How Beethoven Composed

Douglass Johnson (Music)

Beethoven’s life story—the deaf composer who heroically overcame adversity—has become the stuff of myth, and his music is everywhere in our culture.  The Fifth Symphony and the Ode to Joy of Ninth Symphony are familiar even to people who never attend classical music concerts.  Beyond the universal message of those and other works, Beethoven’s music is organized in a way that came to define the goals of composition for the 19th and much of the 20th centuries.  It was analyzed endlessly and cited as a model of the way music should be constructed. What is it about Beethoven’s music that gave it the authority of scripture?  In this seminar we’ll discuss what was new and how Beethoven achieved it.  This will require that we look at examples of his compositional process as documented in his sketches, which survive on thousands of manuscript pages. We’ll see what he wrote down (and talk about what he didn’t).  We’ll look at transcriptions, but we’ll also see if we can decipher Beethoven’s musical handwriting.  And we’ll contemplate the differences between the sketched versions and the final work.  The only pre-requisite for this course is an ability to read musical notation.

Course Number: 
01:090:101 section 43 index 30849