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Beethoven Made Me Do This

December 17, 2011

Excerpt from "It Sounds"

Yesterday was Beethoven’s birthday. I celebrated by listening to his compositions all day and evening. After the conclusion of the Pastoral Symphony, I asked myself what would Beethoven do right now? Why, compose, of course! It was 11 pm. I shut off the CD player, got out of my recliner, and headed over to the piano. I’d been working on this piece for a couple months; inspired by the industrious, painstaking example of Beethoven, I decided I could push through and finish the work.

My wife had fallen asleep on the couch, with our cat curled up on her chest. She  would periodically wake up and confusedly ask, “What are you doing?” or “What’s going on?” I didn’t blame her for being so confused. Most of the chords in the piece are scalar tonal clusters, so it probably sounded to her like my fist was just dropping on keys.

“I’m composing. Do you want to go to bed?” She’d either mutter “No” or drift back to sleep without answering. Around 1:30 I helped her up off the couch so she could go to sleep. I kept going. I wasn’t really tired. By 5:30, I had pretty much completed the work. After breakfast this morning, I filled in the last few bits that I was unable to finish before I went to bed.

In honor of my inspiration last night, I grabbed the title from a program note biography of  Beethoven: “It Sounds.” I had tentatively titled it “Breathoven” because each chord is played for the duration of one breath, but that looks too much like “Breath Oven” which would give listeners the wrong idea, and besides, other than inspiring me to compose, the work doesn’t really have anything else to do with Ludwig van.

Above is an excerpt from what I guess could be called a rough copy of the autograph manuscript. I still need to tweak the notation–I’ll probably use whole notes with fermatas in place of the note heads. The numbers indicate the amount (in seconds) of silence between each chord, and I’ll probably use measure rests with the numeral written above the rest in place of what I have now.

From → Composing, Gossip, Music

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