Why Beethoven listened to the Beatles
Benjamin Waldstein, pseudonym of a student from School of Humanities and Social Sciences, presents this very personal and mysterious essay . Did Beethoven and the Beatles listen to the same thing centuries apart?
The latest psychological studies on the value of language in interpersonal communication show that what is said accounts for only 7% of what is communicated, tone and nuance for 38%, and gestures and body signals for 55%. The first 45% is used to convey information and the second 55% to communicate personal states and attitudes (for more on this see Albert Mehrabian's studies). This is evidence that, if there were a language more or less goal that only focused on tone and nuance when expressing something, it would be communicating more than the robotic voice of Siri or "OK, Google". This language is called musical language.
It was Nietzsche who gave it this name. For him, the concept is the residue of a metaphor. That which, detached from all reality, remains dead in the intellect - dead because it does not have the vivacity of the imagination. If there were a language that did not have the capacity to die, it would be the language that continually appeals to the imagination and serves as a metaphor for all things, leaving the concept outside its limits.
So why did Beethoven listen to the Beatles? That's the question that heads the article, and I'm sorry to disappoint by saying that, although it's a catchy title, it's not exactly what happened, but rather, both living in different centuries, they were able to translate into music the same phenomenon: that the individual is immersed in a continuous social noise that doesn't allow him to stop to think, to listen, to live..... This is seen in the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth and in the song "A day in the life" by the Beatles.
No one can bear the stillness of silence because it seems to accuse us. It seems to say that our life is an eternal silence that no one is willing to listen to, that it is dull, empty, boring. But those who have learned to listen to silence know that there are ways to improve it. "Don't break the silence except to improve it", said Beethoven. And how can silence be improved if not by tidying up that inevitable overwhelming noise?
A good way to translate this reality into music is through dissonance. Why dissonance? Because this exhausted frenzy is formed by the worries of each one of us, by our hustle and bustle, by the saturation of restlessness. Those who enter its abyss hear the moaning of melancholy repeated in infinite echoes. And one thinks one is going mad and cannot find the rope to hold on to. So says Beethoven after the dissonant chord with which the fourth movement also begins: Freunde! Nicht diese Töne! Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen und Freundenvollere! -Friends, let us not sing these tones, but more pleasant and friendly ones! -. These lines, which belong to a poem by Schiller, reflect the concern that if there is no humanity in our lives, one that looks to the same horizon, there is only room for despair.
This Beethovenian dissonance, which appears twice in its fourth movement, is a gentle way of reflecting the noise that is reflected - also twice - in the song "A day in the life". It is about a standard routine day, and it is in this routine that the relentless noise of the frenzy that saturates our sensibility and our illusion to continue living - to continue listening -appears.
At final, Beethoven heard what the Beatles heard. Perhaps it was enough for the German musician to hear his own abyss to be deafened and to feel the need to shout to humanity that those chords should not be sung, but other, more joyful ones. Perhaps it was enough for McCartney and Lennon to see that, although everyone knew them, they knew no one - perhaps they didn't even know themselves - to be able to express that noise and translate it into music. Perhaps I have felt so much reflected in both dissonances that it has been enough for me to translate it into these words.
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