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The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination (Anglais) Relié – Séquence inédite, 13 novembre 2012


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Chapter 1

Revolutions

The first thing to do on arriving at a symphony concert is to express the wish that the orchestra will play Beethoven’s Fifth. If your companion then says “Fifth what?” you are safe with him for the rest of the evening; no metal can touch you. If, however, he says “So do ­I”—­this is a danger signal and he may require careful handling.

—­Donald Ogden Stewart, Perfect Behavior (1922)

Jean-­François Le Sueur was not quite sure what to make of Beethoven’s Fifth. Le Sueur was a dramatic composer, a specialist in oratorios and operas, and the Parisian taste for such fare (along with Le Sueur’s career) had persisted from the reign of Louis XVI through the Revolution, through Napoléon, through the Restoration. For audiences suddenly to be whipped into a frenzy by instrumental ­music—­as they were in 1828, when a new series of orchestral concerts brought Paris its first sustained dose of Beethoven’s ­symphonies—­was something curious. Le Sueur, nearing seventy, was too refined to fulminate, but he kept a respectful distance from the ­novelties—­that is, until one of his students, an ­up-­and-­coming enfant terrible named Hector Berlioz, dragged his teacher to a performance of the Fifth. Berlioz later recalled Le Sueur’s postconcert reaction: “Ouf! I’m going outside, I need some air. It’s unbelievable, wonderful! It so moved and disturbed me and turned me upside down that when I came out of my box and went to put on my hat, for a moment I ­didn’t know where my head was.”

   Alas, in retrospect, it was too much of a shock: at his lesson the next day, Le Sueur cautioned Berlioz that “All the same, that sort of music should not be written.”

In 1920, Stefan Wolpe, then an ­eighteen-­year-­old student at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, organized a Dadaist provocation. He put eight phonographs on a stage, each bearing a recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. He then played all eight, simultaneously, with each record turning at a different speed.

   A socialist and a Jew, Wolpe would flee Nazi Germany; he eventually ended up in America, cobbling together a career as an ­avant-­garde composer and as a teacher whose importance and influence belied his lack of fame. (The jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, shortly before he died, approached Wolpe about lessons and a possible commissioned piece.) In a 1962 lecture, Wolpe recalled his Dada years, revisiting his Beethoven ­collage; ­in a bow to technological change, this performance used only two phonographs, set at the ­once-­familiar 33 and 78 r.p.m. Wolpe then spoke of “one of the early Dada obsessions, or interests, namely, the concept of unforeseeability”:

That means that every moment events are so freshly invented,

so newly born,

that it has almost no history in the piece itself

but its own actual presence.

.  .  .

If today we regard Le Sueur’s frazzled confusion as quaint, it is at least in part because of the subsequent ubiquity of the Fifth Symphony. The music’s immediacy has been forever dented by its celebrity. Wolpe’s eightfold distortion can be heard as a particularly outrageous attempt to re-create Le Sueur’s experience of the Fifth, to conjure up a time when the ­work’s course was still unforeseeable. It is an uphill ­battle—­in the two centuries since its 1808 premiere, Beethoven’s Fifth has become so familiar that it is next to impossible to ­re-­create the disorientation that it could cause when it was newly born.

   The disorientation is built right into the symphony’s opening. Or even, maybe, before the opening: the symphony begins, literally, with silence, an eighth rest slipped in before the first note. A rest on the downbeat, a bit of quiet, seems an inauspicious start. Of course, every symphony is surrounded by at least theoretical silence. Though, in reality, preconcert ambient noise, or at least its ­echoes—­overlapping conversations, shifting bodies, rustling programs, ­air-­conditioning, and so ­on—­may in fact bleed into the music being performed, we nonetheless create a perceptive line between nonmusic and music, enter into a conspiracy between performers and listeners that the composer’s statement is ­self-­contained, that there is a sonic buffer zone between everyday life and music. (Like most conspiracies, it thrives on partial truths.) The obvious interpretation is that silence functions as a frame for the musical object. The less obvious (and groovier) interpretation is that the music we hear is but one facet of the silence it comes out of.

   This is almost certainly not what Beethoven was thinking about when he put a rest in the first measure of the Fifth Symphony. But, were Beethoven ­really trying to mess around with the boundary between his symphony and everything outside of it, he would have been anticipating the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the guru of deconstruction, by nearly two hundred years. Derrida talks about frames in his book The Truth in Painting, noting that when we look at a painting, the frame seems part of the wall, but when we look at the wall, the frame seems part of the painting. Derrida terms this slipstream between the work and outside the work a parergon: “a form which has as its traditional determination not that it stands out, but that it disappears, buries itself, effaces itself, melts away at the moment it deploys its greatest energy.”

   Our minds dissolve the frame as we cross the Rubicon into Art. But Beethoven drags the edge of the frame into the painting itself, stylizing it to the point that, for anyone reading the score, at least, this parergon refuses to go quietly, as it were. Beethoven waits until we’re ready, then gruffly asks if we’re ready yet.

   We can see the silence on the page, in the form of the rest. But do we hear it in performance? The rest completes the meter of ­2/4—­two beats per measure, with the quarter note getting the ­beat—­which, normally, would mean that the second of the three following eighth notes would get a little extra emphasis. But most readings give heavy emphasis to all three eighth notes, steamrolling the meter (which is ­really only one beat to a bar ­anyway—­more on that in a minute). Paleobotanist, artist, and sometime composer Wesley Wehr recalled one consequence of such steamrolling:

Student composer Hubbard Miller, as the story goes, had once been beachcombing at Agate Beach. He paused on the beach to trace some musical staves in the sand, and then added the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Hub had, however, made a slight mistake. Instead of using eighth notes for the famous “da, da, da, dum!,” Hub had written a triplet. He had the right notes, but the wrong ­rhythm—­an easy enough mistake for a young lad to make. Hub looked up to find an elderly man standing beside him, studying the musical misnotation. The mysterious man erased the mistake with one foot, bent down, and wrote the correct rhythmic notation in the sand. With that, he smiled at Hub and continued walking down the beach. Only later did Hub learn that he had just had a “music lesson” from Ernest Bloch.

   Knowledge of the rest is like a secret handshake, admission into the guild. (Bloch, best known for his 1916 ­cello-­and- orchestra “Rhapsodie hébraïque” Schelomo, was also a dedicated photographer who liked to name his images of trees after composers: “Bloch sees ‘Beethoven’ invariably as a single massive tree appearing to twist and struggle out of the soil.”)

   Indeed, one practical reason for the rest is to reassure the performers of the composer’s professionalism. Beethoven knew that any conductor would signal the downbeat anyway, so he put in the rest as a placeholder for the conductor’s gesture. And it’s liable to be a fairly dramatic gesture at that. The meter indicates two beats to the bar, but no conductor actually indicates both beats, as it would tend to bog down music that needs speed and forward momentum. Instead, the movement is conducted “in one,” indicating only the downbeat of every bar.

   So the conductor has one snap of the baton to get the orchestra up to full speed. And the longer the Fifth Symphony has retained its canonical status, the more that task has come to be seen as perilous. For the two leading pre–World War I pundits of conducting, Richard Wagner and Felix Weingartner, starting the Fifth was no big deal. Wagner takes ignition for granted, being far more concerned with the lengths of the subsequent holds, while Weingartner scoffs at his colleague Hans von Bülow’s caution: “Bülow’s practice of giving one or several bars beforehand is quite unnecessary.” But jump ahead to the modern era, and one finds the British conductor Norman Del Mar warning of “would-­be adopters of the baton” suffering “the humiliation of being unable to start the first movement at all.” Gunther Schuller, American composer and conductor, is equally dire, calling the opening “one of the most feared conducting challenges in the entire classical literature.” Del Mar reaches this conclusion: “It is useless to try and formulate the way this is done in terms of conventional stick technique. It is direction by pure force of gesture and depends entirely on the ­will-­power and total conviction of the conductor.”

   It is only a coincidence that the eighth rest resembles the trigger of a starter’s pistol:

Beethoven was known for being moody and intolerant long before he began to lose his hearing. Apparently he was just as pissed off by what he could hear as by what he could not.

—­Paula Poundstone, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say

If only for the blink of an eye, the eighth rest leaves the symphony hanging in fraught silence, a condition that, even at the time of the Fifth’s premiere, was already becoming attached to the Beethoven mythos. The fame of the Fifth Symphony has its biographical match in Beethoven’s deafness.

   Beethoven first noticed a deterioration in his hearing sometime in his twenties; when, in 1801, he first broached the subject in letters to close friends (“I beg you to treat what I have told you about my hearing as a great secret,” he wrote to the violinist Karl Amenda, underlining the request for emphasis), he had already been seeing physicians about it for at least a year. The initial symptoms were those of ­tinnitus—­buzzing and ringing in the ears, a sensitivity to loud noises. (“[I]f anybody shouts, I can’t bear it,” he complained.)

   It would be difficult to overestimate how disconcerting the onset of such a condition must have been to the young Beethoven, especially at that point in his career, having moved to the cultural metropolis of Vienna, on the precarious cusp between notoriety and lasting success. But it is also important to note ­that—­contrary to much popular ­opinion—even at the time he was composing the Fifth Symphony (1804 to 1808, on and off), Beethoven could still hear fairly well, at least well enough to conduct the 1808 premieres of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and then write his publisher about correcting the score: “When I gave these works to you, I had not yet heard either of them performed—­and one should not be so like a god as not to have to correct something here and there in one’s created works.” His fellow ­composer-­pianist Carl Czerny reported that Beethoven “still heard speech and music perfectly well until at least 1812.” While that optimistic characterization is more likely a testament to Beethoven’s adjustment to his infirmity, it’s clear that the Fifth Symphony was not born out of an absolute pathological silence.

   Tracing the progression of Beethoven’s deafness is difficult not just because of Beethoven’s own tendency to overdramatize his affliction, but also because of the tendency of his friends and acquaintances to attribute to deafness symptoms that might just as easily be traced to another underlying condition: that of, well, being Beethoven. In 1804, Stephan von Breuning writes to a mutual friend that as a result of Beethoven’s “waning of hearing . . . [h]e has become very withdrawn and often mistrustful of his best friends, and irresolute in many things!” But, as biographer Maynard Solomon reminds us, the withdrawal, mistrust, and retreat from everyday concerns were there all along: “During his childhood, Beethoven often wrapped himself in a cloak of silence as a shield against both the vicissitudes of external reality and the traumatic events within his family constellation.” Pushed forward as a Mozart-­like prodigy by his alcoholic, dissolute, abusive father, Beethoven retreated into solitude and daydreaming, the defense of a figurative deafness, well before any literal manifestation.

   If the onset of hearing loss fed into Beethoven’s penchant for isolation, his penchant for isolation may have, in turn, fed an exaggerated sense of the extent of his deafness. Recent proposed guidelines for tinnitus diagnosis include the reminder that “it has become clear in recent years that the ‘problem’ of tinnitus relates far more to the individual’s psychological response to the abnormal tinnitus signal than to the signal itself. . . . [I]n some cases the altered mood state predates tinnitus onset . . . making it difficult to know whether tinnitus causes psychological disturbance, or whether psychological disturbance facilitates the emergence of tinnitus.”

   Nevertheless, the adaptability of so much of Beethoven’s ­middle-­period “heroic” output to narratives of crisis and triumph has contributed to a popular sense that his deafness was sudden and total, rather than gradual. One finds it in an entry from an American ­music-­lover’s diary, published in Dwight’s Journal of Music in 1853: “[Beethoven] was deaf, poor man, when he wrote the 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Symphonies. Deaf when he composed ‘Fidelio,’ ‘The Ruins of Athens,’ the two Masses, &c.”

   The unidentified diarist was actually Alexander Wheelock Thayer, who would later undertake extensive research in Germany and Austria and produce a pioneering Beethoven biography, the first volume of which appeared in 1866; based on Thayer’s findings, most critics and scholars would adopt a more nuanced view of Beethoven’s deafness. But the story of a ­stone-­deaf Beethoven and his dauntless musical response was too good, too inspirational, not to survive. The American composer Frances McCollin, for example, blind from the age of five, took powerful inspiration from the story, starting when she attended a dress rehearsal for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s inaugural concert in 1900: “[S]he heard the slow movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which made her think of the deaf Beethoven and she burst into tears.” McCollin’s story echoes one from the ­six-­year-­old Clara ­Schumann—­who, for reasons similar to Beethoven’s, was so withdrawn as a child that her parents thought she, too, might be ­deaf—­noting in her diary, “I heard a grand symphony by Beethoven which excited me greatly.”

   The image of a young, completely deaf Beethoven gained a foothold in children’s literature, offering an educational example of human perseverance (and, maybe, playing on a child’s delight in paradox: a composer who can’t hear). McGuffey’s Fifth Eclectic Reader included an excerpt from Harriet Martineau’s The Crofton Boys, in which young Hugh Proctor’s mother tries to console him after he has had his foot amputated:

“Did you ever hear of Beethoven? He was one of the greatest musical composers that ever lived. His great, his sole delight was in music. It was the passion of his life. When all his time and all his mind were given to music, he suddenly became deaf, perfectly deaf; so that he never more heard one single note from the loudest orchestra. While crowds were moved and delighted with his compositions, it was all silence to him.” Hugh said nothing. 
   
Even today, one can still find the myth perpetuated here and there. 

   As an up-and-coming composer and performer, Beethoven probably feared that common knowledge of his encroaching deafness would have hindered his career prospects. The opposite occurred, as it turned out: within his own lifetime, Beethoven’s deafness became a celebrated element in the reputations of both the composer and his music. A snippet of that celebrity is preserved in the conversation books, the trove of one-sided table talk from Beethoven’s later years, when guests the first four notes would jot down their share of the discussion on paper. During one chat, Beethoven’s nephew Karl informs his uncle of popular perception: “Precisely because of [your deafness] you are famous. Everyone is astonished, not just that you can compose so well, but particularly that you can do it in spite of this affliction. If you ask me, I believe that it even contributes to the originality of your compositions.”
   
   On this occasion, Beethoven seems to have taken his nephew slightly to task for overdetermining the nature of his genius, but there is some evidence that it was Beethoven himself who planted the seed of that astonishment and fame. By the time of the Fifth’s premiere, Beethoven had come to terms with his deafness enough to stop concealing it and to start even subtly advertising it, writing a note to himself in one of his sketchbooks to “let your deafness no longer be a secret—even in art.” The musicologist Owen Jander went so far as to reinterpret the Fifth Symphony in light of this self-admonition, making it not just a metaphorical struggle with infirmity, but, at least in the slow march that permeates the third and part of the fourth movements—a march built out of the symphony’s opening motive—a musical re-creation of the experience of deafness. The third movement’s translation of its theme into a desaturated skeleton of pizzicato strings, Jander suggested, was meant to simulate the composer’s increasingly hazy sense of hearing.

   If the Fifth Symphony is about Beethoven’s deafness, then what could we read into its opening rest? A brief jolt of the experience of deafness, perhaps—a deployment of great energy that remains bereft of sound. Or maybe a remembrance and a reminder: a moment of silence for Beethoven’s hearing.

Revue de presse

Praise for Matthew Guerrieri's The First Four Notes

“How does a song evolve from the mind of its creator to something larger in the popular imagination? And how do four simple notes—da-da-da-DUM—inspire everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mao Zedong to the Nazis and the Allies in WWII? Guerrieri uncovers everything you’d ever want to know about Beethoven’s most famous symphony, from its composition in 1808 to its disastrous premiere through its more recent incarnation as a rallying cry for both discotheques and cellphone ringtones.”
Los Angeles Magazine, #1 Music Book of the Year

“Can you really squeeze a book out of the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony? Guerrieri shows us how, dashing back and forth from the terse notes to all the meaning-baggage that’s been heaped on them. It’s a formidable act of intelligent scholarship and imaginative connection-making.”
—Jeremy Denk, The New Yorker, Best Books of the Year
 
“With the omnivorous curiosity of a polymath, Matthew Guerrieri follows [the first four notes’] path through cultural history, from their humble beginnings (he even dwells on the symphony’s real opening, which is of course not a note at all but an eighth-rest) through early reactions (the composer Le Sueur told Berlioz, “That sort of music should not be written”) to their eventual canonization as the great opening of the quintessential great symphony. And, of course, to their cameo as background music for Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever.”
TIME Magazine, Top Ten Nonfiction Book of 2012
 
“A pleasure. . . . There’s a lot left to learn about Beethoven’s ‘Fifth Symphony,’ from its first line to its long life in the two centuries after its 1808 premiere, as Matthew Guerrieri’s enormously entertaining, endlessly informative new book proves. . . . Guerrieri is a friendly, chatty guide.”
The Boston Globe
 
“Spectacular. . . . The author's kaleidoscopic account of his subject starts in the early 19th century and ends in contemporary popular culture. . . . With a quick mind and wit, [Guerrieri] traverses two centuries of musical culture, literature and politics with uncommon authority. The passage from one reference point to another resembles free association; it reveals a novelistic ambition, permitting the author's tastes and sparkling capacity for commentary to shape a journey the reader would otherwise not have taken. . . . We can use more commentators and advocates, in other words, like Matthew Guerrieri, who can restore a sense of beauty, wonderment and profundity to classical music. The First Four Notes brings back into memory many unfairly forgotten musicians, writers and scholars whose work would otherwise continue to drift into obscurity. . . . This book should serve as an inspiration to look, listen and read further.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“Guerrieri’s spare exegesis strips away some of the rhetoric around the piece, by providing a concrete inventory of the musical elements that have often inspired overwrought and imprecise description. . . . Lively detail. . . . The ultimate test of the book may be in what its readers hear when they put it down and reach for the nearest recording of the symphony, ready to listen anew.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“New and intriguing. . . . A treasury of such information. But the allure of this book is not the factoids that will delight trivia lovers, but the encyclopedic biography of the Fifth Symphony, starting with its origins, tracing its development and, most important, charting interpretations of it over the past 200 years. . . . [Guerrieri] is as adept at tracing philosophical arguments and their transformations as he is at tracing musical history. As a result, music lovers will find much to enthrall them in his pages, while readers interested in the intellectual history of Europe and the United States will be captured by its application to Beethoven’s Fifth. So will those with literary interests. . . . Not least of the pleasures of this book is the lucid and often sprightly prose.”
The Washington Times
 
“Fascinating. . . . [Guerrieri’s explorations] will coax anyone into giving a fresh ear to the symphony.”
The Columbus Dispatch

“Guerrieri has turned up a vast array of artifacts, from the profound to the perfunctory, in an enjoyable and at times surprising cultural history of those first four notes from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. . . . Guerrieri is an affable guide who writes with genuine enthusiasm and patience about the Fifth and the ranging material on philosophy and aesthetics he amasses.”
Bookforum
 
"Matthew Guerrieri is a brilliant, impassioned, and witty observer not only of music but of the entire cultural landscape surrounding the art. A bit like Beethoven himself, Guerrieri finds a cosmos in four notes."
—Alex Ross, author of Listen to This and The Rest Is Noise

"Music’s most memorable da-da-da-dummm touched off a cultural and intellectual ferment that’s ably explored in this sparkling study. Boston Globe music critic Guerrieri opens with an engaging musicological investigation of how Ludwig van Beethoven orchestrated his Fifth Symphony’s urgent rhythms and unsettling harmonies into a work of unique emotional and rhetorical force. . . . Guerrieri often wanders away from Beethoven for luxuriant digressions on German romanticism or Victorian patent laxatives, but clothes his erudition in lucid, breezy prose. He makes the muzziest musico-philosophical conceits accessible and relevant, while tossing off his own intriguing insights—'Beethoven’s heroic music is a lot like Steve McQueen’s acting'—with the flick of a baton. The result is a fresh, stimulating interpretation that shows how provocative the familiar classic can be."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)


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28 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
ah, now I understand why the Fifth is in everything! 29 novembre 2012
Par subquark - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I grew up hearing Beethoven's Fifth in everything from cartoons, to commercials, to movies and the term iconic is overly used today, however if ever anything is truly iconic - this is. When I heard about this book I saw an opportunity to learn why this movement is so culturally embedded in the West.

I usually read tech manuals (oh fun, lol, is that actually reading?) so I took this as a refreshing change and was pleased at how much I did learn.

What other book would make a connection between Beethoven's Fifth and Beecham's Pills?

It was an informative and entertaining read and now I have a better understanding why this one piece of music is something that so many people have found, and will continue to find, as a part of our day-to-day culture.

Nice read, loads of references, and a sense of wit that I love!
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
These four notes are a shared global language, a universal expression of gravity, and Guerrieri has written their biography. 2 février 2013
Par C.E. Alexander - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
The title of Matthew Guerrieri's The First Four Notes has a rather In The Beginning feel. Undeniably those notes mark a new era, be it the early years of the Romantic period, or of instrumental music, even the beginning of symphonies composed with a metronome. The subject matter - the four-second melody which opens Beethoven's Symphony # 5 in C Minor - seems too long for a blog post, too short for a book, too specialized for a general audience and too well-trodden for the specialists. Fortunately Guerrieri errs to the side of hardcover in spite of that, briefly exploring every divergence available, from Georg W.F. Hegel to Ralph Waldon Emerson and Charles Ives. But while some readers may bask in the measure's aesthetic and philosophical family tree, others may resort to pruning.

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the Fifth during - and indeed, was largely responsible for - a transitional period in music history. Given, the metronome had not been invented yet, but neither had the conductor's baton or, not insignificantly, the electric motor. Critics reviewed symphonies from sheet music and audiences rarely attended concerts by permanent orchestras; instead, the Fifth was normally "interpreted by either amateur or essentially freelance groups." Rumors must have flourished in this environment, and two survive even today: first, that Beethoven composed the Fifth and all of his subsequent work stone-deaf, and second, that the opening measure - and its refrain throughout the seven-minute allegro - represents the knock of fate, or the knock of death, our one shared fate.

Guerrieri contends that Beethoven only suffered from tinnitus during the creation of the Fifth - with absolute deafness still to come - although the author reminds us that the psychological treatment for tinnitus is every bit the concern that medical treatment is. As to the fate rumor, Guerrieri lends most credence to Carl Czerny's statement that yellowhammer song inspired the notes, hardly a revolutionary start, and therefore easy to cast aside for some of the symphony's more radical listeners like Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche. For those expecting the pacing of a novel, here will lie the book's most active fault line. The First Four Notes dedicates as much space to Hegelianism and Das Kapital as it does to Romanticism and any heroic verse Beethoven is thought to have read (Homer, Ossian).

Yet Guerrieri's tangents usually work. The account of the Belgian resistance during German occupation, for one, is a stirring read. During World War II, Belgian civilians would make initial contact with downed Royal Air Force bomber pilots using graffiti, then begin the process of ushering the pilots back to England. The large, chalked-in message "R.A.F." became too time-consuming and, therefore, possibly too risky to write. Victor de Laveleye - the former Belgian parliament member and then director of BBC's French-language broadcasting - launched the V campaign (V for Victoire, or Victory in French and Vrijheid, or Freedom in Dutch). It was pure serendipity that the Morse code for the letter V was three dots and a dash, which could be represented in sound as if by design: the opening four notes of Beethoven's Fifth. This way Germany's famed allegro became "a devilishly effective double agent," because "the sound of Beethoven's Fifth coming over a radio in Germany was now cause to suspect treason." Those of you subject to passions should take note, it's impossible to keep reading this book with both fists in the air.

Even Guerrieri's lighter material is rousing. The author's research into ringtones - hardly the fare of radicals - makes for a gossamery coda to the French revolution, Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the horrors of twentieth century combat. While it is anyone's guess how many cellular phones ever did employ the first four allegro notes, fiction writers offer a place where virtually all of them do. The measure provides a royalty-free and universally-identifiable soundtrack, communicating significance or humor as needed. The audience does not even need to suspend disbelief. They only have to accept that a phone is ringing.

Guerrieri's first example of many is Christopher Reich's 2002 novel The First Billion:

"As he stroked the putter toward the ball, an ominous tune chimed from within his golf bag. The first bars of 'Beethoven's Fifth.' The blade met the ball askew and it sailed three feet past the cup."

An ominous tune, indeed. Beethoven's Symphony # 5 in C Minor is alternately slicing and whimsical, intimidating for composers, written in a difficult tempo, and deceptively major-key in temperament. This "might not be the greatest piece of music ever written... but it must be the greatest `great piece' ever written." Its first four notes are a shared global language, a universal expression of gravity, and Matthew Guerrieri has written their biography.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Fascinating but not light reading for me 22 juillet 2013
Par welloff - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I bought this because I love Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It's not only giving me an even greater appreciation of the music, but I am learning so much about history, philosophy and music theory.

I am enjoying this book but I'll be the first to admit that it's over my head. It contains a lot of philosophy, and I don't have any background in philosophy. There is also a lot of music theory, of which I have a thimbleful of knowledge. So I am reading it on different levels - as an introduction to some philosophical principles (such as 'amor fati') which I struggle through, rereading multiple passages multiple times; as a trip back into music theory, with passages that I don't necessarily have to reread, but I definitely need to slow down; as a biography and historical account of events, customs and controversies before, during and after Beethoven composed the 5th, in which I become engrossed.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Much more than an introduction 27 mai 2013
Par MB932 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Wide ranging review of the interpretation of Beethoven's work by diverse philosophical thinkers which come from a surprising range of the political spectrum and covers the whole range of years since the first performance of the work. Very thought stimulating - but some knowledge of philosophy does help.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
much more than the first 4 notes 23 avril 2013
Par BlOl - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
amazing depth and fascinating story ... I have a totally new appreciation for Beethoven and his Fifth! I read this book sitting not far from a music source and found and listened to most music references in the book. I particularly loved his list of eight interesting recordings of the Fifth, especially the ones by Glenn Gould and the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Enjoyed connecting again with "A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy and now can't get it out of my mind lol. A multi-faceted feast. Bravo and lots of praise for a great addition to any library!
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