.  All these references to music, however, should be considered in the light not only of his ideas about capitalism and the division of labor, but also, for a Marxian approach to the music of the past, his attitude to the major poets of the past, whose work was of much greater interest to him personally — even though he would no more subscribe (at least never consciously!) to Shelley’s belief that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”46 than to Plato’s that “the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling the most fundamental political and social conventions.”47



1  Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, Werke (Berlin, 1959-; cited below as MEW), xxix, 140-44: “Ebenso rätselhaft ist mir, wie Aesthetics, auf 1 page, fundamentally, auf Grundlage Hegels, behandelt werden sollen.”  “Dana muss toll sein, die Ästhetik auf 1 Seite abzumachen.”  See Hal Draper, “Marx, Engels et la New American Cyclopaedia,”, Economies et societées, tom ii, no. 12 (Cahiers de l’Institut de science economique appliquée, Paris, December 1968), 2445-75.

2  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 327: “Eben komme ich von der Parade, die alle Tage auf dem Domshofe ist. . . .  Die Parade dauert ganze zwei Minuten. . . .  Aber die Musik ist gut (sehr gut, wunderschön, wundervoll sagen die Bremer).  Gestern ist solch ein Hanseate eingebracht, der desertiert war. . . .”

3  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 341-42: “Vorigen Freitag war ich im Theater, sie gaben das ‘Nachtlager in Gra- nada’, eine Oper, die recht hübsch ist; heute abend wird die ‘Zauberflöte’ gegeben, da muss ich hin; es soll mich einmal verlangen, was das für ein Stück ist, ich hoffe es wird recht schön sein.  Den 10. Oktober.  Im Theater bin ich gewesen, und die ‘Zauberflöte’ hat mir sehr gut gefallen; ich wollte, Du könntest auch einmal mit mir dahin gehn, ich wette, es gefiele Dir sehr gut.”

4  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 346-47: “Ich will Dir auch erzählen, dass ich jetzt am Komponieren bin, und zwar mache ich Choräle.  Es ist aber entsetzlich schwer, der Takt und die Kreuzer und die Akkorde machen einem sehr viel zu schaffen.  Bis jetzt habe ich es noch nicht weit gebracht, aber ich will Dir doch eine Probe hersetzen.  Es sind die beiden ersten Zeilen von Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott.  Weiter hab’ ichs noch nicht bringen können als zweistimmig, vier stimmig ist noch zu schwer.  Ich hoffe, ich werde keinen Schreibfehler gemacht haben, und so probier Du einmal, das Ding zu spielen.”

5  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 348-49: “Hör einmal, das Komponieren, das ist eine schwere Sache, da muss man auf so vielerlei achtgeben, auf Harmonie der Akkorde und richtige Fortschreitung, das macht viel Mühe.  Ich will aber mal sehen, ob ich Dir nächstens nicht wieder was schicke.  Ich bin jetzt dran, einen andern Choral zu kompo- nieren, da wechselt in der Singstimme Bass und Sopran ab.  Pass mal auf.  Die Begleitung fehlt noch, wahrscheinlich werde ich auch noch ein zelnes verändern.  Dass das meiste, ausgenommen die 4te Ziele, aus dem Gesangbuch gestohlen ist, ist klar.  Der Text ist das bekannte latein ische Stabat mater dolorosa. . . .  Die vielen Schreibfehler im Bass musst Du entschuldigen; ich bin es nicht gewohnt, Noten zu schreiben.”

6  The tune was lifted (no doubt unconsciously) from Act 2 of “The Magic Flute” (see apropos Engels’ letter of 9-10 October 1838, cited above).

7  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 357: “Das Singen und Komponieren bleibt in steter Übung, hier hast Du von letzterem eine Probe. . . .  Du kannst den Blinden nach der Melodie singen, kannst es aber auch lassen.”

8  For more of Engels’ views (in 1847) on Goethe, see MEW, iv, 222 and 230-47.

9  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 421: “Dass ich aber über dem Neuen das Alte nicht vergesse, zeigt mein Studium der gottvollen Goetheschen Lieder.  Man muss sie aber musikalisch studieren, am besten in verschiedenen Kompositionen.  Z.B. will ich Dir die Reichardtsche Komposition des Bundeslieds hersetzen. . . .  Die Taktstriche hab’ ich wieder vergessen, lass sie Dir vom Heuser machen.  Die Melodie ist herrlich und durch die stets im Akkord sich haltende Einfachheit dem Liede so angemessen wie keine.  Herrlich macht sich das Steigen V.6 von e bis zur Septime d und das rasche Fallen V.8 von h bis zur none a.  Über das ‘Miserere’ von Leonardo Leo werde ich dem Heuser schreiben.”

10  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 423: “Heute einen furchtbar langweiligen Tag gehabt.  Auf dem Comptoir halbtot geochst. Dann Singakademie gehabt, ungeheuren Genuss.”

11  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 475: “Bei dem Stabat mater dolorosa et cetera fällt mir ein, sieh doch einmal zu, ob dieses Ding von Pergolese komponiert ist.  Ist es das, so schaffe mir wo möglich eine Abschrift der Partitur, wenn Instrumente dabei sind, die brauch ich nicht, bloss die Singstimmen.  Ist es aber von Palestrina oder von noch einem an dern, so brauch ichs nicht.  Übermorgen führen wir den ‘Paulus’ von Mendelssohn auf, das beste Oratorium, was seit Händels Tode geschrieben worden ist. Du wirst es kennen.  Ins Theater geh ich sehr selten, da das hiesige schändlich schlecht ist, und nur, wenn ein neues Stück oder eine gute Oper, die ich noch nicht kenne, gegeben wird, geh ich zuweilen hin.”

12  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 482-83: “Dass das ‘Stabat mater’ von Pergolesi ist, hab’ ich mit Vergnügen er- fahren; Du musst mir jedenfalls eine Kopie der Klavierauszugs mit allen Singstimmen schaffen und zwar so, dass das gleichzeitig Gesungne und Gespielte übereinander steht wie in einem Opernklavierauszuge.  Eins hast Du doch weniger als ich, Du kannst heute, Mittwoch, den 10ten März, nicht Beethovens c-moll Symphonie hören, und ich doch.  Diese und die Sinfonia eroica sind meine Lieblingsstücke.  Exerzier Dich nur ja recht ein, Beethovensche Sonaten und Symphonien zu spielen, damit Du mir nachher keine Schande machst. Ich höre sie aber nicht im Klavierauzzug, sondern von vollem Orchester. / Den 11ten März.  Das ist gestern abend eine Symphonie gewesen!  So was hast Du in Deinem Leben noch nicht gehört, wenn Du dieses Pracht stück noch nicht kennst.  Diese verzweiflungsvolle Zerissenheit im ersten Satze, diese elegische Wehmut, diese weiche Liebesklage im Adagio und dieser gewaltige, jugendliche Posaunenjubel der Freiheit im dritten und vierten Satze!  Ausserdem hat sich gestern noch ein jämmer licher Franzose hören lassen, der sang ein Ding, das ging so: . . . und so weiter, keine Melodie und keine Harmonie, ein jämmerlicher franzo sischer Text, und der ganze Witz war tituliert ‘L’Exil‚ de France’.  Wenn alle aus Fra nkreich Verba nnten ein solches Katzengewinsel erheben, so wird man sie nirgends haben wollen. Auch sang dieser Flegel ein Lied: ‘Le toréador’, d.h. der Stierfechter, wobei alle fingerlang noch erbärmlicher und ging ebenso bald mit Quintensprüngen, bald in chromätischen Gängen sich krümmend, als wenn’s Bauchweh bedeuten sollt.  Wär’ nicht zum Schluss die prachtvolle Symphonie gekommen, so wär’ ich weggelaufen und hätt’ den Raben krächzen lassen, denn er hatt’ einen erbärmlich dünnen Bariton.  Im übrigen schick mir nächstens besser gefaltene Briefe.  Die Form . . . ist sehr unpraktisch und geschmacklos, es muss . . . oder . . . sein, wonach zu achten.  Semper Tuus Friedrich”

13  See Terrell Carver, Engels (Oxford University Press, 1981; reissued in 2003 as Engels: A Very Short Introduction), Chapter 2.

14  MEW, iii, 107: “Mag noch soviel über den Verfall des rezitierenden Schauspiels durch die Übermacht der Oper geklagt werden, mögen selbst Schiller und Goethe leere Häuser finden, während sich zu dem Gedudel eines Donizetti und Mercadante alles drängt.”

15  The pentarchy was a religious and political alliance proposed by Czar Alexander I to four other nations.

16  Eugène Scribe was by far the most productive and eminent writer of French opera librettos.  Adolphe Adam was a prolific composer of operas and ballets.

17  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 131: “Den Russen wollen wir die Pentarchie lassen; en Italienern ihren Papismus und was daran klebt, ihren Bellini, Donizetti und selbst Rossini, wenn sie diese gross tun wollen gegen Mozart und Beethoven; den Franzosen ihre arroganten Urteile über uns, ihre Vaudevilles und Opern, ihren Scribe und Adam.  Wir wollen heimjagen, woher sie gekommen sind, alle die verrückten ausländischen Gebräuche und Moden, alle die überflüssigen Fremdwörter wir wollen aufhören, die Narren der Fremden zu sein, und zusammenhalten zu einem einigen, unteilbaren, starken — und so Gott will, freien deutschen Volk.”

18  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 136: “Die Beste Seite Bremens ist die Musik.  Es wird in wenig Städten Deutsch- lands so viel und so gut musiziert wie hier.  Eine verhältnismassig sehr grosse Anzahl von Gesangvereinen hat sich gebildet, und die häufigen Konzerte sind immer stark besucht.  Dabei hat sich der musikalische Geschmack fast ganz rein erhalten; die deutschen Klassiker, Händel, Mozart, Beethoven, von den neuern Mendelssohn-Bartholdy und die besten Liederkomponisten behaupten entschieden das Übergewicht.  Die neufranzösische und neuitalienische Schule haben fast nur unter den jungen Comptoiristen ein Publikum.  Es wäre nur zü wünschen, dass Sebastian Bach, Gluck und Haydn weniger zurückgesetzt würden.  Dabei werden neuere Erscheinungen keineswegs abgewiesen, im Gegenteil möchten wenig Orte sein, wo die Produktionen junger deutscher Komponisten so bereitwillig aufgeführt würden wie hier.  Auch fanden sich hier immer Namen, die in der musikalischen Welt bekannt sind. Der talentvolle Liederkomponist Stegmayer dirigierte mehrere Jahre das Orchester unsers Theaters; an seine Stelle ist Kossmaly getreten, der sich teils durch Kompositionen, teils durch Artikel, die er meistens in Schumanns ‘Neuer Zeitschrift für Musik’abdruckenlässt, manche Freunde verschafft haben wird.   Riem, der die Singakademie und die meisten Konzerte dirigiert, ist ebenfalls ein anerkannter Komponist.  Riem ist ein liebenswürdiger Greis mit jugendlicher, hinreissender Begeisterung im Herzen, niemand versteht wie er, Sänger und Instrumentalisten zu lebendigem Vortrag zu entflammen.”

19  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 228: ‘Das hiesige Theater ist sehr schön, ausgezeichnete Dekorationen, vortreffliche Schauspieler, aber meist schlechte Sänger.  Deßwegen geh ich auch selten in die Oper.”

20  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 495: “Dass der Herr Liszt hier gewesen ist und durch sein Klavierspielen alle Damen entzückt hat, wirst Du wohl noch nicht gehört haben.  Die Berliner Damen sind aber so vernarrt gewesen, dass sie sich im Konzert um einen Handschuh von Liszt, den er hatte fallenlassen, komplett geprügelt haben, und zwei Schwestern, deren eine ihn der andern abnahm, deshalb in ewige Feindschaft gerieten. Den Tee, den der grosse Liszt in einer Tasse stehenliess, goss sich die Gräfin Schlippenbach in ihr Eau de Cologne-Flakon, nachdem sie die Eau de Cologne auf die Erde gegossen hatte; seitdem hat sie dies Flakon ver siegelt und auf ihren Sekretär zum ewigen Andenken hingestellt und entzückt sich jeden Morgen daran, wie auf einer deshalb erschienen Karikatur zu sehen ist.  Es ist ein Skandal gewesen wie bisher noch nie.  Die jungen Damen haben sich um ihn gerissen, und dabei hat er sie alle ganz entsetzlich links liegengelassen und lieber mit ein paar Studenten Champagner getrunken.  Aber in jedem Hause sind ein paar Bilder von dem grossen, liebenswürdigen, himmlischen, genialen, gött lichen Liszt zu sehen.  Ich will Dir doch auch ein Konterfei davon machen: Das ist der Mann mit der kamtschadalischen Frisur.  Übrigens hat er gewiss 10000 Taler verdient, und seine Rechnung im Wirtshause betrug 3000 Taler.  Ungerechnet, was er sonst noch verkneipt hat.  Ja, ich sage Dir, das ist ein Mann.  Der trinkt täglich zwanzig Tassen Kaffee, auf jede Tasse vier Lot, zehn Flaschen Champagner, woraus mit ziemlicher Sicherheit geschlossen werden kann, dass er in einem fort währenden gewissen Trane lebt, wie sich dies auch bestätigt.  Jetzt ist er nach Russland gegangen, und es fragt sich, ob die Damen dort auch so verrückt werden können.”

21  See Leon Plantinga, Romantic music (Norton, 1984), p. 184.

22  See Terrell Carver, Engels (cited in Note 13), pp. 51-54 in the 1981 edition or pp. 62-65 in the 2003 edition.

23  Some comparable remarks by Marx are in the 1857 Introduction to his Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (MEW, xiii, 64l): “Is Achilles possible with [gun]powder and lead [bullets]?  Or indeed the Iliad with the printing-press and printing machines? . . .” (“Ist Achilles möglich mit Pulver und Blei?  Oder überhaupt die ‘Iliade’ mit der Druckerpresse oder Druckmaschine?  Hört das Singen und Sagen und die Muse mit dem Pressbengel nicht notwendig auf, also verschwinden nicht notwendige Bedingungen der epischen Poesie?”)  Cf.

24  MEW, Ergänzgungsband ii, 255-57: “Berlin, den 6. Mai.  Es gibt gewisse Zeiten im Jahre, wo den Rheinländer, der sich in der Fremde herumtreibt, eine ganz besondere Sehnsucht nach seiner schönen Heimat ergreift.  Diese Sehnsucht stellt sich namentlich im Frühling, um die Pfingstzeit, die Zeit des rheinischen Musikfestes, ein und ist ein ganz fatales Gefühl.  Jetzt, das weiss man leider nur zu genau, jetzt wird es grün am Rhein; die durchsichtigen Wellen des Stromes kräuseln sich im Lenzhauch, die Natur zieht ihr Sonntagskleid an, und jetzt rüsten sie sich zu Hause zur Sängerfahrt, morgen ziehen sie aus, und du bist nicht dabei!  Es ist ein schönes Fest, das rheinische Musikfest!  Auf vollgedrängten, laubgeschmückten Dampfschiffen mit wehenden Flaggen, mit Hörnerschall und Gesang, auf langen Eisenbahnzügen und Postwagenreihen, mit geschwungenen Hüten und wehenden Tüchern kommen die Gäste von allen Seiten herbeigeströmt, heitere Männer jung und alt, schöne Freun mit noch schöneren Stimmen, lauter Sonntagsmenschen mit lachenden Sonntagsgesichtern.  Das ist eine Lust!  Alle Sorgen, alle Geschäfte sind vergessen; da ist auch kein einzig ernsthaftes Gesicht zu erblicken in dem dichten Gedränge der Ankommenden. Alte Bekanntschaften werden erneuert, neue geschlossen, das junge Volk lacht und schäkert und schwatzt in einem fort, und selbst die Alten, die von ihren lieben Töchtern gewaltsam überredet wurden, trotz Gicht, Podagra, Erkältung und Hypochondrie das Fest mitzumachen, werden von der allgemeinen Lust angestrckt und müssen lustig sein, da sie nun doch einmal mitgegangen sind.  Alles bereitet sich zur Pfingstfeier vor, und würdiger kann ein Fest, das von allgemeiner Ausgiessung des heiligen Geistes sich herleitet, nicht gefiert werden, als durch Hingabe an den göttlichen Geist der Freude und des Lebensgenusses, dessen innersten Kern eben der Kunstgenuss bildet.  Und von allen Künsten eignet sich keine so sehr dazu, den Mittelpunkt eines solchen geselligen Provinziallandtages zu bilden, wo alle Gebildeten der Umgegend zu gegenseitiger Auffrischung des Lebensmutes und der jugendlichen Fröhlichkeit sich zusammenfinden, als gerade die Musik.  Was es bei den Panathenäen und Bacchosfesten das Volk anzog, so kann dem bei unseren klimatischen und sozialen Verhältnissen nur die Musik entsprechen.  Denn, wie un die bloss gedruckte, nicht zum Gehör sprechende Musik keinen Genuss gewähren kann, so blieb den Alten die Tragödie tot und fremd, solange sie nicht von der Thymele und Orchestra durch den lebendigen Mund der Schauspieler redete.  Jetzt hat jede Stadt ihr Theater, wo allabendlich gespielt wird, während für den Hellenen nur an grossen Festen die Bühne sich belebte; jetzt verbreitet der Druck jedes neue Drama über ganz Deutschland, während bei den Alten nur wenige das geschriebene Trauerspiel zu lesen bekamen.  Darum kann das Drama keinen Mittelpunkt grosser Versammlungen mehr abgeben, eine andere Kunst muss aushelfen, und das kann nur die Musik; denn sie allein lässt die Mitwirkung einer grossen Menge zu und gewinnt sogar dadurch an Kraft des Ausdrucks bedeutend; sie ist die einzige, bei der der Genuss mit der lebendigen Ausführung zusammenfällt, und deren Wirkungskreis am Umfang dem des antiken Dramas entspricht.  Und wohl mag der Deutsche die Musik, in der er König ist vor allen Völkern, feiern und pflegen, denn wie es nur ihm gelungen ist, das Höchste und Heiligste, das innerste Geheimnis des menschlichen Gemüts aus seiner verborgenen Tiefe and Licht zu bringen und in Tönen auszusprechen, so ist es auch nur ihm gegeben, die Gewalt der Musik ganz zu empfinden, die Sprache der Instrumente und des Gesanges durch und durch zu verstehen. / Aber die Musik ist dabei nicht die Hauptsache.  Was denn?  Nun, das Musikfest. Sowenig das Zentrum einen Kreis bildet ohne Peripherie, sowenig ist die Musik dabei irgend etwas, ohne das fröhliche gesellige Leben, das die Peripherie zu diesem musikalischen Zentrum bildet. Der Rheinländer ist durch und durch sanguinischer Natur. . . .”  Cf.

The following abstract of a paper read by Glenn Stanley on 17 October 1987 to the American Musicological Society, entitled “A prelude to Bayreuth?  The theory and practice of the German music festival, 1810-1848,” is worth citing here: “Discussions of Wagner’s cultural politics have tended to concentrate on the development and influence of Bayreuth in imperial and fascist Germany.  I would like to move from Bayreuth backwards into the first half of the nineteenth century, during which Wagner developed the theoretical basis for Bayreuth that first found expression in [his] mid-century writings such as Die Kunst und die Revolution and Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft. / The theory and practice of the music festivals before 1850 provided Wagner with an Urform of his Festspiele.  Consisting of concert and social activities lasting several days, the most prestigious festivals attracted musicians and guests from all over Germany, and were covered by the general as well as the musical press. / The festivals flourished after the liberation from Napoleonic France in an environment conductive to grand manifestations of cultural nationalism.  The music of the festivals, particularly the religious music, was considered a supreme product of German culture and, therefore, a potent agent in the inculcation of a German identity.  Although festivals did not vanish from German musical life after 1850, the revolution of 1848 marks the end of their halcyon days, for it destroyed the perhaps unrealistic notion that music could exert a positive force in public life.  But this was a lesson that Wagner refused to accept, and the impulses he received from the festivals helped shape his image of Bayreuth as a musical institution of cultural politics.”

25  MEW, xxxvi, 311: “Du und Kautsky, Ihr scheint Euch gegenseitig soviel Trübsal zuzublasen, ass man ein ganzes Konzert in Moll davon machen könnte, es ist ganz wie die osaune bei Wagner, die auch immer loslegt, wenn irgendein Pech passiert. . . .”

26  Cf. Engels’s approval, in his letter (cited above) of 11 March 1841 to his sister, of the use of trombones in the finale of Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

27  MEW, xxxiv, 25: “Hier ist jetzt alles Zukunft seit dem Getrommel der Zukunftsmusik in Bayeuth.”

28  Eduard Bernstein, Erinnerungen eines Sozialisten, i, Aus den Jahren meines Exils (Völker zu Hause) (Berlin, 1915), pp. 230-31: “Sozialist der Marxschen Schule, . . . war dieser künstlerisch gebildete Mann [Charles Bonnier, also known by his pseudonym, “Charles Bernard”] zugleich ein leidenschaftlicher Verehrer Richard Wagners und pilgerte fast regelmässig nach Bayreuth zu den dortigen Festspielen.  Er war uns ein lieber Freund, und wenn er an den Sonntagabenden bei Engels sich dazu verstand, uns deutsch oder französische Lieder vorzusingen, war das stets mit grossem Dank entgegengenommen; denn er hatte eine sehr klangvolle Baritonstimme und trug die Lieder mit grossem Kunstverständnis vor.  Zwishen ihm und Engels gab das Thema Wagner manchen Anlass zum Disput. . . .”  Cf.

Available also in Hans Magnus Enzensberger, ed., Gespräche mit Marx und Engels (Frankfurt am Main, 1973), p. 630.  This book will be cited below as Gespräche.

29  MEW, xxi, 43: “In einem Brief vom Frühjahr 1882 spricht Marx sich in den stärksten Ausrücken aus über die im Wagnerischen Nibelungentext herrschende totale erfälschung der Urzeit. . . .”  Cf.

30  “Dann sank ich in die Töne stumm.”  The poem, entitled “Armida von Ritter Gluck,” is printed in Karl Marx/ Friedrich Engels, Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe.  Erste Abteilung, Band 1, Zweiter Halbband (Berlin, 1929), p. 9.  It is from a collection of some 60 poems which Marx wrote as a teenager and dedicated (unpublished) in 1837 to his father.  Some of the other poems in this set refer to music, for instance the one entitled “Harmonie” (ibid., pp. 45-46), the first and last strophes of which are as follows:

“Kennst du das süsse Zauberbild, Wo Seelen ineinander fliessen, In einem Hauche sich ergiessen, Melodisch voll und freundlich mild?  Sie glühen auf in einer Purpurrose, Und bergen sich verschämt im weichen Moose.

. . .

Es ähnelt wohl dem Zitherklang, Gespielt auf einer ew’gen Leier, In stetem Glühen, steter Feier, In hohem, sehnsuchtsvollen Drang.  O! horch den Saiten, die in dir erschallen Zu suchen wird dein Fuss nicht weiter wallen.”

However, these sentiments seem to me so conventional that I am not quite convinced that they were genuine.

31  Gespräche, pp. 320-22: “Die beste Freundin meiner Mutter war Frau Tenge, geborene Bolongaro-Crevenna aus Frankfurt am Main. . . .  Die Freundinnen besuchten sich öfter, und Frau Tenge nannte ein kleines Fremdzimmer, das sie stets bei uns bewohnte, ‘mein Zimmer’.  Jetzt schrieb meine Mutter ihr von dem interessanten Besuch (Marx) und forderte die auf, nach Hannover zu kommen, um ihn kennenzulernen.  Frau Tenge ging mit Freuden auf den Vorschlag ein und meldete sich für die nächsten Tage an.  Marx’ gegenwärtiges Schlafzimmer war nun ‘ihr Zimmer’, und deshalb bat meine Mutter ihn, während ihrer Anwesenheit ein anders zu beziehen.  Die liebenswürdige Frau, die künstlerisch Klavier spielte, gefiel Marx ausserordentlich.  Es waren wunderschöne Tage, die, gemeinsam in anregendster Unterhaltung und froher Laune verlebt, allen unvergesslich blieben. . . .  In der Poesie hatte Marx den edelsten Geschmack. . . .  Von den Spaniern war Calderón sein besonderer Liebling.  Er hatte verschiedene von dessen Dichtungen auch jetzt bei sich und las öfter daraus vor.  Abends und am liebsten in der Dämmerung lauschten sie gern Frau Tenges meisterhaftem Klavierspiel.  Sie hatte zufällig ihr Fremdenbuch mit nach Hannover genommen, um es neu einbinden zu lassen, was weder in dem kleinen Rheda noch dem ziemlich nahen Bielefeld so gut wie in der grösseren Stadt möglich war.  Als sie nun bald nach Hause zurückkehren musste, bat sie Marx, sich darin ein- zuschreiben, da er in ihrem Zimmer gewohnt habe, also eigentlich auch ihr Gast gewesen sei. Marx erfüllte ihren Wunsch und schrieb:

‘La vida es sueño, un frenesí, una ilusión, So lehrt uns Meister Calderón. Doch zähl ich’s zu den schönsten Illusionen, Das Fremdenbuch Tenge-Crevenna zu bewohnen.’

Nachdem Frau Tenge abgereist war, entdeckte meine Mutter zufällig einen Zettel mit Versen, aus denen die obenstehenden entnommen waren.  Sie lauteten:

‘La vida es sueño, un frenesí, una ilusión, So lehrt uns Meister Calderón. Doch wenn Tonmeere Deiner Hand entschäumen, Möcht’ ich für alle Ewigkeiten träumen.

Es zähmt des Lebens wilde Phrenesie Der Zauber weiblich edler Hermonie, Doch zähl ich’s zu den schönsten Illusionen, Das Fremdenbuch Tenge-Crevenna zu bewohnen.’

Meine Eltern bedauerten es sehr, dass nur ein Bruchstück dieser schönen Gedanken niedergeschrieben war, aber Marx erwiderte, dass für ein Fremdenbuch diese Strophen zuviel gewesen seien.”

32  A well-made German piano of the 1860s (such as the Kugelmanns would most likely have been able to afford: see Edna Healey, Wives of Fame, London, 1986, p. 172) would have been of distinctly higher quality than an English pianino such as the Marx family in 1854 is more likely to have had in their home for their daughter’s piano lessons with Mr. Henry Banner (see Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx, London, 1972, vol. I, pp. 32, 36 and 49).

33  MEW, Ergänzungsband i, p. 432: “[Sallet] glaubt vielmehr, die vernünftige Wahrheit nur im Gegensatz gegen die eilige Wahrheit, glaubte, den sittlichen Menschen nur im Gegensatz gegen en christlichen Menschen geltend machen zu können.”

34  Loc. cit.: “Sie leiden an einem Grundmangel, an der Unpoesie, und überhaupt, welch ein verkehrter Einfall, theologische Kontroversen poetish behandeln zu wollen!  Ist es je einem Komponisten eingefallen, die Dogmatik in Musik zu setzten?. . .”  (Quite a few composers of liturgical music between ca.1425 and ca.1825 did, however, set the Credo to music.)

Perhaps also worth mention here is that (according to David Leopold, in The Young Karl Marx: German Philosophy, Modern Politics, and Human Flourishing, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007, pp. 30-31), “Marx’s daughter Eleanor — in a series of biographical notes made . . . in 1895 — recorded a number of family reminiscences from this period [1843-44] in Paris. . . .  Her father, she recalled, not only admired Heine as a poet, but also had genuine affection for him: ‘He would even make excuses for Heine’s political vagaries. . . .'”

35  MEW, Ergänzungsband i, 541-42: “Wie erst die Musik den musikalischen Sinn des Menschen erweckt, wie für das unmusikalische Ohr die schönste Musik keinen Sinn hat, (kein) Gegenstand ist, weil mein Gegenstand nur die Bestätigung einer meiner Wesenkräfte sein kann, also nur so für mich sein kann, wie meine Wesenkraft als subjektive Fähigkeit für sich ist, weil der Sinn eines Gegenstandes für mich (nur Sinn für einen ihm entsprechenden Sinn hat) grade so weit geht, als mein Sinn geht, darum sind die Sinne des gesellschaftlichen Menschen andre Sinne wie die des ungesellschaftlichen, erst durch den gegenständlich entfalteten Reichtum des menschlichen Wesens wird der Reichtum der subjektiven menschlichen Sinnlichkeit, wird ein musikalisches Ohr, ein Auge für die Schönheit der Form, kurz, werden erst menschlicher Genüsse fähige Sinne, Sinne, welche als menschliche Wesenkräfte sich bestätigen, teils erst ausgebildet, teils erst erzeugt.  Denn nicht nur die 5 Sinne, sondern auch die sogenannten geistigen Sinne, die praktischen Sinne (Wille, Liebe etc.), mit einem Wort der menschliche Sinn, die Menschlichkeit der Sinne, wird erst durch das Dasein seines Gegenstandes, durch die vermenschlichte Natur. Die Bildung der 5 Sinne ist eine Arbeit der ganzen bisherigen Weltgeschichte. . . .” Cf.

36  Wilhelm Liebknecht, Karl Marx, zum Gedächtniss. Ein Lebensabriss und Erinnerungen (Nuremberg, 1896), pp. 72-73: “Der Heimweg von Hampstead Heath war stets sehr lustig. . . .  Gewöhnlich wurde ein Lied angestimmt. Politische Lieder nur selten, meist Volkslieder. . . z.B. ‘O Straßburg, o Straßburg, du wunderschöne Stadt’, das sich außerordentlicher Beliebtheit erfreute. . . .”) (“The walk home from Hampstead Heath was always very merry. . . .  Usually a song would be started up — political songs only seldom, mostly popular songs . . . for example, O Straßburg, O Straßburg, du wunderschöne Stadt, which was a great favorite.”)  (Available also in Gespräche, pp. 234-35.)

37  Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Moscow, 1939; suppressed by Stalin, and the main text accordingly omitted in MEW; but then a facsimile of the 1939 edition was published in Frankfurt and Vienna), p. 80: “[A]uf früheren Stufen der sozialen Entwicklung das einzelne Individuum vollich lächerlich . . . ist, sich nach jener ursprünglichen Fülle zurückzusehen, so lächerlich ist der Glaube, bei jener vollen Entleerung (Charakteristik für den Kapitalismus des 19. Jahrhunderts) stehenbleiben zu müssen.  Über den Gegensatz gegen jene romantische Ansicht ist die bürgerliche nie herausgekommen und darum wird jene als berechtigter Gegensatz sie bis an ihr seliges Ende begleiten.” Cf.  This book will be cited below as Grundrisse.

38  Wilhelm Liebknecht, Karl Marx, zum Gedächtniss. . . . (Nuremberg, 1896), pp. 82-84: “Wir . . . kamen . . . bis ans Ende der Tottenham Court Road.  Dort ertönte aus einem Public-House lauter Gesang; wir traten ein und erfuhren, dass ein Klub der Odd Fellows — einer über ganz England verbreiteten Gesellschaft mit Kranken- und Begräbnis-kassen — ein Fest hatte.  Wir kamen mit einigen der “Festgenossen” zusammen, die uns “Foreigners” mit englischer Gastlichkeit sofort zu sich in eines der Zimmer einluden.  Wir folgten in bester Laune, und das Gespräch kam natürlich auf die Politik — dass wir deutsche Flüchtlinge waren, hatte man sofort bemerkt. . . .  Eine Zeitlang ging alles gut. Wir mussten tüchtig anstossen und Toaste ausbringen und anhören. Da trat plötzlich ein Unerwartes ein. . . .  Edgar Bauer, durch irgendein Wort verletzt, drehte den Spiess um und verspottete die englischen Snobs.  Marx liess eine enthusiastische Lobrede auf die deutsche Wissenschaft und Musik vom Stapel — kein anderes Land habe Tonkünstler wie Beethoven, Mozart, Händel and Haydn erzeugen können, und die Engländer, die keine Musik hätten, stünden im Grunde tief unter den Deutschen, die bisher durch die elenden politischen und wirtschaftlichen Zustände an grosser praktischer Arbeit verhindert worden seien, aber noch allen anderen Völkern voran kommen würden.  So fliessend habe ich ihn nie englisch sprechen gehört. Ich meinesteils setzte in drastischen Worten auseinander, dass die politischen Zustände in England um kein Haarbreit besser seien als in Deutschland. . . , der einzige Unterschied sei, dass wir Deutsche wüssten, unser Staatswesen sei miserabel, und die Engländer wüssten es nicht. . . .  Als Edgar Bauer dann  . . . auf die englische Heuchelei — den cant zu reden kam, da erscholl aus der Gesell- schaft ein leises: Damned foreigners!, dem bald ein lautres folgte.  Es gab Drohworte, die Köpfe erhitzten sich, Fäuste fuchtelten in der Luft und — wir waren vernünftig genug, den besseren Teil des Muts zu erwählen, und bewerkstelligten, nicht ganz ohne Schwierigkeit, einen passabel würdigen Rückzug.”  (Available also in Gespräche, pp. 256-57.)

39  Marx, Grundrisse, p.505:”. . . was keineswegs meint, dass sie blosser Spass sei, blosses amusement, wie Fourier es sehr grisettenmässig naiv auffasst.  Wirklich freie Arbeit, z.B. Komponieren ist grade zugleich verdammtester Ernst, intensivste Anstrengung.  Die Arbeit der materiellen Produktion kann diesen Charakter nur erhalten, dadurch dass 1) ihr gesellschaftlicher Charakter gesetzt ist, 2) dass sie wissenschaftlichen Charakters, zugleich allgemeine Arbeit ist, nicht Anstrengung des Menschen als bestimmt dressierte Naturkraft, sondern als Subjekt, das in dem Produktionsprozess nicht in bloss natürlicher, naturwüchsiger Form, sondern als alle Naturkräfte regelnde Tätigkeit erscheint.”  Cf.

40  Selections from the Works of Fourier (London, 1901; published later New York as Design for Utopia, Selected Writings of Charles Fourier), pp. 163-70. Harmonian Man, Selected Writings of Charles Fourier (New York, 1971), pp. 180-90.

41  Theodore Heinsius’s Volkthümliches Wörterbuch. . . (Hannover, 1818) defined “Componieren” as “zusammensetzen, mischen; tonsetzen, tondichten,” and this definition was repeated in several mid-century dictionaries, for instance the third edition of Kaltschmidt’sVollständiges stamm und sinnverwandtschaftliches Gesamt-Wörterbuch. . . (Nördlingen, 1851).  Oertel’s Grammatisches Wörterbuch. . . (München, 1829) defined “Komponiren” merely as “in Noten setzen,” and Sanders’s authoritative Wörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache (Leipzig, 1860) confirms the prime status of the music-related meaning: “Komponieren (lat.): 1) tr.: zusammensetzen und nam. (Mus.) in Noten setzen, (als Tonkünstler) setzen. . . .”

42  Marx, Die deutsche Ideologie (1845-46), MEW, iii, 33: “Sowie nämlich die Arbeit verteilt zu werden anfängt, hat Jeder einen bestimmten ausschliesslichen Kreis der Tätigkeit, der ihm aufgedrängt wird, aus dem er nicht heraus kann; er ist Jäger, Fischer oder Hirt oder kritischer Kritiker und muss es bleiben, wenn er nicht die Mittel zum Leben verlieren will — während in der kommunistischen Gesellschaft, wo Jeder nicht einen ausschliesslichen Kreis der Tätigkeit hat, sondern sich in jedem beliebigen Zweige ausbilden kann, die Gesellschaft die allgemeine Produktion regelt und mir eben dadurch möglich macht, heute dies, morgen jenes zu tun, morgens zu jagen, nachmittags zu fischen, abends Viehzucht zu trieben, nach dem Essen zu kritisieren, wie ich gerade Lust habe, ohne je Jäger, Fischer, Hirt oder Kritiker zu werden.”  Cf.

Analogous remarks written by Engels in 1847 are to be found in his Grundsätze des Kommunismus (“Principles of Communism), #20: “Die durch die Maschinen schon jetzt undergrabene Teilung der Arbeit, die den einen zum Bauern, den anderen zum Schuster, den dritten zum Fabrikarbeiter, den vierten zum Börsenspekulanten macht, wird gänzlich verschwinden.  Die Erziehung wird die jungen Leute . . . der Reihe nach von einem zum anderen Produktionszweig überzugehen, je nachdem die Bedürfnisse der Gesellschaft oder ihre eigenen Neigungen” (MEW, iv, 376).  “The division of labor making one man a peasant, another a shoemaker, a third a factory worker, a fourth a stock-market speculator, which has already been undermined by machines, will . . . entirely disappear.  Education will enable young people . . . to shift successively from one to another branch of production, according to the needs of society or their own inclinations.”  Cf.

43  Grundrisse, p. 593.  “Diebstahl an fremder Arbeitszeit, worauf der jetzige Reichtum beruht, erscheint miserable Grundlage gegen diese neuentwickelte, durch die grosse Industrie selbst geschaffene. Sobald die Arbeit in unmittelbarer Form aufgehört hat, die grosse Quelle des Reichtums zu sein, . . . die Surplus-arbeit der Masse hat aufgehört Bedingung für die Entwicklung des allgemeinen Reichtums zu sein, ebenso wie die Nicht-arbeit der Wenigen für die Entwicklung der allgemeinen Mächte des menschlichen Kopfes.”  (In the context of his other statements cited here, it is clear that Marx meant that “the few” who did no work were patrons of the arts, not the artists themselves.)  Cf.

44  Grundrisse, p. 212: “. . . teils indem er unsere Invidualität tatkräftiger, lebensvoller stimmt, oder auch in dem gemeinen Sinn, dass er ein neues Bedürfnis erweckt, zu dessen Befriedigung mehr Fleiss in der unmittelbaren materiellen Produktion angewandt wird.”  Cf.

45  MEW xxvi, Erster Teil, p. 377: “Eine Sängerin, die auf ihre eigene Faust ihren Gesang verkauft, ist ein unproduktiver Arbeiter.  Aber dieselbe Sängerin, von einem entrepreneur engagiert, der sie singen lässt, um Geld zu machen, ist ein produktiver Arbeiter; denn sie produziert Kapital.”  Cf.

46  Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of poetry, the last sentence.  See his Complete works (New York, 1965), vii, 140.  Cf.

47  Plato, Politeia (“The Republic”), 424c. Plato’s Nomoi (“Laws”) includes (iii, 700c-701b) the following remarks: “[M]usic was early divided among us into certain kinds and manners . . . [which were] duly distinguished [from each other], nor were the performers allowed to confuse one style of music with another.  And the authority which determined and gave judgment, and punished the disobedient, was not expressed in a hiss, nor in the most unmusical shouts of the multitude, as in our days, nor in applause and clapping of hands.  But the directors of public instruction insisted that the spectators should listen in silence to the end; and boys and their tutors, and the multitude in general, were kept quiet by a hint from a stick.  Such was the good order which the multitude were willing to observe; they would never have dared to give judgment by noisy cries.  And then, as time went on, the poets themselves introduced the reign of vulgar and lawless innovation.  They were men of genius, but they had no perception of what is just and lawful in music; raging like Bacchanals and possessed with inordinate delights — mingling lamentations with hymns, and paeans with dithyrambs; imitating the sounds of the flute on the lyre, and making one general confusion; ignorantly affirming that music has no truth, and, whether good or bad, can only be judged of rightly by the pleasure of the hearer.  And by composing such licentious works, and adding to them words as licentious, they have inspired the multitude with lawlessness and boldness, and made them fancy that they can judge for themselves about melody and song.  And in this way the theatres from being mute have become vocal, as though they had understanding of good and bad in music and poetry; and instead of an aristocracy, an evil sort of theatrocracy has grown up.  For if the democracy which judged had only consisted of educated persons, no fatal harm would have been done; but in music there first arose the universal conceit of omniscience and general lawlessness; freedom came following afterwards. . . .  Consequent upon this freedom [in music and theatrical arts] comes the other freedom, of disobedience to rulers; and then the attempt to escape the control and exhortation of father, mother, elders, and when near the end, the control of the laws also; and at the very end there is the contempt of oaths and pledges, and no regard at all for the Gods. . . .”  Cf. and, the last long paragraph before the end of Chapter 3.

Mark Lindley is a musicologist as well as a historian of modern India.

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