ALFRED WOLFSOHN, THE MAN AND HIS IDEAS
.............................................................................Sheila Braggins (on the left) and Marita Gunther.............................Sheila's painting of Alfred Wolfsohn, referred to in the text below
When Marita Günther died in May 2002 I realised how important it was for those of us who remain and who knew Alfred Wolfsohn (AW or Awe) to lose no time in writing about him and his ideas.
In 1949 Marita fled from her native home of Leipzig in the then Russian zone of Germany. She came to England where she worked as a domestic servant for four years before obtaining British Nationality. Her grandmother and AW's mother were first cousins, so she contacted him after arrival in this country. She found a man with deep convictions about the human being, the human voice and man's humanity. You can read what she says about him in Who was Alfred Wolfsohn and in the entry about Marita herself but she has also written a great deal more in the form of short essays in her notebooks.
In 1947 I was nineteen years old and about to start my physiotherapy training at Guys Hospital in London, but I was also very interested in both singing and psychology, so my piano teacher who was a pupil of AW's suggested that I should meet him. I did so and started lessons soon afterwards. I met Marita in 1950. We were both having singing lessons with AW and we became friends, then in 1957 we became closely involved in caring for him during his final illness, learning to know him as a friend as well as a teacher. AW encouraged us all to use our creativity in all ways and I painted the above portrait of him, my first ever painting, one week before he died. Soon afterwards I started to paint Marita. It wasn't turning out to be like her so I decided to just go on painting 'a face'. What emerged was not exactly her or me but our soul-portrait as you can see in the photograph above. This photo was taken on our joint 70th birthday celebration - she was born one month after me. I believe the closeness of our relationship and the number of times we have worked together over AW's writings and ideas, gives me permission to pass on her thoughts to you, together with what I know of him, while we try to describe this extraordinary man.
Who was this man? Marita writes, "It seems his character facets were as manifold as his ideas of a multiple octave voice. To his family and friends he had been Alfred, the caring son and beloved brother or faithful friend. In Germany his pupils called him by his surname Herr Wolfsohn, or more intimately, Wolf. A cousin teasingly addressed him as The Great Magus i.e. the preacher, referring to the Hasidic legends. A close friend and pupil called him Hott, short for Hottentot, because of his curly and unruly mane. A young women painter (Charlotte Salomon) invented for him the name Amadeus Daberlohn.
The world at large has labelled him according to their responses or reactions: a wise old man, a music pedagogue, a divinely mad voice teacher, a shell-shocked intellectual, a soulful philosopher, a charismatic man, a charlatan, one of the greatest voice experts in the world, a singing prophet of vocal acrobats, the perfect Animus for all lonely Spinsters, or simply, the Master. In his manuscript he chose the name Gabriel, one of the archangels, or in a bittersweet mood he referred to himself as a hot water bottle in a dustbin. In England his pupils called him Awe, pulling together the initials of his name in German - A.W., Mr Wolfsohn being too formal for the close teacher relationship and the respect too great in those days to call him by his first name." (Ref 1)
THE BIRTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF HIS IDEAS
Alfred Wolfsohn was born in Berlin on the 23rd September 1896 into a German-Jewish middle class family. His parents were not strictly Orthodox but AW went to the synagogue with his father on Jewish festival days. A cousin of his was a Rabbi. He was educated at the Schule Zum Grauen, quite a famous school in Berlin. His father was a cabinetmaker and upholsterer whose life was governed by the pride he felt in serving as a soldier in the 1870/71 War. Having fought, as a Jew, for the Kaiser and the Reich he felt he had shown his loyalty and he remained a staunch patriot all his life. He died when AW was ten years old and AW speaks about his death in both his manuscripts , Orpheus or the Way to a Mask and The Bridge. Although his father had little influence on his scholastic education, he left a legacy of impressing on his son that he must, as a Jew, stand up for the Jews at all times, "My son, you are a Jew, you belong to a minority, against which so many prejudices and feelings of hate abound. Therefore it is your duty to achieve double the amount of what others can do." This weighed heavily on the young boy and quite overshadowed his childhood, inducing a feeling of being part of a minority boycotted by the majority.
However, in relation to his parents, he felt he was a link in a chain. In The Bridge he says, "I have to continue the life of my physical parents and if possible develop and fulfill it. If I have grasped this fact then I am myself a witness for life and its fulfillment."
To us, his pupils, he spoke very little about his past - only his current thoughts mattered - but here and there in his manuscripts one can glean an insight into a sensitive young boy. In Orpheus he describes how he went to the Brandenburg Marches, choral singing with his school. How this small boy, with whom he now had very little in common, stood there in the quiet forest singing with the others, and how his little soul, usually so lonely and withdrawn, rose upwards. And again later, as a young man, strolling alone on a beach, he felt, in his very sinews, the wind blowing against him, setting his body in motion, making him dance and do wild leaps, utter words and ecstatic screams, singing from his inner most being.
This sensitivity expresses itself in his writing. Marita describes him in this way: "He is often a poetic visionary or a visionary poet - although he might not have liked being labeled as such. In trying to explain his thoughts he wanders off into literature, quoting whole passages of novels or plays, citing poems and again and again turning to the paintings and sculptures that he loved, anything to illustrate his argument. Like most of his Jewish contemporaries he was educated in a very liberal way, not only participating in German culture but also being quite measurably influenced by it. It belonged to every cultivated German's education to know their Goethe and Schiller inside out, to have their philosophical thoughts shaped by Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, as well as being familiar with other European Literature. Tolstoy, Dostojevsky, Ibsen, Strindberg and Hanson were household words. He makes general statements but invariably returns to the personal, himself. Whatever he says is born out of his own experience" (Ref 2).
His mother and he had a very close relationship. She struggled to bring up a large family: AW, his beloved older sister Nelly (who died in Auschwitz), his two half-brothers and half-sister from his father's previous marriage. Marita believes that his mother adored him and often spoiled him, especially as he was always delicate in health. The fact that she lived a very duty-driven life made a great impression on him and was instrumental in his desire to get women away from the kitchen sink. She identified strongly with the Dreyfus case in which a French Jewish army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted and wrongfully sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island for selling military secrets to Germany in 1894. AW refers to her in both The Bridge and Orpheus as 'the prisoner of Devil's Island'. In his childhood he would often cheekily mention the Dreyfus case as it never failed to enliven her if she was feeling tired or melancholic.
He believed that his mother was responsible for initiating his interest in the voice. She often sang one particular song to entertain her little son, a song in which she used a high girlish sound for the voice of an angel, changing to a much deeper sound for the voice of St Peter. Later, the screams of his injured comrades in the 1914 war, calling for their mothers, calling for God, were the final trigger for his work on the voice.
The war ended with his mental and physical breakdown. He was in despair because he felt he had lost his soul and his relationship to God, he felt that God had deserted him in battle and he had cursed Him. He also suffered a great burden of guilt for crawling away in the mud from a dying comrade who called for help. After crawling away he was injured, lost consciousness and awoke buried in a pile of corpses. After the war he was in a sanatorium for a short time, but for many years he continued to suffer from fits which sometimes ended in unconsciousness. After leaving the sanatorium he spent a period of time in Italy, which seemed to refresh his soul and strengthen his body. He decided he wanted to become a singer. He took on a number of minor jobs to finance himself and the care of his ailing mother whilst he had a series of unhelpful singing lessons. The loss of his God, his feeling of guilt/responsibility, together with his inability to find help to express his voice, started him on his search to find the human being behind the human voice. In fact, his whole work on the human voice is one long search to find the mystery behind the voice or re-find the voice of God.
In an attempt to solve his own problems and clarify his ideas, he started to work with older singers who were 'losing' their voices and others who had severe vocal difficulties, some of which were considered to be hopeless cases. He found that these people too had suffered damage to their psyche, damage comparable to his received during the war, and that no progress could be made with their voice nor any result achieved until the damage was healed by restoring their self-confidence and by transferring his belief and strength onto them.
To further his knowledge in the search for the connection between the voice and the personality he engaged himself in the growing psychological literature of that period, and he found that many facts and observations he was making in his field ran parallel with the basic principles of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. In particular he studied the theories of Jung whose concepts of archetypes, shadow, animus and anima were not only discernable parts of the psyche, but AW believed they could be made audible as well. He believed that the integration of the personality could be demonstrated in the human voice. There is no doubt that AW had a special interest in Jung and wanted very much to have contact with him. We are not sure how it came about but he met Jung at an hotel in Germany, possibly when AW was doing some newspaper reporting. Marita, in her notes, quotes AW's description of this meeting, "….and as I stood there in front of him, no word was spoken, only after a pause we greeted each other. I have no idea what went on in his mind, but I have not forgotten how I had to laugh internally - there we stood, he so tall and I so small in contrast, as the father opposite the son. When I saw him again the following morning the roles were exchanged, he was seated and I stood before him as the father perceiving the son. I mention it because during the night between these meetings I had a prophetic dream which anticipated in all essential details the events of the next encounter. Since I lost my father so early in life I have never before seen myself as the son figure." He communicated many times with Jung later and tried to arrange a meeting, but to his great disappointment, never succeeded.
He firmly believed that every human being has the capacity to sing, just as everybody has the ability to dream, whilst awake or asleep, and also the capacity to create art in one form or another. His manuscripts are full of philosophic and analytic thoughts relating to all forms of artistic creativity, to mythology, to religion and to the relationship between the creators and their creation: Michelangelo's painting of God and Adam, Goethe and his Faust, Chaplin and his 'Little Man', Dostoyevsky and Raskolnikov. He felt that one could never describe an artist's relationship to art as the 'love of art', the genuine artist knows of no division between his life and his art. AW believed that "…with regal courage the artist must be able to say 'L'art, c'est moi'".
On the theme of courage, he also adds, "To us human beings what could be more appropriate than the words 'Avanti e coraggio'?" He often used this quotation in a lightly encouraging way but also very seriously. In relation to the world around us he was very serious when he says, "We live in an end-of-world atmosphere and go round in circles fascinated by a past believed to be lost and to which all things are attributed. Yet in this past just as today war, hunger, desperation, misery, thoughtlessness, hate, lack of understanding and lack of caring for our fellow men play the same role…….. With what rapidity and complete thoroughness has man moved 'from the sublime to the ridiculous',…I had to discover myself as a most ridiculous person, and although I have learned that one step can seem like a long and arduous road, I comfort myself with the thought that I do have the chance of taking one step from the ridiculous to the sublime, or from disharmony, confusion, disorder and ridicule to stability, concentration and earnestness." He believed we need courage to stand facing the atom bomb and still do something positive about our lives.
We also need the courage to give ourselves away, the courage to perform the seemingly impossible - but for the right reasons we; need constantly to consider our hidden motives, nothing should be done merely for the sake of doing it. We need the courage to strive for knowledge, but with care. In The Bridge he warns, "….in striving for knowledge we must learn to approach like a true lover, we must not rape knowledge to satisfy our lust for power".
Again in relation to art he believed that the strength and secret of the painter is to make the silent image speak. It was at this time that he worked with Charlotte Salomon, a young art student in Berlin, using art, not the voice, as the media for self-discovery. She was the daughter of his friend Professor Salomon and stepdaughter of the Professor's wife Paula Lindberg, a well-known singer. Charlotte's work Life or Theatre, over one thousand paintings created in the south of France before she was taken to Auschwitz, has become internationally famous. This work produced in 1940/42 would never have existed if AW had not talked, encouraged and talked again with this girl who had a low evaluation of her abilities and a tendency toward depression. There was a disturbing history of suicide in her family of which she knew nothing, but which deeply concerned AW as he recognised suicidal tendencies in her. In Life or Theatre Charlotte depicts how, after her grandmother's failed first suicide attempt, she talks to her in AW's manner, hoping to save her from any further depression. She thinks she has succeeded, then when her grandmother finally achieves her suicidal death, Charlotte is quite brutally told about her family history by her grandfather. She is so shocked, she knows she could go into a deep depression herself, but she thinks about AW and his long talks with her. She decides to follow his creative ideas and instead of death, create Life - to which she adds the title 'or Theatre' - linking the two as so often he did. He always said that Life was even more "dramatic" than Theatre.
AW's first manuscript Orpheus or the Way to a Mask was written in Berlin in this period and he gave it to Charlotte to read. In the script that accompanies her paintings she quotes him almost verbatim in an extraordinary demonstration of accurate recall. She absorbed and understood his philosophy in a far greater way than many of his later pupils or contemporaries.
AW had only just begun to articulate and demonstrate his ideas about the human being and his findings on the voice when political events put an end to his work in Germany. He found refuge in London and after a period in the army in which he was part of the first expeditionary force into France and the last group to be evacuated from St Malo after Dunkirk, he was invalided out of the forces.
His second manuscript, The Bridge, was written soon after the war. In it he speaks at length about Charlotte. He describes how he thought that he was speaking to a stone, that he made no impression at all on her ideas or her concepts relating to her abilities. He describes and analyses many of her paintings of that period in Berlin. He knew about her perishing in Auschwitz but knew nothing about her south of France paintings. In 1961 when he received a brochure on Charlotte's first exhibition in Amsterdam he was speechless with amazement and deeply moved by the realisation of what an impression he had made.
SINGING AND HIS LONDON TEACHING
Here is what he says about singing (Ref 2):
"I want to stress that when I speak of singing, I do not consider this to be solely an artistic exercise but the possibility and the means of recognising oneself and of transforming this recognition into conscious life. Singing is, however, the primeval field of musical application, the gift bestowed on everyone by nature to enable self expression.. Communication between mankind takes place through language which does not merely consist of a neutral combination of sounds but contains the rise and fall of musical movement. In my attempt to understand the secret of singing, nothing has rewarded me more for all my search and worry than the discovery that what I had one-sidedly understood as 'expression', in its symbolic and emotional sense, had to be taken in its literal meaning. I found that the sound of the human voice gains its fullest expression exactly at the point when the singer, having found the right balance between concentration and tension, can express it boldly. However simple it may sound, only three important factors constitute the elements of singing: concentration, intensity and as a result of these, expression. All those who are convinced, like me, that precisely the simplest things in life contain the most complicated problems, also know that mastering them leads to the desired goal."
After the war ended AW started to work with a group of people in North London, quite a number of young voices, exploring the possibility of breaking down the barriers associated with gender, limitation of vocal range and dynamics of expression. It is important to place his ideas in the context of the period. Prior to the fifties the range of a voice was rarely discussed, there was the usual classification of bass, baritone, tenor, contralto, soprano, coloratura etc and each functioned within his/her accepted range. If either sex attempted to sing in the range of the opposite sex it was considered to be strange, to say the least! The sole criteria of a voice at that time was beauty, or as AW quotes a friend's definition in Orpheus or the Way to a Mask, 'If it makes you go goose pimply all over'. The idea that, for example, an opera singer could use 'ugly' sounds to express an 'ugly' emotion was unthinkable. AW believed that the voice should be allowed to freely express all emotions, many of which are not beautiful.
Although the pupils of those days could accept cerebrally that we all have male and female qualities within us, it was nevertheless a big step to take to search for these parts in oneself and then express them audibly, not merely in a sensational way or as a parody, but as a serious attempt to discover and understand those other sides and thus learn more about oneself. The internal barriers were swept away as the sound barriers were broken. Today, if you turn on the radio and hear a pop song it is often impossible to know whether the singer is male or female, and this is now accepted as being quite normal. In the same way, the Roy Hart Theatre pupils of today, with the traditional barriers of 'normality' broken down, find it far less difficult to extend their range and produce extraordinary sounds which we had to struggle to liberate. In fact, several different singers can now sing Eight Songs for a Mad King, written in 1968 by Maxwell Davies specifically for Roy Hart because of his exceptional range of voice. So, the fifties mark a milestone in the history of the human voice, when new territory in the realm of sound was discovered.
AW was again careful to point out that although sound barriers were being broken in all ways, it was not being done for the sake of breaking them. The process that allowed and formulated change was a creative and unplanned development from one stage to another, as Marita describes: "Another aspect of breaking the sound-barriers was the spontaneous emergence of an extraordinary variety of animal, bird and mechanical motor sounds. They had a special meaning for each pupil, almost a certain life-experience, as if suddenly deeper strata of a past evolutionary process had been touched upon and were being re-lived. Yet all these sounds, possibly buried deep in the human being from the beginning of man's evolution, had been heard by AW in his inner ear. He believed these hidden potentials in the voice could range over a much wider field than hitherto thought possible and that everybody, if they wanted, could express themselves in this way." (Ref 2)
There was a regular stream of visitors to the studio through the years, people from the literary, artistic, scientific and musical worlds, for example Arthur Koestler, Peter Brook, Aldous and Julian Huxley, Edward Downes, Hermann Scherchen to name but a few. Their reactions varied from being very interested, to expressing surprise that the coloratura C, sung by Roy Hart, was 'a little flat', to accusing AW of being Houdini, to being completely bewildered by this strange man! The work was frighteningly difficult for them to accept. AW after all was 50 years ahead of his time - music therapy, drama therapy, art therapy were either in their infancy or had not emerged at all. However, the Huxleys wrote a very appreciative letter afterwards and expressed great interest in his work. AW also received praise from Paul Moses, a laryngologist from the USA who believed him to be one of the greatest authorities on the voice. Various articles started to appear in the press, Jenny Johnson sang at the Albert Hall, Roy Hart gave demonstrations and the Vox Humana record was published in the USA.
Some people criticised the use of the voice in this way and questioned the damage that could be caused but both Marita and Jenny Johnson, one of his most famous pupils, had their voices tested by laryngologists and their vocal cords were found to be not only intact but very healthy.
HOW DID HE TEACH
"There is a strange phenomenon deeply embedded in the work of AW, that is to say it seems impossible to describe his work in clear terms. He has so often been asked, "What is your method?" and each time he has smiled and replied simply, "I have no method". An answer difficult to swallow, for any training must have a method, even if the method is not to have a method! I can only venture to explain that the way he taught singing was to teach life. To learn to live and to learn to love cannot be methodised. This is why every singing lesson is different and why no do-it-yourself textbook has ever been produced. Every human being is different, has different needs and comes to singing for different reasons with different backgrounds. Just think, for two years AW heard me sing every note sharp and did not correct it because I could not hear it as yet myself!" (Ref 1).
He was a hard worker. He would arrive at his studio at 139, or later at 133, North End Road, London N.W.11 at 9.00 a.m. and very often not leave until 11.00 p.m. Lessons lasted about forty-five minutes or sometimes longer and until 1958 were always one-to-one: You were just asked to sing a note. Following this his directions depended upon his perception of that sound, the need to open it more, make it louder, form it more freely, centre it more in the head or more in the stomach. This was repeated up and down the scales until some change began to materialise either in increased range or increased freedom of sound or increased dynamics. He then might alter the approach asking the pupil to sing a phrase from an aria or a well known song, or a phrase expressing an emotion, shouting your name - whatever he saw as being relevant to your needs to help you gain greater freedom of expression. There was no recipe, no technique, only a deep and close understanding of the pupil standing before him. Half-way through the lesson there would be a pause, windows opened for air in the sound-proof room, a cigarette for both pupil and master, and he would then discuss anything relevant to what he had heard or what you reported - dreams, emotions, problems. Often after this the voice took on a new quality, a new confidence to spread its wings in front of this man who could look into your soul.
One of AW's greatest characteristics was this total engagement with and concentration on each pupil, knowing exactly how far to push or encourage them, or just let them sing out and follow the sound, the training of listening. The engagement with the pupil occurred at every level and at all times. He was always teaching, whether he was out with you for a walk, sitting with you in a café or playing a game of cribbage. The same engagement occurs in his manuscripts where he constantly speaks to you, the reader. Added to which the way he analyses people of the past, from Beethoven, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Schopenhauer, to Christ, Solomon, Saul and David, also represents the way in which he watched and observed his pupils.
He says in his essay on The Problem of Limitations that his psychological approach is based on the philosophy 'know thyself' - hence his encouragement for pupils to understand their dreams. "Dreams not only help to reveal the unconscious, they also counterbalance the aural senses. The dream is man's first work of art, the creation of the painter and the visionary." The Bridge contains analyses of biblical dreams, dreams of his own, of Marianne's and of many famous people.
To me self-awareness was certainly one of the greatest lessons I learned from him: the ability to try to have an honest self-appraisal without self-destruction or self-aggrandisement. In all the time of his teaching, never once did I feel that he wrongfully assessed my unconscious motivation for a particular reaction. I knew in my innermost being that he was right, even though it hurt sometimes to recognise it. This can rarely be said of all teacher-pupil relationships.
During the mid 50s his health started to deteriorate. He developed chest problems and was finally diagnosed as having TB. In 1958 he moved to live at the studio house, 133 North End Road, and we all looked after him, Marita, Roy, Kaya and me, at different periods of the day, depending on the times of our outside employment. Soon after this he was admitted into hospital and his TB was finally cured in 1961. When he returned to the studio we all knew that his energies were still considerably less than they had been years before and every moment was precious, so for the first time he started to give lessons to two or three of us together. The other pupils came and also had lessons when he was able to give them, if not, he just talked. This was a very special period for all of us who looked after him as we became deeply involved with him personally, with his problems as a sick man, with him as the ever watchful, often humorously teasing teacher, as the avid detective story reader and the deep thinking, on-going philosopher. In 1962 he developed kidney stones that needed to be removed and was admitted again into hospital where he died on 5th February 1962 from the dreaded staphylococcal bug that is the hospital nightmare. There was nothing that could be done.
AW THE MAN AND HIS RELIIGION
AW was a deeply religious man who conformed with no particular sect. On the battlefields of WW1 he cursed his Jewish God and he condemned himself for failing to realise the concept of a human being in himself. He spent his life trying to find both his God and himself again.
This search lead to the examination of religion through the centuries, to other Gods, to myth, to poetry, to literature, to all forms of art and creativity, to psychology - in fact to the human being, to the human voice and finally himself. Through this journey of search and discovery he examined, among others, the figure of Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour. He speaks at length about Christ and his followers and he recognised his own identification with him.
In The Bridge he says, "…..my concept of the religious cannot be separated from its fundamental idea: the expression of the creative force in man which, however hidden, is present in everyone." In a letter to Marianne he clearly says, "To me 'God' is the dynamic force in man. What men see in God - the inexplicable, the infinite, the almighty - is a projection of their own unconscious dynamic possibilities. Man has created God in his own image and has since, through the millennium, searched for the source of life so that he could become this very image - the Procreator of Life itself. Man's most beautiful and grandiose dream centres in the Divine and the stories of God are dream stories of man's most mysterious unconscious." The God that he can identify with, the God within him, is "that split second in eternity of complete victory, when in the proudest and most magnificent loneliness God confronts his work and approves of it". In the deepest sense, to have a true evaluation of oneself, to say, "Yes" to one's own creativity and know that "It is good".
Throughout the course of history Man's creative dreams, often demonstrated in his writing, foretell of future achievements which at the time of writing seemed to be sheer science fiction. Fairy-tale flying carpets existed long before the aeroplane, Leonardo Da Vinci, maybe the greatest dreamer, designed both an aeroplane and a diving suit long before they were 'invented'; fictional accounts of flights to the moon occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries, followed by Jules Verne's "From Earth to the Moon" in 1865 and H G Wells "The War of the Worlds" in 1898 and "The First Men on the Moon" in 1901; the technologies envisaged in George Orwell's 1984 have become reality and the cloning in Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' has become a possibility. In scientific research itself, how many scientists have reached revolutionary discoveries, based initially on a dream or 'instinct'. And here I put in a personal question and ask: is man's dream of reincarnation being fulfilled by the possibility of cloning?
However, in spite of AW's idea of 'God' as the creative centre of man, the projection of man's most creative vision, when he takes on the role of the poet or philosopher in his writing, he still speaks of and to God as if he were outside himself and it is difficult to hold on to the idea that he is in fact speaking to his own unconscious.
In his last essay The Problem of Limitations he ends in a gentle, smiling, yet serious way way, " Now, I would like to prevent any possible misunderstandings, I am the first to admit that I know nothing of God or his voice. But ever since I read the words in the Cabbala 'Every man is responsible for God's fate', I never lost my feeling of responsibility. Again I do not claim to know anything of God or his fate, but I do believe that a faint reflection of the Divine lives in everyone and in me. The thought that I am responsible for this faint reflection and my striving to translate this thought into action for myself and for others has been the strongest driving force in my life and work".
Finally, I believe he saw life and the Human Being in it as one complete entity, a small part of the Universe as a whole, a minute atom of the entirety, the core of which is Creativity, the only means of achieving eternity. Without creativity there is no continuity of life - this is the secret of God.
I will end with a quote from Marita which demonstrates AW's poetic image of his God, "Invariably his writings, reflections and high-flying trends of thought culminated in his coming to terms with the figure of Christ, until they finally come to rest with his Jewish God. He who in his darkest hour on the battlefields of WW1 cursed God for abandoning him, finally had to work his way through years, decades to find him and make peace with Him on 'thou' terms. Finally his God grants him a wish: to be made into a fermata, a sound that is held between heaven and earth for a long time - for eternity - that is to say AW arrived at teaching his soul to sing."
Lerne singen O Seele (Nietzsche)
is inscribed on his plaque in Golders Green Crematorium.
After Alfred Wolfsohn's death Roy continued with his work. As he was an actor, originally coming to AW in 1947 from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he quite naturally took the work towards theatre, and it became the famous Roy Hart Theatre at Malerargues, France.
Alfred Wolfsohn's manuscripts can be found in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam and in the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Ref 1. From Lecture given by Marita at Central School of Speech and Drama, 2001
Ref 2. From lecture given by Marita "The Human Voice, La Voix Humaine, Die Menschliche Stimme"
Ref 3. Marita's notes.
Sheila has now written an extended version of this article (35 pages).
This is in the form of an e-book and can be purchased on this web-site only.
Writings about Alfred Wolfsohn index page