02 Oct Following the Ninth
Few pieces of Western music have been as beloved as much as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which first premiered in 1824.
Yet, 190 years later we still debate its meaning.
It is Beethoven’s only vocal symphony and it is also his last. It is big and loud and “wildly unstable.” It projects a sense of calm then turn recklessly loud, and yet make the audience feel triumphant at its closing. Some believe it was a political statement against European governments. Others think it is a statement about peace and unity. Still others, assert that both interpretations are correct.
It is perfectly ambiguous writes Slate’s Jan Swafford: “As with the Mona Lisa, maybe its very ambiguity is part of its success. Paint it any color you like, and it remains its exalted and inexplicable self. If you want universality in a work of art, here you are.”
Its universality cannot be denied.
Chilean protestors living under Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship sang it. A student protesting the Chinese government played it in Tiananmen Square to drown out the government’s orders. It is revered in Japan, where every December there are concerts and sing-a-longs devoted to this classical work.
Filmmaker Kerry Candaele studied the Ninth Symphony’s global impact in his documentary “Following the Ninth.” He interviews people throughout the world to learn what the music means to them from the professional musician to the Chilean protestors.
The movie debuted last year and is still appearing in small theaters throughout the country and we hope to get an opportunity to see it soon. If it stops by your city, try to see it too and become inspired by the power of music.
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