September 8, 2010 on 9:54 pm | Written by: | In Uncategorized | Comments Off on Beethoven

So I’ll start off my first blog post with a little information about me and my musical background. I am Clair Maher and am a sophomore here at Mary Washington. I have been playing the piano since I was in second grade. My mom wanted my brother and I to be able to play a musical instrument and signed us up for piano lessons when we reached second grade. I played mostly classical, contemporary, and baroque music consistently until senior year in high school, when I got too busy to play. In middle school, I played the flute in the school band, but stopped because I liked piano better.
When I think of Beethoven, I am reminded of the tape ‘Beethoven Lives Upstairs’. As a child, I listened to this tape in the car on my way to school, running errands, or on road trips. What struck me most about this tape was how it touched on a softer side of Beethoven. Narrated by a young boy whose family rented out their attic to Beethoven, it gives an insightful view into the temperament of the great composer and how it inspired and influenced his music. While many associate Beethoven with a short, angry temper, the boy in this story sees past this and tries to find the source for this pain.
What struck me was the narrator’s idea that Beethoven’s anger came from loneliness and frustration. It makes sense because as his hearing and vision began to fade, it became hard to interact and connect with people and especially to compose music. One memorable quote was “and I realized what a lonely life this man must have lived.” He was a man with conflicting emotions: sadness and frustration that grew into anger and sometimes violence.
The boy talks about how he notices that these conflicted emotions are evident in Beethoven’s pieces. Many of his sonatas contain flowing and seemingly sad parts played by strings and woodwinds, that are immediately followed by sharp, almost angry parts containing brass and percussion. Sadness is particularly evident in his piano sonatas, which are mostly in the minor key. Here is a link to one of his more famous (and my favorite) piano sonatas:
I also liked that this story contained small facts about Beethoven life and the way he lived. For example it talks about how he took off all of the legs of his piano so he could feel the vibrations of the music through the floor (because he could not hear) and how would take walks alone. It also mentions that after conducting his 9th and final symphony, he had to be turned to face the audience and told to bow because he could neither hear nor see the audience well.

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