Beethoven’s violent dissolution

Deafening Beethoven : music foretells the dissolving of matter
 Beethoven against score
The Goliath that walked beneath a greatcoat
(Glowering as he fought to ride
His vehement and imperious nature
Down Voltaire’s sunny new pollarded street),
In the forgotten forty eight he found his Euclid
(Bach was, by then, ignored and dead)
That laid bare all bones of skilful composition…
(Haydn taught him almost all the rest)
He poured over reams of fluent Mozart,
He mastered, was preparing to surpass…
Early symphonies enlarged, extended…
Musicians now bemused by frantic scherzos…
Tangled variations were unending…
(Marathons on Diabelli’s theme)
Concertos embarked on heated conversations,
Held their own against the forte throng,
Soared to lift the singing individual
Above the weight of common cause.
Conventions all were stretched, elastic;
In the ninth he blended choirs
(Only humans could distil an Ode to Joy)
Tempestuous, grandiose or poignant,
Candid as the sun succeeding storm.
This Michelangelo of the aural spectrum
Put man and God in single exaltation
Worthy equals for the worship of his soul.
Complex music keeps the treading measure
Of science and hierarchic forms;
(Geniuses in both find one another
Only genius hears the future calling…)
Tonality was built in upward layers…
From the ground reverberating bass…
Rhythms syncopate, broken, silenced…
Agony held… in base-drum… punctured… pause…
The symphony strove to match creation
In its sweep, its vast dimensions,
Its rolling moods through time and space…
Its small voice… its turning enharmonic season…
Its Sonorous Authority.
Yet encroaching deafness steals:
Silence mocks and silence beckons,
The canvas on which all sound is written
Claims its deep priority.
The Prospero that scored Creation
Is alone, all revels ended,
The play concluded, ships have gone.
Ariel regained her heedless freedom…
No tricksy spirit sings or listens…
Only the wash of the twilight cries…
Stillness now the new persuasion
Imperious silence fills the ears…
The unmarked stave the clear horizon
Makes music’s journey new, explicit;
To hollow the heart for a deeper longing,
To finger the strings of a naked thirst,
Prepare the gourd for joyful breaking…
Returning to silence its borrowed jewels of song.
His autograph on resignation,
His flourishing last biography
Murders carefully structured language,
Dismembers each and every limb,
Summons magical fragmentation,
Discordant harmonies dissolve…
The string is thrummed, hair sawn and broken…
‘Sul ponticello’ adds its cry…
Euphony is swift amputated…
Comfort whipped away by wind…
Oak melodies tear away in sections…
The raft of peril swamped by storms…
The soaring violin now scrabbles
For a blue unblemished sky…
Flares of tungsten pierce the darkness:
The afterimage, falling cadence
Draws the battered soul to lee.

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