Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Beethoven Thing

Ludwig Van "Narcissist" Beethoven. Posted by Hello

Bart Collins of The Well-Tempered Blog brings this Guardian article by Senior Lecturer in Intelligent Autonomous Systems Dylan Evans to my attention. And Steve Hicken of Listen cooks up an excellent response.

I also couldn't disagree with Evans' take on Beethoven more. Any aesthetic battle that somehow pits Mozart against Beethoven is counter-productive and probably a few centuries too late. I well understand how Schoenberg and Webern extended and built upon the music of Beethoven. Though it's news to me that they composed "awful atonal music." It's still some of the best "awful atonal music" around.

What strikes me is the narrow conception of harmony as "functional." It's the old claustrophobic confines of harmony following the rules and dictates of language and syntax as it remains shackled to finite number of "acceptable" cadences. In the wake of Schoenberg's and Webern's fantastic innovations in harmony we now have generations of composers who have shifted the focus toward harmony as sound without the suffocating effects of linguistic theory and the worn out cliche of yet another V-I cadence. One would think that a focus on sound would mark a return to the Pythagoras "music of the spheres" aesthetic Evans alludes to in the article.

I've lately taken an interest in the Symphonies and String Quartets of Beethoven and feel a series of blogs coming on about those. Beethoven really embodies the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras. The enduring fascination with his music is entirely understandable.

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