THE NINTHJohn knew I would be fascinated by this because it deals with the common Mixed Meters trope that musical meaning is mutable according to who is listening. And of course it mentions Adolf Hitler, which I have been doing a lot lately.
Deafness kept Beethoven from ever hearing a note of his Ninth Symphony, and death kept him from learning of his masterpiece's adventures and misadventures.
Bismarck proclaimed the Ninth an inspiration for the German race, Bakunin heard it as the music of anarchy, Engels declared it would become the hymn of humanity, and Lenin thought it more revolutionary than "The Internationale."
Von Karajan conducted it for the Nazis, and years later he used it to consecrate the unity of free Europe.
The Ninth accompanied Japanese kamikazes who died for their emperor, as well as the soldiers who gave their lives fighting against all empires.
It was sung by those resisting the German blitzkrieg, and hummed by Hitler himself, who in a rare attack of modesty said that Beethoven was the true führer.
Paul Robeson sang it against racism, and the racists of South Africa used it as the soundtrack for apartheid propaganda.
To the strains of the Ninth, the Berlin Wall went up in 1961.
To the strains of the ninth, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
After reading about Galeano I ordered a "like new" copy of this book from an Amazon associate seller. The price was 39 cents. Yes, you read that correctly. Thirty-nine U.S. pennies for a $26.95 list price hardcover book originally published in 2009. Shipping charges were more than ten times the price of the book: $3.99.
In capitalistic America such a low price for nearly 400 pages of printed matter can only mean a huge lack of demand. Could this be because Galeano says things Americans don't care to hear? Or maybe someone is giving copies away because they think Americans ought to hear those things. After all, the vilified Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez presented another of Galeano's books to Barack Obama, the increasingly vilified American president.
Mirrors consists of nearly six hundred short historical tales similar to the sample above. I thought to myself "It's a novel in the form of a page-a-day calendar."
In reality it's a history book. It's the story of human culture told in sequential "sound bites". Each bite is short enough for even the tiniest attention span. It would be perfect for multi-tasking, channel-switching, constantly on-the-go media consumers. Except for one problem - it's a book.
Galeano makes his attitudes perfectly clear. He is against sexism, racism, facism, colonialism, corporatism, imperialism and exploitation. He counters pro-western, pro-northern, pro-European bias. He lampoons the silly and he bemoans the greedy, the evil and the immoral. He talks about the crazies, the revolutionaries, the successes, the failures and the famous. Almost everyone.
Galeano obviously has strong opinions. His little tales will make you think. Like the Beethoven symphony, what he tells is often open to interpretation. If you think about the stories too hard they could be profoundly depressing. You could even end up regretting being human.
But in spite of that, the book is a really easy read. It would make a good blog.
Listen to an interview with Eduardo Galeano on the NPR radio show Latino USA. He says "I am just a person fascinated by reality and the magic hidden inside reality."
Other Mixed Meters posts mentioning Beethoven's Ninth: Everybody Loves Beethoven Probably and In Which Music Moves Slowwwly.
Everyone Tags: Eduardo Galeano. . . Beethoven. . . Hugo Chavez