Ludwig Van Beethoven is a genius. This is a well-known fact amongst music composers, scholars, players, amateurs and even common people. It needs not to be studied, because the proof, before it is detected with close scrutiny, it is felt. Beethoven’s dexterity is utterly sensed; it hypnotizes the entirety of our faculties, not because it is richly melodious, but because it, to the hearer’s amazement, tells a well-woven story through the intricacies and overlappings of musical notes.
I tried to read through the angry musical flow of this symphony because it startled me the first time I heard it, in the most horrifying yet beautiful way possible.
The last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony starts with a sudden sequence of high notes; a powerful introduction that keeps the hearer in constant state of alertness. Now that Beethoven succeeded in capturing the ever-evasive attention of the listener, he can begin his narrative.
The abrupt eruption of strength occurs from the onset of the piece so as to serve as a wake-up call to those fully immersed in its stream. It is sudden, it wakes you up, and it comes like a delicious slap to those listening drowsily. As much as it engages the listener to embark in the story, it also provides him\her with the first of its clues. You can feel it if you listen to the symphony while reading this.
It opens with a violent tap on a hard door, two taps to be exact. The door opens and then footsteps ensue. One might wonder at this point, what sort of door is this ? This is by no means a regular door that is slammed thoughtlessly and effortlessly. It is the door of a dungeon. If you consider the following events, it might strike you as logical. Now back to the footsteps … A steady and relatively low series of notes translate this movement. The footsteps are numerous indeed. There might be a lot of stairs to get to the cell.
This steadiness is broken with a yet another precipitous outburst in music. The character has arrived to the cell and the prisoner starts screaming furiously as he glimpses the face of the visitor. The nature of this visitor can be left for free speculation … It can be a wicked human being that surfaces to provoke those enraged cries and hence, ferocious musical notes. It might as well be a benevolent comer to whom the prisoner confesses, laments and denounces with hot passion the injustices wrought upon him.
The narrative grows to become a sort of dialogue between the visitor and the prisoner. After the wrathful wailing of that chained spirit, breaks a temporary yet serene set of musical notes. This can embody the answer of that guest as he\she tries to appease the wounded soul and alleviate the weight of his\her manacles. The visitor attempts to give advice, perhaps a few words that pour some taste of hope into the tormented inner world of the wretched captive. At some point, this convict interrupts the guest to convey vehemently his worries. However, the serenity in the symphony takes over anew as the visitor manages to calm his concerns. Just when the listener rejoices in the idea that Good has finally triumphed and the angry self is placated, the notes rise again and one can feel that it is no longer a dialogue but a quarrel. They go up and down alternatively stressing thus the intensity of the dispute and, at the same time, signaling a failure in the communication between these two individuals.
A brief moment of silence follows, then, the pattern reiterates itself again. This is indicative of two ideas: unfairness is a painfully and consistently existent notion. It is out there as old as Humanity and as everlasting as time itself. Episodes of joy and satisfaction are, more often than not, clouded by these unwelcomed, if not loathsome visits of misery and existential handicap. This suggests the notorious Nietzschian notion of Eternal Recurrence; everything is destined to tirelessly repeat itself and all human happenings are registered and then revisited. However, it keeps the history of the universe monotonous yet forever eventful. It is because as history replays itself, the fight between Good and Evil persists as moments of mirth and woe are engaged in a permanent struggle.
This is how Beethoven illustrates, through a seemingly repetitive yet vivid pattern, the perpetual fight of the Humankind.
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