Darius Bacon (darius) wrote,
Darius Bacon


I met Beethoven's piano sonatas and The Lord of the Rings at about the same age, around 10, though they were never especially linked in my mind before.

I've always loved the sound of the piano; in second grade after it was first announced that there'd be lessons after school, I skipped back home with the signup form, playing air keyboard. The class was taught by a sprightly old gent named Fekko von Ompteda, and I enjoyed it, unlike school in general: it was just hard enough to be interesting, and there we were making actual music with our hands on heavy hulking mysterious machines -- plus an old Moog once -- and learning bits of mathy theory and an esoteric visual code. I liked the teacher too: he was an immigrant and charmingly eccentric in his own right, though after mumbledy years I've quite forgotten why I thought so. It seems he was "a very gifted and amazingly progressive musician", and, sadly, is no more; I wish I'd come back to Toronto for a visit before he died.

Moving to California ended all that. But my parents gave me for Christmas, at some point, a multi-record set of Beethoven played by Ivan Moravec, who as far as I'm concerned defines Beethoven -- see, I imprinted on it. The cycle of piano sonatas is my ultimate comfort music now.

This time, as I happened to come back to The Fellowship of the Ring at the same time, I was struck by how much sonata #20 sounds like the Shire. It could be dance music at Bilbo's birthday party. You might plump for the 'Pastoral' sonata instead, but I say no, that one's too Elvish. :)

But that wasn't the really striking discovery. I'd like you to play this clip, the theme of the last movement of sonata #4, and read the opening of Chapter 8, Fog on the Barrow-Downs:

That night they heard no noises. But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.

I doubt the young Beethoven could have captured the feeling of the passage this foreshadows at the end of The Return of the King, though; that would be a job for late Beethoven, who, alas, never came back to LotR for inspiration.

Sorry for the lousy fade to end the clip; it's the first time I've tried to use a sound editor. I'm afraid I didn't note down who performed this.
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