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Monday, September 17, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman reading group, Week Six

La Malincolia

Kerman Week 6 – Op. 18, No. 6 – The Last Third of Chapter 3

By Eric Wagner, special guest blogger

This week please read sections four and five of chapter 3 (pg. 71 - 86) and listen to Op. 18, No. 6 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/quartet and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. We have reached the end of the Op. 18 quartets. When I first read this book in 1991, this section blew me away. I photocopied the music for “La Malinconia” and put in over my desk at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital where I worked at the time.

I do find myself going back to the table of contents over and over again because I do not remember the keys of the Op. 18 quartets. When Kerman refers to the F-major quartet, I go back to the table of contents to see, oh yes, Op. 18, No. 1.

I love the comment Kerman makes on page 76 before he begins his close analysis of “La Malinconia”, “(And about time, the analytical-minded read may grimly exclaim.)” The rest of the Op. 18 quartets blur together in my mind, but “La Malinconia” continues to fascinate me. Alas right now, it seems a perfect mirror for my psychological state in trying to stay caught up on my paperwork at work.

Tom asked me about my 11:32 Beethoven piano sonata project from six years ago, so I’ve attached an old blog:


The Seer of Cleveland asks, "Can you explain again why you are listening to each sonata 11 times? I know you explained that before, but I can't find the answer."

I find it fascinating how much access we have to music in 2012 C.E.  For most of human existence, to hear music one had to hear live people (or birds, dolphins, waterfalls, etc.).  During my lifetime I've mostly heard recorded music.  Now, I love recorded music, but I think in a McLuhanesque sense our whole relationship with music has changed over the past 150 years.  (I love Paul Schrader's essay on the film canon which deals tangentially with this issue -  .)  I remember reading an article about a guy who said his father had a life goal of hearing all nine Beethoven symphonies.  The father traveled all over Germany to accomplish this goal.  Now with recordings one can easily listen to all nine in one afternoon.

I have mostly used music as background for the past thirty or so years.  I have it on while driving, reading, working, etc.  I have tried over the past few years to spend more time just listening to music.  In Finnegans Wake the number 1132 shows up over and over.  The fact that the Big B had written 32 piano sonatas nagged at me for years, and I decided to listen to each sonata eleven times.  I find it hard to find time sometimes, but over the past two years I've made it through the first 23 sonatas.  I find it a wonderful legal means of consciousness alteration much like reading great poetry out loud.


Eric Wagner said...

“Special Guest Blogger” makes me feel like a villain on “Batman”.

Eric Wagner said...

The Italian on pg. 85 means, “He who dines on Heavenly food has no need of food of the mortals.” I never finished McKenna’s Food of the Gods which Bob Wilson loved.

Oz Fritz said...

I disagree with Kerman's last sentence in this section, this quartet sounds like celestial nourishment, to me; maybe he's being deliberately provocative? It doesn't have to be a masterpiece to be nourishing. Fortunately, Kerman recognizes "there comes a point when every musical gesture assumes interest and - more - a consuming fascination. If we care to know Beethoven ... everything he does will reveal facets of a personality that concerns us even when he is not working at full consciousness..." That personality seems a genius at translating exalted and mundane moods of all kinds into musical expression so it seems educational (nourishing) to get to know it in many ways.

This sentence appears very true in my experience: "And unfortunately for critics, a clear relationship does not hold between technical mastery and expressive result." Technical brilliance alone, either with playing or composing doesn't always make the best music.

A slight coincidence: I published a blog today that describes the paradoxical element in Deleuze's linguistics as a "perpetuum mobile." Today on page 81 I read Kerman using the same Latin phrase to describe" La Malinconia."

Eric Wagner said...

Oz, I like your comment about spiritual nourishment. Crowley wrote about the celestial kabbalah, where a large aleph means 1000, etc. I have not read about that elsewhere, but it does make me think of the Celestials created by Jack Kirby.

Cool coincidence.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Eric, I want to try your 11:32 listening discipline for the piano sonatas. But it won't be right away, because I am too busy with the string quartets. I am on vacation in Oregon this week and I didn't bring my Kerman, but I listened to this week's string quartet twice and really liked it.

Eric Wagner said...

Tom, glad you like the quartet. I hope you enjoy the 11:32 experiment. I did. My favorite Beethoven piano sonata recordings: Solomon Op. 106, 109, 111; Schnabel Op. 109, 110; Rosen Op. 54, 106.

Joshua Hallenbeck said...

Syncronistically I finished listening to this weeks Quartet at exactly 11:32 a.m. Man I love this stuff! I’m also reading the new Hilaritas edition of Coincidance so the synchronicities seem to be a little high in general for me right now. Praise Bob!

Eric Wagner said...

I wonder what synchronistic effects we will experience as this group continues? Has anyone seen "Lodge 49"? I like it. I seems to have Wilson and Pynchon influences.