Welcome to a new series of blogs comparing, and contrasting different artists, composers, and musicians, of both our day, as well as of the past several centuries worth of music. This series will be focused less on detailing the lives of those featured as they are well documented elsewhere, and more on my perception of how they have influenced one another, as well as myself as a musician, music educator, writer, and consumer of music. I sincerely hope you enjoy these articles, and welcome any feedback you may have.

~Corbett

Listen while you read!

Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55 "Eroica" III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace

by Ludwig van Beethoven | Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra & Josef Krips

Ludwig van Beethoven.

Born in Bonn,  Electorate of Cologne, in what is now Germany.

Baptized 17 December 1770, is one of the most well known, and celebrated composers of all time, has had a strong influence on much of the classical music world, but also the modern music era.

Coming out of a time of mind-boggling musical complexity of J.S. Bach, followed by the simple genius of Mozart, Haydn, and Gluck, the classical era’s version of pop music, Beethoven’s  moody, and often dark orchestrations, were reflections of his deep emotional states, often times trying to communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings, through instrumental music.

In Beethoven’s Overture from Egmont Op. 84, we hear an instrumental “soundtrack” of the 16th century Flemish nobleman, the Count of Egmont, who was a general, and statesman in the Spanish Netherlands just before the start of the Eighty Years War, and whose execution helped spur the national uprising that led to Dutch independence .

Composed during the Napoleonic Wars, a time of it’s own oppression, we can hear the stately, and dramatic announcement of the Count, the dramatic life events, and opposition to the ruling authorities, and the execution, signaled by the strings. At the end of the trial and tumult of his opposition to Philip II, we hear the joyous, and proud fanfare that his memory lives on, and there is still hope to glean from this story.

“I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor. What I have in my heart must come out; that is the reason why I compose.”

-Ludwig van Beethoven

We can see influence from pieces of Beethoven’s like this in more modern compositions, like Genesis’ 1974 magnum opus The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. An other-worldly tale of a boy from Brooklyn who gets sucked into another dimension. There are many instrumental examples of constructing a mood, or invoking imagery through music.

In Hairless Heart, we can pick up on the turmoil of the young man’s emotional state. Or on The Waiting Room, we can experience the strange creatures, and bizarre sights that our character is through the esoteric sounds, and noises being created by guitar, bass, keyboards, and percussion.

Riding The Scree conveys a sense of confusion, with it’s shifting sense of time and oddly-phrased synth parts, illustrates navigating a rock slide.

Looking back to Beethoven’s symphonies, the titles he gave them reveal the weight of his emotions. No doubt, the political climate of the time, not to mention his own health struggles, least of all his rapid loss of hearing, The famous Symphony No. 5 is titled Fate. In No. 6 we have Pastoral. Even in his 9th Symphony, titled Choral, which was composed when he was  almost completely deaf, one can’t help but be caught up in the incessant, madly skipping rhythm of the Molto Vivace, or the glorious, beauteous, dramatic finish of the Choral Finale (Ode to Joy). The genius, vision, and gifted talent of this classical giant is obvious.

As a more modern-day example, we can hear some of his mark on albums like Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral. Although nothing stylistically like Beethoven, the sense of mood, particularly on tracks like the instrumental A Warm Place, or Hurt, gives a sense of depth of emotion. The surging synths, pulsing rhythms, and sampled live instruments are cold and clinical in execution, but with an immediacy that gives them life, and an emotion in the depth of writing that brings a warmth to the songs, allowing one something to connect with.

Another great of our more modern day in the realm of communicating big ideas through the depth of their instrumental compositions are Pink Floyd. In their song Careful With That Axe, Eugene, they masterfully built an entire mood around one chord. Or in their three-part Saucerful of Secrets, from the album with the same title, much like a classical piece, there are three distinct movements to it. Beginning with an ethereal sounding collage of prepared sounds, evoking other-worldly soundtrack to space, followed by an overwhelming barrage of drums, cymbals, guitar and keyboard dissonance put through the repetitive sound of an echoplex, and finishing in a somber, choral-like dirge with shifting chords played on the organ, and soaring vocals and guitars.

Much like Beethoven’s compositional pushing the envelope in his “Heroic” period beginning at his 3rd Symphony “Eroica”, to go beyond his own limits, and the limits of his contemporaries, Pink Floyd also strove to break the conventions of rock ’n’ roll of their day by employing a brass section, choir, and a solo cello, to compose a side-long suite entitled Atom Heart Mother.

 

Clearly, Beethoven’s influence on both the composers that followed directly after him, as well as the effects he has had on more modern day writers and musicians, is apparent. Not only has this heavy-weight of music inspired through his compositions, but has inspired through how he pushed himself to break his own barriers, both physical, and mental, to overcome limitations, and strive for excellence in his work, truly pouring out his personality into all his works.

From Pink Floyd, to Genesis, to Nine Inch Nails, even a “Fifth Of Beethoven”, it’s a fun, and educational exercise to listen for his mark on the much of the music we enjoy today.

Author Bio:

Corbett is a talented freelance artist on both cello and electric bass with local acts and productions, such as Cain Park Theatre and Berea Community Theatre.

A bassist/cellist with past Cleveland OH based groups, Mifuné, Moon the Giant, Funch, S.A.B., Leroy’s Frosted Rocks, Xela 3io, Matt Gerovac, Mofos, Maiden at Midnight, Nuhu, and more, he has performed at notable venues across the country from Severance Hall, to Carnegie Hall, Tower City Amphitheater, the Grog Shop, the original Brown Derby, and many others.

He has been teaching privately for over 16 years, and has coached chamber groups at the Cleveland Music School Settlement Summer Music Camp, and has been an adjudicator for  the Greater Cleveland Solo/Ensemble Competition.

He attended Cleveland State University on a full talent scholarship in Cello Performance.  He studied with Kent Collier, Bryan Dumm, Richard Weiss, Deborah Newcomb, Dr. Richard Franks, and Adeline Huss.

Corbett is also a string instrument technician at Motter’s Music House Inc. in Cleveland OH, and is the newest employee at Music Is Elementary, working with the marketing team to develop the Music Is Elementary brand, and IT in the office.

He is also the music director, and worship director, and, along with his wife, Faith, is involved in leadership at his church, New Life Christian Church International.