Constantin Bugeanu's spiral

      In any music encyclopaedia, we can find details of the lives of prestigious musicians, composers, players or conductors whose careers and accomplishments have left deep traces in our minds. Yet we do not often stop to ponder who was behind these great artistic personalities, who guided great musicians’ career towards appreciation and fame? Unfortunately, few things are known about great artists’ ‘shadow’ teachers. This is also true of Constantin Bugeanu – the conductor, composer, and, most importantly, the brilliant professor and analyst, the founder of modern conducting school in Romania.
       There are Romanian musicians who have not even heard of Constantin Bugeanu, some may know a few things, but are ignorant of his activity. Most know probably just the fact that Bugeanu was the teacher of Cristian Mandeal and Horia Andreescu.
       Born in Ploiești, on 16th of May 1916, Bugeanu moved with his family in Timișoara, where his father became a professor at the University. In 1923 he began to study music and at 12 he became a student at Timișoara Conservatoire, where he learnt harmony and counterpoint with Sabin Drăgoi, and piano and chamber music with Emil Mihai. It was here that he befriended Nicolae Crișan, a highschool mate, who played an important role in the development of the young musician’s philosophical views.
       In 1933, Constantin Bugeanu became a student at București Conservatoire, where he studied harmony, orchestration and counterpoint with Mihail Jora and was a colleague of Dinu Lipatti, who became his friend. In 1937 he joined the newly created ochestra conducting class, where he studied with great conductor Ionel Perlea; later, he became his assistant. On Perlea’s recommendation, he became a student in Clemens Krauss’ classes in Salzburg, Austria, between 1942-1943.
       Back in the country, Bugeanu first became a conductor at Alhambra Theatre in Bucharest, then at the Comic Opera in Bucharest, the Romanian Opera in Cluj and then in Bucharest, at the Cinematography Symphonic Orchestra, and a professor at Bucharest Conservatoire. He toured France, Germany, Turkey, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Denmark and so on. He became an Emeritus Artist in 1964.
       This is, in short, Constantin Bugeanu’s life history. However, apart from these relatively known activities, since 1960 the musician became involved in developing a veritable conducting school, building his own method, extraordinarily interesting and efficient, which he sought to perfect until he died on 23rd of July, 1998. In almost 40 years of pedagogical career, he taught an array of young Romanian and foreign musicians, piano players, musicologists, conductors, among which Grigore Constantinescu, Cristian Mandeal, Horia Andreescu, Cristian Brâncuși, Viniciu Moroianu, Răzvan Cernat, Ion Marin, Dan Rațiu, Bujor Hoinic, Ovidiu Chirilă, Peter Oschanitzky, Alexandru Iosub, Florin Totan, Gheorghe Costin, Dorel Paşcu Rădulescu, Iosif Ion Prunner, Ladislau Csendes, Camil Marinescu, George Balint, Barrie Webb, Jean Francois Antonioli, Victor Puhl, Alfonso Saura and many more. His conducting class in Samur, near Paris, France, between 1992-1993, had exceptional international appeal and Constantin Bugeanu rose to world fame.
       There are many revolutionary novelties that Bugeanu introduced in the pedagogy of conducting, but in this paper we will try to focus mainly on music phenomenology, which results in his type of conducting analysis, a special idea that he explained and shared with all young conductors he taught, and which he improved throughout his lifetime. It includes elements from Hugo Riemann’s and Alfred Lorenz’s methods, and from Heinrich Schenker’s tonal-harmonic analysis, but Constantin Bugeanu’s use of these elements (which, for some specialists, might be obsolete or controversial) is coherent and consistent with his perception of music as a kinetic whole, rather than a sum of static objects as elements of form.
       The laws of music movement are repetition and contradiction, and these laws’ interaction leads to the formation of elementary formal entities, such as: A-B-A’, A-A’-B and A-B-B’ (to mention only trebles), which are to be met in musical structures in numerous forms and variants. This is how his notions of barr form (A-A’-B) and counterbarr (A-B-B’) need to be understood, not as obsolete, limited names from other epochs in music history (such as Minnesänger lieds in German Middle Ages), as they might be considered at a superficial look. This type of analysis helps an interpreter (a conductor, especially) to perceive and organicaly learn a particular piece of music, and a ‘passive’ analyst (a musicologist, a composer or a music critic) understands music from a different perspective than purely thematic, motif analysis.
       Bugeanu compared what he called ‘static’ analysis to ‘kinetic’ disection and analysis, a perception of a moving, live organism. The two approaches do not contradict or exclude each other, and can perfectly complement each other. The advantages of this type of analysis can be seen in a special field, opera, which many analysts do not approach with the same consistency as they do symphonic repertoire, because opera’s dimensions and specifics create the impression that music structures comparable to the symphonic genre are lacking. Bugeanu believed that an opera can submit to formal musical laws which can relate to literary structure, but do not become subordinate mechanically. These laws can apply to vast expanses, such as the work’s macrostructure, but also to definite, formal entities (such as opera numbers in pre-wagnerian style, or Wagner’s opera scenes, late operas by Verdi, Puccini, Richard Strauss). It is mainly here that the particular contribution of his analysis system needs to be remarked and continued. We must mention how Bugeanu worked on these analyses with his students: first, he would let them make their own schemes of the work, then he compared those with his own analysis, from the vast number of analyses he made along the years. Despite having more than enough arguments to support the superiority of his variant in the case of major differences, he approached the student’s analysis with care and respect, and appreciation for that contribution. In his view, neither his personal analysis nor the student’s were perfect dogmas, but mere attempts for an ideal, hypothetical analysis.


Example of analysis, Claude Debussy: Nocturnes, Fêtes

      Musical analysis was for him a consistent part of a phenomenological approach to musical performance, a system incorporating most aspects in a conductor’s training, from moves to score learning (in a few words, from ‘simple to complex’), to perceiving tonal-harmonic evolution, establishing tempo and so on. Just like Sergiu Celibidache, Constantin Bugeanu saw a strong connection between the phenomenologic concept and work appropriation, as well as between phenomenology and conducting pedagogy (between teacher and student, between conductor and orchestra). He used to explain this system by a scheme representing various levels of this pedagogial process – three levels each containing three subdivisions. The third subdivision of each level is of particular significance in his philosophical system: thesis – antithesis – semiotic sinthesis (the study of sign) – semantics (the study of meaning) – hermeneutics (the methodology of comprehension and interpretation in Bugeanu, along Heidegger’s definition, as humans’existential element). True, it is not an easy task to understand these theoretical and philosophical notions at an early age, but perseverent study bears fruit.
      Constantin Bugeanu uses a matrix of the phenomenological course in conducting (see scheme below). This matrix has three levels: 1. individual (‘le sujet individuel’), 2. collective (‘le sujet collectif’) and 3. receiving (‘le sujet recepteur’) – together with their various subdivisions.


To explain the levels in Bugeanu’s spiral, let me quote the description made by Barrie Webb1:

The Spiral presents an overview of Bugeanu’s method uniting all the different requirements of conducting in a logical sequence. It has many layers, but the Spiral shape can be followed easily enough, tracing the sequence of figure references I1, I2, I3, II1, II2, II3, III1, III2, III3. The figures from II onwards are always written to the left of the relevant spiral point. There is no drawn line joining I1 with I2 or III2 with III3, since these coincide with the edge of the page.
At the first level (labelled ‘ontologique’) is the essential preparation and learning; at the second (‘intersujetive’) is the collaboration and learning process with the orchestra; and at the third and final level (‘hermeneutique’) is the final outcome, the performance, with all it’s revelations and signification. As already mentioned, the level labels vary in different versions of the Spiral. Evidently Bugeanu wanted to find ideal terms to reflect his phenomenological thinking, emphasising their significance by placing them at the head of each section. My preferred set of labels would be: ‘I. La conscience singulière, II. L’intersujet, III. La conscience réceptrice’, which represent a later evolution of Bugeanu’s terminology by comparison with the particular example reproduced above.
Reproduced below in translation, they group naturally according to the three main levels of the Spiral:
The conductor should live the action in a kinaesthetic unity.
Level I
Form is a rationalisation…
True memory is established through logic… it is not mechanical.
That which we cause to pass through our consciousness consists of our intentions…  Consciousness lies in our intention…  We must live what is in the score.
Through analysis, I move towards a level of consciousness…
By means of gesture this becomes tangible, physical…
Through my actions I demand the essential…
Level II
When working with the orchestra we should avoid the manner of command or giving orders and adapt rather to a feeling of collaboration. Using persuasive means, empathic actions, we should make the orchestra compelled to grasp the emotional life of the music. The bringing to life of this unity (the score) is the essential objective which the conductor must have in view.
The sequence/chain of urgency/purpose… we must transform the score into actions.
Level III
I must offer an interpretation, a signification to the public… That which is in the score is the consequence of a construction. The conductor reconstructs the contents according to the signification.
The conductor is the missionary who fights for the truth to be imposed… I dedicate myself to this duty to represent the truth of the act… that is the job of the conductor… I am the subject of the act and I must ensure that the others become subjects.’

      We do not wish to infer that Constantin Bugeanu’s analysis method drifts away from ‘the pragmatic reality’ of the musical act by exclusive focus on these philosophical domains; he had original contributions in pragmatic musical fields, such as score reading, musical theory, rhythm or solfège. The latter, which for him was an inherent part of ‘steno-solfège’, ‘the guideline’ of any conductor, is a coherent and easy to learn improvement of Zoltan Kodaly’s solfège.
       Unfortunately, much of Bugeanu’s work has not been published and is lost; yet the remaining manuscripts prove the musician’s original ideas and scholarly vision. It is our duty, of those who knew him and had the privilege to be guided by him, to honor his memory and publish what was created, analysed and thought by this Romanian musician.

Dragoș Călin
English Version by Mălina Ciocea

1 Barrie Webb, “Disciples’studies”, in Constantin Bugeanu, un savant al artei dirijorale [Constantin Bugeanu, a scholar of conducting], edited by Dragoș Călin, Bucharest, Editura Muzicală, 2014, in print.