The Fitzwilliam Quartet rehearsing in 2008 in Switzerland. (Creative Commons photo by Surreybirder).
By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger
On page 125 Wilson writes, “A mass made of people who have intense curiosity about why Beethoven went in for string quartets after the Ninth Symphony . . . is not a mass that will be easily led into dull, dehumanizing labor at traditional jobs.” I asked on Facebook, “Why do you think Beethoven focused on string quartets after the Ninth Symphony?” Novelist Rafi Zabor answered, “Turn it down! It's so loud can't hear a fuchen thing! Okay, a bit more seriously: at least since the Razumovskys and probably before, he had brought his most uncompromising summings-up and steps-ahead before the demanding bar of the quartet form, its inherent possibilities and limitations. And there he was, either at an end or a new beginning, or both. So he wrote quartets. Sounds like a good answer, and though it likely won't last it's good enough for now.” He added, “Compare/contrast, say, with the primary inwardness of the last three piano sonatas, which must have been a relief to compose during the monstrous work of getting the Missa and the Ninth done.”
Composer Robert Rabinowitz responded, “Rafi Zabor I was thinking that as well. For my own compositions I find it particularly daunting to tackle more than about 8 instruments. Sometimes it’s just the massive amount of notes on a single page that can just become stressful to look at. Even though the reality is there is a lot of section playing going on so, of course, it isn't as if there are 70 or more instruments playing different lines. Hmmm - wonder if that's been done, I may have to do it.”
At Rawillumination.net, Tom Jackson asked, “Is it just a coincidence that the Beethoven-obsessed Wilson brings up string quartets in a chapter about the four circuits? And if not, what instruments relate to which circuit? I would say the cello is Circuit One, viola Circuit Two and the two violins circuits Three and Four.” The cello seems very erotic to me, so I would associate it with the fourth circuit. At first I thought to assign the two violins to the first two circuits. The top dog – bottom dog dynamic works well for the second circuit, but I don’t think the viola fits in well with the third circuit. The viola seems the least egotistical part of the string quartet. It rarely gets the solo voice or the strong bass line of the cello. (“It’s all about the bass.”) When following a score for a string quartet, I find it easiest to follow the first violin part or the cello part. I have to strain to follow the viola part which tends to play a largely supportive role in Beethoven’s quartets. I would associate the viola with the first circuit and the violins with circuits two and three. The verbal chatter of the third circuit fits in well with the first violin, and the second violin fits in well with the second circuit. I find it interesting that a string quartet has four members, and most of Beethoven's quartets had four movements. Four times four equals sixteen, the Tower in the Tarot, and Beethoven wrote 16 string quartets. The Tarot has sixteen court cards as well. Sixteen flowerpots play a pivotal role in P. G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith, one of my favorite books.
Amazon informed me that they cannot fulfill my order for The Skeptical Inquirer and refunded my money. I do find myself enjoying reading The New York Review of Books. The October 7, 2021, issue includes a review of a biography of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. The review says Aleister Crowley “had plans to tap Pessoa to lead a Lisbon brand of his Ordo Templi Orientis” (pg. 19). Bob Wilson wrote that some intrepid soul sent out cards making over 1000 people outer heads of the O.T.O. As an Outer Head of the O.T.O. myself, I declare all of you reading this outer heads of the O.T.O. as well.