Observations While Listening to Beethoven

Please click the play button…

…thank you.

So, Karin, the kids and I accompanied Karin’s Aunt C and Uncle K to the Seattle Symphony last night in Benaroya Hall. Uncle K – a friendly and articulate man with a serious knack for storytelling – is a retired professional Cellist, so you can imagine what a fabulous experience it was.

There were four pieces, each with several movements, the premier piece being Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major, Op. 56, which is commonly known as the “Triple” Concerto. It is the only concerto Beethoven ever wrote for more than one solo instrument and is, unquestionably, a beautiful piece of music. Uncle K commented to me, “This music is universal. If space aliens were to come to earth and hear this, they would find it as lovely as we do.” I have to agree with him. I mean, how could they not?

I wanted to mention one thing I read in the program before I get to making with the funny. It speculates as to why Beethoven went outside his norm to write a piece with three solo instruments. I think it’s fascinating:

Beethoven’s biographers have made much of his loneliness. It is true that the composer never achieved the conjugal relation he long desired and was somewhat isolated by his loss of hearing in later life. Still, he enjoyed a number of significant friendships. No doubt the most important was his friendship with Archduke Rudolph, scion of Austria’s ruling Hapsburg family…

Rudolph and Beethoven developed genuine respect and affection for each other. This would not have been possible without the former’s very real musical abilities. He was the only person to whom Beethoven ever gave regular instruction in composition, and all evidence indicates he was a talented pianist as well…

Several of Beethoven’s associates assert that the [“Triple” Concerto’s] piano part was fashioned expressly for the Archduke.

Beethoven left no indication why he chose to employ three solo instruments in this concerto. Perhaps Rudolph, who was only 15, was not yet equipped to handle the demands of the soloist’s role without some assistance.

Okay, a few somewhat humorous observations from this most classy of events:

Did I Say Classy?

The first question on the Seattle Symphony’s FAQ page is “What should I wear?” They hint at business or business casual dress but end by saying, “Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable!”

The exclamation point must have really buoyed the dude with the blue Mohawk and baggy knee-shorts with dangling wallet-chain who sat a few rows in front of us. Nothing against scary guys with native American hair-dos; he was, after all, looking quite comfortable.

Strike a Pose

I looked around the audience and noted something as enjoyable as it was peculiar-bordering-on-creepy. At least a third of the people I observed were seated in a very particular pose: bent ever so slightly forward, with one arm across the lap and the other elbow resting on it, with the thumb of this hand positioned under the chin and the index finger resting across the lips or cheek. This is, evidently, the best position for enjoying live classical music.

It is also the best position for looking like a pretentious jackass refined intellectual*.

You know what would have been slick? Seeing Blue Mohawk strike the pose; the juxtaposition of elements would have been pretty awesome, I think. The gorgeous sleeve-tattoos would have really brought the whole thing together, from an artistic standpoint.

Star Wars and Stravinsky**

We heard a Stravinsky piece last night – Symphony in three movements – and as I listened to it, I was reminded of certain pieces composed by John Williams for, believe it or not, Star Wars. There were quite a few elements that were strikingly similar and I am convinced that Williams was deeply influenced by Stravinsky, at least with regard to his work on the Star Wars soundtrack.

*Sincere apologies to anyone offended by the original version. I'm just trying to be funny. Don't stop reading my blog on my account!
**OK, so this last observation was during Stravinsky and not Beethoven and wasn't all that humorous. Sue me.

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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10 Responses to Observations While Listening to Beethoven

  1. Marque says:

    Phew..guess I am not a pretentious jackass – I don't think I have ever sat like that. Loved the background music, too. You are so refined, Kirk. 🙂

  2. jaypo says:

    I've seen the pretentious j-ass position but only from afar. I usually get stuck sitting next to extremely large men who wheeze and wear too much cologne.

  3. lauowolf says:

    What I love (sarcasm approach warning)is when I've scraped together money to get us(two adults and serious teen dancer) to the ballet.And we end up (I have bad seating karma, I admit) surrounded by charming families.With their charming kids under 10, who are dressed up like little dolls and loudly hating every minute.And whining for two straight hours.I guess they are getting inoculated against culture.But I wish they'd do it more quietly.

  4. Kirk you are such a refined intellectual, you enlighten the rest of us. ^-~

  5. Actually, your friend is exactly right. Music, especially the likes of Beethoven (or even Ryuichi Sakamoto's more classical works) are very mathemetical, the latter even going so far as to employ graph theory when composing sometimes.I actually blame my my musical and visual apptitude for the only reason why I am competent in theoretical mathematics. Applied math (much like applied music) is very lacking for me. But holy shit can I explain it!And well, unfortunately, nothing is as universal as mathematics.I've often thought it would be funny if in communicating with aliens someone made a simple factoring error and inadvertently started an interstellar war.And as for the pretentious jackass pose. Oh it's a favorite. I think I'm always in that position, even when sitting at the computer reading things or twittering with photoshop. I remember reading once that it actually has some body language merit as displaying keen interest or attention. Same with running the index finger along the top ridge of the chin. And pretentious jackasses are always keenly interested (in what self-importantly profound thing they're going to say next).

  6. Kirk says:

    "And as for the pretentious jackass pose… I think I'm always in that position, even when sitting at the computer reading things or twittering with photoshop."I need to confess that even I found myself in that position at times during the concert. It's not an entirely uncomfortable position, after all. I do fear my joke might have been a bit on the crass side and taken badly by some. Not you, of course; I'm just saying.

  7. People should know when they're pretentious jackasses. If they can't laugh at it, well then they're just not pretentious enough.I mean…Just look at Peter Murphy vs David J.

  8. Budd says:

    As you were describing the position, I realized that I was reading the post in it. Am I reallly that pretentious. I don't really care if I am, so I guess I am.

  9. little miao says:

    Thanks for sharing the great music. I ❤ Beethoven. Having read this post a while ago, I now notice that I assume the "refined intellectual" pose all too often. And to think, intellectual snobbery is one of my "pet peeves" – I think because I'm so afraid of becoming one (a snob, that is) myself.

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