Stop for a moment.
Shut your eyes.
Listen to the world around you.
Focus on each sound individually.
Hear the pitches, the rhythms.
Hear melodies where you thought there were none.
See patterns where you thought there was only randomness.
Now imagine you’re someone for whom sound is everything. That you don’t have to be reminded to stop and listen. That instead you cannot stop hearing the world around you. And then imagine you have gone completely deaf. It is late in your life—a life that has been a challenging one—and you yourself are a difficult person, given to rages and melancholy. You are now trapped completely within your own mind. All that aural sensitivity is turned inward. Imagine your interior soundscape and how that is in harmony and dissonance with your life experience. And now imagine the music you would write.
That is Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata.
It is a difficult piece to listen to. But listen. If you give yourself over to it, you will hear a lifetime within it. You will sense all of Beethoven’s brilliance within it.
The Hammerklavier Sonata is Beethoven’s love song to sound, with all the passion, joy and pain that entails.
The Hammerklavier is Beethoven’s Life Song.