Friday, September 19, 2008

Musing on music for the times

I have been listening to a lot of Beethoven lately. When I need reassurance about the state of the country or the world, the string quartets give me the balance I need. His deep sense of tension and release from tension and his grasp on the musical truth (which is, of course, THE truth as far as I'm concerned) provide the energy I need to go on with my day, and embrace at least a part of humanity while I am listening.

Why is it that I never grow tired of Beethoven?

Think of the times he lived in. Some of the things that he was fighting for (and against) in his lifetime were, in a way, the same kinds of things that we are fighting for (and against) in our lifetime. They just have different names and faces. People wore different clothes, didn't bathe as often, didn't use indoor plumbing or electricity, and they made their way around Europe by horseback or by carriage instead of making their way around the world by way of a computer terminal. Of course women didn't have a chance to be in positions of any kind of authority (or have a voice in any kind of political process), unless they were very rich, titled, or both. Money talked in Beethoven's day, and it certainly talks today. Greed, deceit, lust for power, and the abuse of that power are still every society's greatest embarrassments.

Word got around slowly during Beethoven's lifetime, and likenesses needed to be drawn or painted. Because of this, people who wanted to capture a visual image learned how to draw, which took time and patience. Music needed to be played by people who were actually in the room, and there was always a need for new music, especially if it was good music, and there was always a need for musicians. There were, of course, people (like Napoleon) who were unable to tell good music from not-so-good music, but he was balanced out by people who knew exactly how lucky they were to have known Beethoven, and it is thanks to those people that we can still have Beethoven in our lives.

There will never be another Beethoven because there doesn't need to be one. I believe that we would have a better world if more people would take the time to listen to (and play, of course, if they can) the music that he wrote. It is medicine.

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