Thursday, March 22, 2018

Welcome to the Daily Beethoven.

     “The Daily Beethoven” was a 2010/2011 online project where I challenged myself to write a post/short article about Ludwig van Beethoven every single day for one full year. Besides simply being fun, this was a daily discipline which I hoped would expand my knowledge and appreciation for Beethoven and classical music in general – and it certainly did! My awe at Beethoven's accomplishments only increased, and my admiration for him simply as a human being grew as well (despite his sometimes volatile personality quirks).

     This project ultimately grew to include several different categories of posts:
  • Beethoven’s Life and Cultural World
  • Highlighted YouTube performances 
  • Books about Beethoven
  • Beethoven  Concerts 
  • Beethoven Documentaries
  • Music Analysis
  • Manuscripts (ie – handwritten scores)
  • Art related to Beethoven
  • Avant-garde approaches to Beethoven 
  • Dance and Beethoven
  • Guitar and Beethoven
  • Midi versions of Beethoven’s music

     Each of these sub-categories can be reached by clicking links in the "Categories" or "Handy Reference Pages" sections at right. By the end of the year I had also created what I consider to be fairly unique content, namely, “Guitar Arrangements”, and “Color-coded Video Analyses”:
     The Guitar arrangements ("Transcriptions for Rock Music Lovers") came about due to the easy availability of Beethoven MIDI files on the internet. Coming from a rock/jazz background, I thought that re-assigning 19th Century instrumental parts to modern electric rock instruments would make an interesting experiment. I found out that I loved these arrangements, and did hundreds of them, all still available on YouTube or at By “modernizing the band” (but not changing the music itself) I was able to bring out some of the more subtle melodies and rhythms in B’s music. The result is not for everyone - some people love them, and some people hate them. I ultimately expanded this idea to include Bartok, Shostakovich, Haydn, Stravinsky, Debussy…obviously I enjoyed creating and hearing these things. 

     The Color-coded Video analyses were created so that I could follow the “story” in each of Beethoven’s pieces. Nowadays classical music is most often heard as “background music” (in public spaces, films, etc), but in Beethoven’s time these sonatas and symphonies were kind of like aural “films”. They had character introductions, conflicts and resolutions. However, due to the abstract nature of music (and the popularity of TV/film, etc), it’s not a natural gift for modern audiences to be able to follow these invisible plot lines. For one thing, a moderately developed sense of melody and harmony was necessary to “see” what was happening. 
     In order to further develop my own sense of melody and harmony, I consulted the “experts” and used their explanations to create visual representations of these “musical adventures” through annotated YouTube videos. By watching these classical music videos, it helped me concentrate on the music and less on the facial expressions and body movements of the stage musicians (it’s not ballet, after all). After some time exploring these color-coded music videos, I was able to develop the ability to hear the story on my own, without the need for someone to "colorize" the on-screen action. In other words, the music became even more wonderful to experience. Like the “rock arrangements” described above, I expanded this side-project to include many other favorite composers.

     Regarding the bulk of The Daily Beethoven, all of the text and pictures I’ve posted remain online, although sadly a good number of linked outside pages and videos have gone away. Perhaps in those cases, the text in my original post will inspire the reader to do a more current Google search for the video or page content. Although I no longer continue making daily updates to this site, I’m happy to say it is apparently still visited pretty heavily and provides an enjoyable window into Beethoven’s world for many people. For additional introductory notes to this site, check out my personal observations about Beethoven circa 2010 in "About Me, or Why Beethoven?" and "What's So Special About Beethoven, Anyways?"

     On a final (?) note, here's a few left-over videos I never got around to include or write about back in 2011:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ed Chang Speaks About Beethoven on Cosmoetica

     Last week I had the pleasure of being Skype-interviewed by Dan Schneider, who has, for the last few years, been producing a series of long-form, unedited interviews on his Cosmoetica YouTube channel with actors, writers, academics and scientists (my interview was Episode No. 232).

     Although I haven't updated this blog in quite awhile, it was nice to reach back and hit on some highlights I'd discovered along the way of producing this year-long daily project.


A chapter list is as follows:

0:19 Intro by Dan Schneider
1:09 Ed Chang on how he got into Beethoven and blogging
7:50 Is classical music more complex than pop?
14:07 Beethoven's Human Struggle
22:53 Demythologizing deafness and the creative process
29:08 The Hypnotic Moonlight Sonata
34:47 The Kreutzer Violin Sonata and Beethoven's punk styles
39:17 Fur Elise, 5th symphony and how Beethoven does it
45:07 The Coriolan Overture, Epic movie music
50:29 Young Beethoven, Arrogant student
52:19 Fantasia in G minor, Bartok, avant-garde medicine
56:12 The 7th Symphony Allegretto 2nd movement and Beethoven's film assignments
1:01:10 The dialogue of the 9th Symphony 4th movement (Ode to Joy) and early sampling techniques
1:10:40 Why so Angry Beethoven?
1:14:33 Wagner a 2nd rate Beethoven?
1:16:46 Ed's current blog projects
1:19:50 Who is today's Beethoven?

The video mashup I mentioned of Beethoven's Coriolan Overture with The Lord of the Rings can be seen here: The video I mentioned of Bartok performing Beethoven can be seen here: A visual explanation of the "conversation/medley" aspect of the 9th Symphony 4th movement can be seen here: This video has been slightly remixed from the original video posted at Cosmoetica here: Dan Schneider's YouTube Channel is here: "The home for spoken word prose and poetry excerpts, as well as the Dan Schneider Video Interview series, an extension of the Dan Schneider Interviews, the most read interview series of all time" Dan Schneider's Cosmoetica Vimeo channel: