I've been listening to an amazing feature on CBC radio all day today; it's called "Nine in 9", and is featuring Beethoven's 9 Symphonies, one after another, with commentary provided before each one by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra conductor Bramwell Tovey. It's wonderful, and you can go to the CBC site to find it and listen to it yourself if you are a Beethoven fan; you can even download each and listen when you can. The VSO performs them all, and it's a great 9 hours of listening!!!
(**Update: you can download the Commentaries from the CBC site, and the 9th is available in concert. But it is quite easy to find performances of Beethoven's Symphonies if you wish to listen to one after you've heard the commentary.)
The discussion of the emotional elements of Beethoven's music put me in mind of a poem by one of my favourite poets, Wallace Stevens. Dorothy has just mentioned Stevens, spurring me to dig up my old collected works to read through again. Here's one which talks about emotion and music:
Peter Quince at the Clavier
Just as my fingers on these keys
Make music, so the self-same sounds
On my spirit make a music, too.
Music is feeling, then, not sound;
And thus it is that what I feel,
Here in this room, desiring you,
Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk,
Is music. It is like the strain
Waked in the elders by Susanna;
Of a green evening, clear and warm,
She bathed in her still garden, while
The red-eyed elders, watching, felt
The basses of their beings throb
In witching chords, and their thin blood
Pulse pizzicati of Hosanna.
In the green water, clear and warm,
The touch of springs,
For so much melody.
Upon the bank, she stood
In the cool
Of spent emotions.
She felt, among the leaves,
Of old devotions.
She walked upon the grass,
The winds were like her maids,
On timid feet,
Fetching her woven scarves,
A breath upon her hand
Muted the night.
She turned --
A cymbal crashed,
Amid roaring horns.
Soon, with a noise like tambourines,
Came her attendant Byzantines.
They wondered why Susanna cried
Against the elders by her side;
And as they whispered, the refrain
Was like a willow swept by rain.
Anon, their lamps' uplifted flame
Revealed Susanna and her shame.
And then, the simpering Byzantines
Fled, with a noise like tambourines.
Beauty is momentary in the mind --
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.
The body dies; the body's beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing.
So gardens die, their meek breath scenting
The cowl of winter, done repenting.
So maidens die, to the auroral
Celebration of a maiden's choral.
Susanna's music touched the bawdy strings
Of those white elders; but, escaping,
Left only Death's ironic scraping.
Now, in its immortality, it plays
On the clear viol of her memory,
And makes a constant sacrament of praise.