I turned 30 on February 18th. I want to celebrate this, and get myself back into writing, by spending a few weeks rambling about the 30 things that have meant the most to me over the years. These will be from music, movies, books, videogames, and maybe even art and other things for good measure. I feel like my life has been much more about the things I've experienced than it has the people I've known or the places I've traveled to, and these 30 things have helped to make my 30 years more than worth all the innumerable bad things. Expect heartfelt over-sharing and overly analytical explanations galore! In part 17, learn the true title of what I refer to as "the most beautiful and sad thing I've ever heard."
Back in 2012, I was dating and living with someone who was
majoring in trombone performance at a local college. When studying an
instrument at the college level, you not only have to be in several
performances yourself, but you have to attend those given by other
students, too. So in a few months I got a crash course in classical
music and associated styles, and I saw way more live music in a few
months than I had in my entire life up to that point combined. I even
bought my then-girlfriend a huge assortment of vintage classical
records. But as much as I learned and as much as I heard, classical
music is just not my thing and I know now it never will be. I ended
up liking the 'New Music' and experimental stuff way more than the
classics, so that was kind of strike one. Strike two was that the
music is too intellectual and requires too much reading; even the
emotive pieces sound to me like a mathematician plugging in the right
formula of notes to simulate emotion instead of it being music as a
channel for emotion. And strike three was that my favorite piece of
classical music remained the same as it was before I had my education
in 2012. To a classical music fan it's such a popular and obvious
choice as to be asinine, but I can't help it: Moonlight Sonata
is the most beautiful and sad thing I've ever heard.
Except that it's not really
called Moonlight Sonata,
and it's not all beautiful and sad.
Well, never say that Whiskey Pie
isn't educational. For you see, Beethoven's Moonlight
Sonata isn't actually called
that. The official title is most often written as Piano
Sonata No. 14 In C-Sharp Minor “Quasi Una Fantasia.”
Furthermore, what everyone is familiar with and thinks is the
entirety of the song is only the first movement of three. Admittedly
there's something to be said for colloquial shorthand so that
whenever we hear it we don't have to say the full title and can
instead go with a simple question of “that's Moonlight
Sonata, right?” For the
purposes of the rest of this piece, I'm going to keep saying
and trust you understand that I really mean Piano Sonata
No. 14 In C-Sharp Minor “Quasi Una Fantasia.” Say
that three times fast.
I'm fairly sure the first time I
heard this song was in a cartoon or movie. It's one of those
classical songs that has been used so many times in so many different
places that you don't always notice it. Using Moonlight
Sonata to indicate that
something is sad, or juxtaposing it against something decidedly
un-sad for the ironic humor effect, has been done to death in movies,
TV shows, and cartoons. I remember even a more modern cartoon like
Ren & Stimpy used
a lot of classical music, so it's possible that was where I first
heard Moonlight Sonata.
No matter how or where it's used, though, this song still hits me
right in the chest. This is one of the most famous and ubiquitous
songs of all time yet it somehow retains every bit of its power even
if it's a Muzak version in an elevator or it's in a TV commercial for
a car or some god damn thing.
As someone who has always been
drawn to the bittersweet and melancholic in life, it only makes sense
that I'd love Moonlight Sonata.
To my mind it is the origin point of all sad music that came
afterward, even though this is only strictly true of that famous
first movement of the song. But it's hard to beat that part for
establishing a mood, for getting a visceral reaction out of people.
On any given day I can listen to all three movements and by the end I
am in a totally different state of mind and mood, transported away by
a single piano playing a piece from over 200 years ago. While it's
very likely that no trace of my time on this Earth will survive 200
years into the future, I know that Moonlight Sonata will.