Thursday, October 28, 2010
Beethoven: Revealing His True Identity
The following essay is from a new book Touching The Soul: Revolution In History, Culture & Critical Issues – Quick Notes. It is now in the re-writing and editing stage.
Beethoven: Revealing His True Identity
By Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn
In the 15th and 16th century, written history underwent a massive campaign of misinformation and deception. With the European slave trade in full swing, Afrikans were transported to various parts of the world and were stripped of every aspect of their humanity, and in most of western civilization, were no longer considered human. This triggered a wholesale interpretation of history that methodically excluded Afrikans from any respectful mention, other than a legacy of slavery. This can result in being taught, or socialized, from one perspective. In this instance, historical information tends to flow strictly from a European perspective. No judgment of right or wrong is being made here, only that the breadth was very narrow in scope.
In an age where history is seriously being rewritten, new information is coming forth that is shocking intellectual sensitivities. What was once considered written in stone is now melting away with the discovery of facts that heretofore have been hidden or omitted; things so different that they are generally classified as controversial or unusual.
What specifically is being referenced, is the true identity of Ludwig van Beethoven, considered Europe’s greatest classical music composer. Directly, Beethoven was a black man. Specifically, his mother was a Moor, that group of Muslim Africans who conquered parts of Europe--making Spain their capital--for some 800 years.
In order to make such a substantial statement, presentation of verifiable evidence is compulsory. Let's start with what some of Beethoven's contemporaries and biographers say about his appearance. Frau Fisher, a close friend of Beethoven, described him with “blackish-brown complexion.” Frederick Hertz, German anthropologist, used these terms to describe him: “Negroid traits, dark skin, flat, thick nose.”
Emil Ludwig, in his book “Beethoven,” says: “His face reveals no trace of the German. He was so dark that people dubbed him Spagnol [dark-skinned].” Fanny Giannatasio del Rio, in her book “An Unrequited Love: An Episode in the Life of Beethoven,” wrote “His somewhat flat broad nose and rather wide mouth, his small piercing eyes and swarthy [dark] complexion, pockmarked into the bargain, gave him a strong resemblance to a mulatto.” C. Czerny stated, “His beard--he had not shaved for several days--made the lower part of his already brown face still darker.”
Following are one word descriptions of Beethoven from various writers: Grillparzer, “dark”; Bettina von Armin, “brown”; Schindler, “red and brown”; Rellstab, “brownish”; Gelinek, “short, dark.”
Newsweek, in its Sept. 23, 1991 issue stated, “Afrocentrism ranges over the whole panorama of human history, coloring in the faces: from Australopithecus to the inventors of mathematics to the great Negro composer Beethoven.
Of course, in the world of scholarship there are those who take an opposite view. In the book The Changing Image of Beethoven by Alessandra Comini, an array of arguments are presented. Donald W. MacArdle, in a 1949 Musical Quarterly article came to the conclusion that there was “no Spanish, no Belgian, no Dutch, no African” in Beethoven's genealogy. Dominque-Rene de Lerma, the great musical bibliologist, came to the same conclusion.
Included in this amazing discussion is a reference made of Beethoven’s teacher, Andre de Hevesy, in his book, Beethoven The Man. “Everyone knows the incident at Kismarton, or Eisenstadt, the residence of Prince Esterhazy, on his birthday. In the middle of the first allegro of Haydn’s symphony, His Highness asked the name of the author. He was brought forward.
“‘What!’ exclaimed the Prince, ‘the music is by the blackamoor (a black Moor). Well, my fine blackamoor, henceforth thou art in my service.’
“‘What is thy name?’
We have all been fed false information for reasons previously mentioned. It is no secret that scholars, writers, critics, advertisers and Hollywood have changed history for their own specific reasons. What is uniquely different in the intellectual landscape, people of color now have an army of sophisticated scholars to combat the continuation and dissemination of false information that has been accepted as standard, as well as the canon in academia.
It is hoped that the revealing of this information will motivate others to critically look at all data flowing in their brains for authenticity. Hollywood is notorious for changing facts. I am not saying to hate Hollywood, but we do have to hold it accountable for disseminating inaccurate depictions, especially when it changes the course of history, by which our children are influenced.
1.) Louis Letronne, Beethoven, 1814, pencil drawing.
2.) Blasius Hofel, Beethoven, 1814, monochrome facsimile of engraving after a pencil drawing by Louis Letronne.
3.) Engraving by Blasius Hofel, Beethoven, 1814, color facsimile of engraving after a pencil drawing by Louis Letronne. This engraving was regarded in Beethoven's circle as particularly lifelike. Beethoven himself thought highly of it, and gave several copies to his friends.
Editor's Note: The first historian of record to tackle the black identity of Beethoven was J.A. Rogers in his authoritative work, Sex and Race, Vol. 1, published in the early 20th century. He is the pioneer, in my estimate, in exploring the taboo subject of race-mixing. Rogers took the study to a peerless and unprecedented level. The man was truly ahead of his times, an autodidact to be emulated, indeed.