Ethics in Beethoven.: It must be!

Beethoven had a very specific aim to communicate a certain ideas throught his music. In Beethoven´s music, and specificaly in some compositions, there is a message that must be heard. Beethoven believed in the power of music to communicate ethics.

The O Freunde nicht diese Töne, (Oh friends, not these tones!) from Ode to Joy (Schiller)
of the 9th Symphony represents the most clear sign of the ethical reminders in Beethoven. In this case using text, but this is an exception. O Freunde nicht diese Töne is being expressed throught all Beethoven´s music in many different ways, and specially in the late period through a logic of Stimmungen which implies variations in affects, temperament, motivation, optimism, fear, illness, weakness, existencial despair, depression, creativity, etc.

Reminders are just a characteristic of Beethoven´s self consciousness. His music is self aware, music speaks to itself. The reminder plays the rol of bringing awareness about the Stimmung that has been dominating so far and brings the possibility for a shift, not only in compositional terms but with a clear ethical intencion: we can decide the mood, we can shift the Stimmung, we can encourage our selves. The motivation depends directly from this logic of Stimmungen.

Oh friends, not these tones! Rather let us raise our voices in more pleasing and more joyful sounds! Joy! Joy!

Reminders: we shouldn´t forget. The bass section of the orchestra (cellos and basses) are the narrators at the introduction of the Finale of the 9th Symphony. They not only have the task of narrating the summary but also to bring the new section Ode to Joy. We shouldn´t forget that the role of the ground Bass or Basso Ostinato was to keep persistently the main idea in order to remember. From Beethoven the problem of music will be the problem of memory.

I will not enter into the discussion if Beethoven suffered from manic depression. He had, indeed, many reasons for it, mainly the fact of becoming deaf being a musician. The interesting thing is how on his music this bipolarity exists as a clear choice and not only as an unconscious result of an hypothetical illness.

Bipolarity means contrast. Being across the extremes. Euphoria to depression, melancholia to joy, weakness to Will to power, death to life. But also oscillations: JUMPING from one extreme to the other, without transitions, directly to the other side. A sudden leap, a shift in the mood can come out of a conscious decision, but not always. Beethoven´s late period abandones the tirany of the form to lead his music trought a kind of logic of affects. The transitions or the developments in the late Beethoven are no longer important.

Brilliant is the case of the Adagio of op 132, The Heilige Dankgesang: Illness, proximity to death vs. life and Will to Power (creativity). On this Adagio, considered a big prayer but also a sublime meditation, the bipolar phenomenon is bring into play creating a strong contrast between the first section, that represent the illness and proximity of death, and the second section called by Beethoven Neue Kraft fühlend (with renewed strength). For future texts to explore the relation Beethoven-Nietzsche.

On his letter to his doctor Beethoven wrote at the end: notes will help who ever is needed. It was the need to create what saved him from the illness, the triumph of joy over pain. Here the dialectical lesson of Beethoven: illness exists as the power to recovery exists.

So in fact, the bipolarity is not only dialectical but simultaneous, on this Adagio the extremes are happening at the same time, are combined, crosslinked, illness and inner wealth are now one same single thing.

Op. 135, 4th movement. Bipolarity is already expressed by the header of the movement: Grave-Allegro-Grave-Allegro. Perfect example of the contrast or opposition or inner struggle between despair and joy, this movement is called The Difficult Resolution. Under the introductory slow chords Beethoven wrote in the manuscript Muß es sein? (Must it be?) to which he responds, with the faster main theme of the movement, Es muß sein! (It must be!) This is definitely a big ethic statement for the sake of affirmative Will and self-suggestion.
After presenting the darkness Beethoven brings abruptly a fast unexpected refrain, it sounds even too naive, but it plays the role of calm and stability, center, in the heart of chaos; the identity is assured. But slowly the forces of chaos are finding holes where they can enter. The refrain becomes fragile and unstable until it happen again, the darkness is back, the fear comes in. Jumping from chaos to the beginning of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart in any moment (Of the Refrain)

Op 135 last movement by alban berg quartet

Op 135 last movement part 1 by alban berg quartet

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