Morse code,the stable and effective communications tool throughout wars of yesterday has an interesting connection with the fifth symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven:for in that opening musical figure contains the rhythm,if you tap it out in morse of …- which is the letter V.That letter is,of course,the first letter of the word Victory,thus the wartime slogan V for victory took On a significance all of its own.
Of course,it’s connection with Beethoven that great Germanic composer from the 18th and into the early 19th century has long been adopted by warlords as their anthem of battle so to speak.That symphony number 5 in C minor has always been my favourite one,and from the first hearing of it as a small child,I have remained an adoring fan of it.Its opening musical figure with the strings marking out that triplet g ,descending to the E flat with the dynamic markings of Allegro con brio(Lively ,with vigour)must have brought a huge surprise to that audience then,as it did still did when I heard it live at the Royal festival Hall in the 1970s ,played by the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert Von Karajan conducting them at that point.in the silence of anticipation on that day,the baton went up,and this enormous sound everberated throughout the hall on that day,sending tingles down my spine to ignite my attention into a rapt awe.
At that time though,I had no idea of its connections with war propaganda and such like,as I was a late starter where education was concerned,and would find myself catching up,so to speak as the years in my life went by.That said,my comprehension of the music from far from juvenile,and from the age of say 10,I had listened to this symphony many many times on an old record player that had been my sisters.She only had 45s back then,as that was her passion,along with many other young girls at that time.They would buy one single per week on Saturday,as Friday was the day they got paid from the knitting factory where they worked.
Really,looking back,my sister who loved soul music and rock n roll,was so very kind to me at that point .She never had a lot of money,and what she did was spent on other people,and her generosity has stayed with me until now as something that is a vital human trait,She taught me to be generous ,to be myself and,although classical music wasn’t her thing,she knew that I loved all music ,and so she encouraged me as much as possible .
So,this symphony that I woke up to this morning and that has been in my head,part of my musical DNA as such has really been there since I was a child.It gives off an assurance to me though of a victory of the human spirit,the absolute belief of the good that is in mankind,rather than the bad that sometimes appears to be the dominant force.
This symphony ,under an hour in full performance,is rarely appreciated as an entire work,but as a sound bite of the opening musical figure.However,we can not have depths without surfaces in any form of life,and as those were the only real parts of that symphony that my sister was consciously aware of,from an early age,I realised that classical music could,and must be appreciated on many different levels.Thus,from that age,I became acutely awhere of the need to resist becoming a musical snob ,and my sister helped me without realising it to give all genres a go so to speak.
As I reflect on my first shoots of classical music consciousness,I am humbled by why a young Cornish by,from extremely humble circumstances,could have this almost instant love and appreciation for great western classical music that would grow and grow and grow into playing the Piano,the organ and to later teaching the instruments for over 35 years.Looking back,it was luck,it was love,it was -dare I use the word,fate-but I’m very profoundly grateful that it has.Over my time as a teacher,I have always thought that classical music should be introduced for children to consume at the earliest possible age,but not for the reasons that you might think.It is because that it is great music that stands the test of time,that endures through the generations,and that feeds the mind and the soul so to speak.
Now,my sister never did embrace classical music,but she was the agent in so many ways of my love of the genre by allowing me to use her things,by being showing generosity ,by being real.As I have always tried to foster a similar spirit with my pupils and parents and people that I have met in life,it is true that not all have appreciated it,and some have taken advantage,but the majority have appreciated what I tried to do to help them on their musical journey in life ,and,to think,that it all started really from those four notes in the opening figure of Beethoven’s fifth symphony and it’s still in my head now.
Whatever music you might listen to today,just reflect on those that have helped you on your musical journey and raise a smile for them,for their kindness is opening up a different world to you ,one that delights in the joy of expression ,of freedom of expression and of a jest for Life.