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Friday, July 30, 2010

More on Wilson's insight into Beethoven

I have written about Beethoven before here (and if you look the post, be sure to read the comments so you don't miss Dan Clore's college anecdote) but I wanted to follow up.

In the previous post, I quoted Wilson are referring to Beethoven as "the mediator and comforter," and it dawned on me the other day that I knew exactly what Wilson meant, at least through the reality tunnel of my own experience.

Beethoven does seem like a mediator who gives the listener a connection to ultimate meaning. He once said, "Whoever gets to know and understand my music, will be freed from all the misery who drags down others." When I listen to Beethoven, I feel as if I am connected to something profound, an art that puts petty concerns into perspective.

Anyone who knows anything about Beethoven's life story also cannot help feeling a little ashamed over his own bouts of depression if he reflects upon what the composer had to overcome. Imagine being a composer who found the willpower to keep working even after he became deaf and could no longer hear his works performed! He did not hear the applause when his famous Ninth Symphony (referred to in the Michael Johnson interview) was performed. A famous story relates that during the premiere, one of the singers went over to the oblivious Beethoven, who was onstage, and turned him to face the audience so he could see the audience's repeated standing ovations.

As for "the comforter," I can only relate that when I am feeling stressed or concerned I have sometimes found Beethoven's music a calming influence. When I went into surgery a couple of years ago to fix a hernia, I was listening to some piano sonatas on a cheap MP3 player. Years ago, as I drove across Oklahoma for a blind date with a former flight attendant, very nervous about meeting someone I didn't really know, I listened to a Beethoven symphony.