Beethoven: not feeling it!

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crazyrach97
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Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by crazyrach97 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:54 am

So I've got all these people telling me hey, the guitar composers aren't that good. Listen to Beethoven! So I am, and I'm just not getting it. It's interesting and inventive, but sorry... I'm not hearing melodic and memorable. He'll get a nice melody once in awhile (Fur Elise) but more often I'll get through a sonata or a symphony movement and realize that I can't remember a thing I just heard. Now the last movement of the 9th has a great melody that is also super famous... and to me he wrecks it by just beating it to death.

What am I missing?! Right now I'm enjoying Giuliani a lot more than Beethoven.

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Tom Poore
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by Tom Poore » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:17 pm

There’s no law that says you must prefer Beethoven to Giuliani.

That said, there’s more to music than melody. Beethoven was a master at taking an apparently banal theme and creating a fascinating narrative out of it. If you’re not hearing it, then this is at least part of what you’re missing. A suggestion: If you haven’t already done so, learn something about sonata form.



Knowing a bit about this will get you closer to what Beethoven was doing.

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lagartija
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by lagartija » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:26 pm

Thanks for that video, Tom. :merci:

I now know things about sonata form I did not know before. :-)
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by bear » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:36 pm

I like Picasso and I like O'keeffe. I have copies of paintings by both. I like Santana, BB King, Agustin Lara, Puccini, etc.. Each contributes to the zeitgeist.
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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:04 pm

I love Beethoven, but I do find some of his music "bitty". A symphony will contain a fabulous theme, but it never seems to last longer than 16 bars or whatever, and just as it has drawn you in it ends and goes onto something else, and I find that really annoying sometimes.
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chiral3
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by chiral3 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:05 pm

I agree with Tom’s suggestion to explore sonata form. I can’t recommend enough Jonathan Biss’ coursera on the the subject. I checked and it looks like it’s starting again on 7/16 if yuo’d Like to enroll. https://www.coursera.org/learn/beethoven-piano-sonatas
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David Norton
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by David Norton » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:13 pm

crazyrach97 wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:54 am
Now the last movement of the 9th has a great melody that is also super famous... and to me he wrecks it by just beating it to death.

What am I missing?! Right now I'm enjoying Giuliani a lot more than Beethoven.
The super famous melody in the last movement of the Ninth --- is famous because of what Beethoven wrote. It's impossible for the composer to wreck it by beating it to death, he's the one who came up with it in the first place.

You likely enjoy hearing Giuliani more, due to your higher familiarity with guitar writing, left hand shapes, right hand patterns. People say "I know what I like", when more often it's a case of "I like what I know."

As for the whole Sonata Form topic, please understand that it is an accepted challenge among composers to demonstrate their creativity and adventurousness within the limited constraints of the form itself. Classical composition has determined that "Here's the four walls you have to work within -- show me what you can do!" Certainly no one "has" to write in Sonata Form, there are infinite non-Sonata examples out there. But for those who take up the Sonata Form challenge, that's what they are expected to do. And Beethoven is generally considered First-in-Class for this.

BTW, I'm none too fond of Beethoven's symphonies myself, except insofar as I have respect for the architecture thereof. I much prefer his string quartet writing. And given a choice of Beethoven or Haydn string quartets, I prefer Haydn. But hey, what do I know? I'm a classical guitar player, not a musician!! :)
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Andrew Fryer
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by Andrew Fryer » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:27 pm

Haydn may be one of the most underrated composers - I had a friend who preferred his symphonies to Mozart's, and I think I read that Mozart's symphonic composition techniques were invented by Haydn. (I'm no musicologist, so I will try to qualify everything I say). Mozart's piano concertos are a different thing: at the moment I'm ripping a whole load, as my gf wants the slow movements on a memory stick for playing in the car.
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Tom Poore
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by Tom Poore » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:30 pm

(I dropped out of this discussion for a half hour to write the following post. When I came back, I found six more posts. So it looks like our original poster has touched off a fun discussion.)

Here’s an experiment. It’ll take some time, but it’s worth doing.



First, begin listening precisely at the 1:54 mark. Listen until about 2:50, then stop. A cheerful little tune, right?

Now go to the 0:08 mark—this is the introduction of the piece. Listen until 1:54, then stop. What the heck is this? What does this weird, otherworldly introduction have to do with the cheerful tune beginning at 1:54?

Okay, now go to the 4:17 mark. Notice how the cheerful little tune you heard between 1:54 and 2:50 has taken on a darker hue. (Particularly notice how the first violin twists this tune into an strangled cry at 4:58.) Mozart has taken the cheerful tune at 1:54 and transformed it into something entirely different.

Now we’re beginning to understand the weird introduction. It was an ominous omen. We’re also beginning to understand how a composer can manipulate our emotions. Mozart was a master of emotional ambiguity. And Beethoven, by the way, revered him.

(And now you’re better prepared to hear the whole piece from beginning to end.)

When you start to notice how composers work things out, you’re hearing music on a deeper level. That’s well worth the effort. In a way, crazyrach97, I envy you. You have a world of great music to hear for the first time. Enjoy the journey.

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Last edited by Tom Poore on Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:43 pm, edited 4 times in total.

chiral3
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by chiral3 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:32 pm

If only Mozart could have anticipated the romantic period and composed in more minor keys...
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by JohnB » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:33 pm

One aspect of Beethoven's music (and, for that matter, the vast majority of classical music) is that it is written on a much larger scale than most guitar music we are used to. As a result the construction of the music is more complex.

It is not about melodies as such (though there are melodies there). It is about how you use, transform and develop the themes to tell a musical (and often an emotional) "story".

Beethoven's music developed tremendously from his early works to his late pieces - so there are many "Beethoven's" depending on what you period you are listening to.

His music can be heroic, it can rage against the world, it is often revolutionary, startling - but also it can touch the sublime. All through you are aware of the sheer intelligence of the man. This is music that can portray the most profound depths (and heights) of the human condition.

It is music that really, really matters.

It's worth listening to it good performances, in the case of the piano sonatas, by pianists who can plumb the depths, e.g. people like Wilhelm Kempff, Richter, Gilels, Schnabel, Lupu, Brendel, etc.

Pathetique Sonata played by Wilhelm Kempff as a taster.

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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by zupfgeiger » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:43 pm

crazyrach97 wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:54 am
So I've got all these people telling me hey, the guitar composers aren't that good. Listen to Beethoven! So I am, and I'm just not getting it. It's interesting and inventive, but sorry... I'm not hearing melodic and memorable. He'll get a nice melody once in awhile (Fur Elise) but more often I'll get through a sonata or a symphony movement and realize that I can't remember a thing I just heard. Now the last movement of the 9th has a great melody that is also super famous... and to me he wrecks it by just beating it to death.

What am I missing?! Right now I'm enjoying Giuliani a lot more than Beethoven.
You can't be serious with these remarks. Must be a joke.
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Dirck Nagy
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by Dirck Nagy » Fri Jul 06, 2018 2:36 pm

First of all, its OK to not like it! Theres nothing wrong with that.
crazyrach97 wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:54 am
...So I've got all these people telling me hey, the guitar composers aren't that good...
Who is telling you that?

So they're not Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart; they can't all be superlative! The top flight of guitar composers (i.e. Sor, Villa-Lobos, etc) were still deserving of a good solid "A". Also, bear in mind that guitar music has always been a specialized genre...a "niche market" if you will.
crazyrach97 wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:54 am
What am I missing?! Right now I'm enjoying Giuliani a lot more than Beethoven.
I think this partially answers it:
David Norton wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:13 pm
People say "I know what I like", when more often it's a case of "I like what I know."
Comparing Beethoven symphonies to Giuliani studies is an "apples vs. oranges" thing...or, for an Art metaphor, try this: if a Giuliani etude is a sculpture in an Art gallery...a Beethoven symphony would be an entire cathedral. Its partly a matter of scale. Both are "good", but different. A better comparison would be to compare a Beethoven symphony to a Giuliani guitar concerto. Or, a Beethoven Piano Sonata to a longer work of Giuliani's.

Now, if you did that a few times, I'd guess you might be able to discern some more of Beethoven's craftsmanship.
crazyrach97 wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:54 am
What am I missing?!
crazyrach97 wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:54 am
I'm not hearing melodic and memorable.
I think part of it is what David said above. You like what you know. You like rock music. Beethoven, et al, wrote for different audiences than rock-n-roll guys. The musics are for different functions too. Most pop music, now and historically, never required much attention span or depth of concentration to appreciate it, or even play most of it. Thats not what it was designed for.


If you're really interested in training yourself to listen to "classical" music, maybe you might want to try this the next time you play a Beethoven symphony...?:
  • listen to the larger form of the piece. How do the movements fit together? How do the pieces of the individual movements hold together? Where are the moments of greatest tension and greatest release? Are there any "common threads" that tie them all?
  • listen for motive and motivic development. Beethoven, (and Haydn before him), were absolute masters at this. Once you can recognize the motives, it can be pretty cool to see how they took a few notes and spun them around forwards, backwards, upside down. Seriously, Beethoven got an entire symphony out of torturing 4 little notes: the "G, G, G, Eb" at the beginning of the 5th symphony.

crazyrach97
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by crazyrach97 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:01 pm

Oh boy did i ever open a can of nightcrawlers...

JohnB
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Re: Beethoven: not feeling it!

Post by JohnB » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:29 pm

By the way, although what people have said about structure, etc, etc is valid - I don't think anyone grew to love classical music by first getting to know those aspects. They just listened to the music and found there was *something* there that drew them back.

Listen without any preconceived ideas (preferably to a decent performance). That's all. (Perhaps let the music be the film score to what you sense about the music.)
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