My Favorite Piece of Music

Well, it’s my birthday today, so I thought I’d make this one all about me. In the end I wrote a little about myself, but I ended up writing more about the things that I love the most. That’s a long list, but with limited space, I’ll do my best. In this post we are going into outer space with Beethoven, and there’s no end in sight. But before all of that, I’ll tell you a little about what I hate. It’s a shorter list, but I’ve been told it’s worth writing down. So here goes.

I loathe euphemism. It infuriates me when a person cannot say what he thinks directly and honestly. I think I get this from my Armenian dad. I share Nietzsche’s disdain for the 19th century, but I find modern philosophy, like his, to be a contemptible farce. It’s hard for me to respect a man who cannot see the limitations of his own knowledge – and I assume that anyone who has this inability is culpably malevolent. My favorite literary genre, after poetry, is satire, and I’ve cut my teeth on the very best stuff there is. I think that bureaucracy is the clearest evidence that Man is a fallen creature, and I believe that’s what Paul had in mind when he said that the wisdom of this world is foolishness. I think I have a keen, anarchic sense of irony, which comes from my Anglo-Saxon mom, and her father, who had a way of describing cowards as “long dogs in short grass”. I took myself off to the army in order to imitate that man, however palely, and I hope to hear him deride my efforts some day.

So far, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m a real curmudgeon – and you might be right. But I’ve come to take pride in these prejudices because they seem, from what I’ve gleaned from every biography of the man I’ve ever read, to be similar to those of the greatest musician of all time, Ludwig van Beethoven.

What’s the Big Deal about Beethoven?

I’ve written about how Beethoven thought that Johann Sebastian Bach’s name didn’t do him justice. This is even truer of Beethoven himself, whose own name means something like “Beetroot Farm”. I believe, without hyperbole, that this man is without equal, and the fact that he was deaf has nothing to do with it. We will, of course, devote a Composer of the Week to him, but in this article I simply want to look at one of his compositions. It’s called Cavatina and it’s from his String Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major, Op. 130.

In music, a cavatina is a simple, short song, usually without many flourishes or repetitions. It’s similar to an aria, literally “air”, so it should have a character of upward motion, lightness, maybe contemplation. I don’t want to get into the theoretical aspects of the composition in this post, but one day I will. Suffice it to say, I present it to you without comment. Listen to it before you continue reading.

In 1977 AD, two golden phonograph records went up into space with NASA’s Voyager. The plates contain over a hundred sounds from Planet Earth, including a selection of music from around the world. As far as I can tell, this was done in the hope that extra terrestrial beings might discover the plates and listen to their contents. This is a goofy, superstitious idea, but everyone can appreciate the poignancy of the gesture. The important thing is that Beethoven’s Cavatina is on the plates. It’s well worth listening to the rest of the contents. There’s a list of all of them here along with a list of all the images that went along with the sounds.

Why I Love the Cavatina

Strangely enough for a blog post, I have to admit that I can’t articulate this meaningfully and directly in words. All that I can do is talk about what I love and leave you to figure out how these things instantiate in, or are related to, the music you just heard. I love human culture. What I’m referring to is the perpetual struggle against decay and dissolution that propels men forward – it is a struggle that either drives us mad or drives us sane. I love language perhaps most of all, and for as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by words, their sounds, their shapes and the mysterious self-lives they lead. I love Plato, and I marvel that he was able to understand that Truth is real, before Truth took on flesh and dwelt among us. I love my enemies. My enemies are people who believe that existence is a dying struggle that you can’t win. They’re right, they just haven’t yet learned that it’s precisely by losing, that we win. I think animals actually understand this. I love Africa, and every time I leave, I come back, back to where I started.

I played the Cavatina to bid farewell to my dear sister, Candice, not so long ago. I remember her every second of every day, and then in dreams. There, I find her, inexhaustible.

A picture of me, in the Season of Light, with my Candy. Eternal Memory.

Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη

4 thoughts on “My Favorite Piece of Music”

  1. Dylan you are wise beyond your years. Some people don’t understand you. they are those who don’t take time to understand the depth of your learning. Happy birthday from
    Uncle will

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