Music Lecture: Scott Burnham: "God and the Voice of Beethoven"
Inverting the title and agenda of Wilfrid Mellers' 1983 book "Beethoven and the Voice of God," I will discuss various ways in which Beethoven extends and even distorts his compositional voice in order to address the Deity or to represent the Deity in the context of the Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony. Faced with God, Beethoven takes his voice beyond the normatively human, pushing it through various extreme intensifications. This can happen by means of sheer sonic magnitude, electrifying anticipations, extraterritorial harmonies, or through various ways of suggesting ecstatic frenzy. I will also discuss passages in both works that can be heard to stage a process of coming to faith. Scott Burnham is Distinguished Professor of Music at the CUNY Graduate Center, as well as Scheide Professor of Music History Emeritus at Princeton University. He is the author of "Beethoven Hero" (Princeton, 1995), a study of the values and reception of Beethoven's heroic-style music, and "Mozart's Grace" (Princeton, 2013), an exploration of beauty in the music of Mozart.