13/9/2009

We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.

Animation discovered via Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.

There are a couple things which seem incredible and noteworthy about this representation of the opening movement to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, quite likely the preeminent piece of music, not just of the Classical or Western canon, but in all of human history.

First, one marvels at the visual complexity required to render that which the ear renders so readily comprehensible.  This representation in particular drives home the message by substituting musical notation for simple graphs more widely understood by the portion of society well-familiar with listening to music, but musically illiterate”in the sense that they are unable to sightread musical notation.

Second comes the realization that this dauntingly intricate masterpiece was written and revised between 1804 and 1807–08 by a man with rapidly-failing hearing relying on piano reductions of the score, and without access to a full orchestra, recording studio, or modern multi-tracking computer composition software.  This alone would be humbling to such a degree that one might justifiably feel thoroughly benighted before registering the fact that Beethoven was simultaneously occupied with the writing of three string quartets, his Violin Concerto, Fourth Piano Concerto, Piano Sonata No. 23 (Appassionata), Fourth Symphony, Sixth (Pastoral) Symphony, and the opera Fidelio, all of which are prominent and celebrated works by their own right.

With apologies to Montesquieu, Beethoven was great because he was gifted to such a degree that very few souls in the course of all humanity will comprehend things on the same plane, and yet he somehow managed to express himself in a manner which his countless inferiors can dimly understand.


Carriage Return music


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