Beethoven: Remixer, Pirate

by Stephan Kinsella on November 28, 2011

One of my favorite podcasts, KERA’s “Think,” hosted by the excellent interviewer Kris Boyd, had a fascinating show recently, Beethoven and the World in 1824:

What environment spawned one of the greatest orchestral compositions in history? We’ll find out this hour with music historian and New York Philharmonic Leonard Bernstein Scholar-In-Residence Harvey Sachs. His latest book is “The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824? (Random House, Paperback, 2011).

As Sachs notes, the final movement of his famous Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, “Ode to Joy,” was innovative:

The symphony was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony (thus making it a choral symphony). The words are sung during the final movement by four vocal soloists and a chorus. They were taken from the “Ode to Joy“, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by the composer.

In other words, it was a remix, as most (all?) art is. In today’s hyper-copyright world, Schiller could stop Beethoven if he wanted, and prevented one of the greatest works of art of all time.

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