Long before there were cellphones and the internet and before you could spend five dollars on a cup of coffee in a size you cannot pronounce, there was culture in the United States.
Leonard Bernstein was the most brilliant conductor of the last century. In the 1960's he gave interviews that were turned into a series of documentaries. In one, he discusses Beethoven's Fifth symphony and how it was created. And in this documentary, Bernstein gives an exposition on artistic ...we're not sure what the word is. Artistic honesty? Or integrity? It's about what drives an artist to do what he or she does.
It's a brief and brilliant, and probably extemporaneous exposition on the subject and we felt compelled to write it down you our readers.
And so Beethoven came to the end of this long symphonic journey, at least for one movement. Imagine a lifetime of this struggle. Movement after movement, symphony after symphony, quartet after concerto after sonata. Always probing and rejecting in this constant dedication to perfection. To the principle of inevitability. Somehow this is the key, the only key we can have to the mystery of a great artist. That for reasons unknown to him or to anybody else for that matter, he will give away his life and his energies just to make sure that one note follows another with complete inevitability. Seems rather an odd way to spend one's life. But it isn't so odd when we think that the composer by doing this leaves us at the finish with a feeling that something is right in the world. That checks throughout. Something that follows its own law consistently. Something we can trust that will never let us down.
Is that what appeals to us? Art as perfection? Something we can trust; that will never let us down? The concept is brilliant. The thought that an artist would give his or her life to achieve that perfection comforts us. It lets us know that humanity exists on the shoulders of giants who are driven by a bigger picture. A need to create perfection for themselves without the slightest care of who, if anyone recognizes it. Creation exists for the creator. What we do with it matters little to the man or woman who achieves that perfection.
It's a nice respite from the real world, until we are brought back to a land ruled by a slob who scarfs down McDonald's Big Macs, and is surrounded by sycophants who are intoxicated by the proximity to power. That is the power we urge you to fight. So sit back, open an Opus One, and listen to Beethoven's Fifth.
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