[Viewpoint] No emotion, no changeI spent the whole week deeply absorbed in the music of Ludwig van Beethoven. It was like receiving a week from fate or divine providence. I could not help but be moved by the music. It all started when I was invited to a small music concert by pianist Shin Su-jung, who recently retired as dean of Seoul National University’s college of music.
The Seoul Arts Center presents a series of narrative concerts under the title “My Life, My Work,” featuring three female veteran pianists from Korea. The theme of the second concert by pianist Shin was “The Great Beethoven.” She confessed that she loved Beethoven more than any other musician. During the concert, she recalled her days about 40 years ago in Vienna as a music student, deeply absorbed in the music of the composer.
Her final selection for the concert was Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32. I could see her eyes fill with tears as she played the music.
She told the audience, who gave her heart felt applause, that although she prepared Beethoven’s piano solo “Fuer Elise” for an encore, she did not feel like playing any other music after Sonata No. 32. She may have felt that way because although the musical piece is composed of two movements, it condenses the great life of Beethoven.
Maybe it was because I was deeply impressed by Beethoven’s music that day, or because I recently chose to watch the movie “Copying Beethoven.” In 1824 in Vienna, four days before the premiere of Symphony No. 9, Beethoven’s last, the composer entrusts a woman with the job of cleanly copying Beethoven’s music score, written in his bad handwriting.
Her name is Anna Holtz. Reading the clean copy, Beethoven finds a part altered from the original he gave her. He asks Holtz about it, and she responds, “It is not an alteration, but a correction to Beethoven’s style.” Hearing her explanation, Beethoven starts to like Anna.
When Symphony No. 9 is finally completed, Beethoven wants to conduct the orchestra himself for the premiere.
But having lost his sense of hearing almost completely, it was impossible for him to direct the orchestra. It was no different from a blind man driving a car.
But with the help of Anna, who sits in the middle of the musicians in the orchestra, giving the composer gestures and eye signals, Beethoven successfully conducts the orchestra for the premiere.
Beethoven could not even hear the thunderous applause from the audience at the end of the concert. Although the God endowed Beethoven with an overflow of musical talent, he became deprived of the ability to hear his own music and even the applause from the public.
Watching the scene of the premiere, which lasts nine minutes in the movie, I cried copiously, even wetting my chest with tears.
Beethoven’s music creates deep emotion in our hearts and the greatness of Beethoven is instilled in that emotion. We have a thirst for deep emotion. And that thirst for emotion makes us long for even more of it.
A couple gets married when they touch each other’s hearts, but when the deep emotion disappears and their hearts are filled with hatred, they divorce. It applies to everybody. Even between father and son, relations can become even worse than between strangers who have no shared emotion.
The conflict between major shareholders of Dong-A Pharmaceutical ― Kang Shin-ho and one of his sons ― over the management of the company is one example.
Lee Myung-bak, the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party, has put out the slogan, “We wish you success.” If candidate Lee wants to succeed in the election, he should be able to move people. If there is no deep emotion, there is no success.
In order to move people, one should do as Beethoven did. Emotion is not the product of technique. Emotions are created if someone burns himself.
We want our counterparts to move us: Husbands and wives, parents and children, bosses and subordinates. Going a step further, we dream of a business, a society and a nation that provides the people with deep emotion.
If we want to be moved, we should burn ourselves ― not with hypocrisy and pretense, but with the fire of passion, absorption and devotion.
By Chung Jin-hong