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Mitchell Heisman - Suicide Note

Mitchell Heisman - Suicide Note

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Published by jarmenl
Mitchell Heisman, Mitchell L. Heisman, a 35-year-old Somerville resident, shot himself on 18 September 2010 on the steps of Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. I uploaded this note/book/manifesto so others can read this genius' work. Lonni Heisman, his mother, said her son would have wanted people to know about it.

News:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/24/mitchell-heisman-suicide_n_738121.html
http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2010/9/22/heisman-harvard-mother-death/
http://gawker.com/5647036/man-who-killed-himself-in-harvard-yard-left-1900+page-online-suicide-note?skyline=true&s=i
Mitchell Heisman, Mitchell L. Heisman, a 35-year-old Somerville resident, shot himself on 18 September 2010 on the steps of Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. I uploaded this note/book/manifesto so others can read this genius' work. Lonni Heisman, his mother, said her son would have wanted people to know about it.

News:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/24/mitchell-heisman-suicide_n_738121.html
http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2010/9/22/heisman-harvard-mother-death/
http://gawker.com/5647036/man-who-killed-himself-in-harvard-yard-left-1900+page-online-suicide-note?skyline=true&s=i

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Published by: jarmenl on Sep 25, 2010
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11/26/2015

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To serve, to serve the divine idea, is the freedom
for which this folk has been chosen.

—FROM ARNOLD SCHOENBERG’S OPERA MOSES
UND ARON

In the 1920s, Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg told
his friend Josef Rufer, “I have made a discovery which will
ensure the supremacy of German music for the next
hundred years”. His discovery, or invention, has been called
“atonality” and “serialism” and “the twelve-tone system”. It
was a method of musical composition based on a rule of
tonal equality. This meant that none of the twelve notes of
the chromatic scale could be repeated until each of the other
eleven notes had been sounded. The abolition of the
dominance of some tones over others was the abolition of
the basis of the tonal system. Such music defies adherence to
a single key and thus advances the equality of all notes.
In his belief that he was continuing a tradition of German
musical supremacy, Schoenberg followed in the footsteps of
Richard Wagner. Yet while the ambiguous harmonies of
Tristan and Isolde might suggest a precedent for atonality,
Wagner took musical “ideas” seriously only to serve his
larger vision of post-operatic “music drama”. The “center”
of Wagner’s work was not only beyond tonality: it was
beyond pure music. While Schoenberg liberated individual
notes from subordination to the implicit hierarchies of
tonality, Wagner was a composer who subordinated music
itself
to a larger artistic whole. Wagner’s idea of a “total work

ABSOLUTE PURITY

545

of art”, or Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesized music, poetry,
theatre, and other arts into an aesthetic totalitarianism.
But why stop with art? Just as music was to be
subordinated to the greater “music drama”, Wagner hoped
that his art would inspire a revolutionary renewal of
German Kultur as a whole. And under the Führer-ship of
Adolph Hitler, it did. Nazi totalitarianism was the practical
application of the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk to the German
nation. Wagner helped create the cultural conditions of
Nazism, while Schoenberg, a Jew, fled to America from
Nazism.

Schoenberg saw a different evolutionary path for German
music, a musical Marxism where the center of gravity is the
destruction of a dominant center of gravity. In serialism,
music is liberated, not only from Wagner’s nationalistic
vision, but also from the organic hierarchy of tonality. In
serialism, all tones are created equal.
Schoenberg held that music exists for own sake as an
“individual” discipline. Music is justified in itself,
unsubordinated to the larger community. The independence
of music from the larger culture was thus reflected in the
atonal independence of individual tones from the tyranny of
tonal hierarchies. While Wagner’s art inspired integration
with a distinct national culture, Schoenberg’s art inspired
alienation from national cultures. While Wagner’s cultural
synthesis helped breed the German supremacism of
Hitlerism, Schoenberg’s ultimately un-German idea of
evolution towards tonal egalitarian was very much a kind of
musical Marxism.
While Schoenberg was not a Marxist in any formal sense,
he illustrates how the notion of evolution towards an
egalitarian end is a characteristic expression of the Jewish
mind — and cannot be explained simply as a pragmatic,

MITCHELL HEISMAN

546

political means to a conscious end. The egalitarian end logic
of consistent equality among tones mirrored Marx’s
egalitarian end of history. Is there an internal Jewish logic to
the rationality of consistent egalitarianism that exposes an
unconscious irrationality?
While the aesthetic arena is almost completely ignored by
Marx, and theoretically despised by Schoenberg, even
Hegel’s rationality was guided by an aesthetic vision of the
philosophic whole. On this point, the totalitarian visions of
Hegel and Wagner have more in common than is often
assumed. It is through contrast with Marx that one can most
clearly see that Hegel’s system was guided by an aesthetic
vision of the whole; an aesthetic vision of completeness that
took precedence over consistency. Hegel’s implicit
prioritization of an aesthetic of philosophic completeness
made his system vulnerable to the demand for logical
consistency. Marx grasped Hegel’s internal historical
inconsistencies, just as Schoenberg grasped Wagner’s
internal tonal inconsistencies. Inconsistent attempts at
consistency countered incompleteness attempts at
completeness.

Marx could ignore aesthetic culture so completely only
because of the influence of Christianity. Marx’s total
dismissal of all spiritualism was possible only through the
inheritance of Jesus’s total spiritualism as synthesized in
Hegel. When the Nazis dismissed that Christian inheritance,
the grounds of Marxism seemed groundless.
While Marx took the rational side of Hegelian history to
its leftward extreme, a root of the Nazi counterpoise to
Marxism began with Schopenhauer’s repudiation of Hegel.
The fundamental irrationality of the will posited by
Schopenhauer impacted both Nietzsche and Wagner. Like a
synthesis of Schopenhauer and Wagner, Nietzsche posited

ABSOLUTE PURITY

547

both the ultimate irrationality of meaningless history and the
poetic creator of new values.
What for Nietzsche was represented by Jesus and Socrates
was represented for the Nazis by Jesus and Marx. Between
Marx’s continuation of Hegel’s rational secularization of
Judeo-Christianity and Nietzsche’s rejection of Jesus and
Socrates, one can recognize the core Jewish/German
divergence. The legacy of Nietzsche the Anti-Christ and
Wagner the Anti-Semite combined in Hitler.
“Beauty exists”, wrote Schoenberg, “only from that
moment when unproductive people find it lacking...the
artist has no need of it. For him truthfulness is enough.”273 Is
there something strange about an artist who values truth
above beauty? Schoenberg contra Nietzsche, the twelve-tone
system was founded upon the discovery of an ugly truth of a
musical Socrates.
An element of the alienation of Schoenberg’s music from
the larger culture stems from the common sense observation
that atonality does not have the intuitive aesthetic appeal of
tonality. While the intellect is not required to enjoy most
tonal music, the unintuitive order of atonality is an acquired
taste that virtually begs an intellectual explanation.
Schoenberg’s serialism is not instinctively aesthetic in the
way that conventional tonalism is.
Schoenberg’s “emancipation of dissonance” begs the
same question of the biological foundation of human
musical preferences as Marx does for the biological
foundation of human social preferences. If the
“emancipation of dissonance” is also emancipation from
biologically based preferences, then Schoenberg’s
innovations may challenge the most deeply rooted aesthetic
preferences. Schoenberg’s characteristically modern
valuation of the moral-truth of the twelve tone system over

MITCHELL HEISMAN

548

aesthetics amounts to an override deep biological
inclinations — just as the system of Moses’s moral laws often
overrode aesthetic inclinations among traditional Jews.
Genetically based aesthetic preferences for the hierarchical
tonal system can be analogized to aesthetic preferences for
hierarchical political systems like National Socialism. The
Nazi obsession with aesthetics was not a superficial gloss
over perceived national self-interest, but inherently integral
with a movement that consciously sought to elicit certain
unconscious (biologically based) preferences. While music
can be considered “irrational” when reason is divorced from
instinct, music possesses an “internal logic” that appeal to
unconscious understanding. In a similar way, aesthetic
judgments often replaced traditional moral judgments of
right and wrong among Nazis, i.e. an aesthetic judgment of
the twelve-tone system.
Nazi leaders, seeking emancipation from social dissonance
among Germans, coordinated a Wagnerian-totalitarian
social harmony. Just as a conductor of a symphony is a
Führer of music, a coordinator of different musicians playing
different roles within a larger musical whole, Hitler
orchestrated the German nation into an organic, aesthetic
Gestalt. The hierarchical tonal system is not consistently
hierarchical any more than the Nazi system was consistently
hierarchical, but both were formed, in part, by an internal
aesthetic logic of completeness.
There is an old myth that Hegel claimed that his system
could be reduced to the tidy formula: thesis, antithesis,
synthesis. This is not only an oversimplification; it is false.
Hegelian logic is more like a sublimation of the inner “logic”
of the innards of a single bacteria cell or the sociobiological
infrastructure of a human Überorganism such as the Nazi
state. Hitler was neither fully revolutionary nor

ABSOLUTE PURITY

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conservative, but rather a development of German
sociobiological Kultur.
Marx and Schoenberg, radicalizing a logic of egalitarian
consistency, mirrored, like Doppelgängers, the inconsistent
“irrationalism” of Nietzsche and Wagner. At the root of this
German/Jewish divergence is the question of the right
direction of historical development. Charles Darwin’s
discovery of evolution, subsequent to Marx’s formative
years, was formative for Nietzsche’s philosophic
innovations. For the Nazis, Darwin replaced Hegel as the
deepest basis of reason in history.

MITCHELL HEISMAN

550

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