Re: OT Happy Birthday Beethoven!
- Reading this post, I remarked to my husband, "Yesterday was Beethoven's birthday."
Jake: "We didn't get him anything!"
I burst out laughing.
- Very interesting quote, Priyadarshan! For Beethoven, a deaf man, to produce such beautiful music that he would never outwardly hear, is truly a miracle. I think Sri Chinmoy said that Beethoven's inner vision came to the fore and guided his composing at the end of his life. Such "Late Beethoven" music would include the Ninth Symphony, the Missa Solemnis, the Hammerklavier piano sonata (and the three following) and, of course, the late string quartets, that seem almost like self-contained worlds in and of themselves. Almost everything else he wrote, however monumnetal, to me is just a prelude to those last five quartets. Where do they come from?
Some twenty-five years before he embarked on that last journey, in 1802, he realised the inevitable progressive nature of his deafness. He confided in a personal letter to a childhood friend:
"I will seize fate by the throat; it will certainly not bend and crush me completely- Oh, it would be so lovely to live a thousand lives."
This was also about the time that he wrote the Heiligenstadt testament, where he declared that he would persist in his creative efforts, against all obstacles. He would not succumb to despair. He concludes that document by writing, "Oh Providence! Grant me but one day of pure joy!"
Beethoven's life was so hard, but his music is so beautiful. His father was a violent drunk. His mother died when he was just a teenager, obliging him to care for his brothers and also, to some extent, his father. His deafness had become a serious impediment by his late twenties, a fact that he had long sought to hide. His financial situation was often rocky, at best.
Maybe going deaf was in some ways a boon for Beethoven. It gave him an excuse to avoid painful social contact; he could transmute his emotional suffering into art. Maybe people also excused his brusque, misanthropic behavior because of his deafness. Of course, when I say "misanthropic" I mean that in his daily interactions with others. He loved humanity deeply, and the choral finale of the Ninth symphony testifies to that love.
As I said, I like the late quartets best. They seem almost baroque in their fugal rigor, great detachment and voicing- as if he wrote them in partnership with Bach and Handel. Each quartet has something special. His twelfth quartet (opus 127), opens with what I call a fugal melody. But instead of leading to a fugue, the melody is repeated over and over, only with slight variation and lovely ornamentation. It's a spare movement but very haunting.
Maybe my favorite movement of all is the Heiliger Dankgesang from opus 132. I don't really know how to describe it. It's worth a listen. I think it expresses an experience of the Divine in a startlingly compact and persuasive way. In that movement, Beethoven takes you to the very edge of the chasm, pushes you against the rail, and forces you to see the wonder of the infinite Beyond.
I get the sense that Beethoven dived deep into spirituality at the end of his life, and that's why the last music he wrote, the great chorales, the late piano sonatas and the string quartets, are so universally loved and cherished. They express truths too deep for words. Music is perhaps the best art with which to express the formless and the eternal.
In college I had the good fortune to read The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I imagine Dostoevsky and Beethoven would have become great friends, had either of them been socially inclined. Dostoevsky, like Beethoven, could be difficult in his relations with people. He was an epileptic, which of course implies some level of isolation from mainstream society. He slept during the day and wrote through the night. That ruined his health- humans aren't nocturnal creatures. Like Beethoven, also, he overcame his emotional and physical challenges to offer something precious and enduring to humanity- in his case through literature.
Dostoevsky, speaking through the character of the mystic Elder Zosima, offers this view of spirituality and the nature of man:
"Much on earth is concealed from us, but in place of it we have been granted a secret, mysterious sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds. [...] God took seeds from other worlds and sowed them on this earth, and raised up his garden; and everything that could sprout sprouted, but it lives and grows only through its sense of being in touch with other mysterious worlds; if this sense is weakened or destroyed in you, that which has grown up in you dies. Then you become indifferent to life, and even come to hate it."
I mentioned in an earlier post that Sri Chinmoy did so much to encourage me to grow spiritually. In his presence, those "other mysterious worlds" were as clear as day, as palpable as my desk. What a privilege! What grace! Sri Chinmoy took the very best in Dostoevsky and Beethoven to a whole new level, through the example of his own life of creativity and service.
Here's a New Thread Idea: Go through your collection of Sri Chinmoy's music and books and pick out your five favorite from both mediums. I'll have to give my whole collection a careful listen to make a selection, but I think it'd be an interesting personal project. Also share with us why you picked the records and books you did. Off the top of my head I would choose "My Lord's Secrets Revealed" among the books, and "The Promise of a New Dawn" (cello) among his tapes. But I want to give this more thought.
I'm off to the record store, so ciao for now. Soon I'll have to rent a warehouse to store all my records and books! Maybe if I ever go blind and deaf I'll donate them and spend the rest of my life sunning myself on a beach in a Hawaii as many of you are doing even as we speak while the rest of us languish in the tender mercies of a middle American winter!
With charity for all,
- Hi Mahiruha!
Wow that quote by Dostoevsky really spoke to me this morning as I was just thinking that very thing after my meditation!
I was thinking about how we have myriad of inner worlds, and there are moments that they seem to come through in the veiled dailiness of our lives, and how lucky we are that we have this inner mysterious connection to sustain us when we start to feel disconnected in this world.
As for your other question, hands down, Guru's Flute Music for Meditation is my all time favorite. I can listen to it almost exclusively every day, and never tire of it and never cease to get inspiration from it.
As for books, that's a little tougher, but definitely among my top picks are My Flute, and The Colour Kingdom.
Can't wait to hear what others think!