Greatest Song At This Moment - Beethoven's "Pathetique"



Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Outkast's "Dracula's Wedding," The Clash's "Guns on the Roof" and David Bowie's "Starman."

As I'm sure many children discovered, "Peanuts" was a weirdly funny cartoon that sometimes wasn't that funny at all. Many times the situations felt true, but they were often quite painful. I suppose that's one of the reasons why it lasted for so long, but it would also explain why people don't quote it all the time. Still, it was very popular and spawned a number of animated shows and movies, all of which I believe I watched during my formative years, and while parts have seeped deep into my subconscious (maybe that's why I had such a draw to that Zeppelin cover a few weeks ago), my adult life has found the nobility and boldness of some of these animated pieces to be much less boring than my childhood thought them to be. One of these instances appears in the middle of 1969's "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," where Schroder simply plays Beethoven's "Pathetique," a song that most often reduces me to tears.

Point of clarification: a song's ability to make someone cry should not and does not automatically lift it to the status of "Greatest." I have always been and may always remain a fast song guy; I prefer "Welcome to the Jungle" to "November Rain" (a weird rivalry dating back to college, where during a defense of a senior thesis, a friend of mine listed "November Rain" as one of his biggest influences for its beauty and artistry, "Especially," he said, "considering the output of the band before." To which I coughed "Appetite for Destruction is awesome"). Too often critics, music lovers and bands alike associate "slow song" with "mature song," and therefore associate "slow and mature" with "good," which is bogus and I will never stop fighting that battle.

So it's not just that the song is slow that gets me emotionally attached, it's that it is sad. It's a sad, sad sounding song. It actually feels like sadness; so much so that I would dare write something so pretentious as "it actually feels like sadness." And the fact that they included this strange, and I mean "strange" like "trippy," musical montage in the middle of what is ostensibly a children's cartoon movie shows either good sense (what else is Schroder gonna do? His whole character is playing that damn piano) or heart. Or both. This is, after all, the same crew and characters who can so eloquently, delicately, yet directly sum up the meaning of Christmas starting with "Lights please."

It could have something to do with a brilliant songsmith named Ludwig Van, but I feel it's my memories from my impressionable childhood that root "Pathetique" so close to my heart. There can be no denying the power of this musical beauty, but the love I hold for the song probably has more to do with flashes of half-remembered events, directly linked to the song or not. Hearing it now, I think of my younger sister who played piano, but never actually played this song. I can remember my mother telling me while I watched the trippy images over Schroder's "playing" that a friend of hers can play this song, and how she proud she was of her. I think of how parts of the song feel almost scary, but not horrifying, scary because of the emotional intensity.

As a final note, I'm including a link to an accomplished pianist playing the hell out of this song, but I wanted to point out how weird it is to think that we will never hear the song played "as it should be" by Beethoven himself, and it's a feeling our modern age has both corrected and erased. Our current bands obsess over album covers. Did Ludwig worry about how his sheet music would be printed? Did he write jokes in his liner notes? How do we know he played his songs the "best" they would be played?




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Greatest Song At This Moment - Beethoven's "Pathetique"