Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

L.A. Paul on Beethoven

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This is entry #72 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.

Philosopher: L.A. Paul, Yale University

Artwork: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat major, Op. 27 “Quasi una fantasia”, No. 1, second movement, as performed by Glenn Gould. (Note: This is not the moonlight sonata (no. 14), but its lesser-known companion.)

Words: Ordinarily, I prefer Bach. But the second movement of this Beethoven piece has always had a special hold on me.

It’s the relationship between the notes that I find especially appealing, both tone and temporal. There is something about the qualitative character of the sounds juxtaposed with the speeding up and slowing down of the piece: it evokes the image of slow water, gathering speed, then moving quickly around stones in a brook.

It’s a piece I listen to when I’m excited by a project and feeling like I have philosophical insight about something. First there is the faltering confusion and the stumbling difficulty, and then, suddenly, I’m dancing with a new idea, a new way to think about world and self. The movement perfectly captures this feeling of freedom, exhilaration, and pure unfettered joy.

One Comment

  1. What a lively piece! The highly staccato performance makes it sound almost like electronica.

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