When I was 15 years old and terribly naive, I joined the Columbia House Record Club. The add in Sports Illustrated told me that merely by joining I could pick out 15 albums FREE. After that I would have the "opportunity" to receive an album every month thereafter for only $7.99 plus shipping and handling. If I didn't want any more albums I could just say so and that would be that. What an awesome deal!! Of course, over the next three years I spent a fortune in postage, shipping back unordered and unwanted albums..it was a nightmare, actually. However, the experience did have one side benefit. It introduced me to Ludwig Von Beethoven. Lest you think that I was a 15 year old geek, let me explain.
Ordering my 15 free albums was a blast, but harder than one might think. In 1973, I was in the tank for the Beatles, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt etc.. But when I had picked 14 albums, I saw that I could get a giant collection of the complete works of Beethoven on vinyl and although it filled 9 LP's, it would only count as one. Well, I was no classical music devotee, but I had heard of him and thought he looked like a world class bad-ass. On a lark I ordered the collection.
I was instantly mesmerized. What was the deal with this guy? All of the paintings I could find showed this brooding maniac with wild hair and dark, raging eyes. Everything I read spoke of his chaotic mood swings, most accounts hinting at mental illness, and after listening to his music for a couple of weeks, I believed it. The same guy who could write something as stirringly beautiful as the second movement of Pathetique "http://www.youtube.com/embed/klZYv-f9kCE" could turn around and write the profoundly disturbing second movement to his 7th Symphony. I'm telling you, if a movie is ever made that features a wedding between Darth Vadar and Cruella DeVille, this is the music that will be playing when she walks down the aisle! At the 1:57 mark I can practically hear whining Dalmatian puppies "http://www.youtube.com/embed/mgHxmAsINDk"!! The fact that he was deaf by the time he wrote this piece only adds to the beguiling cocktail that is Beethoven..an exotic mixture of madness and genius.
I have been reintroduced to Beethoven recently with my discovery of Spotify, Pandora and the like. When I heard the 7th for the first time in probably 10 years the other day it occurred to me how much more interesting and dramatic my life would be if I had Beethoven blasting away as my soundtrack. I drive to DMV to renew my drivers license, pull into the parking lot, get out of the car and see the line of dreary, resigned citizens curling around the building, and instantly the second movement of Symphony number 7 pounds into my ears! Driving down interstate 64, I crest a hill at 80 and realize that I have just raced through a speed trap?.."http://www.youtube.com/embed/_4IRMYuE1hI"! Or, its Christmas Eve and suddenly I realize I have forgotten to buy anything for Pam. In a panic, I race over to the mall, darting from one store to the next trying desperately to find what I need before all the stores close. What's blaring through every speaker at the mall? Why, THIS,http://www.youtube.com/embed/yWaouJ6ufLE of course.
Don't get me wrong, I'm no classical music authority. Much of it I like, but some of it I find tedious and repetitive. But for me Beethoven transcends classical music. He's just a tortured guy who gifted the world for all eternity with some of the most incredible music ever written. Somebody asked me once if I could have dinner with any three people in all of human history, who would they be? My answer then, as now...The Apostle Paul, Thomas Jefferson, and Ludwig Von Beethoven.