In my last post, I talked about going to the orchestra, and how the pre-concert preparations have always been an important part of the experience.
Now I want to say a few things about the concert itself.
to hear a major symphony by a well-known composer (in this case,
Beethoven's 7th, though this applies even more to the 5th and the 9th,
which I also often catch live), I am aware of possible judgment from two
sides. One is the side that thinks of Beethoven or any classical music
as snooty, or boring, or elitist. The other side consists of classical
music enthusiasts who are so deep into the field that they are
interested in more unusual or experimental works. They say that
Beethoven's best-known works are cliche, overdone; that the musicians
are bored with them.
And while I understand that maybe everyone
wouldn't look forward to hearing a symphony, and maybe some people have
heard Beethoven too often and hunger for something different, I've also
come to the point where I accept my own tastes without apology. I like
classical music's "greatest hits." I know I am not the only one (which
is why these works are so popular). I have seen people slapping their
thighs, punching the air, bobbing their heads along with the music.
It's always as interesting to me to watch the performance of a Beethoven symphony as it is to hear it.
Beethoven was unafraid of using all the musicians, including those
whose instruments play deeper and darker, like the basses and the
timpani. (I have sometimes thought, "The percussionists are getting
quite a workout!") Some composers rely much more heavily on the violins
and don't use the rest of the instruments as much. He also uses a
striking sort of call-and-response pattern among the sections of the
orchestra. Other composers have this echo-of-theme thing going on, of
course, but I don't have enough of a music education to describe what
seems distinctive to me about Beethoven's. I do remember that it was a
revelation to me, the first time I saw the 5th performed, to see the
arms of the violinists moving in unison, and then to see the different
parts of the orchestra come alive at different times.
writer, I also appreciate the way Beethoven's movements often build to a
crescendo in stages, the way a novel does. There's rising action--and
then falling action--and then rising action moving even higher, and so
So those are my writerly thoughts for the day, courtesy of
the symphony: Read/write what matters to me no matter what others think.
Use my whole orchestra. Trust my voice. Alternate rising and falling
action in the plot, on the way to the big finish.