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This feature-length documentary follows the global impact of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a hymn to liberty and freedom.
This feature-length documentary follows the global impact of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a hymn to liberty and freedom.
246 backers pledged $15,220 to help bring this project to life.

Beethoven, Fidelio, and the Longing for the Light

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Thank you to Greg Blake Miller for this guest commentary about the Love & Justice Film. And we're over a third of the way to our goal! Thank you for the support. Pass on the link to friends if you can. http://kck.st/1U6PAMh

Music can’t break chains, it can’t topple dictators, it can’t cure the sick and it can’t bring back the dead. But it can bring hope and solace and strength. That’s a power not to be underestimated, and few have ever wielded it with more force and grace than Ludwig van Beethoven.

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The ecstatic uplift of the Ninth Symphony, with it’s longing for a time when “all men will be brothers,” is well known, but perhaps Beethoven’s most direct address to the longing for human freedom came earlier, in 1805, when he completed his only opera, Fidelio. This story of a woman’s triumph over tyranny was, as Beethoven biographer Jan Swafford says, “enormously appealing to Beethoven at a time when all of Europe was increasingly a police state.”

The heroine of Fidelio, Leonore, disguises herself as a young man named Fidelio in order to infiltrate the prison where her husband, Florestan, is held by the tyrant Pizarro. Beethoven weaves an idiosyncratic musical tapestry, ranging from the comedy of mistaken identity (the prison guard’s daughter falls head over heels for Fidelio) to the tragedy of confinement without cause. It is a story of subterfuge, risk, suspense, love and, ultimately, justice. Leonore’s daring—her irrepressible hope—brings not only Florestan but all of the prisoners into the light.

But the rescue narrative itself cannot explain the power of the opera. “Rescue operas,” after all, were a genre, with a certain generic inspiration baked in. But the inspiration in Fidelio is anything but generic—rather, it is invested with a sort of sublime pain, a nostalgia for a freedom that once existed, a half-mythical “time before” that cannot be reconstituted, only recalled, and perhaps leveraged in the form of hope. At the time he was composing Fidelio, Beethoven was coming to grips with the news that he was losing his hearing, and that he would never get it back. There was no return from the place he was going—the finality of the judgment even forced Beethoven to the brink of suicide. But the longing for sound—to create sound, to take on the burden and responsibility of making music for the world, brought him back with fierce determination. He not only rejected death; he rejected the confinement of his gift. The music in his mind would not be kept from the world. A listener could be forgiven for hearing in Fidelio the intensity of Beethoven’s own quest for liberation.

Fidelio is the subject of a new documentary by Kerry Candaele, Love & Justice: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Rebel Opera. The film is the second in a planned trilogy called Beethoven | Hero; I worked with Kerry on the first film, Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony, and am lending a hand as story producer for Love & Justice as well. Following the Ninth, which premiered in 2013, has been screened to critical acclaim in more than 250 cities worldwide. We hope for a similar fate for Love & Justice. About half the film has been completed, and Kerry is gathering resources to get it across the finish line. Please visit his Kickstarter page for more information on the film and opportunities to get involved.

– Greg Blake Miller

I Would Love To Make A Film As Beautiful As This Music Sounds

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I am posting here for you what I think is the most beautiful music I have ever heard. It's the the Adagio un poco mosso from Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, in this instance performed by the Chilean Claudio Arrau at the piano.

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The word beautiful, however, seems nothing more than a cliche. We use the word as a descriptive term, but without precision, as a stand in for "I like it." The same is true, in the opposite direction, for the word ugly.

So then how do we describe what we welcome into our lives, that calls us, that warms us, and warms to us, so much so that we want to wrap our arms around the object or the sounds or the person, to hold them forever when we know that there is no such thing? Is calling something beautiful a way of saying that it makes one's life more worthwhile?

During my first Beethoven film, Following The Ninth, I traveled to Japan three times, and took to a sense of "beauty" there that I found both strange and attractive. The American Donald Richie, who has spent his entire adult life studying Japan, writes about a Japanese sense of beauty that involves subtlety and impermanence, minor tragic moments that I find in much of Beethoven's slower musical movements.

In A Tractate On Japanese Aesthetics, Richie introduces the reader to Japanese beauty, "in the manner of a zuihitsu," ideas that "follow the brush wherever it leads." And the brush leads us to fascinating insights, about elegance, for one, the simplicity "in the precise stroke of the inked brush, the perfect judo throw, the rightness of the placing of a single flower," emphasizing the concept underneath rather than the surface "realism" of much Western art.

Japanese aesthetics is "revealed as the product of a social competitiveness, of the desire to find yet more subtle shades of meaning and beauty than the next guy." And as beauty in Japan comes in small packages, the second book I found congenial is Jun' ichiro Tanaki's exquisite In Praise of Shadows. Tanaki's observations are lovingly presented in forty-two pages, where he covers toilet practices (much has changed since he wrote the book in 1933), Buddhist temple architecture, and thatch-roofed houses, among many other things. But unlike Ritchie's reflections, Tanaki's are enlivening but mournful, as if he was trying to preserve a passing Japan in the act of writing. He directs the eyes, with a steady and practiced hand, an expert in the calligraphy of the five senses, to the little things we miss, in Japan and by implication elsewhere, when we won't or can't slow down long enough to see, hear, taste, smell and feel what surrounds us.

Tanaki writes, "Japanese music is above all a music of reticence, of atmosphere. When recorded, or amplified by a loudspeaker, the greater part of its charm is lost. In conversation, too, we prefer the soft voice, the understatement. Most important of all are the pauses. Yet the phonograph and radio render these moments of silence utterly lifeless. And so we distort the arts themselves to curry favor for them with the machines." And again, "We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity." Who cannot sympathize with such thoughts, which remind me of T.S. Elliot's response to his first visit to Times Square: "It might be considered beautiful, provided one didn't know how to read." Japan now has many Times Squares, with their full commercial neon assault on the senses.

Beethoven would seem to be a composer not to Tanaki's liking, not enough reticence, not enough charm. But listen again to the adagio above. I want to embrace it, breath in the atmosphere, even though I know the sounds are evanescent. I can remember the tunes, but the meaning that comes with the exact phrasing, tempo, silences or one note drawn out to agonizing length— these things go missing. Beethoven did not have a Japanese aesthetic, but he could write with a pensiveness and reticence that Tanaki could love, a music of heavenly melancholy that always brings me to a full stop. Without fail, every time I hear the No 5 adagio I close my eyes and lean towards the music, believing that if I could just wrap myself up in the sounds that I could be kept warm forever, that tragedy would not strike in this zone of the sublime.

If only I could make a film as beautiful as this music sounds.

Here is a link to the Kickstarter campaign for Love & Justice: In The Footsteps of Beethoven's Rebel Opera  http://kck.st/1U6PAMh

Welcome to our New Backers! And a Free Streaming of Following The Ninth

A huge thanks to all of you an to those who have recently joined us and pushed us above the 20 percent of our goal. A lot of you have continued your support from the first film, Following The Ninth, Suren Seron, Robert Aguilar, Bruce Peters, Barbara Layne, Lou Berkeley, Kathleen O'Nan, Maria Olivera, and several others.

As a small gesture of my appreciation, here is a free streaming version of Following The Ninth: In The Footsteps of Beethoven's Final Symphony. http://beethovenhero.com/stream_ftn.html

Please pass the film around to friends and colleagues, and even strangers. And while your at it, ask them to take a look at this campaign. You can copy and paste the link: http://kck.st/1U6PAMh

Finally, here is more from biographer Jan Swafford on spiritual and "hopeless hope" at the center of Beethoven's opera Fidelio. Eloquent and passionate.

Beethoven And The Centrality of Love In Life

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Beethoven biographer Jan Swafford for the Love & Justice film (link to new campaign here http://kck.st/1U6PAMh ) He is a passionate and eloquent man. And when he is not writing 1000 page biographies of Beethoven, he composes his own music.

Here is is talking about Joy, Love, and Beethoven's hatred of tyranny.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Suffering, Suicide, and Commitment to Life

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On October 6, 1802 Ludwig van Beethoven put the closing lines on a long and odd suicide note. He had come to the small town of Heiligenstadt to rest, but instead he turned himself to the prospect of both ending his life and affirming it at equal turns.

The Heiligenstadt Testament is at once crabby and self-pitying, bitter, as Beethoven turns on a world that he believes has turned on him—a world that has misunderstood his character and his intentions. His loneliness and despair are palpable, the cosmic joke that is Beethoven's increasing deafness is a catastrophe for a man like him—a grand manipulator of sounds, a piano prodigy who can no longer perform in public, who by the age of 31 is a both a celebrated musical artist across all of Europe, but stands staring into a spiritual abyss.

This moment in Beethoven's life is also a talisman for this film.

I focus on this document and this crisis not because the wracking malady that befell Beethoven is interesting in itself. I concentrate on this moment because of how Beethoven overcame what biographer Jan Swafford calls his loss of joy. This is the year when Beethoven became Beethoven—a man who celebrates his own nobility, his isolation, and as cliché as it sounds, his capacity for art. This is the year when Beethoven felt the full weight of his responsibility to create, and, at his darkest moment, was saved by that weight. In a year of despair, he found in his responsibility to art a reason to live. (You can find the text of the document here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Heiligenstadt_Testament)

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Heiligenstadt Testament
Heiligenstadt Testament

In the years immediately following this crisis, Beethoven wrote the magnificent and ground breaking Symphony No 3 ("Eroica"), the "Waldstein" Piano Sonata, the F major Piano Sonata, Triple Concerto, the Piano Concerto No. 4, the Razumovsky String Quartets, Symphony No 4, cello sonatas, a piano trio, Symphonies No. 5 and 6, and his only opera, Fidelio.

How is this transformation possible? Beethoven moves from a firm commitment that death—"With joy I hasten to meet death"—would be a relief to an affirmation of life-in-art, come what may. "It was my art that held me back," he wrote in October of 1802.

I have read many explanations, none adequate, for how Beethoven carried out this work of spiritual alchemy, turning anguish, humiliation and depression into .... what do we call it? What do we call a person who goes through the most profound psychological insult and finds an exit into the light from an excruciating hell on earth? What kind of person, when without hope, finds a way to create some of the most intricate, elegant, powerful and lasting art the world has ever seen? The critics and scholars who have studied the period have a name for such a person, and for a time when, as Nietzsche put it, Beethoven and his music "first began to find the speech of pathos, of impassioned will, of the dramatic vicissitudes in the soul of man." The word is Hero.

This Beethoven—Beethoven Hero—a man with a courage only matched by his frailties, will be at the center of this film.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Suffering, Suicide, and Commitment to Life 0 Comments Edit (30 minutes)

On October 6, 1802 Ludwig van Beethoven put the closing lines on a long and odd suicide note. He had come to the small town of Heiligenstadt to rest, but instead he turned himself to the prospect of both ending his life and affirming it at equal turns.

The Heiligenstadt Testament is at once crabby and self-pitying, bitter, as Beethoven turns on a world that he believes has turned on him—a world that has misunderstood his character and his intentions. His loneliness and despair are palpable, the cosmic joke that is Beethoven's increasing deafness is a catastrophe for a man like him—a grand manipulator of sounds, a piano prodigy who can no longer perform in public, who by the age of 31 is a both a celebrated musical artist across all of Europe, but stands staring into a spiritual abyss.

This moment in Beethoven's life is also a talisman for this film.

I focus on this document and this crisis not because the wracking malady that befell Beethoven is interesting in itself. I concentrate on this moment because of how Beethoven overcame what biographer Jan Swafford calls his loss of joy. This is the year when Beethoven became Beethoven—a man who celebrates his own nobility, his isolation, and as cliché as it sounds, his capacity for art. This is the year when Beethoven felt the full weight of his responsibility to create, and, at his darkest moment, was saved by that weight. In a year of despair, he found in his responsibility to art a reason to live. (You can find the text of the document here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Heiligenstadt_Testament)

(continued below) Heiligenstadt Testament Heiligenstadt Testament

In the years immediately following this crisis, Beethoven wrote the magnificent and ground breaking Symphony No 3 ("Eroica"), the "Waldstein" Piano Sonata, the F major Piano Sonata, Triple Concerto, the Piano Concerto No. 4, the Razumovsky String Quartets, Symphony No 4, cello sonatas, a piano trio, Symphonies No. 5 and 6, and his only opera, Fidelio.

How is this transformation possible? Beethoven moves from a firm commitment that death—"With joy I hasten to meet death"—would be a relief to an affirmation of life-in-art, come what may. "It was my art that held me back," he wrote in October of 1802.

I have read many explanations, none adequate, for how Beethoven carried out this work of spiritual alchemy, turning anguish, humiliation and depression into .... what do we call it? What do we call a person who goes through the most profound psychological insult and finds an exit into the light from an excruciating hell on earth? What kind of person, when without hope, finds a way to create some of the most intricate, elegant, powerful and lasting art the world has ever seen? The critics and scholars who have studied the period have a name for such a person, and for a time when, as Nietzsche put it, Beethoven and his music "first began to find the speech of pathos, of impassioned will, of the dramatic vicissitudes in the soul of man." The word is Hero.

This Beethoven—Beethoven Hero—a man with a courage only matched by his frailties, will be at the center of this film.

Here is the link to our Love & Justice campaign: http://kck.st/1U6PAMh