The Creative Works of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and Beethoven’s Opus 131
Throughout history, every creative genius in any field of the arts is said to have created a piece greater than anything they have done before. These magnificent works become known as the artist’s magnum opus. Da Vinci had the Mona Lisa, Edgar Allen Poe had The Raven, and Beethoven had Opus 131. This was the next to last piece he wrote before passing away, and it is the apex of his creative output. After listening to this piece regularly and letting its feeling and emotion sink in, I have come to the realization that this work encompasses everything that is the human soul.
The music starts off with a single violin seemingly crying out for help. The cry of the lonely violin is felt with suffocating heaviness as the rest of the quartet enters to console and weep with it. This first movement has an overlying sense of pure melancholy. Each individual instrument is pensive and playing its own themes. These themes are exquisitely intertwined and one can feel the extreme intimacy pounding through.
Listening to this, thoughts of the homeless come into my head. These are people who are invisible to the world. Nobody pays attention to them and passes them by as if they are sub-human.
The first movement is their cry to the world for human necessities. The next movement is somebody who comes along and, instead of just dropping a coin in the cup, starts a conversation with this depressed and lonely person. They let them know that they still matter in this world and that happiness and kindness still exist. This moment is joyful and exists right now, but the homeless man knows that the moment will be relinquished to the (infinite sadness).
Following a short third section that gives insight to the heart of the piece, the expansive fourth movement comes in. All of the variation in this section gives one a sense of discovery. Each variation of the theme has a different form; one section may be very decorative and fancy, while others have a lighthearted sense of humor. I feel as if this is where the strength of Opus 131 is established. It is about transformation; the self goes through stages needed to become itself. The fifth movement begins with a call from the cello, and the answer is a very playful, teasing scherzo that embodies pure joy. Beethoven seems to have regressed to a child-like state and pictures of young children playing tag and hide-and-seek come to mind. Although it’s brimming with vitality, there are moments of hesitation and pause where hints of the drama and defiance to come are hinted at.
The very short sixth theme that comes in serves as a sort of preparation for the stormy finale. Devastatingly beautiful, this piece is introspective, thinking about life and what it has meant up to this point. It feels as if it could be a much longer movement in a romantic symphony. The final movement truncates the pensiveness and sadness. The mood changes.
The seventh and final movement opens up with a rhythmic figure that sends you travelling to somewhere terrifying. This section is defiant, unwilling to succumb to change. This embodies the human spirit; no matter what we face, we still have dignity and will fight to retain ourselves. The next theme comes in and it is a return, yet a renewal, to the original theme. It shows how you can go through the world facing all it has to offer, and return with the same characteristics, yet changed for the better. Upon the return, the self is achieved and nothing can sway the piece from its destiny.