Art Has No Limitations

I remember how disappointed I was when I heard the last symphony of Beethoven’s 9 total.  I was 18 years old then.  One by one, I had discovered each symphony that I’d never heard before.  I would so look forward to hearing another symphony of his that I hadn’t heard yet.  I don’t remember what order I heard them in, but I still remember how sad I was that there were no more Beethoven symphonies to discover.

Then, a few years later I listened to the third symphony again.  For some reason, now I heard things in it I’d never heard before.  Then I heard the sixth symphony played live when I was in Ohio.  Again, I noticed sounds I hadn’t heard before.  When I told this to the conductor at the reception after the performance, he raised his eyebrows as if I were suggesting the orchestra played some wrong notes, which I wasn’t.

Then there is the ninth symphony.  For the longest time, I never understood the first movement.  I have struggled, trying to find a melody.  Melodies are so plain in the other works.  So even though I’d heard the first movement many times, I didn’t get it.  Then I heard a Cleveland Symphony Orchestra performance conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi.  His interpretation finally made sense to me.  Now, I had a glimpse of what Beethoven was doing in it.  I was hearing it for the first time, in a way.

I read a critic from Beethoven’s own time period, Carl Maria von Weber, who complained about the sustained “e” in the first movement, “Always that miserable e,” Weber writes and suggested that Beethoven must have grown deaf to the “e” and was now ripe for the madhouse.  That gave me a new way into the 7th symphony.  I listened intently and heard that sustained “e” I’d never noticed before.  It was like hearing the 7th for the first time.  And as I wrestled, trying to think up with horn lines for my own compositions, I listened intently to Beethoven’s orchestrations–yet another way to hear his symphonies afresh.

Beethoven wrote that the true artist could have no pride.  While he might be admired by a world-wide audience, he realizes that art has no limitations and awaits the time when the greater genius will shine forth like a blazing star.  Art has no limitations.  Great art holds so much that one can return to works of great art again and again and hear, see, read and experience it as if for the first time.  While my ear has listened to all 9 of Beethoven’s symphonies, my soul hasn’t heard all that is in them.  I can keep coming back, and discover Beethoven’s 9 symphonies for the first time.

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Family and Ideology

I understand when parents are proud of their children.  I understand that having children feels like a blessing (and at times, I know, a curse?).  But where I am not living, I am witnessing something very strange, something intangible, something in the air.  I understand that parents are proud of their children.  But what does it mean when parents are proud that they have children?  Proud to be a family unit.  Proud of family as an ideology.

I had heard about “family values,” as a catch-phrase associated with right-wing politics.  I am now seeing what that means.  It is a pride that they have a family, that they are part of the “family values” ideology.

In Biblical times, having children took away the “reproach” of  barrenness for women.  Men wanted children to help with work and to inherit their wealth.  There was also an element of ancestor worship.  God tells Moses that He is “the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob.”  Children had pride and reverence for their parents, grandparents, ancestors.

But that is not contemporary pride in having a family.  I love my parents, and my brothers and sisters.  But I’ve never thought that I was proud to be a family unit.  Family values strange as an ideology.  It’s almost a destruction of the innocence of children, when children are viewed as part of a political ideal.  It’s almost a corruption of bonds of love, when love becomes pride.

I am now witnessing something very strange in this family values, something intangible, something unsettling.

The Footfall

I have lost and been broken

In brokenness, I am humble

I have won and been elated

In elation, I know pride

Knowing extremes, I walk a measured pace

In full awareness that pride posits humility

 

A bowed tree will never right

The sky will never ground

I walk a middle way

Clouds are more or less fog

In brokenness I see pride

In elation, humility

And neither really matters in the long run

 

The page my pen darkens

How my face meets the face of the other

The soul of a heart that touches

The footfall placed in front of another

The planet’s ambulant circuity

The galaxy’s aeonic spiral

The electron’s quantum shell

Measure time and times and half a time

All I really know is the footfall placed in front of another