Monday, October 29, 2018

Kerman/Beethoven reading group, Week 12

William Shakespeare (Chandos portrait)

Kerman Week 12 - Voice

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read chapter 7 (pg. 191 - 222) and listen to the fifth movement of Op. 130 (Cavatina), the first two movements of Op. 127, the fourth movement of Op. 131, and the third movement of Op. 135 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Thank you for the terrific comments. One may model a study group of the Beethoven quartets as three study groups. We have entered the final study group.

Pg. 193 – Kerman quotes from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 107, although the two lines quoted
in the book get the line break wrong.

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

        Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,

Can yet the lease of my true love control,

Suppos'd as forfeit to a confin'd doom.

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd

And the sad augurs mock their own presage;

Incertainties now crown themselves assur'd

And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Now with the drops of this most balmy time

My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,

Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,

While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes;

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.

    Shakespeare seems to describe downloading his consciousness into poetry and evading death when he says, “Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rhyme”.

Kerman calls this chapter “Voice”. I wonder if Crowley’s The Vision and the Voice would help one in understanding it. (Did Ultron build another android called the Voice?)

Pg. 197 – Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? comes from Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio.

Pg. 199 – The Sonata in A flat refers to the piano sonata Op. 110.

Pg. 218 – The measure which Kerman praises so highly comes ten bars from the end of the second movement of Op. 127.


Eric Wagner said...

This morning, looking up at Sirius as I took out the trash, I thought of the Quarteto Sirioso. Thanks Oz!

Oz Fritz said...

Great sonnet! The line: "Incertainties now crown themselves assur'd" stood out for me. It contains both the hunchback and the soldier in the same line.

I have a question for Kerman regarding this statement (p. 200): " ... these rubrics have been more effective in starting silly metaphysical speculations than in clarifying just exactly what it was he wanted to communicate." Second order criticism - a criticism or other critics. What if Beethoven wanted to communicate "silly metaphysical speculations" ? Of course, this question implies 3rd order criticism. We all get the Beethoven we deserve, to paraphrase Leary paraphrasing Crowley.

I had a brief discussion about Beethoven with our classically trained cellist on tour. She loves his late quartets above the others and mentioned that she thought he used a low tuning in his later years as deafness took over because at that point he was feeling the music rather than hearing it and the lower tuning felt better. She thought it could be as low as A = 409, but she wasn't sure. I couldn't find anything online to verify or refute this. I did see a mention that the British Museum has one of Beethoven's tuning forks tuned to A = 455 or something like that. My research showed that standardized tuning appeared relatively recently, years after Beethoven's time. Shannon told me that back then, orchestras in neighboring cities could have radically different tunings. This got me speculating about how much different Beethoven's compositions sound, physically and metaphysically, when played in a much different tuning than he wrote in. In other words, the B flat key Beethoven composed in could have a different pitch, ostensibly express a different note, than the B flat that modern Quartets play in.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

The history of performance practices is interesting. There have been recent news reports that Bach is being played much faster than before:

Eric Wagner said...

Very interesting. I don’t know much about the tuning back then. I know people also debate the tuning of Bach’s organs.

Oz Fritz said...

Kerman documents how most people contemporaneous with Beethoven failed to grasp his later quartets. He was ahead of his time. Kerman then shows the evolution of music appreciation: "... new ways of comprehending new music have helped to illuminate the third style." (p. 192) I have observed several breakthroughs of my own appreciation of music over the years although that hasn't extended to most pop music so far.