Heinrich Schenker was an austrian music theologist and had very strong opinions of music and Beethoven. He, as Guerreiri writes, “created a style of music theory specifically designed to prove the superiority of the classic Austro-Germanic repertoire–Bach, Beethoven, Brahms.” In his theories, he formed the Urlinie, or the fundamental line, in which there is a, “simple descending scale, sometimes either notes, sometimes five, but in its most basic form, only three notes…ending on the tonic, the pole star and goal of any piece of tonal music.” The three line notes are accompanied by a bass line (do-sol-do), which creates the official Urlinie. It is a simple theory yet applicable in myriad ways throughout music history. Schenker, clearly quite knowledgeable about music, who believes, “To properly understand the music is to properly understand the world.” was very opinionated when it came to the Fifth. He considered the motive of the first movement the first eight notes, as opposed to mostly everyone who considered it the first four. However, some argue that he viciously denied the fact that the first four could be the motive because he was using Beethoven’s music and first eight notes to back up his theory of Urlinie. With the first eight notes, a vague line of Eb, D, C arises, therefore appearing as the fundamental line. Schenker believed anyone who considered the first four notes as the motive had “untrained ears”, many of them being Romantics. In fact, he goes as far to say that maybe the people above never even heard the actual symphony, that the musicians who play do not really perform the it; the Fifth is that big, as he states, “That, indeed, is the truth of the matter!”

Beethoven in terms of WWII is an interesting and inspiring concept. one could argue that Beethoven was supporting both sides, or that both sides, Nazi Germany and Allied Troops, were using Beethoven. The Nazis, who were ending lives of the “non-pure” population in Germany, however they decided that Beethoven, who probably had strands of foreign blood and what not, was an exception. Beethoven was a proud German, and the Nazis considered him “on their side”. His music, the Fifth, specifically, was performed all over, and was even scheduled to be played in Hitler’s 1939 “Party Conference on Peace” however due the invasion of Poland, the conference was cancelled. The Nazis saw Beethoven as a pure German, an inspiring leader who left behind music of triumph to lead the way.

On the other hand, the Allies were on quite good terms with Beethoven as well. It all began when Victor de Laveleye wanted to create more Belgian resistance in forms of graffiti, and discovered the idea of writing V for victory in French and freedom in Flemish. Soon the V campaign grew and was broadcasted on BBC radio through morse code as “dot dot dot dash”, sounding similar to the Fifth. The read thread of fate was too obvious, or coincidental, for the letter V is the roman numeral for five, which sounds like the Fifth Symphony. This inspiring connection led to the international outbreak of a Beethoven’s Fifth campaign where V’s and the Fifth were everywhere. In Britain there was a “Bundles for Britain” poster that encourage the spreading of V’s, in America began V-mail and “The V-club of America”, the song was played constantly in symphony halls and whistled by children. Music is the most powerful propaganda, therefore Beethoven’s music created the utmost impactful movement that inspired millions. The idea that both sides were using Beethoven esentially aas their “mascot” israther ironic. Beethoven’s Fifth stands for fate, struggle, and triumph, which is applible to many situations therfore granting both sides the ability to use. As written in the novel, Time-Life Records said, “The theme of one work alone–his immortal Fifth Symphony–was an inspiration to millions in World War II who rsiked their lives in the name of freedom.”


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  1. You’ve summarized the text’s summary of Schenker’s opinion of the “first eight notes” very well. This is exactly the point.

    Nicely put: Beethoven was supporting both sides (of the war). Though it’s highly unlikely he would have been a Nazi sympathizer, of course. His disgust with Napolean was the way he made himself emperor, rather than a leader of the common people, and no doubt he would have felt the same way about Hitler. That didn’t stop the Nazis from claiming B as the great German, however.

    And yes, V for Victory. It was completely a coincidence, of course, that it matched dot-dot-dot-dash, but we musicians love that it became the motto.

    Good post.

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