Who Was Ludwig van Beethoven?
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German pianist and composer widely considered to be one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. His innovative compositions combined vocals and instruments, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto and quartet. He is the crucial transitional figure connecting the Classical and Romantic ages of Western music.
Beethoven’s personal life was marked by a struggle against deafness, and some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life, when he was quite unable to hear. He died at the age of 56.
HE simply put was a musical genius who gave the world incredible music, but, he was WHITE so……..
Were Ludwig Van alive today, the royalties he’d see trickling in from tote bag prints, film soundtrack appearances (hello, Saturday Night Fever), not to mention your gran’s tinny ringtone, would likely put him ahead of Lloyd Webber on the musicians’ rich list.
And were it not for the coronavirus pandemic forcing concert halls to close, you’d be hard pressed to find an orchestra who hasn’t found room for those four opening notes in their 2020 programme, as the world celebrates 250 years of Beethoven.
Besides being completely ingrained in today’s culture, Beethoven’s music also manages to still mean something to people today. The tense struggle of the opening, endless switching between minor and major, and that final moment of triumph, make it relatable to pretty much anyone inhabiting this brave new world.
But a musicologist and a songwriter, stars of Vox’s ‘Switched on Pop’ podcast produced with the New York Philharmonic, have been criticised for their new reading of Beethoven’s Fifth, which argues that white men embraced the work and turned it into a “symbol of their superiority and importance.”
Oh Good Freaking Grief STOP! These shit stains and their Racial Obsession Syndrome has to stop. Or, at least serious people need to stop entertaining said shit stains delusions of relevance.
Since its 1808 premiere, audiences have interpreted that progression from struggle to victory as a metaphor for Beethoven’s personal resilience in the face of his oncoming deafness.
Or rather, that’s long been the popular read among those in power, especially the wealthy white men who embraced Beethoven and turned his symphony into a symbol of their superiority and importance. For some in other groups — women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color — Beethoven’s symphony may be predominantly a reminder of classical music’s history of exclusion and elitism. One New York City classical music fan wrote in the 1840s, for example, that he wished “all women shall be gagged by officers duly licensed for the purpose before they’re allowed to enter a concert room.”
Today, some aspects of classical culture are still about policing who’s in and who’s out. When you walk into a standard concert hall, there’s an established set of conventions and etiquette (“don’t cough!”; “don’t cheer!”; “dress appropriately!”) that can feel as much about demonstrating belonging as appreciating the music.
OH YES, how dare anyone have, or respect certain standards of behavior for symphonies or anything else right? We should just say screw traditions and norms because to adhere to certain attitudes is RAAAAACIST!!!!!
For classical music critic James Bennett II, Beethoven’s popularity and centrality in classical culture is part of the problem. “As you perpetuate the idea that the giants of the music all look the same, it conveys to the ‘other’ that there’s not a stake in that music for them,” he says.
Again, the fascination with imagining you are a victim, or that everyone that “looks like you” is a victim must stop. It is that attitude that holds people back, in any field. And it is that attitude that the grievance mongers pedal, constantly, it is time we reject such nonsense.