Friday, June 09, 2006

Music to my ears

Well, after my diatribe from yesterday, I suppose my evening was fitting. Once the kids were in bed, I was not particularly motivated to tackle the housework, so decided to check my email. I heard a symphony coming over the baby monitor and started to pay attention. I knew it was Beethoven, but did not immediately register which symphony, only that I really like this one. So, I sat there vaguely listening and screwing around on the computer for awhile. It was so nice to hear a piece of music that I truly love. I finally realized that it wasn't the 5th (one of my favorite pieces) or even the 7th (Uncle Stu's alltime fav), but the 9th! This particular music has the ability to really move me, uplifting my mood, soothing my mind, a therapy in itself.

Every year there is a live performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl, and I have never ever seen it perfomed live. Ever. I'm not the only person partial to this music. It is labeled as one of the all time greatest pieces ever composed, (although there are mixed opinions as to the quality of content used, and consistency in theme). Even more remarkable is that this miracle of humanity came from a person who was deaf, who never even heard those beautiful notes that he so geniusly crafted together. Beethoven conducted the orchestra and choir himself on the debut performance, yet was exposed as completely deaf when it was necessary to turn him to face the audience, showing him the applause that was offered at the performance. After spending 10 years working on the symphony, he never heard a single note, nevermind the audience's fantastic reaction to such a bold and original piece, the first to pair a choir with musicians, putting a popular poem to a melody, and forging a place in history that could not have been anticipated. This music is used around the world as a benchmark, a theme for significant moments including the fall of the Berlin wall. Originally cd's were designed to hold 74 minutes of music, specifically to be the first media to be able to play the 9th Sympony in its entirety without having to turn over the record or change the tape.

As I heard the orchestra begin the last movement, Ode to Joy, I decided that I wanted to simply enjoy the moment. I turned on the stereo (much better sound quality than the baby monitor), turned off the lights, and sat on the couch absorbing the music around me. It had been a very long time since I had heard this piece, and even longer since I have truly listened to it. It is stunning. The music washes over you in waves, with several distinct parts, all coming together in the end. It begins so simply with the bass introducing the melody, then a couple more instruments start to come in, until there is such depth of layering, you could listen a hundred times and find something new each time. I am not generally partial to choral music, but this is unique. Where the sopranos could easily be shrill, these voices were sweet. The tenors lend stability and a voice to support those upper octaves all around them. The whole movement is incredibly dynamic in intensity, and pace, keeping you engaged the whole time. To hear the finite details of the melody and submelodies woven together gives me such an inner sense of satisfaction and peace. I needed that.

It has been so long since music was a large part of my life. For so many years, I played everyday, taking great satisfaction in learning a new piece, getting a rush to hear the orchestra or band around me nail it after weeks of rehearsal. For Fillip and I, this was one of our major common denominators, and we both still have the sheet music from the duet we performed together so long ago. For years I have said I want to pick up a new instrument and have not made the time to do it. Although that is going to be delayed for awhile longer, my interest is renewed, and I recognize the void in my psyche from not seeking out and playing quality music, old and new.

If you have never truly listened to Beethoven's 9th Symphony, find a copy and sit down with that last movement to start. It is soul shaking.

It turns out, that was a live performance, and I just got lucky. Again, I will try to go to the Hollywood Bowl to hear it in person. Who's with me?

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