Texts from the booklet of the 2nd Symphony (2010)
MARTIN SCHERBER (1907–1974)
“Art must become necessary, must be taken to such a level
that all existence and creation breathe freedom and love of mankind,
which are the time to come." Martin Scherber (1972)
Listening to symphonies by this composer one might ask why he used this particular
style of musical expression while avant-garde composers of his day were experimenting with both atonality and technical media and striving to “emancipate music” from all tradition (F. X. Ohnesorg: “Die Befreiung der Musik” [The Emancipation of Music]).
So a few remarks on Martin Scherber’s life and work may be in order.
He began writing music when he was thirteen. Even at this age he noticed “how I was embedded in something, enveloped as it were in music, in a womb of sound. My consciousness was different to that of everyday.” These puzzling experiences led to a long quest to explore the change of consciousness which he had at first only sensed.
He began to develop a meditative approach to dealing with the inner and outer worlds, trying to build a bridge between the two. At about the age of seventeen he stumbled on the extensive works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) and on writings about the theory and practice of cognition by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). From then on he tested their ideas in his own way.
NEW FORMS OF GAINING KNOWLEDGE
During his years at University for Music and Performing Arts (1925–1928, Munich) and in musical theatre (1929–1933 Aussig, Elbe), Scherber made studies of both historical and contemporary music, but also began laying the foundations for a creative interaction with the world. From the scientific method he took the strict and exact approach of testing theory against experimental practice. He soon noted that this form of cognition, operating as it does in the relative sphere of phenomena, may well affect matters of life, the soul and existence, but can help little in understanding these areas.
To understand the origins of music, it seemed to him necessary to study life, soul and spirit themselves in depth, and to this end he developed new techniques of spiritual work. These used artistic means to extend the scientific method, resulting in an expansion of consciousness itself.
Concentration and meditation, he discovered, can strengthen inner forces in such a way that – if one succeeds – one can achieve entrance to higher realms of soul and spirit. “My soul is becoming increasingly able to experience things independently of my body”, he wrote in a letter at the start of 1933, the year in which he withdrew from public life and moved back to Nuremberg as a freelance music teacher and composer.
TRANSPOSED EXPERIENCE – A PARADOX AS A SOURCE FOR ART
For Scherber, these higher experiences of emancipation became clearer and ever
more important factors in his life — particularly so, in all probability, during the work
on his first symphony (1938). Gradually – one should not underestimate the difficulties to be overcome on this path of experience – he acquired abilities by which he grew as a person of free mind and spirit, learning to cross the various boundaries and enter the hidden part, the interior, of the external world as a pioneer. This, of course, must seem a completely ridiculous notion to present-day consciousness, restricted as it is by traditional ideas from science and technology. “With constant practice,” Scherber wrote in one of his rare notes, “the will is torn free of the body. We leave behind the world of the senses, the body – we enter that world which gave birth to the world of the senses, from which the sense-world is condensed.”
An artist choosing this path gradually discovers everything anew, both inwardly and
outwardly, and his actions are determined by his discoveries. This includes the creation of “genuine” music. Scherber realised that there is no whole without both aspects, the reality of the world and of human experience. Only by uniting both can one who has taken the path described achieve true humanity. This is why such experiences are significant in a broadly human sense, and not solely on the individual level. In this process, artistic inspiration and human abilities of a higher order are born. One discovers how to act autonomously in the world. The poet Novalis (1771–1801) referred to this idea:
“The outer world is an inner one, raised to the level of a mystery – and perhaps the
converse, too, is true.” (Novalis: ‘Broullion’). Scherber formulated this as follows:
“... Today we have no idea ... what it means to experience life, as it were, ‘in a transposition of viewpoints.’ Inside, there is not the subject but the object, the world; outside, there is not the world, the object, but oneself.” What is here experienced “cannot be expressed in words but initially only in sound images: dramatic, symphonic events. The important thing is that the creative person is more awake, more aware during the act of creation (raised level of consciousness), what is experienced is more real!”
As many composers, performers and listeners have realised, the spiritual quality of ‘genuine’ music, means that it lies near the creative sources of the world. (Josef Rufer: ‚Bekenntnisse und Erkenntnisse – Komponisten über ihr Werk’ [Confessions and Perceptions – Composers on their Works]).
THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
The motive of independence, of emerging from the ‘shadow of the classics’, the desire for a new beginning in all artistic creation and the search for harmony between man and the world, which have appeared time and again among 20th-century composers — all these factors indicate that in future, music will depend on developing a higher level of freedom. With the right training, those seeking new shores can produce music with future promise as the free expression of their expanding being. Pioneering forms of music developed by the classic composers up to the end of the 19th century will then remain in part the means of expression for the new dimensions opened up, whose musical goal is the realisation of creative harmony of man and the world: “Atonality is a desperate attempt to recreate cosmic harmonies through the application of present-day emotional and mental abilities! But this task requires new forms of experience that expand the boundaries of perception.” (to Friedrich Gulda, 1971)
Martin Scherber was run over by a drunk driver in 1970, shortly before his symphonic works were published. Despite grave injuries he lost neither his mental faculties nor his sense of humour. He spent the next three and a half years in a wheelchair, partially paralysed, and died at the beginning of 1974 of acute renal failure resulting from the accident.
GREAT METAMORPHOSIS SYMPHONY IN F MINOR
“Music should stimulate everything. The events of the world are summarised in
perhaps the briefest way possible.” Martin Scherber (1964)
Almost unnoticed, a decisive new start was made in music with the appearance of
metamorphosis. Life itself penetrated both the creators of these beginnings of
metamorphosis and also the work of the performers and the audience, which became more active. Creativity in composition gradually became mature enough to raise to a conscious level the musical sources associated with it and which flowed through the world and through human beings. Some remarks follow on how these things originated; it will be noticed how personal biography and creative work are interwoven in a characteristic manner.
During his work on the Second Symphony (1951–52), Scherber wrote to his long-time friend, the conductor Fred Thürmer: “I am of course working on a 2nd symphony. ... It means living in what lies behind our world. It’s all about raising consciousness more and more. When you deal with these things, you have something. You’re not looking for different means of expression. They just present themselves quite clearly. Nor do you ask yourself whether a triad is the right thing, or something “atonal”. You can only be atonal when you put free intellectual thinking into the music. But that’s not what music needs. What must be put into music is the result of this free thinking, the powerful spiritual ego –– what lies ‘in back of’ the world – so that it can be perceived. ... It is always about making use of higher ego, which must first be separated from the physical element, in order to perceive things in the relevant spheres.”
THE METAMORPHOSIS OF MUSIC – THE DAWN OF FUTURE SYMPHONIC WORK
In classical and romantic symphonies musical metamorphoses appeared like
germinating motifs, audible seeds. Concentrated, they formed individual themes
which in their execution began to take over symphonic sound structure to an ever
greater and greater degree as a musical ‘track left by life’. “Anyone who can truly
experience music ... will penetrate what is known as spheres of life and there will
find the principle of metamorphosis reigning” (to Wilhelm Kempff, 1971)
Martin Scherber converted life in metamorphoses into a real style of symphonic
creation – especially in his inner struggle with the methods of composition of his
contemporaries. One result was that the classic form of the symphony with its
individual movements, with the new content gained from the ‘global stream of life’
and with ‘objective musical logic’ – was synthesised into a symphonic organism.
Scherber had perfect pitch. He could translate what he had experienced in the
‘sea of creative sounds’, in the weaving of ‘infinite melodies’ into physical notes,
distil their relationships with each other and render what could be experienced as
independent activity and that provided by an act of grace in full dynamic, symphonic
sound. Compared with listening to variations, processes of musical transformation
like this demand a far more intense inner activity and participation. If this activity is
lacking, the boredom quickly becomes unbearable. Ludwig van Beethoven tried to
capture the art of metamorphosis in all its rigour in his late string quartets, which
seemed strange to his contemporaries. With Anton Bruckner, metamorphosis
made a large-scale break-through in the great symphonies. Both of these
composers are bearers of the seeds of metamorphosis, appearing like stars
in the night sky to usher in a new world of future music.
While Scherber was working on his symphony in 1951, he wrote the following to
Thürmer regarding its form and content: “In my Second Symphony I live, for example, in continuous awareness of the whole sound event; I constantly take care that the spiritual thread is not broken. This means that it remains an organised design throughout – something overheard from the hidden beings of the world. As to the answer to the question: harmony or not, I don't go into it at all, since I am in fact
capturing content that we contemporary people do not yet possess. And to be able
to let this come through in the body of the sound, I need absolutely everything.”
And later in 1956: “The form is certainly developing in the Second, that is, it
surrenders, live ... It wasn't set down from the start, as it has been for almost all
composers to date. ... With this theme I move through all kinds of worlds, through
all kinds of sound at one point. ... I pass through dramatic worlds, through deadly
shivers and regions of death but Death turns out to be a helper, as the most sincere
and reliable friend in all my travels; his gifts, the great blessings, make it possible
for people to be at one with everything – to find the God of All. In the end each motif,
each part acts harmoniously to create the Whole once more.”
Consonances and dissonances emerge from the fabric of metamorphosis. Those who can master both will gain the future. Sweet sentimentality and barbaric structures have vanished from the music. Although dissonances propel the symphonic movement forward powerfully, even aggressively, they provide further steps in the spiritual development of the symphony if they are kept in bounds. “Nothing can be achieved with speculative dissonances – at most mere destruction, the annihilation of all true art.” (to Herbert von Karajan 1973).
Scherber attempted to experience every note, to handle it with awareness and love,
then to let it take its place in the whole.
Towards the end of the symphony, a particularly dramatic dissonance builds, charged with tension . “At many points it would petrify you to the core and make you fear for the future,” Scherber wrote to his friend in September 1951. The work is about pain and death – about achieving life – about liberating oneself to reach the distant light.
So the long journey through the symphonic cosmos of the Second Symphony ends
with resounding liberation. In the following crescendo, everything that has hitherto
occurred is echoed, reaching heights whose power and majesty lead to the end of
the audible symphony – to a silence filled with power. So the last ‘note’ written by the composer in the symphony’s score is a fermata which accentuates this stream of peace.
‘THROUGH’ THE AUTHOR
As described here, Martin Scherber acquired the art of perceiving on differing levels.
Those who achieve this learn to take a neutral view of their own creations. They will
understand why, on his scores, a composer writes ‘through’ Martin Scherber, not ‘by’.
When the artist experiences what lies ‘in back of’ the world, his relationship to his work and also to his audience is fundamentally altered. On the one hand it becomes more impersonal but on the other, more individual. This means that inner and outer experience are both more deeply felt in the sense of the ‘transposition of viewpoints’ mentioned in the biography above, so that both can be summarised and expressed by the artist with a certain objectivity and universality.
Scherber’s pioneering achievement was not waiting for ideas or producing intellectual models, but moving freely in the waters music springs from and opening new horizons of significance for man. As he wrote in 1952 to Wilhelm Furtwängler about the Second Symphony: “Not a single bar is artificial.”
Listen, then, and hear — if you will.
Friedwart M. Kurras
* * * * * * * * *
Martin Scherber and his Third Symphony - texts from the booklet of the Third Symphony
Martin Scherber - Personal-Unpersonal
"It is not that the soul loves music.
The soul is music.
Everything unmusical destroys the soul."
The composer of the symphony recorded here was born in 1907 in Nuremberg. After
early public appearances as a pianist and composer, he studied at the Akademie der Tonkunst in Munich and then was active as opera kapellmeister and chorus director in Aussig. Later he returned to the city of the Meistersinger as a freelance composer. There he wrote his musical lifework: songs, choruses, piano pieces, and three symphonies published in the early seventies.
Already in his youth he felt that music was born deep inside humanity, without any
models in the external world. From that realization - at a time when the musical
developments of the twentieth century were taking entirely different paths - his life’s
goal grew. He wanted to find the origins of the source from which music and its laws flow.
Scherber was born with an extraordinary talent in technical matters. His father, the first contrabassist in the municipal opera orchestra, wanted him to become an engineer. Internalizing these practical abilities, he transformed his musicality through disciplined activities in realization (meditation) in such a way that he succeeded in discovering the “source waters of music.” New worlds opened up inside him. It became clear to him that
European music, which grew out of a religious context and passed through a period of individuality and subjectivity - in romanticism with an emphasis on feeling, and in
modernism on the intellectual and sensual - must be broadened through an approach based on meditation. It would then become clear that the human being is, through conscious internal activities, connected by soul and spirit to the objective surroundings of the soul and spirit in the cosmos. This world is where the sources of musical inspiration lie. As a person matures, they could be experienced with increasing differentiation and individuality. The insight to be gained in this way allows human and musical evolution to be seen in an entirely new light, because they lead into the depths of the human being and of nature. The refinements that depend on the possibilities of scientific and technical data manipulation, and the introduction of media developed from them, conceal the danger of losing the human element in music. An art attained through “soul techniques” based on meditation might have the potential to help here. Not without reason did his contemporaries speak of the inner strength and warmth that lives in this Nuremberg composer’s symphonic music. He received outstanding praise for his œuvre even from men such as Edwin Fischer and Wilhelm Furtwängler. That he had to remain a solitary figure in the twentieth century is surely part of the fate of having been active in a age rich in dramatic and tragic contrasts.
Anyone who perceives Scherber’s symphonies “with the heart” as well and without
prejudice will feel that the development of the symphony that passes through Beethoven, who was increasingly deaf but nonetheless “heard” with Promethean energies, or through Bruckner, who reached “into the heavens” spiritually, is consciously continued here.
By discovering the path to artistic realization discussed above, Martin Scherber was
able to give new life to the symphony, including its formal aspects, and create an
organism filled with soul and spirit.
The composer had intended to publish his symphonies only after his death. A few weeks after friends came up with the idea of publishing them on the occasion of the anniversary of Dürer’s birth in 1971, Martin Scherber was hit by a drunken driver.
A projected fourth symphony and an opera remained unwritten. He died in early 1974 from the consequences of the accident in Dürer’s city, Nuremberg.
Friedwart M. Kurras
Translation: Steven Lindberg
Martin Scherber’s Third Symphony
At the turn of the twentieth century there was a dramatic break in the evolution
of music: Schoenberg’s twelve-tone compositions began a move away from tonality
but also toward constructional techniques that created a new language for artistic
expression. Martin Scherber’s Third Symphony takes an entirely different, individual path that avoids this break with what classicism and romanticism achieved but still leads to new, more profound dimensions. This music, formed entirely from inner experiences and developing through vigorous metamorphoses, owes its existence not to a constructional idea but to the composer’s experience derived from meditation and schooled through concentration.
Thus, on the one hand, Scherber’s Third Symphony builds unmistakably on Bruckner’s symphonic œuvre. For example, the ostinato rhythmical figure that enters in the very first measure and comes alive again and again over the course of the symphony, especially in passages that increase in intensity, clearly recalls Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony. This rhythmical figure illuminates the theme that develops in the lower register over forty-fix bars. The passage that leads into a “concluding ceremony of robust sonority” (W. Abendroth) also finds its models in Bruckner’s symphonic œuvre.
On the other hand, in addition to these recollections of the known, the familiar (which
naturally penetrates one’s consciousness more easily), the listener is exposed to
impressions and experiences that point to new, still undiscovered things.
Scherber’s Third is not subdivided into movements; even so, an inner structure becomes evident that on closer analysis proves to consist of twelve parts. Each section introduces entirely new facets and impressions so that the astonished listener is guided into new worlds of experience. The relations among the sections is achieved not simply by bracketing them within a single movement; far more significant is the inner thread that runs through the entire symphony: everything originates and develops out of the theme’s motifs. In this case “everything” means that the various voices always retain a connection to the theme: there is not simply a horizontal “exposition” in a single voice but the “accompanying” instruments also take up motifs and their variants, resulting in an immense vertical density of internal relationships. In contrast to Bruckner’s œuvre, no monumental blocks are set up, there are no abrupt breaks and reversals: the symphony always develops through motivic metamorphoses that can also be understood logically. Powerful waves of intensification that then fade, alternation of voices, of light and shadow - all these things give the symphony an inner, breathing rhythm.
Bruckner structured his symphonies according to the rules of counterpoint, scrupulously working out the formal structure down to the metrical details. To understand what is new about Scherber’s symphonies, we have to consider his personal compositional development. A critical moment for him was Goethe’s discovery of metamorphosis as the fundamental principle of organic growth and decay. Goethe saw that the forms of living things were variants of an underlying type - for example, the form of the limbs of the dolphin, the horse, and the human being share a common basic structure. The key to Goethe’s ability to recognize these metamorphoses is found in a remark he made in 1819 (“Über Purkinje”): “I had a gift: when I closed my eyes, lowered my head, and imagined a flower in the center of my visual field, I did not become fixated for even a moment on its initial form but instead dissected it, and from inside new flowers would unfold. It was impossible to halt the gushing creation; it lasted as long as I wished, did not grow tired and did not intensify.” Goethe experienced within himself a continual metamorphosis that took place internally according to its autonomous life. In his botanical and zoological studies he found this same regularity as a formative principle in living nature.
Through constant practice and training, Scherber reinforced and developed this ability in himself within the realm of music. His musical œuvre did not “compose” in the literal sense - i.e., did not “put things together” - but was increasingly the inwardly experienced self-realization of the symphony. He himself described it as unfolding from a musical core - a motif or theme, or even a single note - for which he prepared the spiritual ground through inner calm and concentration. Listening to his Third Symphony, one does indeed feel throughout that the voices are alive, correspond to one another in a variety of ways, and, for all their individual life, always retain their connection to the whole.
It is no coincidence that descriptions of this music tend to be filled with biological terms taken from the living world. It is an organic music whose voices develop, transform, and relate to one another. Just as Goethe spoke of a “gushing creation” in his inner experience of metamorphosis, Martin Scherber felt his works to be creations that develop their autonomous life inside him, which is why he later preferred to say that the symphonies were created through him.
Translation: Steven Lindberg