Monday, January 23, 2017

Intermediate Music Merit badge

Merit Badge Monday

Music II


As a member of The MaryJane Farmgirl Sisterhood, we are each given an opportunity to earn merit badges. It is sorta like scouts for grownups. And, what a great way to learn new things. This month I earned my “Intermediate” Merit badge titled, Music.

To earn this badge, I needed to

  • Research one classical composer and one musician from the last 100 years.
  • Compare and contrast each, identifying the similarities and the differences between their music.
  • Share what you have learned with your Farmgirl Chapter, or with the farmgirls on the chatroom.

I chose Ludwig van Beethoven. Hey can you blame me! He is from the Romantic Era and well everyone knows what a huge heart I have. Composer Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770, in Bonn, Germany. He was an innovator, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto and quartet, and combining vocals and instruments in a new way. His personal life was marked by a struggle against deafness, and some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life, when he was quite unable to hear. He died in 1827 at the age of 56.


It is rather easy to find information on the internet about Beethoven. Beethoven never married or had children. He was, however, desperately in love with a married woman named Antonie Brentano. Over the course of two days in July of 1812, Beethoven wrote her a long and beautiful love letter that he never sent. Addressed "to you, my Immortal Beloved," the letter said in part, "My heart is full of so many things to say to you -- ah -- there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all -- Cheer up -- remain my true, my only love, my all as I am yours."

The death of Beethoven's brother Caspar in 1815 sparked one of the great trials of his life, a painful legal battle with his sister-in-law, Johanna, over the custody of Karl van Beethoven, his nephew and her son. The struggle stretched on for seven years during which both sides spewed ugly defamation at the other. In the end, Beethoven won the boy's custody, though hardly his affection. gives more details about the above and his Short-tempered, absent-minded, greedy and suspicious behavior. Nevertheless, Beethoven had extraordinary talent and the fortitude to overcome personal trials. Ludwig van Beethoven is widely considered the greatest composer of all time. He is the crucial transitional figure connecting the Classical and Romantic ages of Western music.

Photo Credit: Axel Dupeux

For a modern composer, I chose David Lang. He grew up in Los Angeles in the ’60s, in a family of upwardly mobile, education-oriented intellectual Jewish immigrants. His father was a doctor whose parents had come from Lithuania, his mother a librarian, born in Germany. Their cultural tastes veered toward art, literature, sports—Lang’s dad taught him to keep score at Dodgers games—but not music. One rainy afternoon when Lang was in elementary school, instead of playing in the yard, his class watched a Leonard Bernstein “Young People’s Concert” featuring Shostakovich’s First Symphony. To introduce the piece, Bernstein explained that Shostakovich wrote it when he was 19 and instantly became world famous. The music enthralled Lang. He was 9, and his first thought, he said, was: “I have 10 years.”

Much like Beethoven he creates from a very emotion foundation within his soul. This passion began at a young age. In the words of The New Yorker, 

Lang is one of America's most performed composers. Many of his works resemble each other only in the fierce intelligence and clarity of vision that inform their structures. His catalogue is extensive, and his opera, orchestra, chamber and solo works are by turns ominous, ethereal, urgent, hypnotic, unsettling and very emotionally direct.” I have several cds by David Land and the above statement by is very true. The New Yorker states, “With his winning of the Pulitzer Prize for The Little Match Girl passion (one of the most original and moving scores of recent years), Lang, once a post minimalist enfant terrible, has solidified his standing as an American master.”

I find it almost impossible to write how both composers are similar except that they both were passionate about music, highly educated, and were very private about their personal life. Some refer to Beethoven as shy but some say he like Lang have an introverted personality. Personally, I see nothing wrong with this. So much is constantly published in the media that it is hard to know what is or isn’t true. I can understand why Lang keeps his personal life private.

I have always had a passion for learning and I find that music is not only a way to connect but creates an amazing feeling inside. Do you like music or play an instrument? How does music make you feel?


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