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Classical music and biography
#1
It is always interesting and sometimes even important to have intimate knowledge of a composer’s life, but it is not essential in order to understand the composer’s works. In Beethoven’s case, one mustn’t forget that in 1802, the year he was contemplating suicide—as he wrote in an unsent letter to his brothers that came to be known as the “Heiligenstadt Testament”—he also composed the Second Symphony, one of his works that was most positive in spirit, thus showing us that it is of vital importance to separate his music from his personal biography and not to conflate the two.

These words in this part of my website(at: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Music.html ) come from Daniel Barenboim(1942-), the Israeli Argentine-born pianist and conductor. He has served as music director of several major symphonic and operatic orchestras and made numerous recordings. Currently, he is general music director of La Scala in Milan, the Berlin State Opera, and the Staatskapelle Berlin; he previously served as Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris. Barenboim is also known for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a Seville-based orchestra of young Arab and Israeli musicians, and as a resolute critic of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

In his essay in The New York Review of Books, April 2013, Barenboim does not provide an elaborate psychological study of the man Beethoven through an analysis of his works, or vice versa. The focus of his essay is Beethoven’s music. "It must be understood," writes Barenboim, "that one cannot explain the nature or the message of music through words. Music means different things to different people and sometimes even different things to the same person at different moments of his life. It might be poetic, philosophical, sensual, or mathematical, but in any case it must, in my view, have something to do with the soul of the human being." Barenboim says that music is metaphysical, but the means of expression are purely and exclusively physical: sound. "I believe it is precisely this permanent coexistence of metaphysical message through physical means," says Barenboim, "that is the strength of music. It is also the reason why when we try to describe music with words, all we can do is articulate our reactions to it, and not grasp music itself." For more on this subject go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives...y-courage/
[IMG]file:///C:/Users/Ron/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg[/IMG]
married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 15, and a Baha'i for 55(in 2014)
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#2
Mr. Price's Post should be read and absorbed by anybody that purports to love music.
A man accustomed to hear only the echo of his own sentiments, soon bars all the common avenues of delight, and has no part in the general gratification of mankind--Dr. Johnson
What he said. Amen, Bro--JazzboCR
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#3
I thank jazzboCR for his endorsement. Keep in mind, though, that there is much to learn from biography and autobiography as I try to demonstrate at my website: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/auto.html
married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 15, and a Baha'i for 55(in 2014)
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#4
ronPrice Wrote: my website: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/auto.html

That as a clickthrough: http://ronpriceepoch.com/ and http://ronpriceepoch.com/auto.html
A man accustomed to hear only the echo of his own sentiments, soon bars all the common avenues of delight, and has no part in the general gratification of mankind--Dr. Johnson
What he said. Amen, Bro--JazzboCR
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#5
jazzboCR Wrote:That as a clickthrough: http://ronpriceepoch.com/ and http://ronpriceepoch.com/auto.html
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Thanks for that, jazzboCR. Thanks, too, for that delightful quotation: "A man accustomed to hear only the echo of his own sentiments, soon bars all the common avenues of delight, and has no part in the general gratification of mankind." --Dr. Johnson
married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 15, and a Baha'i for 55(in 2014)
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#6
Greetings all round

To be honest, I don't quite understand the point of ronPrice's original post in this thread. To me, most music is such an abstract and pure art that the enjoyment and satisfaction a listener derives from it is almost irrelevant to the personal circumstances of its composition. Of course it may aid one's understanding of (say) Brahms' Requiem to know that he was by conviction an atheist (hence the choice of texts from the OT of the Luther Bible, to the exclusion of any reference to the NT themes of redemption, let alone any mention of Jesus Christ as a Saviour), and of course it is a material fact that Bach composed the B-minor Mass as a devout Lutheran. Janacek went deaf, and his second string quartet audibly reflects the tinnitus he experienced in his head, and Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder (prefiguring Tristan) were composed when he was infatuated with Mathilde Wesendonck. But does this seriously affect our understanding or appreciation of these and other composers' works?

Genuinely open question, this, which I hope may stimulate further discussion.

L
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#7
Lindsay has raised some interesting issues, and has opened the doors and windows to some potentially useful posting here at this site. I'll respond to his post with the following 3 items which are intended. not so much to answer the questions raised but, simply, to stimulate discussion.-Ron Price, Australia

1. As he worked at the Decline and Fall Gibbon became convinced that the true character of men was so complex and elusive that it could be only tentatively described....If even a contemporary could not unravel the complexities of character, what could a historian hope for?.....Gibbon became increasingly reticent about judging character and motivation. Gibbon presents history as preeminently a construction, a literary work with aesthetic rather than systematic order and coherence.-David P. Jordan, Gibbon and His Roman Empire, University of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1971, p.5.

2. John Corigliano finds that a composer setting out to write a new piece should have “something terribly important to say” —something so important that the music will not be used as background noise, the fate of much music today. The act of composing is a difficult, frustrating process. With few exceptions, this is the message from these composers. Although they find the going rough, their greatest satisfaction is in the final product. There is nothing else they prefer doing, and nothing else is like the mystery of the process. But there is no mystery to inspiration. The muse sings for them only by dint of incessant, tedious work, as they remain ever alert to new ideas. -Ann McCutchan, The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process, Oxford University Press, NY, 1999.

3. "We played music in the house all the time," recalls Toni Morrison in a 1992 interview with Dana Micucci. Indeed, Morrison was inundated with music and song during her childhood years in Lorain, Ohio. Morrison's mother, Ramah Willis, was just one of many musicians on her mother's side: she was a jazz and opera singer and played piano for a silent movie theatre, while Morrison's grandfather was a violin player. Morrison remembers how her mother sang everything from Ella Fitzgerald and the blues to sentimental Victorian songs and arias from Carmen. That music should play such an important role in much of Morrison's writing, then, will probably come as no surprise for her readers." This is from the journal Connotations (7.3, 1997-98, pp. 372-98). The article is entitled: "Trading Meanings: The Breath of Music in Toni Morrison's Jazz" by NICHOLAS F. PICI.
married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 15, and a Baha'i for 55(in 2014)
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#8
I believe most composers (major, minor, utterly forgettable) are compulsive--they can't not do it--and many musicians are the same. Charles Ives is a perfect example of this--very successful insurance company executive who had to compose even in the face of withering scorn.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Ives << now of course he's received his proper recognition but many even most of his works were never played in his lifetime, May I also insert "eustress" into the convo? https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/type...-distress/ Also (and this is strictly a personal opinion), knowing the history and background of a composer may not be crucial to understanding but it sure is important--more so with popular/people's music perhaps but overall a "given". Again, that's just me.
A man accustomed to hear only the echo of his own sentiments, soon bars all the common avenues of delight, and has no part in the general gratification of mankind--Dr. Johnson
What he said. Amen, Bro--JazzboCR
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#9
jazzboCR Wrote:I believe most composers (major, minor, utterly forgettable) are compulsive--they can't not do it--and many musicians are the same. Charles Ives is a perfect example of this--very successful insurance company executive who had to compose even in the face of withering scorn.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Ives << now of course he's received his proper recognition but many even most of his works were never played in his lifetime, May I also insert "eustress" into the convo? https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/type...-distress/ Also (and this is strictly a personal opinion), knowing the history and background of a composer may not be crucial to understanding but it sure is important--more so with popular/people's music perhaps but overall a "given". Again, that's just me.

Interesting character - must check out some of his works.
'The purpose of life is a life of purpose' - Athena Orchard.
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