How to Move Away from the Shadow

by dlwownssla

For those of you who, regarding the title of this post, were expecting a guide half as interesting as these interesting facts about Beethoven(, this isn’t much of a guide as it is a mere observation. Disappointed? Then it is your right to press the Back button.

“The title of this post was merely to get you interested in what I’m about to briefly address today.” Today, I’d like to switch gears for a moment, and discuss the state of modern music. More specifically, a comparison between the aim of the past and the aim of the present in music. Because after all, as awesome as Classical music is, it is our duty to recognize what’s happening around us today, so as to appreciate even more the music of the past that greatly distinguishes itself from that of the present. Also, in all honesty, I really wanted to somehow bring up the topic of modern music, and relating it to the music of the past seemed like a good idea to justify this post on this scholarly blog. I’ll see how this turns out.

Now, as a class, we’re way past the Mid-Term – and coincidentally (or perhaps not so coincidentally), we’re way past the halfway mark of the thousand years of music. That is, Ludwig van Beethoven. But quite impressively, the influence of Beethoven is still lingering within the classroom. Not only are we partying up right after class as we blast his Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, op. 67, Mvt. I (or at least I am), but he is still mentioned in class, even though we discuss the eras after his death.

This is the shadow of Beethoven.

About two and a half centuries ago, somebody asked, “Who is to air after Beethoven?” Wilhelm Richard Wagner, another German composer, stepped up and responded, “ME!” The master of Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) was unduly inspired by Beethoven and his works. Not only did he write a piano transcription of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, but Wagner also composed his Symphony in C Major, a Beethovenesque work performed in Prague in 1832 and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1833. He admired Beethoven so much that he aspired to become the next Beethoven, overcoming the shadow of Beethoven in the process.

How to move away from the shadow of Beethoven: Wagner tried to do so by making himself supreme, provoking his own musical revolution with his total control of the opera (or “music drama” as he preferred to call), his elaborate use of leitmotives, his use of the orchestra as a means to describe the characters’ emotions, and his mystical abyss. He portrayed music as transcending reality.

Though music remained alive, time passed. When Sigmund Freud asked, “What’s in your mind?”, somebody else responded, “What’s in my mind is: How is anyone to live up to Beethoven?” To this, Wagner replied, “Progressively, indeed.” Then came along Johannes Brahms, another German composer. (Germany was undoubtedly full of talent.) To the question as stated above, Brahms replied, “Conservatively, for why shall we not go back to the traditional style?” As mentioned, Brahm’s music returned to earlier forms, combined with Romantic perceptions. His Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 77 very well exemplified this approach with its use of the rondo form. If Wagner chose the innovative reaction, Brahms chose the safe one.

How to move away from the shadow of Beethoven: Brahms tried to do so by looking back into the past and implementing into his music the structure that had already been established – added to it his own delicate taste of Romanticism.

Both Wagner and Brahms were the stars of their own times, but their music certainly revolved, at least in part, around that of Beethoven. Their common goal was to move away from the shadow of Beethoven.

Now, let’s peek into the music of today. Amidst an overwhelmingly huge amalgamation of musicians, there are those who stand out as arising stars in the face of the media. While some of them travel along their own musical paths, many of them struggle to do so. For instance, we often hear the voice of Nick Minaj, tainted by the desire of the music industry to produce explicit content to capture the attention of the media. We are greeted with Miley Cyrus’s twerk (“total work of art?”), as her liberal display pours into the media for the same purpose. These are certainly, as I’d like to believe, talented musicians. However, their true musicianship seems to be hidden under the shadow of today, as their music grows more and more oriented towards profit, not progress. This shadow is cast upon not by the musicians themselves, but rather by the music industry as a whole.

This is the shadow of money.

How to move away from the shadow of money: I’d like to leave you with one of the most intriguing music videos I’ve watched so far.

G-Dragon’s “COUP D’ETAT”:

The music is in Korean, but the visuals within the video are enough to deliver the message. This is certainly not a Classical music, but it shares with the genre the common goal of approaching to the listeners as a form of expression, not exploitation. G-Dragon’s “Coup d’Etat”, as the name suggests, is the artist’s declaration of a revolution – that is, his attempt to break out from boundaries of the music industry.

Though you’ll most likely not understand much of the music itself, I highly suggest that you watch this video, as well as reading this post that offers a detailed analysis of the music video If you find yourself hidden under the shadow of college life – that is, constrained with time – at least spare some time to watch the part of the video from 2:30, which portrays an allusion to David and Goliath (the Goliath, of course, being the seemingly indomitable music industry). The music video, along with the post from the link above, will definitely be thought-provoking. The Korean artist’s recent music video certainly voices the will to direct music into another, totally new, direction.

Examining the goals of the renowned musicians of the past and the emerging goals of a few musicians of the present, we can definitely see that the world of music constantly goes through change – not only change in the music itself, but also change in the meaning and perception of it.

If you feel that the title of this post haven’t seemed to serve a purpose in this post already, I throw you questions that extend the topic at hand from the world of music to the world of everything: What is the shadow cast upon your life? How are you moving away from the shadow?