I’ve been neglecting music here, so I think I’ll turn the focus from writing and medicine for once…
As for the 5th Symphony, for most of my life, I hated it, especially the first movement. Mostly because it’s so overplayed, and for many people (sadly) it’s the only exposure they’ve ever had to classical music.*
I’ve listened to classical music since I was a child, and two things would always annoy me (musical misfit that I was in comparison with the other kids on the block). One was the name Beethoven. There have been many great composers, and Beethoven is not the only one who ever lived. But… he was the only one my peers were aware of. The second source of vexation was that melody — that succession of notes that make up the main theme of the first movement of the 5th. It was down there with nails on a chalkboard and rakes on sidewalks to my ears.
The third movement, on the other hand, I have always liked — something about its victorious and supremely sneaky-sounding sections always struck me as being visceral. But in regard to the first movement, my “ailment” afflicted me for many years.
Then, post-college, I started to actually read about Beethoven. I have a soft spot for grumpy characters, and quite frankly, I can’t blame Beethoven for being a little short-tempered from time to time (I know I wouldn’t be a bundle of cheer if I were in his situation and state of health). I considered him an interesting person — definitely more interesting to read about than Bach, whose music I always loved. And I suppose you could say I began to feel sorry for him. I liked Beethoven enough, but as for Symphony No. 5…! And I understand one need not like everything by a given composer. I don’t universally like everything by anyone, whether it concerns music or literature. But something made me feel as if I was missing something. The rest of the world had to think it was fantastic for some reason, and I was missing out.
And then came the realization of something I had always overlooked — the 5th Symphony is in C minor. C minor happens to be be my favorite key (Surely you have a favorite key! Doesn’t everyone?), and that along with my new-found Beethoven sympathies coaxed me to listen to the 5th Symphony in a new light.
I started to realize that it isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s better than merely “not so bad.” The 5th is a powerful piece of music. Its aggressive nature is invigorating. It is very rich, once I actually listened to the piece rather than relate it to a pile of hackneyed childhood associations. I’ll admit it isn’t one of my personal favorites — it’s not Chopin’s Military Polonaise or his Nocturne Op. 27 No. 1 in C# minor, and it’s not Liszt’s Dante Sonata or Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor BWV 582 — but I have grown to appreciate and enjoy it a great deal. I can now say I actually like it. Finally. I’m sure Beethoven’s glad I made the change.
*NOTE: While using the terminology classical music in this case, I am using it in the broad, common sense. I am not referring specifically to the Classical period, but am encompassing that with the Romantic and Baroque periods, etc. I’m well aware of the wide confusion (I personally think someone ought to come up with a better term just to prevent further confusion and make things a little more precise, neat-freak that I am), especially since I’m partial to the Romantic era… but I’m not the sort of person to walk around saying that I listen to “Romantic” music. People will get the wrong idea. It’s bad enough that people automatically assume I write romance novels when I say I’m a writer. But that’s another story in itself.