When I got to work at seven o' clock this morning, there was a car alarm outside that had already been going off for at least an hour. One of those annoying ones that, in order to comply with legislation, doesn't sound for any longer than twenty seconds. Then it waits 2.5 seconds and then immediately goes off again. And again, and again. I remind you that this scenario is taking place at 7am. And the alarm is on a shitty 1980s Citroen that no one would ever want to steal.
By 8am everyone at work was going a little bit mental. And by "everyone", naturally, I mostly mean me. So I printed out this:
laminated it, and stuck it to the offending windscreen. The noise stopped sixty seconds later. I probably shouldn't claim credit for the shaming into submission of an inanimate object solely with the use of satirical webcomics and the Laminator of Justice, but I'm going to do so anyway.
Tonight, a little bit of Ludwig Van, O my droogs. Specifically, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra perform the Choral Symphony at the Usher Hall with scotm and stormsearch. scotm didn't realize that the Choral Symphony was the same one as the Glorious Ninth until the interval. The look on his face reminded all present what the Ode to Joy is about. I should have charged him extra for the tickets.
Speaking of. This was the second time this week that I've spent money to be the youngest person in the room. The pleasant white-haired old gentleman in the seat next to me made indignant snorting noises when he heard me saying before the concert began, perhaps just a touch louder than conversationally, that the libretto to Ode to Joy was
a load of old wank. The house lights dimmed before I was able to explain myself: if you don't speak German, then the Glorious Ninth appropriately remains music.
If you understand German, the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth is an excruciating exercise in George Lucas-level dialogue.
Joy, sing the choir,
joy is a good thing, we'd like more joy please, and less not-joy would be nice too, joy joy joy, joy is cool. Also: joy. Then there's something about
shiny happy people holding hands and the whole thing degenerates into hippydom. I'm working from memory here.
Beethoven wasn't a poet. I'm fairly safe in making this assertion—he has many other sterling qualities—and, besides, and it's been said before. (“That ‘Ode to Joy’, talk about vulgarity! And the text! Completely puerile!”, said Leonhardt.) Schiller, who was a poet, and who wrote the original text that Beethoven adapted, frankly should have known better. It goes:
joy (which is a good thing that we'd like more of) is like a joyful river of joyous joy, but it says it in German, and therefore it still sounds kinda cool.
We, who are privileged not to understand German, can listen to the Ode to Joy without engaging the semantic cortices, and thus we can listen to the human voice in a symphonic setting simply as another instrument. The voice is a flute as designed by David Cronenberg. It sounds fantastic when you put it in an orchestra. It sounds even better when you use a hundred of them. Just please don't think too hard about what the words actually mean.
What intrigued me about this particular performance of the Glorious Ninth was the second movement, which was among the best I've ever heard. The first movement of the Ninth is grand and regal and wonderful, and then there are the second and third movements, which... exist, and then the audience wake up again for the fourth movement and that glorious Ode. This orchestra took the second movement (molto vivace!) and made it their own. It was peppy; it zipped along. It was energetic and vigorous and it had zing. The tempo was such that I wondered if the conductor had some urgent appointment at the bar, and then the third movement was an appropriately reassuring, lugubrious, respite from all this orchestral fanfara that I forgot any such concerns. Usually I, like most of the audience, would be quite happy to sleep through the third movement, because it doesn't count. This third movement was a good one. It was, in a way I've never appreciated before, a welcome respite between the breathless gallopping rhythm of the scherzo and the relentless onslaught of that glorious fourth movement, which amazes all the senses through purely orchestral means and then, as if it was an encore, breaks out the choral section in order to make the perfect more perfect. O that fourth movement. It gets no better.
The solo vocalists weren't quite top-rank and the percussion was a bit louder than it should be, and we were in terrible seats way up in the gods, but that's why we have live performances. The Glorious Ninth will never sound exactly like that again, and it was personal and intimate, and it was marvellous.
We applauded until our hands stang. On the way out, the pleasant white-haired old gentleman who'd been in the seat next me collared me and said:
the words may be awful, but didn't they do them well? Not appropriately placed for a discussion about semantic cortices, I could only agree. And then, perhaps overheard on the way home, as we walk down the main road past the well-known
Oh. So that's where all the cute strippers have gone.
I went to school with her.
A good day and an interesting one. I hope it remains so after I write it down.