Edward Green
Composer, Musicologist & Aesthetic realism Associate

Aesthetic Realism Foundation,


Manhattan School of Music




Including a Study in the Life and Music of Hector Berlioz

by Edward Green

My life has been made happy through the study of Aesthetic Realism--through the privilege of learning, and each year understanding more deeply, this grand and everlastingly kind principle, stated by Eli Siegel: "The resolution of conflict in self is like the making one of opposites in art." 

Tonight I speak about opposites that have to be one for power to be right or beautiful: anger and tenderness. 

Anger is something people often associate with power, while tenderness is something most people feel makes them vulnerable, weak. These emotions, I've learned, have to do with what Aesthetic Realism explains is the deepest debate a man has: is this world, and the people and things in it, a friend to be cared for, understood lovingly--or is it an enemy to be defeated, put in its place? 

I have learned that the only way a man can have either anger or tenderness in a way that does his life good is to have a purpose he is proud of--thatis in behalf of liking the world.


Like most people I had no idea that there is true and false anger. 

Not knowing this, my life was a painful confusion. Meanwhile, the anger I was most proud of was at the war in Vietnam--that our country was brutalizing the people there, and I wanted it to stop. And where I had, likely, the most true tenderness was in relation to music. I was proud as I studied intensely for hours how to be fair to a Beethoven piano sonata or how to compose a fugue. And this tenderness included a good anger. As I worked on passages over and over again to get them right, I was enjoying being a critic of myself. "All art, " Eli Siegel said in his lecture Poetry and Anger, 

    in a sense, is anger, because you are taking a situation that doesn't have form and you are changing it--that is, destroying the formlessness of it, to make form. All energy, since energy by its very nature changes what is, is that much, anger.
But for the most part, the way I was angry and tender was not in keeping with art--it was to glorify myself at the expense of other people, to feel I was the only person deserving my tenderness. 

In my teens, even as I often acted outwardly warm, I felt I was always on a hair-trigger, ready to be angry. I'd be outraged when a friend, a member of the family, a girlfriend would question me, tell me there was something about me they didn't like. I felt betrayed; I had given my affection to these people, and now to hear this! I would listen only long enough to formulate a rebuttal. If I didn't win the argument, I would fume for hours so much so that often I couldn't sleep at night, and would walk the streets to cool off. 

"Has revenge been a very big thing in your life?," Mr. Siegel asked me in an Aesthetic Realism class. Yes, it was. And he explained: 

    Your parents made you into a potentate and potentates never regret. I think you are so used to tyrannizing over your mother and father you want it to go on with every other person.
This was so true! And it explains why, when a woman did not approve of me entirely, I became so angry. 

"Are you interested in liking how you see a woman?" Mr. Siegel asked. "No," I said. "Then you will suffer," he explained. "The fact that you feel you don't have to have good will has made you suffer a great deal. Either you want to see people fairly, or you think they exist to do things your way." 

I am so fortunate to have heard these explanations from Eli SIegel--and grateful I continue to change deeply for the better as I am learning now, in classes taught by Class Chairman Ellen Reiss, how to see the world, music, and the woman I love in a way I can be proud of. 

I speak now about a composer whose music I care for, who was passionate, and yet who suffered greatly from not knowing the difference between good and bad anger, true and false tenderness. I am speaking of the man who is known as the founder of French Romantic music: Hector Berlioz, who lived from 1803 to 1869. 

"Berlioz is the composer most bitten with the idea of greatness," Mr. Siegel once said. "He shook up the forms." 


From an early age Hector Berlioz had a driving hope that reality could please deeply and thrill a person electrically. "Happiness on a grand scale," he wrote in a letter of 1831--"poetical life or annihilation!" Biographer W.J. Turner tells of how, as a teenager, he was an enthusiast for the poetry of Virgil and la Fontaine, for the beautiful landscape of the province of Dauphine in southern France, where he grew up, and for Napoleon. He studied flute and guitar--tender instruments both--but had a special affection for playing the drums. Arriving in Paris in 1821 as a medical student--his father was a doctor--the dissecting room horrified him, and soon Berlioz had thrown himself, heart and soul, into the study of musical composition, enrolling, in 1826, in the Conservatoire. And though there were backs and forths, to his parents' credit, they largely supported him. 

Perhaps never in the history of music was a young man such a firebrand, so vehement in behalf of defending what he saw as beautiful. He railed against the apathy of orchestras. And tenderly personifying modern music as the "divinely beautiful" Andromeda of Greek mythology, he wrote of his valiant intention towards her: 

She is chained to a rock on the shores of a vast sea and awaits the Perseus who shall loose her bands and break into pieces the monster, Routine. "Music always has an enemy," Eli Siegel said in a class, "and it is the enemy of life itself--apathy." And I have seen that a person who fights this apathy in another is showing loving tenderness both to that person and to the world itself. 

Berlioz stirred all of Europe with his revolutionary music. Never had an orchestra sounded like this before--with such a range of sounds swirling about, but with precision. Listen to this one minute excerpt from his most famous work, the Symphonie Fantastique 
of 1830. Within that single minute, with daring and also logical precision, Berlioz separates and joins the various aspects of the orchestra--from the most delicate and playful scales of a solo bassoon to the joyous, volcanic eruption of the brasses as the whole orchestra marches forward. And how he uses the drums!--tenderly, murmuringly mysterious one moment, and the very next thundering with unimpeded ferocity. This is the orchestra as the voice of Reality--beautifully tender, beautifully angry: 

Play middle of March to the Scaffold

Speaking about Berlioz and other composers in a class of 1975, Mr. Siegel said: 
    In order to see what greatness in music is, we have to see what it is human beings have wanted to hear and want to hear now. When there is greatness, an artist is seeing the world in a way that is different from the way anyone else has seen it....All art is personal and impersonal because in art there is a human being standing for the world.
Yet as revolutionary as his own work was, Berlioz was also an ardent defender of the great music of the past--especially of Beethoven and Gluck. He knew many of Gluck's operas note for note. When a conductor at the Paris opera gave himself the right to take liberties with the music to one of these operas, it so enraged Berlioz that, according to his Memoirs, he stood up in the middle of a performance and shouted out: "There are no cymbals there. Who has dared to correct Gluck?" Sure enough, at the next performance, Gluck was performed respectfully; the cymbals were gone. 

Certainly Berlioz was not "polite"--but I've learned from Aesthetic Realism that there is a certain kind of politeness which is really treachery to reality, and our own best self. "If a person is not angry with the ugly or unjust or false he is missing a possibility of happiness," Mr. Siegel has written. "Wherever anger is accurate, its purpose is to add to the goodness of the world" (The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known). 

And his energy was not just for anger. When Berlioz respected someone in the field of art, he showed it with passion. Again and again there are sentences in his letters and Memoirs which are both ardent and tender about the meaning he finds in Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Chopin, Flaubert, Goethe. Of Beethoven he wrote: 

God has willed there should be a man as great as Beethoven, and that we should be permitted to contemplate him; God has willed it. In that class of 1975, Mr. Siegel said:  Aesthetic Realism sees art as a sign that every person wants to take the world into himself....If you don't feel honored in being affected by art, there is something wrong. In a moving passage from a letter of 1858 to the conductor Hans von Bulow, Berlioz wrote:  I adore more than ever what I find beautiful, and death has, to my mind, no crueler disadvantage than this: to love no more, to admire no more. Yet the same Berlioz who wanted to be passionately just to music--of whom the great French music critic Romain Rolland wrote, "his colossal force is at the service of a...tender heart"--the same Berlioz was agonized in how he was with women. There his anger and his tenderness were tragically far apart. 


In Self and World, Mr. Siegel writes:  Love is in exact proportion to accurate knowledge. To say that love--as many have intimated--is based on mystery, dimness, blindness, blurriness, though it may sound fetchingly "romantic," is really to do away with the true mystery, the true expansiveness, the true grandeur, the true intensity of love. Berlioz wanted love very much, but he was never able to learn--as a man now can through Aesthetic Realism--that love for a woman, body and soul, depends on his sincere desire to know who she is and to use her to know and like the whole world. I have learned if a man's tenderness does not come from the desire to see a woman truly, then it is really not tenderness at all, but anger and the desire to own her. 

When Hector Berlioz first saw Harriet Smithson in 1827, the Irish actress was in Paris with an English acting company. She performed the roles of Ophelia and Juliet and it seems the effect of these performances was electric. For days afterwards all Berlioz could speak of was Shakespeare and Harriet Smithson. 

Without any real knowledge of who this young woman was, almost immediately he began telling friends of his intent to marry her. He spoke of her as Juliet--more often as Ophelia. He made no distinction between these two feminine characters--one generous, passionate, and the other, Ophelia, as I learned from Aesthetic Realism, hidden and cold. He wrote her tempestuous letters in the same vein, where she mingles with Shakespeare in the sentences. A year later, with undiminished intensity, Berlioz wrote his closest friend, the librettist Humbert Ferrand: 

O if I should attain to being loved by Ophelia!... My heart swells high and my imagination in vain makes terrible efforts to comprehend the immensity of such happiness...Oh, my dear friend! Oh, my heart! Yet Berlioz had not once spoken with Harriet Smithson, nor had he ever received a response to his correspondence! His letters, in fact, had so frightened her that she gave strict orders to her maid never to admit him. "Who is that man whose eyes bode me ill," she said in terror one day to fellow actors when, at a distance, she saw him staring at her. 

Meanwhile, Berlioz had a sense that there was something wrong with his emotion about her, and not in keeping with the meaning of music. He wrote in 1829 to his friend, the pianist Ferdinand Hiller: "I think I see Beethoven regarding me with looks of severity." And in the same letter, he writes of Harriet Smithson: "Unfortunate woman, how I love you! I cry aloud and shudder as I cry, that I love you." 

Why, if Berlioz loved her, did he see her as unfortunate for being the recipient of that love? The explanation, so kind, so critical, and so much what men everywhere need to learn, is in these sentences by Mr. Siegel from "Love and Reality," a chapter of Self and World: 

To know and feel the self of another is a beautiful thing. To see another person as having meaning and beauty and power is a lovely procedure. But to see another person as having meaning, having beauty, and having power because one can use that person as an argument in behalf of one's self-love--that is really to despise a person; to hate him; to de-individualize him. In a way he never understood, Berlioz was impelled to use Harriet Smithson for his vanity. He turned her feelings into nothing--persisting in his pursuit of her for years. And 
he used her coolness to hate the world. He wrote to Hiller:  I am a miserable man...consumed by a boundless love that is repaid only by indifference and disdain....Woe upon her! Could she but dream of the poetry, the infinite bliss of such love as mine, she would fly to my arms. As I am critical of Berlioz, it is with a tremendous sense of my own great good fortune in being able to study Aesthetic Realism and hear the criticism I need to hear in order to see the difference between true tenderness, and a seeming passion for a woman which is really what Mr. Siegel once called "the anger of vanity." In a class some years ago, I spoke about my being hurt by a woman who was hesitant about wanting to see me. "Do you think you want to use her as a shortcut for liking the world?" Ellen Reiss asked me. "You want to nab some representative of it?" I said, "I hope not." And Miss Reiss continued:  If you were insistent, did the insistence come because you wanted to see all reality better or because you wanted to have some victory over it through a woman? Wanting to have one's way is the great opponent of good will. Through the good will of Aesthetic Realism I have changed. I came to see how weak--also how stupid and cheap--my way of seeing women was; and how I was robbing myself of the real power of love: the ability to be affected deeply by a woman, learn from her, and see all people better through her! 

This has made possible my happy marriage to Carrie Wilson, who is a consultant of Aesthetic Realism, an actress, singer and my dear friend. I am proud to need Carrie--her thoughtful, engaging, deep and enthusiastic way of seeing the world and people, and her kind, imaginative, keen criticism of me. Through our marriage I seeing with fresh eyes the truth of what Aesthetic Realism alone teaches--that good will is the most romantic thing in the world: the real tenderness everyone is yearning for! 

Though I cannot go into all the details, I can say Berlioz put much unkind pressure on Harriet Smithson to marry him, even going so far as to take poison in her presence, telling her, if she didn't consent on the spot, he'd rather die. Meanwhile, it seems that Berlioz, the one-time medical student, had carried with him the antidote. Not knowing this, and terror-stricken, she yielded. 

Berlioz, after six years, had succeeded in marrying his "Ophelia"--but the marriage was a torment to them both for twelve years, and by 1845 they had separated permanently. 


I believe that the way Berlioz--even years later in his Memoirs--insisted that the emotion he had about Harriet Smithson was a grand one, hurt his music. A recurring criticism of Berlioz is that he weakens many of his compositions by having moments that simply are "too much"--have a bloated, bombastic sound. 

However, in one of his best works, The Damnation of Faust, which he completed the year after his separation, there is a beautiful relation of anger and tenderness--and a true musical power. In the section I play now Faust and Mephistopheles, to whom he has sold his soul, are fleeing from a town in which Faust seduced and betrayed Margarita. Mephistopheles urges Faust onward, and they ride into an abyss. Falling into hell, all the devils cheer Mephistopheles for his victory over God in the fight for Faust's soul. 

The music is terrifying and courageous. Berlioz presents, with furious intensity, the power of evil in a man. Yet listen how, above the vehement and remorseless strings, a solo oboe quietly sings out a tender song of compassion. "The energy that is our anger," Mr. Siegel said in his lecture Poetry and Anger, "ought to find a form that goes along with our benevolence, our sweetness, our warmth." Here is the first portion of that scene from The Damnation of Faust: 

Play part one of the scene--to the women screaming.

And here is Faust's fall into hell, and the devils' triumph: 

Part two of the scene--in hell

Berlioz never knew to ask--can I have this same artistic state of mind with people, and with a woman? Aesthetic Realism enables a man to ask this. 

Aesthetic Realism sees as nothing ever did before that anger and tenderness can come to a beautiful, joy-giving resolution in people's lives, and that we can learn from the power which is in art, how to have the life-enhancing, true and kind power we all desire. It is the knowledge the world is looking for!