I’ve now lived more than six decades in this lifetime and am grateful to still experience things for the first time. Today, it was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125 (“Choral”). I appreciate classical music, yet I readily admit and embrace the fact that I’m a Springsteen and Dylan rock & roll kind of guy; a child of the 60’s. So this is a departure from my normal routine.
Our kids and grandkids have gone to a lake for the day to paddleboard and swim and play with frogs, leaving Lindi and me home alone in a very quiet house. I pulled out the double album featuring Beethoven’s 9th – it covers 3 sides – and placed them one by one onto my trusty turntable, cranked up the volume on the amplifier, lay on our bed, closed my eyes, and let the music take me.
An hour and thirteen minutes later I’m back at my laptop for an afternoon of writing, which begins with this so I’ll remember how it felt. I was inspired to devote this time to Beethoven by the author of a book I’m reading, Do You QuantumThink?, by Dianne Collins. In the most recent chapter I read, she speaks of being present with one’s full attention and intention in conversation, in anything, really, where one’s energy is focused and we truly hear because our energy isn’t being scattered by our own thoughts. Not easy to do; to put aside my perspective, my past, my views, judgments, and agenda to just listen. Collins recommended listening with my whole being to the complete Beethoven’s 9th, uninterrupted, with nothing else going on. No TV, driving, or puttering around the house. Listen with my whole being. Give myself completely over to the music. Just be with the music. Go where it takes me. Enjoy the ride.
This is Beethoven’s final complete symphony, created for the London Philharmonic and performed for the first time in 1825. The image here is of the iconic moment when the composer, completely deaf, stood behind the conductor during the premiere. When the performance concluded Beethoven was unaware of the audience’s enthusiastic appreciation until two of the vocal soloists turned him around to face the crowd.
The specific performance I listened to was recorded in 1951 at the re-institution of the Wagner Festivals in Bayreuth in 1951, after a long hiatus during World War II, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, and featuring Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Soprano, Elisabeth Hongen, Contralto, Hans Hopf, Tenor, and Otto Edelmann, Bass.
I did give myself over to the music and I did enjoy the ride. I suspect what follows will make sense, for the most part, only to me. Music is like that; quite personal and unique to each listener. My mind was filled with bright colors – deep purple and brilliant yellow – and images of blood flowing through my veins carrying sustenance to every part of my body. I saw the vastness of space, empty except for distant stars. I saw faces of people and animals. And when my mind wandered to other thoughts, plans, musings, I breathed in deep to return to the moment. The overriding thought that came up through what I was hearing, over and over again, was oneness. This symphony, like Dylan’s and Springsteen’s songs, stand as a metaphor of oneness. The blood flowing through my veins feeds my whole being, muscles and bones, mind and heart, just as Beethoven’s score brings together wind and stringed instruments, musicians and vocalists, and audiences past and present into a cohesive whole.
And as my understanding and belief in the infinite connection of all creation – including people, animals, plants, rocks, oceans, and everything else in existence, dwelling in this time and space or having passed into that which we typically don’t perceive as still being alive – I appreciate those gifts which remind me of this connection. I imagined today attending that concert in 1825, watching as Beethoven turned to see how much we all appreciated his gift to us; tears coming from his eyes and mine.
The more time I spend in this lifetime the more I appreciate the ability to devote the whole of my attention… to my writing, reading, music, and the people I love. I’m challenged, as I suspect most people are, by all that competes for my attention. Listening today to Beethoven’s 9th was an experience for which I’m deeply grateful.