Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Symphony Fetish

More of the Beethoven Thing. Posted by Hello

The 9 Symphonies of Ludwig Van Beethoven inspire all kinds of obsession for many people. Which is understandable. I've been revisiting them myself as they're such a rich and instructive artifact of a particular musical lineage.

So far I've been focused on the first three. These pieces are so familiar, so resoundingly present that hearing them with fresh ears is like trying to experience the films Citizen Cane or Casablanca without already knowing all the cliches and one-liners that originate from those films. So I've ironically been combating familiarity through repeated exposures. Trying to zero in on the sound and the form that animates these works. (With a particular/peculiar HurdAudio focus on harmony and progression... lots of "what if this were tuned using an alternate just system through this sequence?" questions and such). I'm trying to shed the memory and association of all the advertising and environments that have used these works in the past. For a while there it seemed like the 1st Symphony was always playing whenever I went to a particular restaurant for breakfast. These pieces really need to be focused upon and experienced live. Particularly that fourth movement of the 1st when things really seem to jam. Using them as cheap, copyright-free wallpaper just seems sad and unfortunate.

I look forward to progressing through all nine of these works as the four movement form expands and explodes over the course of this cycle of creative compositional output.


jerrie said...


Henry Holland said...

I heard the Cleveland Orchestra/Welser-Most play the 1st at Disney Hall last week. I hadn't heard it in years, but I laughed to myself after the first two chords "that couldn't be anybody but Beethoven". The slow movement in particular is terrific.