Beethoven vs. Rossini

For lack of any other inspiration, here is a delightful bit of debate from Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon which will make your head hurt but in the best possible way:

“Gustav is a composer. For months he has been carrying on a raging debate with Säure over who is better, Beethoven or Rossini. Säure is for Rossini. “I’m not so much for Beethoven qua Beethoven,” Gustav argues, “but as he represents the German dialectic, the incorporation of more and more notes into the scale, culminating with dodecaphonic democracy, where all notes get an equal hearing. Beethoven was one of the architects of musical freedom—he submitted to the demands of history, despite his deafness. While Rossini was retiring at the age of 36, womanizing and getting fat, Beethoven was living a life filled with tragedy and grandeur.”

“So?” is Säure’s customary answer to that one. “Which would you rather do? The point is,” cutting off Gustav’s usually indignant scream, “a person feels good listening to Rossini. All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland. Ode to Joy indeed. The man didn’t even have a sense of humor. I tell you,” shaking his skinny old fist, “there is more of the Sublime in the snare-drum part to La Gazza Ladra than in the whole Ninth Symphony. With Rossini, the whole point is that lovers always get together, isolation is overcome, and like it or not that is the one great centripetal movement of the World. Through the machineries of greed, pettiness, and the abuse of power, love occurs. All the shit is transmuted to gold. The walls are breached, the balconies are scaled—listen!” It was a night in early May, and the final bombardment of Berlin was in progress. Säure had to shout his head off. “The Italian girl is in Algiers, the Barber’s in the crockery, the magpie’s stealing everything in sight! The World is rushing together. …”

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