Friday, February 3, 2012

Beethoven: A Touch of the Tar Brush?

The eldest Wombette this morning refers me to this fascinating discussion of the possibility that no less than Ludwig von Beethoven was, in fact, a black man:

http://open.salon.com/blog/ronp01/2009/09/27/the_african_heritage_of_ludwig_van_beethoven

It's interesting that the author, after reviewing the evidence, cites his use of rhythm as evidence of that African heritage, as though that, too, is hereditary. Not sure I'd go there myself. But it's entirely plausible that in a culture where a carpenter's son from the Middle East is oft portrayed as blond haired and blue eyed, a touch of the tar brush in one of its most revered composers might have been, er, whitewashed.

Some of the commentary on the music itself I find resonant. The second movement of the 32nd piano sonata, which the author cites, all of a sudden breaks into a rhythm that sounds a lot like ragtime. It's odd and quite wonderful, and is late in the sonata, which has a lot of sort of beautiful, mysterious music before it.

The comments are fun to read, too. One noted that the Obama 'birthers' are doing the same thing to history. And righties view any achievement by a black male, any at all, other than their natural sense of rhythm and jungle-bred athleticism, comes out of affirmative action. Not that they're racist...

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