Monday, January 23, 2006

Freude Schoene

Freude Schoene Gotterfunken...

well you probably know the rest. The words to Beethovens ninth symphony. Actually that Gotterfunken bothers me; I'm almost sure it's not the right word but I can't for the life of me remember what the correct word is. Whatever it is it sounds similar. You have to forgive me if I've got it wrong; it's more than 30 years since I first heard the symphony and probably at least 15 years since I last heard it. There's such a wealth of good music out there, Philip Glass, John Adams, Terry Riley, Alexander Scriabin, Karol Szymanowski, Dmitri Shostakovich, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Charles Ives, Frederick Delius, Michael Nyman... you get the idea.

After a drinking session here in The Philippines with Steve and Frank it became time to go to bed. You know how it works. One reaches a pleasant level of intoxication and the conversation roams free; tonight I was defending the idea of the states of the US issuing drivers licences for illegal immigrants. I almost convinced Steve, our resident republican; but only almost. He could admit that I had a couple of good points but couldn't quite bring himself to agree.

Eventually they melted away to their rooms. The younguns of today just can't hack it with we older drinkers! So I was left alone to savour that last glass of wine, read a little Dickens and watch Australian TV on ABC Asia Pacific. Tonight's news bulletins did seem a little Melbourne centric; news of bushfires in Gippsland; the Australian Open tennis, a short account of an archeological dig at some property in Collins Street and so on. It was all good even if it did make me feel a trifle more than usually nostalgic for my home town.

My bill settled for the nonce I returned to my room, past the piano bar where someone was playing the Ode to Joy from Beethovens Ninth. By the fourth note I had the old familiar German words playing in my head...

Freude Schoene Gotterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
wir betreten Feuer trunken,
Himmlische dein Heiligtun.

and so on... I'm sure the native German speakers reading this are laughing at me and that's ok. It has been quite a few years since I last heard it. A gap I must correct in a few days when I go home.

A Clockwork Orange hit the Melbourne Movie circuit in late 1972, just after I turned 18 and was deemed old enough to attend R rated movies. I was carded to be sure I was eligible to go watch. By this time I was already a Beethoven fan and quite familiar with the Ninth. For another of my friends (and a workmate), Warren, this was his introduction. You understand that by late 1972 I'd already tried the evangelism thing and found it wanting; so I listened to Deep Purple and Pink Floyd with my friends and later went home and listened to Beethoven and Mahler at my leisure.

Warren was blown away by the Ninth. As well he should have been.

A few days later at work Warren was expatiating at length on how great the music was. His exact words, adjusted for Wdevs were, 'it's f******* great'. Our boss, Dennis, overheard and I remember seeing his face; a mixture of amusement and shock. He, Dennis, would have been about the age then that I am now.

I understand.

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