Here was my hunch: I expected that the spirit of Beethoven would return some day. You can’t keep a good man down, as the proverb goes. And, believe it or not, the revival has finally happened. But I never, in a million years, would have guessed where musical Romanticism would experience this rebirth.
The spirit of Beethoven has come back to life in first-person shooter games. Over-the-top Romanticism, in all its most extravagant manifestations, is now the preferred musical accompaniment to virtual killing.
That’s right. The grandiloquent sounds of the 19th century are still alive in the new millennium … but only when someone is getting bludgeoned, bloodied, blown-up, or decimated with automatic weapons. Give those German composers credit! They didn’t have any video screens back then, but they somehow concocted the perfect formula for on-screen carnage.
Recently Terry Teachout quoted from Thomas Pynchon and, well, the quote can speak for itself about how "All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland." For the longer extract ... :
“‘The point is,’ cutting off Gustav’s usually indignant scream, ‘a person feels good listening to Rossini. All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland. Ode to Joy indeed. The man didn’t even have a sense of humor. I tell you,’ shaking his skinny old fist, ‘there is more of the Sublime in the snare-drum part of La Gazza Ladra than in the whole Ninth Symphony. With Rossini, the whole point is that lovers always get together, isolation is overcome, and like it or not that is the one great centripetal movement of the World. Through the machineries of greed, pettiness, and the abuse of power, love occurs. All the shit is transmuted to gold. The walls are breached, the balconies are scaled—listen!’”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (courtesy of Tim Page)
Never being a particularly huge fan of the Romantic era, WtH has only delved into the early Romantics out of the necessity of consulting that period as a formative stage for the development of guitar literature. As the big three of the Classic period go late Beethoven can be amazing to behold but Haydn has always been the personal favorite. So it's interesting to read Gioia and Teachout (if by way of channeling Pynchon) both presenting this idea that the German Romantic aesthetic in music as essentially one seeking conquest. There might be transcendence there, alright, but it's the kind that seeks to overthrow. Interesting idea there.