Shut Yourself Up with Beethoven From Memory
Accepting one’s virtues is a difficult thing.
Being that we’re able to question and contemplate our own existence yet still have to suffer the indignity of producing human s**t (hopefully at least three times a week), recognising our own flaws and failures is an easy thing to do.
It’s almost comforting to run through the ever-growing list of what makes you such a repellant creature. But every so often, there arrives a moment, apropos of nothing, in which you find yourself acknowledging that you are not all bad. That perhaps your eyes have a certain sparkle, or you don’t smell terrible, or you are very colonically regular. Those moments, even though they do briefly spark some vague pleasure and relief from the storm of self-hatred which keeps your knees in a permanent state of being a little buckled, inevitably cause you to question your own sanity and eventually end up adding another layer of ‘recognising your own momentary narcissistic arrogance’ to your disdain for yourself.
Sometimes it’s healthy to shift your focus away from yourself. To focus on something that does not exist in your own storm and may, by the nature of what it is, quiet the sounds of your own raging, hateful self-obsession for a few moments. Something like Beethoven From Memory.
Beethoven’s hearing loss plunged the composer into isolation and despair, so it’s hard to believe him capable of producing a symphony such as his Seventh, which pulses with restless energy – and which the Aurora Orchestra plays from memory. It’s a work with a special place in Proms history, too: it was the last piece Proms founder-conductor Henry Wood directed before his death in 1944. Richard Ayres opens the concert with a deeply personal new work inspired both by Beethoven’s journey into deafness and his own experience of hearing loss, a vivid soundscape in which clarity gradually gives way to confusion.
Will the storm of self-hatred return with increased vehemence once the last note melts into silence and you realise you’ve just spent a portion of your worthless life listening to a tribute to the brilliant compositional skills of a deaf man to whose talent you could not dream to come close and were bored during the majority of it because you’re a chip-munching philistine?
But at least you’ll be distracted for an hour.