Friday, January 23, 2009

OBJECTIVELY SPEAKING: Rand on Beethoven

The recently published Objectively Speaking: Ayn Rand Interviewed contains another instance of Rand espousing her view of Beethoven as "malevolent." On page 127, she is quoted, in response to a request to describe her preference in regards to Beethoven, Wagner, and Rachmaninoff, as saying:
I can't give you a full description, because I am not an expert on that...But I'll tell you what I hear in their music as their philosophy of life. With Regards to Beethoven, his music has what I call a malevolent universe...It is the view that has been called Byronic...it is the belief that man must struggle even though he has no chance of winning, and that he must perish heroically...and that is what I hear in practically everything Beethoven has ever written.
This is interesting in light of the recent web chatter on the matter (see my previous posts for more info), especially the "Julie" anecdote as told by Ellen Stuttle, where "Julie" sends Rand a selection of Beethoven. I, like others, wondered exactly what Rand had heard, and here, Rand is almost saying that she's heard "everything he's ever written." If I am reading this correctly, this suggests that Rand didn't just listen to the Fifth, with its "fate knocking at the door" motif, and she must certainly be familiar with the "Eroica" and the "Ode to Joy."

Incidentally, Rand says of Wagner that he was "malevolently" pretentious, all trimmings and motifs with "nothing to say" (OUCH! Beethoven got off easy!). On Rachmaninov, she says his is a "tragic benevolence," where life is a struggle, but a struggle that CAN be won."

2 comments:

  1. Joe, just a little hijack... does the book have the Johnny Carson interviews?

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  2. You know, I didn't think to look, I was so focused on the music parts...but yes, it is. From the Ayn Rand bookstore site, here's what's included:

    Half a century of print and broadcast interviews of Ayn Rand are included in Objectively Speaking. This collection includes print interviews from the 1930s and 1940s, and edited transcripts of radio and television interviews from the 1950s through 1981. Ayn Rand's unusual and strikingly original insights on a vast range of topics are captured by prominent interviewers in American broadcasting, such as Johnny Carson, Edwin Newman, Mike Wallace and Louis Rukeyser. A remarkable series of radio interviews over a four-year period at Columbia University are also included. An appendix provides a transcript of a radio program of Leonard Peikoff discussing Ayn Rand's unique intellectual and literary achievements.

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