The Catholic University of America


Peter Kohanski's Response

Questions on "The Form of the Finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony: A Journey to Elysium"



Question #1

If you could highlight just one piece of evidence from your essay (whether it be a passage, primary source, excerpt from a song, or architectural structure) which would you choose and why?  


The score and musical examples are by far the most important aspect of my essay. My whole argument revolves around the fact that the formal aspects of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth can be interpreted in different ways. The musical examples highlight the the different formal interpretations that exist within the same set of notes and rhythms. By providing the musical examples, I'm allowing the reader (musically literate or not) to engage with the score and come to a conclusion about the arguments surrounding the form that I present in the paper. Ultimately, this will also allow them to come to a personal conclusion about the thematic elements of the Ode to Joy and Elysium, which is, I think, what Beethoven intended.



 Question #2

What first motivated you to submit to Inventio, and having gone through the process as an author has your perspective on academic writing changed in any way, if so how?


I first started thinking about submitting to Inventio after a professor brought it to my attention. At that point I had only written one large paper relating to musicology, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to gain experience if my paper was selected for publication. The biggest thing I've taken away from the process is probably flexibility. After spending so many hours researching and writing, I became somewhat protective over my paper, and it was a little hard to see so many suggested changes and edits. I learned that it was important to trust in the impartial eyes that were reading my paper, and that I needed to realize they were only trying to improve it. I know that lesson will play a valuable role in my education and my career after CUA. 



Question #3 


You say, “Beethoven’s idea of Elysium represents a heightened ideal of joy and brotherhood on earth”. If Beethoven’s Elysium is one he wished to see on Earth, what is the significance of using a word that in Classical mythology signified the underworld?

Themes from mythology had been an important element in music for years before Beethoven was writing. Early opera and the conventionalized opera seria of the Baroque and Classical periods almost exclusively drew upon mythology for their plots (for example, Claudio Monteverdi's Orpheo), and Beethoven based his only ballet on the story of Prometheus. I think mythology was (and is) so widely used in music, because, whether or not the intended audience was part of the culture the story came from, mythology speaks to everyone as a shared tradition based on its ability to comment on human nature. In choosing Friedrich Schiller's An die Freude, I think Beethoven was drawn to what Elysium represented in the underworld, especially in light of the Enlightenment ideals that he so strongly identified with: heroism, righteousness, and joy. He would have seen it as the best vehicle to convey his message to those receiving the symphony. I think it was a successful use of the allusion, especially because the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood, and by extension, peace, is so relevant in today's global and national climate.