I must confess that I haven't attended a symphony orchestra performance since a long-ago elementary school field trip.
(Perhaps memory fails me, but I could swear we rowdy youngsters heard Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Cooties" - or maybe it was excerpts from Mozart's opera "Beans, Beans, They're Like A Magic Flute.")
My generation mostly knows Ludwig van Beethoven because (a) Schroeder in the "Peanuts" comic strip kept a bust of the German composer on his piano (fun fact: Pigpen carried around a full-size statue of Joseph Haydn, but no one could ever see it through the dust) and (b) Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with the 1976 disco instrumental "A Fifth of Beethoven."
That recording, of course, was adapted from the famous first movement of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67" - more commonly known as "Yet Another One That Needs More Cowbell".
At least my son Gideon voluntarily listens to classical music while doing homework and surfing the internet. (Too bad Beethoven didn't follow up "Ode to Joy" with "Ode to Teenage Angst." But I digress.) Gideon's exposure to highfalutin music helps me hold my head a little higher as we near the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven (approximately December 16).
Beethoven was a prodigy and a genius in the days when being a genius actually meant something. (Nowadays, if you can Photoshop a selfie of yourself consuming the world's largest Tide Pod between the time you lose your balance and the time you hit the pavement 30 stories below, you're a certified genius and a tragic loss to the gene pool.)
Biography.com describes Beethoven as "the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras." (Granted, the competition wasn't as fierce as you've been led to believe. "Be the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras? I dunno. Does it come with vision and dental? Forget that!")
The website goes on to laud Beethoven as "an innovator, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto and quartet, and combining vocals and instruments in a new way." Nothing about trashing hotel rooms or driving a carriage into the swimming pool, but nobody's perfect.
Most of Beethoven's greatest masterpieces were composed AFTER he began losing his hearing. Too bad we don't have more perseverance in the face of adversity like that now. ("Finish my novel after a reviewer used my non-preferred pronoun? All I'm writing is my signature on my disability check.")
Alas, Beethoven was unlucky in love. According to one biographer, the pianist's last words before dying at the age of 56 were "You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain - if I'd just put THAT in a ballet, I'd have been a chick magnet!"
I'm glad we have ready access to our favorite musical genres (whether it be honky tonk, Adele ballads, Broadway show tunes, hip-hop, heavy metal, modern jazz or something else), but let's all try to slip a little classical (especially Beethoven) into the mix.
We need our veggies to go with our dessert. We need the complexity, the sophistication, the gravitas, the soul-stirring majesty of classical compositions.
We need to transcend this mortal plane and ... ooo, they have Tide Pods on the astral plane! Which lens shall I use?
Copyright 2020 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades." Danny's weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.