Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Beethoven, etc.

The Seer of Cleveland asked, "Is there anything you can recall that you learned about Beethoven from RAW that RAW didn't mention in any of his writings? How is your project to listen to all of Beethoven's piano sonatas over and over again coming along?"

I just started this blog yesterday, but I've discovered already that the answering process seems to take time.  I may think I've answered a question adequately, but I keep thinking of other ways to answer it.  I suspect Bob/Beethoven anecdotes will percolate up in my memory over the next few months, especially if I get to teach a Schroedinger's Cat class over at the Maybe Logic Academy starting in August.  (And reading Proust keeps adjusting my concept of memory altogether.)

When Bob came over to my house for our Finnegans Wake study group on a Thursday in March 1988, I put a number of Cd's on, mostly Beethoven.  I think he asked for the Fifth Piano Concerto (which I have playing right now) and the Triple Concerto.  I don't think I owned a recording of the Triple Concerto at the time, but in slavish fanboy fashion I bought one soon thereafter.  For a change of pace he asked for some Bach, so I put on Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations.  He may have asked specifically for that piece.  I don't recall.

A few days earlier Mark Johnston had interviewed him for Mark's zine The Mind Blaster (heavily praised by Ivan Stang) over at Steve and Vicky Snow's house.  Steve had Beethoven's Eighth Symphony playing and the Marilyn Chamber's film Insatiable playing with the sound off.  Bob had brought an Endomax brain machine which I think I tried first, and we had all stocked up on Guinness Stout, etc., for Bob's week-long visit.  I found that a most amusing evening.  At one point Bob interrupted an answer to glance at the screen and comment on the pool table scene.

Bob  told me that he once gave a talk and to introduce him someone played the "Ode to Joy" on a trombone.

He also said he once took LSD and listened to all nine Beethoven symphonies, taking a bit more before each symphony, climaxing with the Ninth at sunrise.

I once commented about liking a brief mention of Mahler in one of his books, and he replied he loved Mahler.  Reading books like Prometheus Rising and Schroedinger's Cat one gets the impression that he listened mostly to Beethoven, but he did listen to a variety of classical music.  However, the recent Boing Boing interview with his daughter brought up his obsession with Beethoven once again.

In the late 80's I became obsessed with basketball.  I had a pianist friend call up Bob during a radio interview and ask him whether the fact that the NBA had 23 teams at the time could help him in playing the "Appassionata" (Sonata #23). 

I have reached Op. 78 in my 11:32 project to listen to all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas eleven times each.  I've modeled the sonatas as parallel with the eight circuits of the nervous system, so I've almost finished the Sixth Morphogenetic Circuit, and I look forward to metaprogramming Beethoven shortly.


  1. What a wonderful response to my question! It looks like, in true fanboy fashion, I am going to have to pay more attention to Mahler's music. So much to listen to, so little time.

    Can you explain again why you are listening to each sonata 11 times? I know you explained that before, but I can't fine the answer.

  2. Hi Eric,

    As someone who knew RAW, did you ever discuss his writing process? I always find it mind boggling how many seemingly unrelated and esoteric references he could squeeze into his work. I guess what I'm asking is, did he have any special way of doing research or does it just come down to his genius intellect?

  3. I recall reading somewhere that Bob also had a thing for Scarlatti's piano sonatas. The guy had good taste.

  4. Part one of Mark Johnston's interview with RAW: http://youtu.be/063_2a2E8kc

  5. Thanks, Mr. Dracman. I found myself contemplating the influence of Universal horror films this morning, from Count Alucard to Frank Dracman, and then synchronistically you posted this just now.