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Last weekend when I drove to Orlando, I listened as long as possible to the local NPR station. It being a Saturday, the morning info/news show ran on a bit longer than weekdays, fine by me. One feature caught my attention in particular because of the topic and how they handled it. Titled CSI: Beethovin, it is a story looking at and investigating how, why, and when Beethovin went deaf.

Now, Beethovin is one of my favourite composers. My Dad didn't particularly like him because according to Dad, Beethovin shouted at him. I don't agree totally with that interpretation, but I accept it. Some of Beethovin's pieces are intended to be rather loud. Then again, Beethovin was going deaf. Likewise, so was my Dad, though not to the extent that happened to Beethovin. Dad's loss of hearing is directly attributable to industrial noise. He made automobiles.

The CSI Beethovin article (found here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18619720 ) combines the work of several people, but the two that stand out for me are the conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Martin Alsop, and Dr. Charles Limb, from the Department of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Otolaryngology is a fancy way to say Ear Nose Throat, and Dr. Limb is a foremost authority on deafness. The goal of the program is to look hard, as hard as possible, at the reasons Beethovin went deaf, while asking other questions. Could his deafness be prevented, or cured, today? How did his deafness affect his life? Most importantly, would he be the composer, the artist he is, if he hadn't been deaf.

It's pretty well accepted, for example, that Beethovin was completely deaf when his 9th Symphony debuted. It's recorded that he became quite angry with the orchestra when they would not follow his commands to continue into the 2nd Movement, until the First Violinist turned him around to see the standing ovation the audience gave him.

My own involvement in exploring Healing Art also brings me to wonder about this: people who promote their own healing and recovery by creating art, much of it incorporating imagery which comes from their illness and treatment.

Following the trail, as it were, over to the NPR web site brought me to more Beethovin features. You can no doubt guess this also led to additional thoughts, which I will inflict upon you. Correct. The next feature I followed on was titled "Why Do We Love the Moonlight Sonata" with the article found here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18577817

Yes, the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Opus 27, No. 2 (Most commonly called the Moonlight Sonata) is one of my favourite pieces, by any of the many people who've played it. It's one of the best known of Beethovin's works as well, for the opening triplet. There are five recorded versions available to listen to associated with this article. However, all five of them are only the first movement. A piano sonata, much like a poem sonata, is comprised of three parts (movements in the case of music, verses for the poem, a rose is a rose is a rose). Listening to only one-third of the piece is... lacking. Dissapointing. Leaves the listener with a disquieting sense of Starvation.

Beethovin wasn't quite deaf when he composed this piece. Beethovin also doesn't have much to do with what's going to wrap up this little essay either, other than his being deaf.

I don't watch the Superbowl. Pro football doesn't much interest me; everyone who's playing is supposed to be very good (they're Pros, after all), and it just doesn't much interest me. So I don't watch the Superbowl. Not even because of the ads, though I usually do like a lot of those ads. Since it's such a big deal, being the Superbowl and all, a lot of energy goes into making those ads, and often they are amongst the best of the Best.

This year is no exception. I've not seen them all, but I believe I've found the one that stands above all the rest for me. There's no sound in it at all. It's simply great theatre, which also sells a product.

Bob's House:

The Making Of Bob's House:


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 8th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, cool! I'd seen the YouTube video of the commercial, but didn't know there was a Making Of. Thank you, thank you!
Feb. 8th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
The wonder of Beethoven
I adore and worship Beethoven. My father loved him, as do I, as he more effectively than any other composer I've listened to or studied was able to truly speak through his music, to tell you what it was he was thinking or saying. There are others who do as well, yes, though none with his skill or his passion.

I remember I was six or seven when I learned Beethoven was deaf. I didn't believe it, because he composed music. When I learned how he did it, and how gifted he really was, I fell in love with him. Any man who could continue to write like that despite a setback that would have floored most other people was someone I held in admiration.

The 9th of course is my favorite, (I love the opening movement, I always think of flying when I hear it...don't ask me why, it makes sense in my mind). I actually like his 'Pathetique' better than the Moonlight Sonata, but that's like saying I like strawberries better than peaches, I love them both. I even love his one and only opera, though opera really wasn't his forte, orchestral music was.

A good book to read on Beethoven is one I own is called Beethoven's Hair by Russel Martin. It's an interesting story, and is much less about Beethoven than the trip of this lock of hair, but it does bring up the hypothesis that Beethoven's many health problems as well as his deafness, (and perhaps some of his surly nature, LOL), was brought on by lead poisoning over his lifetime. Interesting to think on.
Feb. 9th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)
A Moment of Transcendence
Two moments actually. The first was sitting in a funeral home parking lot. My mother-in-law had died and Charles, his father, and his brother were inside making arrangements. The day was sunny and breezy and beautiful. NPR played Beethoven's 5th. I know that everyone knows one part from that symphony very well, but I suspect few people have listened to the whole. It was fantastic and powerful and moving. Life, death, joy, sorrow, defeat and (of course) victory contained in the music, the day, my feelings. More symphonic music should take place outside on such glorious days.

The second moment comes in the movie Equilibrium. Emotions are forbidden and drugs are given to keep people from having them. Art, music, etc also banned due to the fact that they make you feel. One of the sense police has stopped taking his drugs so he may feel. He has found a hoard of art, music, poetry, etc that someone has tried to keep safe. He picks up a record and reads haltingly "Beet-hoe-van" because he's never seen the name before. He puts the record on the old phonograph player. Suddenly the music bursts into existence and the man feels for the first time. Excellent. And I doubt if any other composer could have punctuated the scene as well. The music was, I believe, from his 9th, Scherzo.
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