Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony

9 02 2009


I find Beethoven in general to be tiresome to listen to. Indeed, I lay the blame for the largely unlistenable music of the nineteenth century at his compositional feet. Apparently, however, the embattled Bishop Richard Williamson loves Beethoven, and his latest post on his blog is a description of one of his favorite pieces, the first romanticist shot across the bow of musical history, the Third Symphony, or the “Eroica”. Here is an excerpt:

The first movement of the “Eroica” was unprecedentedly long in Beethoven’s own day – over 600 bars, lasting in performance anywhere around a quarter of an hour. Yet from first bar to last, the varied wealth and dynamic force of the musical ideas owe their tight unity and overarching control to the classical sonata form which Beethoven had inherited from the 18th century: Exposition, Development and Recapitulation (ABA), with a Coda mighty enough (innovation of Beethoven) to balance the Development (ABAC).

Leaping into action with two E flat major chords, the hero strides forth with his main theme, the first subject, built solidly out of that chord. The theme goes to war. A valiant re-statement precedes several new ideas of varying rhythms, keys and moods until moments of calm come with the classically more quiet second subject. But war soon returns, with off-beat rhythms and violent struggle, culminating in six hammering chords in two-time cutting right across the movement’s three-time. A few vigorous bars close the Exposition.

Yuck! I feel so dirty. Where is some Rameau when you need him…

That’s better.

On Initiation

9 02 2009


Or: Why the Church is the way it is right now

Recently I was reading neo-pagan John Opsopaus’ essay on Pythagorean theology, particularly the section on theurgy. Those who have been with me for several years know that I have written on theurgy before, and a lot of the content of Opsopaus’ essay was not new to me. However, it does gather a lot of ideas that would take some time to find in many other sources. I highly recommend it.

What I want to address this time is the idea of initiation that he describes in the last part of work. Opsopaus describes a series of initiations in the ancient world that a Christian cannnot help associate with our own rites of initiation. In these ceremonies, the initiate or desmos prepares himself for the entrance of a god into his soul. This includes ritual washing, the use of lights and smoke, and other material rites that prepare the soul with union with the Divine. After the service, the symbolic death and burial of the initiate, he “is transformed into a Theios Anêr (God-Man), one of the Perfected or Immaculate Beings (Akhrantoi), who by Their very presence on earth bring grace to humanity and to all of Nature”. Comparisons to baptism and Christian theosis here are not very far-fetched.
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