The Wonder Of Beethoven


Last night Kish and I got our Beethoven fix.  The Columbus Symphony Orchestra was putting on a Beethoven Marathon, and we caught the three principal performances — of the Second Symphony, the Triple Concerto in C major (shown in the photo above), and finally the fabulous Seventh Symphony.  (The Symphony also offered a pre-concert performance of the Quintet for Piano and Winds and a post-concert String Quartet in C-sharp minor, but we missed those two additions due to dinner on the front end and increasing age on the back end.)

The program was wonderful.  I’m always fascinated by the live performance of a symphony orchestra — to see so many diverse instruments working together to produce a coherent sound, rather than cacophony — and by the creative impulses that moved a genius like Beethoven to create such magical music in the first place.  I think the second movement of the Seventh Symphony, for example, is simply one of the most deeply moving pieces of music ever composed, full of tension, straining and stirring and soaring and humble all at the same time.  How did it come to him?  Someone who has no musical talent (like me) cannot begin to guess what it must be like to hear such melodies in your head.  That Beethoven was able to create such music while his hearing was failing just makes the whole creative process more brilliant and astonishing.

Interesting, isn’t it, that long after the leaders and issues of his day have been consigned to the dustbin of history and then forgotten, Beethoven’s music — and Mozart’s, and Bach’s, and Wagner’s, and Haydn’s — lives on, to be performed anew and enjoyed and loved by new generation?.  The same is true of artists, and authors, and playwrights, of course.  We don’t remember the Popes, minor nobility, doges, kings, queens, and wealthy patrons who supported Michelangelo, da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Beethoven, but we know the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, the St. Crispin’s Day speech, and the stirring first chords of the Fifth Symphony.

Politics is ephemeral; art, music, and beauty are eternal. When you have the opportunity to listen to a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, that is really what you are hearing.

Sunrise At Schiller

IMG_6378Lately I’ve taken to walking around Schiller Park just after sunrise on our lazy weekend days.  It’s the perfect time to walk around a mature park, with the air still crisp and dewy and cool, the grass bladed with bright green and deep shadow, the world peaceful and calm and brilliantly quiet, and the sunlight slanting in at just the right angle to make everything look sharp and clean and full of possibility.  Such walks make you appreciate that there is much beauty and wonder in the world, and also relish having just a small fraction of it close by and ready to be enjoyed whenever we choose.


Homely Discrimination

The Boston Globe recently ran an article about “beauty bias.”  The underlying concept is that people inevitably discriminate in favor of the beautiful and, in so doing, show bias against the less attractive among us.  So, what to do about it?

One of the suggestions by “experts” is that we make homely people a protected class entitled to special legal protection, or require some form of “affirmative action.”  The article makes it seems, at least, that these are serious suggestions propounded by serious people.  Apparently, they don’t realize how ludicrous it would be to implement either of these proposals — and how stigmatizing.

Imagine walking into a job interview and getting rejected, and then bringing a “homely discrimination” claim.  The first element of the claim, presumably, would be to prove that you’re not one of the beautiful people.  Even if people wanted to self-identify as ill-favored — a dubious proposition, in my view — how would you prove that element?  By comparison to a Hollywood start or supermodel?  And how would you draw the line about who could bring a claim?  Would simply plain people be eligible, or would that ability be reserved to only those who fall into the Wicked Witch of the West category?

Can’t we just take a deep breath before creating more legal “rights,” and recognize that people inevitably will look different in ways that favor some and disadvantage others?   For example, studies show that people subconsciously attribute more leadership qualities to taller individuals.  If you’re of below average height, should you get some form of compensation or the ability to make a claim if a taller man or woman is promoted rather than you?

This kind of effort is futile and, I think, ultimately counterproductive.  People would do well to stop worrying about outward appearances and start thinking about how to let their inner beauty show.