Amid the enormous collection of Beethoven-inspired lyric in the Beethoven-Haus archives of Bonn stands a thick folder overflowing with poems “on single sheets,” in other words never published. Hand-written or carefully typed, these verses were submitted by their authors themselves, often after visits to the Geburtshausmuseum. Such amateur but heartfelt works remind us that the majority of artistic responses to Beethoven come from men and women whose names remain unfamiliar to the world of high letters; they might reveal more about how his music and life-story move general listeners than all “expert” disputations. Above all the collection symbolizes a compulsion widely felt by persons who encounter this composer, his music, or simply memorabilia and places associated with him: Beethoven lovers tend to react to his art in active, often creative fashions, not passively. Such is the intense, ongoing influence that he and his works have on Western and even world cultures, both inside and outside musical life.
The history of Beethoven's impact on the Western music tradition, discussed in this volume by Margaret Notley and Scott Burnham, contains myriad examples of his incomparable effect on nineteenth- and twentieth-century musicians. Here we will explore how his life and music also motivate endeavors in non-musical areas, including literature, the visual arts, philosophy, politics, even religion. Beethoven has been idolized by persons of all walks of life, and many nationalities, as a “role model” or an “educator.”
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