Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Dylan Evans says that Beethoven harmed classical music, and "managed to put an end to this noble tradition [the connection between mathematics and sound, and, hence an objective goal] by inaugurating a barbaric U-turn away from an other-directed music to an inward-directed, narcissistic focus on the composer himself and his own tortured soul." But Algis Valiunas argues this:

The defiant pugnacity with which Beethoven faced his physical and emotional afflictions translated into music of ardent excellence—music that explored what it meant to be noble. From pain he wrested sublime beauty, beauty that acknowledges it could never have come to be without that pain. To become the most splendid of democratic artists, the most inspired celebrant of the new human type emerging from millennia of injustice and subjugation, he had not only to overcome his personal torments but also to lift from his own breast the millstone of an artistic tradition laden with uncongenial aristocratic presuppositions. His is the grandest triumph of the newborn democratic soul. He knew what men were and what they could become, and, with Verdi, he was the subtlest and most heartening political thinker in music there ever was.

Discussions - 3 Comments

John Newton, once a slave ship captain, underwent a conversion process that led to the penning of one of the most beloved hymns - "Amazing Grace". If that is not about the wretched and dark condition of human souls, I don’t know what is.

Most of what makes music valuable to the average person is emotional, perhaps even narcissistic. If Beethoven is guilty of releasing classical music from its fossilized parlor-room prison then I say he committed no crime. The notion that art can be stripped of emotional content is just weird -- the essence of art is to tap into emotion.

It seems to me that the best in every field of art have been those that have challenged the "status quo" and used innovation to improve upon what went before. It’s true of Beethoven in music, Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci in painting and sculpture, architects like Frank LLoyd Wright, and others. The difference between these GREATS and today’s "innovative" artists is in the achievement of beauty, instead of the discord that seems to permiate the modern attempts of "innovation".

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