Music as a Unifying Force
Also for Oneself

I have mentioned, in previous articles, that a former colleague of mine reconnected with me after four decades since we worked together. When we met, she gave me a gift, A Music Lover’s Diary. In the past couple of months, I have written many essays about some of the one-liners in the diary about what famous people saw in music. However, while filling in some comments into the diary, I happened to noticed one that I read just after getting the diary. It was by Vladimir Lenin who was one of the central leaders of the Bolsheviks taking control of Russia after the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II. Lenin was going to clean up the mess in Russia and the world.

“Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth of Filth.”

This is Lenin’s one-liner in the diary that my friend gave me that caught my attention, “Music is a means of unifying broad masses of people.” Surely, the Russian version of the Internationale was the supreme example of music being a unifying tool, which got the Russians behind the Bolshevik cause.

The Russian Internationale

Stand up, ones who are branded by the curse,
All the world's starving and enslaved!
Our outraged minds are boiling,
Ready to lead us into a deadly fight.
We will destroy this world of violence
Down to the foundations, and then
We will build our new world.
He who was nothing will become everything!


This is our final
and decisive battle;
With the Internationale
humanity will rise up!


No one will grant us deliverance,
Not god, nor tsar, nor hero.
We will win our liberation,
With our very own hands.
To throw down oppression with a skilled hand,
To take back what is ours –
Fire up the furnace and hammer boldly,
while the iron is still hot!


You've sucked enough of our blood, you vampires,
With prison, taxes and poverty!
You have all the power, all the blessings of the world,
And our rights are but an empty sound!
We'll make our own lives in a different way –
And here is our battle cry:
All the power to the people of labour!
And away with all the parasites!


Contemptible you are in your wealth,
You kings of coal and steel!
You had your thrones, parasites,
At our backs erected.
All the factories, all the chambers –
All were made by our hands.
It's time! We demand the return
Of that which was stolen from us.


Enough of the will of kings
Stupefying us into the haze of war!
War to the tyrants! Peace to the people!
Go on strike, sons of the army!
And if the tyrants tell us
To fall heroically in battle for them –
Then, murderers, we will point
The muzzles of our cannons at you!


Only we, the workers of the worldwide
Great army of labour,
Have the right to own the land,
But the parasites — never!
And if the great thunder rolls
Over the pack of dogs and executioners,
For us, the sun will forever
Shine on with its fiery beams.


Lenin’s observation was correct. While some of the stanzas aren’t elegant statements to the masses from our point of view, they worked along with the actual music of the Internationale. It rallied his supporters.

Additionally, Lenin used more than music to pull Russia and himself together into one. If he was going to lead Russia, he needed to pull his life together into some sense of order. Lenin traveled throughout Europe just before the time of the revolution. During his journey, we met with a couple dozen other Russian exiles. What is interesting to me is that in his travels, he seemed to take solace when around water.

This is a painting of Lenin with a Capri fisherman and his son.

In all my research, I didn’t find Lenin explaining the importance of water even though it seems that it gave him some sense of peace in his chaotic times both personal and political. One central personal tragedy was that his older brother, Alexander, was arrested and hung in St. Petersburg, because he was involved in a plot to kill Czar Alexander II.

Probably, Lenin’s time spent around the waters in Scandinavia had the most influence upon him. The following picture was staged by the photographer to commemorate Lenin’s journey in Sweden and Finland. While the photo isn’t of Lenin, it does reinforce the importance of water to the soon-to-be leader of Russia.

Lenin and the water

The parallels between Lenin and me are obvious to me. While I am not technically attempting to change the world, I do want Myanmar to move from a developing nation to one that is developed. I get Lenin’s fervor to assist the school age children in Myanmar. The people in that emerging country need to get the best education that they can so as to compete successfully in this world. That is why I am beginning the fund raising drive for a half million dollars, which will be used for purchasing 1250 laptops and improved Internet reception at the two schools were three granddaughters attend.

Attempting to do that along with teaching has put a lot of pressure on me. Additionally, Ginger, my 80-pound Irish Setter has had a couple, of what I considered, life-threatening medical issues.

Music does settle me down when I am under pressure. I have a long list of classical and non-classical music, which I use as a means to unify my life and permits me to get focused. The one that does the most for me is Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique. When things around me are crumbling, that sonata gives me hope. The middle section of Sonata Pathétique rises but then falls off, especially toward the very end. If you listen to the cantabile as the music approaches 4:30 minutes, the music starts to die. However, then the coda begins a musical resurrection.

I, along with Lenin, need to be near water. In the future, I will attempt to understand the parallels that music and water have. At the present, I know that they function for Lenin and me along with many others like Nietzsche and Thoreau.

Come up with a list of music that helps you face problems and uncertainties. Then use music as a means to become more focused about the important issues that you are facing. It does help.