An Open Letter From Reed Mathis
This album is an exploration of what we’ve forgotten about Beethoven’s music.
Beethoven was a songwriter, an improvisor, a sound shaman, a self-taught working-class pronouncer of universal anguish, awe, resilience, and triumph. The flesh-and-blood man stood artitstically closer to the likes of John Coltrane, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix than to any of his present-day concert hall re-enactors.
His music, at its core, is about learning to love in a world in which hearts can break. We can know only the surface circumstances that made up Beethoven's broken heart. Rejected as a child performer, orphaned as a teen, deaf at 30 and unable to perform, a string of marriage proposals rejected, and his adopted son's suicide attempt all forced him to the fiery transcendence we hear in his music. But those misfortunes were specific to him. We ALL feel alike the sting of life's indifference to our wishes, random tragedy, and ultimately our own mortality. We are all angels surprised to find ourselves trapped inside monkeys. We’ve all seen that bad things happen to good people. So, what can be done with a cruel and unfair world? A profound, heartfelt answer to that question is what we hear in Beethoven's music, and it's why some of us return again & again to these evergreens of song. The archetypes that Beethoven articulated are in every newborn baby, in every broken heart that heals. They are in me, and they are in you. The real communication happens directly between you and him, without words, in our universal dream-language of sound.
We present here two of his nine symphonies.
In the 6th, called “Pastoral,” he admits that his true religion is the divinity of Nature — of skies and trees and rivers and storms. Reflecting Beethoven’s own interest in the Bhagavad Gita, it is a worship ritual for those of us who find the creator in all living things.
In the 3rd, called “Eroica” or “Heroic,” he walks us through his suicidal anguish over his encroaching deafness, and his ultimate victorious decision to commit egocide rather than suicide. He’d been a performing pianist, a live improviser, a shamanic hero of the stage, but deafness killed that man. From the ashes rose a wholly new being, the man who could dream and articulate these incredible inner experiences, a composer.
Having had the honor of being able to improvise on these forms and to chant these prayers, I’d like to thank LvB for making roman candles out of our emotions and for using them to paint the night sky. He was our muse as I travelled the country collecting other musicians to help light the fuse. Happy stargazing.