Beethoven, Fidelio, and Refusing to Give Up

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

fidelio posterBeethoven was a lot of things, but he was certainly not a quitter. In life, in love, or in his work, he often kept on in the face of defeat, heartbreak, and in the case of his only opera Fidelio, lukewarm reception.

It was a complicated process that started with another opera he was commissioned to write, which was eventually abandoned. He then found another libretto he liked better and switched over to that. The first production was first performed to an audience consisting mostly of French soldiers that had recently occupied Vienna. Tepid reviews and the French occupation shuttered the opera soon after.

Beethoven was then moved to shorten the opera from three acts to two, and saw more success for several performances before a dispute with the theatre. Many years went by, and after finding a new librettist, Georg Friedrich Treitschke, the opera was finally finished to Beethoven’s liking.

During the process of the last rewrite he recounted his difficulty with the process in a letter to Treitschke saying, “I assure you, dear Treitschke, that this opera will win me a martyr’s crown. You have by your co-operation saved what is best from the shipwreck. For all this I shall be eternally grateful to you.”

So, why did Beethoven work so hard to get his only opera just right? Why did he agree to come back to the work two more times? Beethoven was known as a composer who left copious drafts behind of much of his work. So first, second, and third drafts weren’t unusual for him. Maybe he got in and couldn’t let it go until it was up to snuff with the other operas of the day. He didn’t write any other works of this kind, and perhaps he felt it important to make sure his opera would be remembered as a great work.

Whatever the reason, Beethoven would not rest for ten years, four overtures, three librettists, and some very tepid reviews, until the opera was a hit and eventually a staple in the opera world.

Why This Matters

We all have those projects, those goals, and those jobs we are given to do in our musical life that are like a mountain we continue to climb. We fall, we get back up, and sometimes it takes a whole career to get where we are going. But with every try, even if it’s a failure, or not exactly as we pictured it, we get closer to the success we always wanted.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Whether it’s that symphony you keep toiling on, never knowing if it will be realized or even performed. Or the album project that seems to be in production forever. Or the music program that you’ve been trying to build that seems like pushing a boulder up a mountain with a stick.

All our goals take trying and retrying to make them a success. It’s the most important lesson I teach people who want to make music their career – just do not quit. Find the next gig, the next teaching post, the next music project, or the next great work.

I think even in my own success story, the only way I succeeded was because I refused to give up. I kept trying and retrying ideas. When something wasn’t working I retooled it until it did work, and to some extent that has been secret to my success.

“Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.” – W. Clement Stone

Have a good week, and keep up the good work!

JEC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but he keeps trying. Hope you will too!

Links:

YouTube

Beethoven – Fidelio (Leonore), Op. 72 – COMPLETE OPERA – 432 Hz.
https://youtu.be/Zzo2TTlm55U

Related Quotes from Beethoven

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

“A true artist is expected to be all that is noble-minded, and this is not altogether a mistake; on the other hand, however, in what a mean way are critics allowed to pounce upon us.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Music for Nothing?

musicMusicians the world over (maybe even more than other artistic people like authors or painters) have become outraged that their music be “worth” something. That with all the hard work involved being a songwriter and/or artists, they aren’t earning back enough to pay their bills and make a nice life, and perhaps music just isn’t even worth doing?

The 20th century brought recorded music via the phonograph, album, and CD. These made billions of dollars for musicians and record companies for just over 100 years. But now that the internet has brought music to the world through cheap and free streaming, music folk are screaming that they aren’t getting paid enough.

This is particularly true of those who were part of the insanely profitable music industry of the latter 20th century. But is money the only reason we make music? Is that the determining factor if we even go to the trouble to make it or not?

I just read an article where Roger Daltrey of the Who said they weren’t going to make a new album because it wouldn’t make any money.

“We’ve talked about it, but it’s not going to be easy. There’s no record industry anymore. Why would I make a record? I would have to pay to make a record. There’s no royalties so I can’t see that ever happening. There’s no record business. How do you get the money to make the records? I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to pay money to give my music away free. I can’t afford to do that. I’ve got other things I could waste the money on.” – Roger Daltrey

Then maybe you should indeed waste your money on other things, Roger. I’m sure you have enough. Perhaps your music isn’t important enough if you’re only making it for financial gain.

To me that says, you don’t want people to hear an artistic statement or even go to the trouble of making music if you don’t see good money from it. That’s just sad.

That kind of thinking goes against not just art, but why God gave us our talents in the first place. He didn’t say, “Here are talents to use and share with the world…but only if YouTube and Spotify pay well!”

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I believe our talents are our voice and our gift to the world. Everyone deserves, maybe even needs, to hear our songs even if they only get to listen once or come across it in a Facebook feed.

Your music may never pay the bills, but it may the music that soothes someone’s soul or pushes someone to pursue music themselves. What’s the cost/benefit ratio there? Is it worth it if you bring happiness, fulfillment, and joy to someone, even if you don’t get paid for it?

“If you can do anything else other than music, do that instead.”  ― Well known music quote.

Those of us who do music consistently (and sometimes for an attempt at a living) do it because we can’t NOT do it. We can’t possibly shut it off, stop the music from coming out, or not want to share it with the world.

For those of us like this, there is no way to wake up every day for the rest of our lives and just not do music. YES, of course we want to be paid well for our efforts, but if it does not, should we quit making it?

What I’d say to Roger is, if you can quit doing music, then maybe you should go do other things. Who are you, indeed!

“There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.” – Duke Ellington

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland happens to make a living through music, but not necessarily his own. But he still makes what he feels he must and gets it out to the world. You can find out more at http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

How Recordings Changed New Music

37924378_m“It’s the latest popular song,” declared the phonograph, speaking in a sulky tone of voice. “A popular song?” “Yes. One that the feeble-minded can remember the words of and those ignorant of music can whistle or sing. That makes a popular song popular, and the time is coming when it will take the place of all other songs.” – L. Frank Baum

Before the late 1800s the only way you heard music was if you went to hear it live, or someone was playing the piano in the home. So you actively went to hear chamber music, or opera, or other live events to hear the newest music. It was very much the same as when a new movie comes out. We are going to consume something new and we hope exciting. (More on that in a minute.)

But with the invention of the phonograph, suddenly you could have a recording of a song you loved and play it over and over. Thus the first century of recorded music was born, and so was an industry. Phonographs, and then the radio brought music to listeners so they could hear their songs all the time and fall in love with tunes.

“As recently as the late nineteenth century, even the most devoted music lover might hear his or her favourite piece just three or four times in his or her whole life. Unless you happened to be a virtuoso musician with access to both sheet music and instruments, it was almost impossible to bring large-scale forms of music into your own home. Not until the dawn of recording and radio technology did our ancestors have any great choice as to what they listened to and when.” – Howard Goodall

With so much recorded music available for people to consume, the tastes changed for what they wanted to hear at live concerts. No longer were they going to hear a concert to hear new music. Now they were going to hear their favorite recorded song.

Audiences began to (and still do) demand these favorites in concert, rather than new, original pieces by artists. This changed the way new music was introduced forever, and still holds today.

Amazing popular composers like Billy Joel, Elton John, and the Eagles aren’t actively writing and recording new songs because they know fans don’t really want to hear new songs when they go to their concerts. It’s not much different for current artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, big bands or cover bands. Modern concert audiences want to hear what they’ve already heard recorded, not the newest thing the artists are working on.

To be honest there is much more money in live performance for artists, especially today. Why spend time writing, recording, and marketing new material that will bring in little in royalties, if you can just hook a tour, repackage, and keep selling the old stuff while making a tidy profit?

This Ain’t the Movies

“There’s no business like show business!” – Irving Berlin

The film industry has worked out a unique strategy that keeps money flowing quite well. It releases its newest movies mainly in stages. They start with a big blowout, large theatrical release, then it goes to smaller screen theaters, then to pay per view, then DVD/Bluray, then Netflix, cable, broadcast, etc). It’s an amazing cycle of marketing opportunities and makes money every step of the way.

New music has been introduced for more than a century as a recorded form that people are inundated with first. Sure there still may be some orchestral works that have live premieres, but popular music by and large is blasted out to ears whether they want it or not. And those that have the deepest pockets get their music heard the most.

Don’t think people haven’t tried to think of ways of doing this “windowing” technique and trying to release music to CD then downloads then streaming. It just hasn’t and won’t work. People now want to stream it the minute it is released. It’s not about convenience for the artist or label, it’s about the wants and needs of the consumer.

The funny part of all this is that recorded music had an unparalleled run through the last century, due in part to technology starting with the phonograph through the CD. But the tech of this century has now put us in a quandary on the future of the whole recording industry.

Will we ever go back to hearing (or wanting) new music live again? Or will we continue to depend on media tastemakers to tell us what the best new music is?

Your thoughts (and best guesses!) are welcome.

“So people will come along and do new things and sometimes return to the spirit of an earlier age.” – Norman McLaren

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, or a fortune teller, but through the writings and community of Music History Matters, he can look back and see the parallels and lessons of the past in music today.

Musical Indentured Servitude

“It’s really hard to make a living as a musician. It’s almost impossible.” – Billy Joel

servitude500In order to make a living with music, we have all done what we had to. We have studied, practiced, achieved degrees, taken paying music positions, and played whatever gigs we could find so that we could eat, live, and support ourselves and our families. The problem is, it is usually on someone else’s terms. Even if we are the boss, or own our own business in music, we have clients who dictate what we do for them, and how we create or produce the music.

This has been an issue throughout music history.

J.S. Bach was mostly always employed and creating his music for use in his job as organist or music leader. At some points his job required a new cantata each Sunday! That’s one way to build your catalog! And like all of us, he knew the struggle to make amazing music and please his bosses.

My masters are strange folk with very little care for music in them. – Johann Sebastian Bach

Joseph Haydn had many jobs as a music teacher, a street musician, and accompanist before he got a sweet gig for the prince of Esterhazy, and rode that job for decades. But he was often little more than a paid servant, and felt that way. As with Bach, in order to have music ready every week for the music hungry Esterhazys, Haydn’s output was extraordinary. Eventually he was able to work with a publisher, gain some fame outside the estate, and later become more independent in London and elsewhere.

Mozart was one of the first composers to say no to working “for the man”. But even with many commissions and a post here and there that didn’t last very long, it was a struggle for one of the world’s best ever composers to make a consistent living.

The first to really sever ties and find somewhat lasting success was Beethoven, who after moving to Vienna in 1792, began to establish a reputation as a superstar pianist and composer. He was able to secure patronage to write and perform the rest of his life, making him somewhat the first successful “indie” musician.

Why This Matters

Getting to the music we want to make is very difficult in a life where we make or work in music for someone else. Even as a full-time traveling artist, there is booking, marketing, and other things to do besides actually composing and being artistic. It’s just hard to make music when there are so many other things to do (I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter, and oh yeah, the next job I have to do to continuing getting paid so I can pay a mortgage, car payments, etc.)

The key is finding that balance, like turning off email and social media for the weekend to compose, or self-imposed block out times to sit at your instrument and just create.

On the other hand, being secure in a music position may allow us to create much of the works we will leave behind, just as Bach and Haydn did. We will make things we never expected because a client, boss, or sponsor will suggest a direction, a subject, or a use for a piece.

Wherever you fall on the indentured servitude scale, whether an instructor, producer, orchestral member, composer for hire, or whatever, finding the balance between the thing you love and making a living is crucial.

If you can create an honorable livelihood, where you take your skills and use them and you earn a living from it, it gives you a sense of freedom and allows you to balance your life the way you want. – Anita Roddick

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you think this is drivel. He’s just your everyday, full time music producer who is also pursuing a musicology masters because he wants to help all music folks and students how to make a great living in music.

The Story of Music, by Howard Goodall

Story-of-Music_3DA Book Review by John Eric Copeland, MusicHistoryMatters.org

So, it’s not often I read a whole music history book from cover to cover. To be honest, most I start, or skim, or read parts that interest me. But The Story of Music, by Howard Goodall, got my attention from the start and kept it until the very last page.

In fact, I don’t often write book reviews but felt this book would benefit the readers of this blog as well as any folks who may be interested in music history from a sociological point of view like I am.

The subtitle for the book is “From Babylon to the Beatles, How Music has Shaped Civilization.” While this may be a tad hyperbolic, Goodall does a good job making sure this book clings tightly to what’s going on in the world and how each period relates to the people at that time. In fact, the book wastes no time getting to that very thing in its first paragraph.

“You may think that music is a luxury, a plug-in to make human life more enjoyable. That would be a fair supposition in the twenty-first century, but our hunter-gatherer ancestors wouldn’t have agreed. To them, music was much more than mere entertainment.” (pg 6)

And from here we are off. Starting with early civilizations of cavemen, Goodall begins The Story of Music. From there we traverse through time, eventually touching on the first known composer, “a spectacularly clever and imaginative German woman, Hildegard of Bingen, who was born in 1098.”

“Instead of handing on the tried and tested chants, as had been the norm in earlier centuries, Hildegard made up her own chant tunes. This seems to us an obvious thing to do, but in the twelfth century it was both daring and unexpected.” (pg 27)

One of the things I love about this book is how accessible it makes music history to us who are living and working in music now. This is something I think is crucial to keeping the history of music relatable and helpful in ours and students’ future professional music lives. Almost every important point is correlated to how we deal with music today and that makes this book relevant, even though many are stories we already have heard or know well.

“The distance in form, intention, mood and expression between Schubert’s songs for voice and piano and those of, say, Adele is remarkably short, considering they are separated by two hundred years. The only thing that would shock Schubert about ‘Someone like you’ is the fact that a young woman is the song’s creator, not its object.” (pg 221)

One important aspect this book brings up several times is how the advent and subsequent accessibility of recordings brought about something that continues to plague music to this day.

“At a concert in February 1814, for example, Beethoven presented the première of his eighth symphony alongside a performance of his seventh, which itself was only two months old. No one at the time thought this unusual. By the mid-twentieth century, however, the tables had been turned: old favourites became the bread and butter of live concerts, with new works squeezed in between them apologetically.” (pg 313)

Goodall speaks extensively in several different points in the book about the early glut of classical recordings and how audiences began to prefer to hear their old favorites in concert, rather than new music. This isn’t only a classical music problem, as pop music audiences often prefer the songs they know and love to new music at concerts. More on this in a future article.

The books ends with a very optimistic flair and, as is the case with the whole book, Goodall brings the history of music to a close with our current music situation.

“J. S. Bach was probably the cleverest composer who ever lived, but he gave his performers almost no detailed instructions as to how they might play his sublime music. He hastily scribbled down the notes and left them to it. It is as if he is saying, ‘trust me, and play’.

We, more than any previous generation, can readily identify with Bach’s request. We press ‘play’ and a million styles, sounds, aural colours, echoes and voices breeze in towards us as if through an opened window. We are like children with a thousand games at our fingertips. We have, at last, reached a point where there are no wrong or right decisions about what music we may or may not enjoy – just one gratifyingly simple instruction: ‘play’.”

Review by John Eric Copeland, MusicHistoryMatters.org

 

Excerpts From: Goodall, Howard. “The Story of Music.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2013-12-04T16:43-06:00. iBooks.

This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/WI8YU.l

Or at Amazon here.

A Tough Nut to Crack

hardnut“Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.” ― Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was not a stranger to hard work, but like any composer, he had to be inspired…and he had to have time to compose. But also like many of us, he had to deal with this thing we call life.

Every Christmas, The Nutcracker is adored by music lovers, both professional and casual. It’s become a staple of our Christmas musical landscape.

Originally commissioned by the director of the Imperial Theaters after the success of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, the composer received initial instructions on the Nutcracker ballet in 1890. The ballet was to be based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s fairy tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This didn’t do much for Tchaikvosky since he liked that fairy tale and didn’t see much room for a ballet in it.

Like a good composer for hire though he put his nose to the grindstone and began sketches in early 1891. But then…life settled in.

He ran into constant distractions from travel, including a trip to America, and then the death of his sister Aleksandra.

From New York he wrote, “I cannot start working again before June at the earliest… otherwise whatever I tried to write would turn out wretchedly”.

Even when he arrived home to St. Petersburg, he continued to find he was flummoxed by other things in his way of writing. In a letter to his brother Modest he wrote, “It is also good for me here, but work isn’t going as quickly now as at first. There are unexpected distractions.”

Once he did finish writing sometime in 1891, he still had to orchestrate, which started around the first few months of 1892. Finally in March or April of 1892, he could put down his pen. “I’ve finished the ballet; all that remains is to insert the markings and put it in order.”

Why This Matters

We all have works we need to get out; art that needs to get done. But life happens. We have travels, sickness, family matters, and sometimes that little thing called work!

Sometimes we (and when I saw we, I mean me) have projects that go a lot longer than two years to finish. But a work like The Nutcracker has stood the test of time, and I think the goal is to do our best work, as we can, when we can. Then let the work stand on its own, indicative of our hard work.

Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. – Earl Nightingale

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but hopes Santa will magically bring his Musicology Masters degree for Christmas!

Bringing Up Mozart

Let’s face it, parenting just isn’t an easy job. But the job is even harder when you are rearing a creative child with an incredible amount of talent.

themozarts

No one ever faced a tougher job than Leopold Mozart, known in music history as the driving father who put his children, especially his son Wolfgang, on a grueling tour of Europe. What is interesting is that Leopold didn’t face anything much different than what we face each day as parents. Especially if you have or are a talented creative child.

Worry

OK, so as a parent you know you have something special on your hands. It may not be talent the kid was born with as I’m not sure that is even possible (see “Talent is Overrated”), but there certainly is aptitude there, and they keep surpassing your expectations and even your own ability.

Leopold saw this in Wolfgang, and tried his best to keep his son disciplined and on the right path. But that wasn’t so easy with the precocious Wolfie. His carefree, playful spirit can be found at the end of a letter to his sister Nannerl.

“Well, farewell. I kiss you 1000 times and remain, as always, your little old piggy wiggy.  (signed) Wolfgang Amade Rosy Posy”

Leopold worried his talented and free-spirited son would wind up married to someone poor, and that was not what Leopold had hoped for.

“Leopold had a graphic view of his son’s possible fate as an impoverished musician. ‘ Utterly forgotten by the world, captured by some woman,’ he wrote, ‘you will die bedded on straw in an attic full of starving children.’ His anxiety was justified to some extent but he could see his son’s future only in extremes: success and glory or misery and starvation.” – Francis Carr, Mozart & Constanze

I think many of us fear the destiny of our own talented children like that: they will either be world renown and rich, or destitute doing their own thing.

Disappointment

There is a time in every parent’s life when they are let down by their kids. You know the drill. They understand the parameters of what is allowed, yet they still choose to break them. Wolfgang did this repeatedly and sometimes even gleefully!

When Wolfgang began to write of being enamored with Aloysia Weber, Leopold did not approve. In fact, when his son wrote about accompanying the Webers to Paris, Leopold went ballistic.

“As for your proposal to travel about with Herr Weber and his two daughters, it has nearly made me lose my reason?…a horrible idea! Could you really make up your mind to go traveling about the world with strangers?” – Letter to Wolfgang, February 11th, 1778

It almost sounds like a modern day parent warning their guitar player adolescent son about going on the road with a rock band.

Why This Matters

Well, it’s pretty obvious we all share Leopold’s struggle. Just like we have to treat disadvantaged or struggling kids special, it’s a struggle to be good, strong parents to those who are on the other end of the spectrum (especially with “adult” kids).

In all likelihood, Leopold meant well, and Wolfgang likely didn’t make it easy. In the end, you could say Mozart’s talent won out despite his folly, personality, spending habits, marriage, and competition. His tremendous catalog and output still happened regardless of things that were in or out of his father’s control.

You kid may not be Mozart, but you can still help him navigate the waters of an artistic life with good guidance, a patient hand, and consistent discipline.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but he plays one of the Internet. We’d love any and all thoughts you may have on this post, but since this is a blog meant to (hopefully) encourage real life application, please make them positive and on topic. However, corrections as always are welcome.