This gives me the chance to wish everyone on the list best for Christmas and
the New Year, and to link to the following version of 'The Holy Song Of
There are other great versions but this one is (imo) very remarkable.
We have in the 'Holy Song' what might appear to some a tuneless dirge followed
by a mediocre burst of string quartet in a conventional classical style, which
then repeats ad nauseam.
But to others we have a beautiful cosmic poem - beginning with almost
underdeveloped blocks of interweaved sound, from which emerges a
straightforward-sounding but deeply affecting melodic burst of life; these two
strands are then interweaved and repeated, in ways that continually deepen and
widen the meanings in the music.
Play this while imagining snapshots of any life of a person you love, from
birth to death, and imagine this against a backdrop of a universe of almost
unimaginable vastness, emptiness, but also light and noble life in the darkness.
On Thursday, 17 December 2020, 22:11:09 GMT, epostboxx@xxxxxxxx
For some time now I've had a long passage from Forster's HOWARD'S END (Chapter
5) in my DRAFTS mailbox, meaning (it being Beethoven's 250th 'birthday' this
year) to comment on it in light of an essay I found on the internet.
Somehow I've not got around to that commentary, but seeing that it's
Beethoven's birthday (or, at any rate, 'christening day') today, I thought I'd
just post the passage and a link to the essay. Make of them what you will (but
do celebrate the genius of Beethoven someway or other) ...
From HOWARD'S END:
"For the Andante had begun--very beautiful, but bearing a family likeness to
all the other beautiful Andantes that Beethoven had written, and, to Helen's
mind, rather disconnecting the heroes and shipwrecks of the first movement from
the heroes and goblins of the third. She heard the tune through once, and then
her attention wandered, and she gazed at the audience, or the organ, or the
architecture. Much did she censure the attenuated Cupids who encircle the
ceiling of the Queen's Hall, inclining each to each with vapid gesture, and
clad in sallow pantaloons, on which the October sunlight struck. 'How awful to
marry a man like those Cupids!' thought Helen. Here Beethoven started
decorating his tune, so she heard him through once more, and then she smiled at
her Cousin Frieda. But Frieda, listening to Classical Music, could not respond.
Herr Liesecke, too, looked as if wild horses could not make him inattentive;
there were lines across his forehead, his lips were parted, his pince-nez at
right angles to his nose, and he had laid a thick, white hand on either knee.
And next to her was Aunt Juley, so British, and wanting to tap. How interesting
that row of people was! What diverse influences had gone to the making! Here
Beethoven, after humming and hawing with great sweetness, said 'Heigho,' and
the Andante came to an end. Applause, and a round of 'wunderschöning' and
pracht volleying from the German contingent. Margaret started talking to her
new young man; Helen said to her aunt: 'Now comes the wonderful movement: first
of all the goblins, and then a trio of elephants dancing'; and Tibby implored
the company generally to look out for the transitional passage on the drum.
"'On the what, dear?'
"'On the drum, Aunt Juley.'
"'No; look out for the part where you think you have done with the goblins and
they come back,' breathed Helen, as the music started with a goblin walking
quietly over the universe, from end to end. Others followed him. They were not
aggressive creatures; it was that that made them so terrible to Helen. They
merely observed in passing that there was no such thing as splendour or heroism
in the world. After the interlude of elephants dancing, they returned and made
the observation for the second time. Helen could not contradict them, for, once
at all events, she had felt the same, and had seen the reliable walls of youth
collapse. Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! The goblins were right. Her
brother raised his finger; it was the transitional passage on the drum.
For, as if things were going too far, Beethoven took hold of the goblins and
made them do what he wanted. He appeared in person. He gave them a little push,
and they began to walk in a major key instead of in a minor, and then--he blew
with his mouth and they were scattered! Gusts of splendour, gods and demigods
contending with vast swords, colour and fragrance broadcast on the field of
battle, magnificent victory, magnificent death! Oh, it all burst before the
girl, and she even stretched out her gloved hands as if it was tangible. Any
fate was titanic; any contest desirable; conqueror and conquered would alike be
applauded by the angels of the utmost stars.
"And the goblins--they had not really been there at all? They were only the
phantoms of cowardice and unbelief? One healthy human impulse would dispel
them? Men like the Wilcoxes, or ex-President Roosevelt, would say yes.
Beethoven knew better. The goblins really had been there. They might
return--and they did. It was as if the splendour of life might boil over and
waste to steam and froth. In its dissolution one heard the terrible, ominous
note, and a goblin, with increased malignity, walked quietly over the universe
from end to end. Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! Even the flaming
ramparts of the world might fall. Beethoven chose to make all right in the end.
He built the ramparts up. He blew with his mouth for the second time, and again
the goblins were scattered. He brought back the gusts of splendour, the
heroism, the youth, the magnificence of life and of death, and, amid vast
roarings of a superhuman joy, he led his Fifth Symphony to its conclusion. But
the goblins were there. They could return. He had said so bravely, and that is
why one can trust Beethoven when he says other things."
The essay upon which I meant to engage in dialogue:
Not much in sympathy with Helen's vision of goblins, et alia,
but much in sympathy with her trust in Beethoven, in
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