Guerrieri’s section on Beethoven’s possible African ancestry covers many aspects and opinions on the subject. He begins with discussing Ralph Ellison, a writer and past musician. Ellison grew up with music and dreamed of being a jazz trumpeter, in addition to a “great Negro composer, bringing black American vernacular sounds into the temples of European high art.” He attempted to pursue both jazz and classical styles however he became confused and caught between the different genres. Pursuing his writing career to the fullest, he wrote Invisible Man, a novel about a black man’s life in America. In the book he wrote a passage about the man who wakes up in a hospital after a factory accident, and is being operated on by a group of white people. The passage is descriptive and poetic, and relates greatly to the movement and story of Beethoven’s Fifth. Moving further, the discussion of Beethoven having African ancestry arrises. Once the possibility of Beethoven being even one sixteenth or less black appeared, people used that in civil rights movements. Malcom X said in an interview, “…the most successful general that ever lived, was a black man. So was Beethoven;” People were so desperately “claiming” Beethoven as black to promote equality, raise awareness, and for personal reasons. There was even an incident at Stanford University with two white students arguing with a black one about whether or not Beethoven was black, which resulted in a racist action of the white students adding stereotypical, offensive features to a poster of Beethoven and placed it on the black student’s door. The very idea that Beethoven could be black became such a heated topic, Guerrieri wrote, “The idea of a black Beethoven ends up as something like the Fifth Symphony:a convenient screen onto which anyone can project their own concerns.” So just as the Fifth, which everyone used to support their own ideas and thoughts, Beethoven himself now is the root of that. It has turned from his music to him as an icon or hero. Although race was an extreme issue in America at the time, the fact the Beethoven may or may not have been black seems irrelevant and blown out of proportion. It wasn’t Beethoven that gave him popularity or praise, it was his music that everyone loved. He didn’t appear to be the most charming person according to history, so he individually was never brought into the mix until questions about his race arrived. Whether or not Beethoven was indeed black matters not. He is a composer, a creator, who’s passion was simply making music, his race or where he was from had no effect in that matter, what is on the inside is what made the magic.

Theodore Adorno a musician and professional philosopher from Germany. He lived a sickeningly sheltered childhood, as Guerrier stated, “A friend remembered Adorno enjoying ‘an existence you just had to love–if you were not dying with jealously of this beautiful, protected life.'” He was quite well educated, and attempted to compose an opera based on Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, however with little encouragement he gave up after two numbers. Philosophy was his stronger passion, and contemplated things with a “negative dialectic” which helped to clear the way to “achieve identity”. Adorno is infamously remembered for his critique on jazz, as it is considered remarkable wrong. He writes that jazz is very structured with no sensation of freedom, which encourages obedience and not rebellion. Examined in many different lights, his analysis could be considered correct although a majority of critiques disagree wholeheartedly. Adorno’s real success, or positively-for the most part-remembered thought was about Beethoven’s Fifth. He concluded the Fifth, the famous four notes that was easily recognizable yet not many deeply understood or had a “real connection” with it, was simply nothing. In the words of Hegel, “Being is indeed nothing at all, but within becoming is no longer simply being; and nothing, through its oneness with being, is no longer simply nothing.” Therefore the “nothing” in the Fifth is everything. Adorno believes that this “nothing” allow and is “freedom”, which he assures is the “key to Beethoven’s music”. Finally, Guerrieri concludes the section, and novel, with Adorno’s thoughts on Beethoven’s achievements. he believes that, “Beethoven achieved in music what the world forever tries and fails to achieve: the better society.” Adorno’s apparent naivety lead him to believe that the Fifth has become almost a symbol of this “reality” that society strives for, a thing that different people throughout history have attempted to claim, the “better society” created from both the spirit and hands of Beethoven himself.

The question, “Could Beethoven make it in the music business today?” can be answered in many ways, however there are some unchanging factors that would affect his success not matter how optimistic of an outlook one has. To begin, classical music isn’t as popular as it once was, to say the least. Studies show that a majority of symphony-goers are seniors, supporting the idea that classical music performances typically attract the older end of the population. During Beethoven’s time, instrumental music was the norm, and most enjoyed it, therefore giving him the appropriate window to express his compositions. If someone of his skill, or any skill, were to compose symphonies and perform them in concert halls, the world would be no different-there are talented composers sending out music constantly but no recognition takes place because it is not a part of the big music scene anymore. There wouldn’t be any change in listening habits if a new composer published a symphony that was supposed to create a worldwide impact, because the only people listening are stereotypically elders. Therefore Beethoven wouldn’t make the same “splash” in the music industry as he once did in Vienna.

Beethoven today is simply a German composer known for his triumph and Fifth. Throughout history he made a worldwide impact, influencing and inspiring several movements and wars, creating common ground, evoking deep emotion to the point of tears, and forming into an icon, or sort of commodity, in today’s life. Just one man completed so before an after his death, however as the years go by, he is slowly fading away. His music will, without a doubt, live on for centuries more, however possibly only his music will be remembered and not him himself. Being a young adult in today’s modern society with complete access to extensive libraries of music, I had never listened to any of Beethoven’s compositions. The only thing I knew about him was that he was a composer and wrote the, “dun dun dun duuuun”, I was even unaware that he was the creator of the Ode to Joy tune, which I had been performing on piano for years. The knowledge I had received about Beethoven and all 1800s composers was extremely limited. Had I lived in my grandparent’s time, my Beethovian education would have been greater because of the constant exposure to his music due to his popularity. However, in the current society we live in, exposure to Beethoven is surprisingly small. The image and memory of Beethoven has differed throughout the decades, beginning with the world loving him for his music, then when the “claiming” phase happened: the world was loving him simply for him, and now as we reach present times he is remembered for only his music. The pattern of Beethoven’s memory being music-man-music could repeat, however with current music tastes and decline of classical music, ironically, the world is slowly becoming more and more deaf to his creations.

Finally, as asked in Guerrieri’s book, if the opening of Beethoven’s fifth is now a ringtone, and somebody picks up after the second note, is it still Beethoven’s fifth? It is, indeed. If Beethoven conducts his Fifth in a concert hall but stops after the second note to sneeze, would it not still be the Fifth? The following phrase of the composition is still their, it has simply just been interrupted.


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.”


Secret Remedies

Guerrieri’s chapter, “Secret Remedies” is about Beethoven appearing in history around the globe and his music’s effect on society. His music represents, recommends, and stuns. Guerrieri gave an example of one man, who after the Allegro finished of the Fifth, “he said, firmly and authoritatively, “is the point where Human Genius has reached its uttermost limits,”–and with this he strode grandly from the box, in so ethereally transcendental manner that, had any one met me immediately afterwards, and told me “Your friend has gone straight up through the roof into the sky above, all among the angels” I should not have been surprised:indeed, I should rather have expected it.” The effect of Beethoven’s Fifth on individuals is varied and amazing. How on earth could one person be so moved by a music piece? For others, however, Beethoven was more than an inspiring collection of works. In the Victorian ages, one element he represented was gendered: “Beethoven’s music became inseparable from Victorian femininity.” For a woman of that time to be able to play piano, specifically Beethoven, was a “reminder of Beethoven’s status as an ornament of the upper class.” Through literature, female characters of class often play his music, using the idea of “Beethoven” as more than just  a composer, but as an almost landmark. Everyone understood the references to Beethoven and what they entailed-the idea of wealth, brains, fate, triumph, struggle, he became a sort of literary term commonly used represent great things.

In a musical and racial pyramid, Beethoven was on top. Markham complained about how the concerts by Henry Wood, who was German, contained a repertoire of German music. Especially because it was a time of war, the idea of having only German music was appalling, however once asked about Beethoven, Markham didn’t consider him as a German:

R. Mcneill: Is there no Beethoven in the programme?

A. Markham: No, the whole of the programma at some of these concerts contains no music except German.

F. Banbury: Beethoven was a German.

This suggests that Beethoven was placed in the highest tier, becoming a norm for performances who is so incomparable to others, he rises above categories and has no labels or placement. However, in American, this placement changed drastically. Because of the war, the anti-German idea spread and Mrs. Jay & co. led others to eliminate any German repertoire as, “part of a movement directed toward the complete extinction of German influence in this country.” Guerreiri used Karl Muck, a German orchestra conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as an example. Muck had originally conducted the Fifth in 1906 which was “brilliant and effective”, therefore asked to return in 1912. Unfortunately, after once more conducting the Fifth, strong criticism resulted because an American flag was not displayed on stage, and then loyalties were later questioned when local women and musical clubs requested they perform the “Star-Spangled Banner” as an introduction to the concert. However because Higginson-in charge of the orchestra-declined, not wanting anyone to tell him how to perform his duties. Muck was later then painted as the villain, a “German interloper arrogantly insulting American pride,” and later he was arrested and taken to an internment camp for Germans. In the camp he only conducted one performance, Eroica, not wanting to do the Fifth possibly because the themes of struggle and triumph were to ironic. The concept of Beethoven has evolved over the decades and centuries, beginning with a short, stubby composer of “new” music all the way to a symbol of class, enemies, emotion, and so much more the idea is indescribable. The single name, Beethoven, holds myriad possibilities of meaning that come from all over the world from the moment he first composed to the present, and will inevitably continue on forever.

American Transcendentalism, Ives, and the Fifth

After listening to Ives’s first movement “Emerson” of his Concord Sonata, I became speechless. His piece left wonders of composition process, meaning, and musicianship. At times the work sounded as if a child were sitting at a piano, randomly banging out chords, and at others a drunk lounge pianist who kept messing up the notes to a beautiful piece. However, with that in mind, the experience sounded as if it were made by a genius who was too modern for his time, as Guerrieri writes, “Ives was a Transcendentalist born too late and a modernist composer born too soon,”. Ives, being a Transcendentalist, used those ideas in his music throughout his life. He and his father pondered on the concept of music and noise, and the thin line between, similar to Thoreau whose music was nature; he didn’t have to attend the Boston symphony, as Guerrieri stated, “Thoreau’s symphony was in nature.” Flocks of geese and wind weren’t “noise”, they were musical sounds. Ives and Thoreau shared this understanding of what music truly is, and what defines it. For some, anything can be considered music, for others a piece with a melody and flow is music. Those people who have strict restrictions on music would be highly recommended to not listen to Ives’s Concord Sonata. It is lengthy and unpredictable, scattered and sudden, unsatisfying and frustrating, yet mesmerizing and truly beautiful. The ideas Ives infused in the piece about transcendentalism and beauty encourage thoughts of expressive, deep music. Where did his idea come from? What is the meaning behind it? What was the inspiration–which is discussed in the prologue of his essay–does a piece require a scene or something material to be born? Must there be a space in time the composer can pinpoint for inspiration? The list of myriad questions goes on…

In his Concord Sonata, Ives incorporates Beethoven’s first four notes motif in every movement, and in many other works. This I find puzzling, if one were to “steal” a motif from one piece and use it in his or her own, a lawsuit would shortly follow, yet it appears that Ives use of Beethoven’s 5th intro is deemed appropriate. Moving on, the use of the motif is interesting; Ives had a sort of obsession with the “first four notes” for it often appeared in his compositions. Guerrieri believes, “The four-note motive is there because of its fame and familiarity, its original power and its power as cliche inseparable.” The idea that he suggests the motif is added in the compositions because of its “fame and familiarity” is naive and almost insulting. Ives didn’t incorporate the motif because it is popular, he did so because of Beethoven himself and his transcendentalism through music. Then at the end of the chapter, Guerrieri contradicts that statement and states that Ives believed that “every mask ever applied to those four notes desired to have its voice hear. It was his duty…tallying up the Beethovian legacy, making sure the entire estate is covered.” suggesting that Ives used the motif because it deserved to be heard. In the Concord Sonata, Beethoven becomes a pathway, a connecting bridge, forming a red thread of fate intertwining the four men and their ideals through music, specifically four notes.

A few more notes: After listening to the third movement, “The Alcotts”, tears nearly came to my eyes for it was a sweet, tender, and heartwarming piece with episodes of grand, modern chords and melodies. It is indeed surprising that this piece was written so long ago when it harbors such modern qualities and sounds noting of the other compositions at the time. How can one be so advanced with composition, and was Ives lucky like Beethoven–who’s music was “new” but the audiences adapted? How did the people view Ives sonata?

Finally, Ives appears to have been somewhat immature at times, which is contradictory to his writings and work which are modern and mature. The fact that he purposely misspells the names of people who do not impress is rather childish. “…Ossip Gabrilowitsch (whose name Ives spelled “Ossssssip,” a sure sign he didn’t consider him manly enough to tackle such a repertoire).” In addition, in his draft letter blaming the “conventionality of American audiences on Toscanini’s renditions of the symphonies”, Ives called him “Arthur Tascaninny”. Ives appears to have been quite the character, concluding his letter with the sentence: “Wake up America–kill somebody before breakfast.”


Romanticism plays a big role in Beethoven’s fifth symphony. As Guerrieri wrote, “Every time a singer-songwriter is praised for projecting autobiographical authenticity; every time a movie star expresses the desire for a project that’s “more personal”; every time a flop is subsequently recategorized as a before-its-time masterpiece–all these are reverberations of the bombshell of Romanticism, and one of its preeminent delivery systems was Beethoven’s Fifth.” Many romanticists have analyzed the fifth and applied their theories to it. Beethoven even had some background in the movement and was familiar with the Romantics, and Immanuel Kant, who wrote critiques and other works. He developed the idea of “free beauty” and “dependent beauty”, which is how one truly judges aesthetically. Kant died just before Beethoven’s fifth, and then started the main Romanticism movement. Many say that Beethoven’s fifth was in the right place at the right time-instrumental music was becoming a norm and the romantics were just beginning to come across his works. E.T.A. Hoffmann, a Romantic, was among the first to critique and analyze Beethoven’s Fifth. Guerrieri included an excerpt of Hoffmann’s words on the symphony, and it was almost a narrative describing the piece using intense imagery, painting a clear image in the reader’s heads. “glowing beams shoot through this kingdom’s [He often referred to “kingdoms”] deep night, and we become aware of gigantic shadows that surge up and down, enclosing us more and more narrowly and annihilating everything within us, leaving only pain of that interminable longing…” and so on. This description clearly shows the type of analyzing and describing the romantics were fond of, finding the deeper, pure meaning and idea of things. Hoffmann then does a play by play of the entire piece, writing a stream of consciousness type  overview. After reading the section on Hoffmann and the fifth, one can assume that there are many ways to portray the symphony.When digging into pieces he often brings the idea of “doubles” and “dopplegangers” to the table, therefore finding them in this piece, in addition, there are arguments that Hoffmann was searching too persistently for a sense of unity to the point of bending and clouding his romantic judgement, however finding the deeper meanings is what being a romantic is all about. Finally, another issues about Hoffmann’s work is the true purpose behind it-was he advertising and promoting romanticism with his romantic ideas and approach, or was he referring to the war and take over of Napoleon. Guerrieri states, “In what is, after all, a wartime review of a wartime piece, Hoffmann rationalizes occupation by making the Fifth a stand-in for German glory, a kingdom of latent power awaiting its realization.”

Overall, I believe that a romantic review on the piece does help with giving an understanding. An image is painted in the readers head when hearing Hoffmann’s description of the fifth, and visualizing helps with hearings and comprehending.





Beethoven’s first biographer, Anton Schindler, claimed that Beethoven’s fifth symphony’s open has the words “It is thus that Fate knocks at the door.” however that statement hasn’t been confirmed nor contradicted. Schindler made up the idea of fate knocking by stating that Beethoven himself had told him that when discussing his works. Beethoven was a fan of “fate” therefore the story is believable, “fate” was in his music, the Heiligenstadt Testament, Tagebuch, and many other writings. However because this story was created by Schindler, we can now infer that his Beethoven biography surely includes made up, exaggerated, and forgery aspects.

Extending on the idea of fate in Beethoven’s writings, his journal, the Tagebuch, probably started just after his dark affair with his “immortal beloved”, contained many references to fate. The journal was written by the “less defiant” Beethoven, containing more submissive writings. For example, “Submission, deepest submission to your fate, only this can give you the sacrifices–for this matter of service. O hard struggle!” Showing his defiant side had fated, he wrote of accepting fate. He wrote several quotes, including from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Homer’s Iliad, and probably many, all speaking of fate.

Beethoven was also interested in Eastern thought. Many of his writings, just like fate, reference elements of Eastern thought. The very opening of his Heiligenstadt Testament reads, “O ye mankind…” which as Guerrieri says, is quite biblical sounding. However, in the German translated bible, there was no such line, but in the Koran was “O men…”. This gives the notion that Beethoven was interested in eastern thought has possibly read the Koran. In his time, eastern thought was fashionable and a big ordeal in Germany, specifically Vienna. Naturally, Beethoven surrounded himself with eastern things. On his desk was a quote found on the statue of Isis in Sais, Egypt. In addition, his Tagebuch includes, as Guerrieri says, “Quotations of Eastern sources, Hindu scriptures, and Sandskrit Vedas…” In addition, ideas of samsara and nirvana are used, specifically in his op. 111 Piano Sonata, beginning with a “struggle” then moving and resolving to an enlightened ending.

Masonic ideas and eastern thought in Beethoven’s life are intertwined. Beethoven, never an official Freemason himself, though surrounded by them, absorbed many masonic aspects. The eastern idea of “fate knocking” can be interpreted in a masonic lens: A one act comedy about a man who is obsessed and overflowing with curiosity about Freemasonry attempts to be initiated, however the Baron says to him, “Vulgar Curiosity never comes close to the light. Only he who seeks truth may knock on the door.” Therefore his fifth symphony’s possible idea of fate can be viewed as masonic.

Guerrieri’s quote, “It’s at this point that it becomes obvious just how contrived a target the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth is for Hegel’s logic, a square peg being crammed into a round philosophical hole.” holds quite a deep meaning. It goes into Hegel’s logic and philosophy, specifically his “…idea becoming and Idea three step process: Being, Essence, and the Notion.” The step of Being, in the case of interpreting the fifth symphony, is about recognizing what the “first four notes” are, and the complicated step, Essence, is what they mean. Guerrieri’s quote is referring to Hegel’s logical steps for  an Idea and how it plainly doesn’t add up or work, for  with this we cannot get past the second step of Essence to Notion. We are stuck in Essence because the first four notes could mean anything, they could mean nothing, we will never know; therefore keeping us in limbo. Hegel’s process doesn’t quite fit and cannot be completed to achieve the four notes as an Idea.

In the chapter, Guerrieri discusses Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and their theories. What I find interesting about the pair is their need for alcohol. They are the masterminds being the idea of “communism”, for which many harbor hatred towards them, but complete drunks! They would go on bar tours and drink while discussing theories and ideas. Now how does one who is that fond of beer create such an impactful way of life with myriad details and thoughts? Finally, Friedrich Nietzsche was also mentioned, and what I found compelling about his section was his question in his book, The Gay Science:

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”

Just reading those lines is mind-boggling-what is the right answer? I suppose it is based on your life and how you view all the moments that had a negative or positive impact. This quote shows the kind of thinker Neitzsche is and gives hints of his instability and how scarily creative he is. It also includes ideas of fate, therefore relating back to Beethoven’s fifth.