“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.” -Ludwig van Beethoven
Hello Music Lovers of the Valley,
In our previous Music at the Library post, pianist Amanda Gessler, who had been scheduled to give a performance of Beethoven's late piano sonatas at the library this spring, shared her experience studying the works of Beethoven with noted authority and widely recognized pianist Richard Goode, who encouraged Amanda "to really live the piece while one is playing it."
I think we all would agree that Richard Goode was realizing Beethoven’s advice, "force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
As Amanda’s comments suggest, there are infinite layers of expression and understanding in this music. As you listen to the recommended YouTube performances of Op. 109 and Op. 11, here are some elements of music that define compositions of Beethoven’s late style (1800-1828).
In the piano sonatas Beethoven extensively explored the coloristic qualities of the piano, including highest and lowest ranges and applying a wide range of dynamics in both. He worked out themes and motives to their utmost potential with variation technique epitomizing his late style. The extensive use of fugal texture reflects his lifelong reverence for the music of J.S. Bach. His command of new sonorities seems unlimited; some deemed unsuccessful and performability questioned. But whether we approve or condemn, we have no reason to think Beethoven with perfect hearing would have altered a single note.
The unprecedented rhythmic visions, the formal innovations, and the technical demands of these sonatas bid farewell to the sonata form as defined by the early classical period. Beethoven definitely represents the high romantic period with one leg in the past.
Hello Music Lovers of the Valley,
Among the many cancellations in our Basalt Library music series was a concert of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas performed by our talented Valley pianist, Amanda Gessler. Amanda is a meticulous scholar and consummate performer of Beethoven’s works. She has done extensive study of the master with the noted authorities and widely recognized pianists, John O’Cornor and Richard Goode. Our music coordinator Charlotte McLain asked Amanda to share some reflections on her passionate study of the works of this genius. Her response, below, provides an intimate portrait of becoming a Beethoven devotee. Enjoy!
My "discovery" of Beethoven happened in a piano lesson and in a grocery store. I was nine years old and had started piano lessons a few months prior. I had grown bored of the standard method books and, having had no exposure to classical music, I wasn't sure what the point of practicing was. I decided to quit. As I went into my lesson to tell my teacher that I was quitting, she sat down at the piano and played the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata. "This is Beethoven", she said, and I was instantly drawn in. I just had to learn it, to feel it in my own fingers and to shape it with my own expression.
A few weeks later, I was in a grocery store with my Mom when I found one of those kiosks that samples music with the push of a button (I don't think those exist anymore!). I eyed one sample that said "Beethoven", and it suddenly occurred to me that "Beethoven" was a name of a person and not the title of the piece I was working on! Which meant there must be more! My Mom bought me the cassette tape which featured his most popular piano pieces (accompanied by nature sounds in the background) and from that day, his music became my life work, my obsession, my solace through a tumultuous childhood, and my guide throughout life and emotion.
While I am slowly working through all 32 piano sonatas, my latest project was the performance of his last three (although I have unfortunately had to cancel five concerts of this program in April and May). I began learning opus 109 while studying in Vienna (Beethoven's own city!), in 2005 and performed it there for the first time the following year. I started work on opus 110 sometime in 2012 or 2013, but performed it for the first time only a few years ago. The last sonata, opus 111, is brand new to me, and I have yet to give my first performance! It takes me about one year to learn a sonata well enough to feel ok performing it, but I never feel "finished" with a piece. I will often return to a piece after neglecting it for years, and have a whole new experience with it. Especially in Beethoven, there are infinite layers of expression and understanding. There is no end to how deep one can go. It feels good to know that I can return to these pieces throughout my entire lifetime and never get bored with them!
My recent experience studying these sonatas with Richard Goode proved to me yet again that there is so much more to discover. As I played for him in his New York apartment, he was a master at getting me out of my own mind. To experience the piece, to really live the piece while one is playing it, one has to let go of thinking and just be fully present in the world of sound. To get me out of my thinking, (often, worrying-mind), he would dance and gesture around the room, singing along to encourage a lyric legato, or, if I needed to build intensity, he would sit very close to me and growl in a deep voice. His growl would crescendo along with me, sending chills down my spine. At a climax, he would jump out of his seat ecstatically, singing freely, totally unconcerned about what pitches happened to be coming out!
There is so much planning, practicing, and thought that goes into preparing Beethoven's music, but in the end, in order to have a genuine, moving performance, one has to let go of all of this preparation and simply live the emotional story that the piece tells. If I am successful in this, the audience will be right there with me, and Beethoven's music will be expressive of their own life and story. One could say that his music allows us to see that, beyond the surface of our personal problems, we really are all the same.
You can listen to Amanda perform Beethoven's Sonata no. 31 in A-flat major in the following two videos. Visit www.amandagessler.com/ to hear more!
We can't wait until it is safe for us to offer live Music at the Library performances by talented musicians like Amanda again. Until then, we hope you enjoy these virtual musical performances and reflections.
Without exaggeration, I have read Franny and Zooey every year since I was in college, so about 40 times. I usually re-read it in the spring to set my compass for the rest of the year, spring being the time of renewal. Every time I read it, it affects me differently—depending where I am in my life. This current reading, I’m looking at the theme of intellectual entitlement.
At once both a mystical story and a love story, at its publication in 1961, it was described both as a modern Zen tale and as a metaphor for modern society. Some critics suggested it was an "appallingly bad story", stagey and self indulgent, but that it also showed Salinger's "evolving beliefs”. Both of these assessments are true.
Franny and Zooey is really two stories published together in one book. It’s two stories in a narrative series of stories about the Glass family that takes place in 1955 New York City’s upper east side. Franny is the youngest Glass, and Zooey is the second youngest of seven uniquely gifted children born from 1920s Vaudevillian parents.
Narrator Buddy Glass (the family writer-in-residence and Salinger’s alter ego) describes he and his siblings during their daily appearances on a radio program, “It’s a Wise Child”, from 1927 to 1943 as “insufferably ‘superior’ little bastards that should have been drowned or gassed at birth”. That observation is true enough, too—all member of the Glass family are over the top, theatrical, flamboyant, chock full of ego. It’s why I like them, I relate to them, and why I annually check in to see how they are still faring.
Learn the language of computers with these fun activities!
Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization working to empower young women in computer science, is now offering free computer science learning materials online that anyone can do at home. In response to school closures, and in an effort to practice social distancing as a community, Girls Who Code wants to support families and educators by providing these activities at varying levels of difficulties.
Enjoy any of the activities provided on the Girls Who Code at Home website with your middle schooler, regardless of gender! Below, our patron services associate Evelyn Dominguez shares her experience with completing two of the activities with her siblings. Go ahead and give them a try!
Teen Services Coordinator Kristen Doyle has been hard at work sewing face masks for coworkers, family, and friends. She shares tips and tricks for three different face mask patterns she tested out.
Earlier this month, Governor Jared Polis encouraged Coloradans to wear cloth face coverings in public to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 by those infected but asymptomatic of the virus. With surgical masks and N-95 respirators reserved for health care workers, many have turned to DIY coverings when stores run out. While a face covering can be improvised from a bandana or scarf, a cloth face mask that fits snug to your face is more effective. For those with basic sewing skills, one option is to make your own.
Several DIY face mask patterns and tutorials are available online. While these patterns vary in style and fit, make sure you chose one which follows guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Masks need to cover the nose and mouth while fitting snug to your face. Tightly-woven, 100% cotton fabric such as quilting cotton is ideal, but a cotton t-shirt can work in a pinch. Masks should be patterned to avoid confusion with medical-grade masks, at least two layers of material thick, and fully launderable.
“Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.” -Ludwig van Beethoven
Hello Music Lovers of the Valley,
The hope for this Bits of Beethoven blog post series, as described in my previous post, is that our exploration of Beethoven masterpieces will provide us with escape and sustenance during these difficult times. In our second entry, we will compare two piano sonatas from Beethoven’s middle period (1800-08), sometimes referred to as his Heroic Period: Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, known as the Waldstein, and Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57, known at the Appassionata.
During his middle period, Beethoven was confronted with many obstacles to overcome—some personal, some resulting from this historical period. His deeply personal struggle was with the early stages of deafness, a struggle that ultimately resulted in self-imposed social distancing to avoid embarrassment. He was beset with anxiety over monetary problems caused by a dwindling number of students, due largely to his irascible personality. This forced him to court nobility to gain patrons in his new location, Vienna, and to seek out publishers that would pay respectable fees for his compositions. And he confronted these challenges while forced to cope with political instabilities caused by the French Revolution. Despite all, Beethoven “took fate by the throat” and creativity continued to flow from his pen.
Changes in Beethoven’s middle period compositional style often appeared first in his piano sonatas. These recognized innovations were sometimes dismissed as eccentric. He extended the dimensions of the sonata and at the same time increased its complexities and technical difficulties. He explored extensively the coloristic qualities of the piano, including its highest and lowest registers, and employed a wide range of dynamics in both. His melodic style was described as heroic. Many of these changes to the sonata form reflect the tenets of the French Revolution. Let’s see how these changes are reflected in our chosen sonatas.
With the advent of spring, gardeners in the Mountain West are ready with their seed packets, either harvested or purchased, and waiting anxiously for the weather to cooperate for planting. This year is no different, especially in regards to the weather!
Our gardening season may be short, but enthusiasm for home-grown vegetables is on the rise. Lake Valley Seeds in Boulder, a source for the BRL, is experiencing extremely high demand for their seeds this spring.
Just in time for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we are very happy to be partnering with the Basalt Community Garden and the CSU Extension/Master Gardener program in Eagle in offering a wide variety of local and retail seeds again this year through the Basalt Regional Library Seed Library.
With Earth Day just around the corner, now is a great time to talk to your children about natural resources and climate change. Take advantage of our free library resources PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next to access lesson plans that you can use to teach your child about earth science from home. Additionally, you can supplement this lesson with eco-friendly activities, such as making your own paper out of scraps and starting your own window herb garden. Follow the instructions below to access our PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next resources, and then use the following instructions to make fun projects you can enjoy with your child!
Research with PebbleGo & PebbleGo Next
PebbleGo and PebbleGo Next are curriculum-connected research tools for children that you can access for free through Basalt Regional Library. Children can learn about topics ranging from science and animals to social studies and historical biographies. PebbleGo is designed for grades K-2, and PebbleGo Next is designed for grades 3-5. These are fantastic tools to help keep your children busy and supplement their education, especially during this time of social distancing and learning from home. We have provided instructions to navigate to the "Humans and Earth" lesson below, and we encourage you to explore all the other fantastic lessons these databases have to offer!
Hello and Good Health to you wherever you may be.
As of right now most of us are on some state of lock down, not leaving home, working from home or avoiding people as much as possible. While this is honestly not the actual apocalypse, it certainly is very annoying. Working from the home is keeping many people busy, but we have a lot of time now to think about the films out there that can give us some good tips and tricks for keeping the peace with our quarantine mates, and—maybe most importantly—how to stay safe and sane in the face of long term boredom.
A stylish cult film, the sci-fi mystery Cube puts five strangers in a square room, with no memories, no answers and only each other to figure out why they are trapped in what might be the devil’s Rubik’s cube. Cube is an impressive low budget thriller that feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone from a slick, scary high tech future.
- Don’t stop the sudoku; keep your math skills sharp.
- Hungry? You might run out of food, but you can always put a button in your mouth to stave off hunger for a while.
- Colors matter- take the time to redecorate. Soothing blue rooms keep stress down, red lighting is harsh and dangerous.
Where to watch: Free on YouTube.
In these uncertain times, reading something light with an edge of humor is a good idea. Weather by Jenny Offill isn’t necessarily a funny book, but its author is very clever and her protagonist, Lizzie Benson, is a complicated mess, which can be amusing when it’s not crazy-making. The book is also interspersed throughout with many amusing and corny jokes.
A woman walks into a dentist’s office. The dentist asks her why she’s there. She says she thinks she’s a moth. The doctor says, “You don’t need a dentist, you need a psychiatrist.” She says, “I have a psychiatrist.” The doctor asks her again why she’s there. She says, “Your light was on.”
Lizzie lives with her husband, Ben, and their son, Eli, in a small apartment in an unnamed New York City borough. One neighbor is a drug dealer, and another, Mrs. Krovinski, rants about most everything. Even though she can’t afford it, Lizzie often hires a car service, where she is most likely the only customer in the age of rideshare competitors; she wants owner Jimmy to survive.
Neither Lizzie nor Ben is working in the field in which they studied. Ben is a PhD classicist who makes educational video games. Lizzie left her graduate work to care for her brother, Henry, an addict. She also answers email for her former mentor Sylvia’s (who “used to check in on me sometimes to see if I was still squandering my promise”) doomsday blog, Hell and High Water. Eli attends first grade, is a truly delightful little boy, and Lizzie is a fun, responsive, and critically aware and present parent. No issues in the parenting department.
Primarily Lizzie works as a university librarian where she is unqualified and fills the voids of her work days by being the on-site amateur therapist. Her husband quips that it’s too bad she isn’t a qualified therapist because they could use the money. Lizzie also attends meditation classes with friend, Margot, although mostly “the people who take this meditation class just want to know if they should be vegetarians or, if they already are, how to convert others."
Adult News & reviews
Library news, info about upcoming events, reviews of books and films, and a look at the topics that affect us as a library.