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Dear Beethoven - An Open Fanmail Letter

Dear Beethoven,


A classic portrait of romantic German composer Ludwig van Beethoven as featured on a blog praising his contributions to music
"Beethoven mit dem Manuskript der 'Missa solemnis'" by Joseph Karl Stieler

You are the composer that everyone seems to know about, even if they know nothing about classical music, or even if they claim to hate it.

 

Like, I remember this one time in 8th-grade social studies our teacher played the 1812 Overture for a lesson that I can’t remember. We all happily listened to it and even sang along, especially the cannon parts. Our teacher, Mrs. Kroessin, then asked our class who wrote it. Then this one kid that I didn’t like all that much and who was kind of a total D-bag said, with extreme confidence, “Beethoven!” I enjoyed the smug sense of satisfaction I got, cuz I knew that the answer was actually Tchaikovsky.

 

But that’s how ubiquitous your name has become over the centuries, that whenever novices hear classical music that they enjoy they automatically assume that it’s you who wrote it!


Composer Michael Merrill posing with a jack o' lantern carved in the likeness of German romantic composer Ludwig van Beethoven
Halloween 2012. Me with the best punkin' I ever carved!

Who hasn’t followed up a bit of dramatic news with the opening statement of your 5th symphony?

 

To call something someone’s 9th symphony means that it’s the greatest thing they ever wrote, something that is destined to be immortal, groundbreaking, and universally beloved throughout the infinities, all because of your actual 9th symphony. Plenty of composers had written at least 9 symphonies before you, but none of them reached the impact that yours had. Heck, your 9th was so powerful that a whole superstition started because of it, and there was a time when composers seemed to be somehow cursed to never be able to write more than 9 symphonies before they died because you died before you could.

 

And it’s not just your symphonies that everyone knows. Of course, the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata is standard repertoire for anyone who sits down at a music shop piano, second only to the opening notes of your Bagatelle no. 25 in A minor. And maybe chopsticks.



The guy that counted out the exact number of beans he would put into his coffee every day? Beethoven.

 

The fellow what wrote some of his best and most beloved works while deaf? Beethoven.

 

The dude with the quintessential grumpy composer look? Beethoven.

 

When people ask musicians who their favorite composers are, the inevitable response begins with, “Well, of course, Beethoven goes without saying.”


But we still say it, because we think that by not saying it we’re saying that we don’t like Beethoven’s music, which would instantly label us as either tasteless, pretentiously and hypocritically edgy, or just plain ignorant.

 

Anyways, thanks for writing the music you wrote.

 

Cordially yours,

 

Mike


I drew a version of this poster on an orchestration test and my professor hung it up on the whiteboard. No lie.

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