Yesterday morning while I was folding the laundry in the living room, my daughter Jenna came traipsing upstairs, phone in hand. No great surprise there, but the music she was playing, coming from her phone, was a surprise – Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I think I dropped the item I was folding, turned around and gaped at her.
Beethoven is no stranger in my house. I’ve had a piano in my household all my life, and I learned by playing the classics – Mozart, Chopin, Bach, Strauss, Liszt and of course Beethoven. When I tinker around on the piano (not very well, mind you), I usually play the classics because that’s what I know. And the Moonlight Sonata has been heard many times in my house, often being played on or by my Alex.Steinbach baby grand piano (my beloved instrument can actually play by itself as I’ve written about in this post). However I always felt the kids just tolerated classical music. They never protested or told me not to play it, but nor did they express interest or appreciation. Yet, here was my teenage daughter carrying Beethoven around the house with her.
I think I said to Jenna something daft like: “That’s Beethoven”. She looked at me with a “duh” expression, then said as she wandered off to the bathroom, “It’s lit”.
Living with three teenagers, you learn their vernacular as a matter of necessity. I like to think I restrained my excitement admirably over the fact my daughter thought Beethoven was great, and kept on folding. When Jenna sauntered back, Pachelbel’s Canon was soaring from her phone. “That’s…” I think I began, pointing in astonishment at her phone. “Yeah”, said Jenna. “Hey, was it true Beethoven was deaf?”
It didn’t take much persuasion from that point to get her to sit down and watch the movie “Immortal Beloved” with me. I kept an eye on her during the part when Gary Oldman as Ludwig Van Beethoven played the Moonlight Sonata, dropping his head to the top of the piano and pressing his ear against it to feel the vibrations, because he couldn’t hear his own composition – this piece of music that epitomises unadulterated beauty. I’m pretty sure Jenna’s eyes were a tad glassy.
When the movie finished, she pulled a funny face and said “Yeet” which I knew was a resounding expression of teenage approval. However fictional that particular story may have been (that Beethoven’s ‘immortal beloved’ was his sister-in-law), the movie was true to the music and, I understand, true to Beethoven. “Crazy genius, hey” said Jenna as she rose from the couch ready to wander away.
“One follows the other” I said. That made her stop. I said, “Many true musical geniuses were eccentric”, I added. “It’s like they couldn’t deal with taking dictation from God. Beethoven…Satie…Mozart….Prince…”
“Mozart?” Jenna started fiddling with her phone. The sensuous and passionate sounds of Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number 20 – also a favourite of mine – trickled like Swarovski crystals from her phone.
“Hm, that’s real lit”, said Jenna after a while.
After delivering what I’m sure is the ultimate teenage compliment, Jenna disappeared for the rest of the day, but during the afternoon I could hear the muffled sounds of more Beethoven coming from her room, including the phenomenal “Fifth”. I was reminded of something I’d read once about Beethoven – that he wrote he didn’t want to stop until he’d brought forth all he held in him, yet he felt anguish over the fact that his deafness held him back on that aim. I’m thinking he can rest in peace, his music speaks still to us, two hundred years later.