by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 9 of
"How would Beethoven react to today's music?" has been a favorite question for musicians through the ages. One early jazz musician (I think it's Duke Ellington? Or Louis Armstrong? Google isn't helping me today...) once said, "If Beethoven lived today, he'd be a jazz musician." The Chuck Berry song "Roll Over Beethoven" uses him as a symbol of the rock-and-roll-loving youth rejecting their elders' music. You can find remixes of Beethoven's music into every genre, even disco. For whatever reason, Beethoven gets this speculation more than any other composer—maybe because of his innovative nature, helping to push music into the 19th century. We can never really know how he'd react to modern genres, but it's always fun to speculate. This week, Classicaloid finally jumps into that debate with its own question: how would Beethoven react to electric guitars?
Its answer is that he loves them. Maybe he loves them a little too much. Beethoven walks past an ad for a rock concert documentary and gets drawn in by the flashy ways that musicians use their guitars. All thoughts of gyoza leave his head as he takes up his new obsession: making the perfect guitar. This is frustrating for Schubert, who's been trying to help his master with his gyoza. The episode draws plenty of jokes from Schubert being forever behind everyone else in whatever Beethoven's up to, which makes me sad for the maestro kouhai, especially given his great debut episode. I hope they find more for him to do than be comic relief, but for the time being, he is pretty funny.
Beethoven wanders around town, studying more rock bands and even a pretty mediocre but dedicated acoustic street musician. (I'm glad Beethoven said what we were all thinking: "Neither her song nor her singing is particularly noteworthy." I was also puzzled by one of history's greatest composers being inspired by a drippy, forgettable song.) His first idea is to create a neon-colored, two-necked guitar that shoots fire. (Has Beethoven been watching Mad Max: Fury Road?) All this affects Kanae exactly the way you would expect—she puts the kibosh on dangerous guitar making—but of course, she does nothing to dampen Beethoven's dreams otherwise. This also brings Beethoven closer to Sousuke, who is ecstatic over this kind of project, of course.
I really love how the episode connects this project to Beethoven's history. The gyoza connection was always pretty slippery, until the show linked it to the Classicaloids' relationship to Kanae's father, but the guitar is easily connected to Beethoven's real history, even if electric guitars didn't exist in his time. The episode is very vague about all this, just repeating stuff about being cloaked in darkness and Beethoven losing his hearing. (For those not aware, Beethoven wasn't born deaf; he lost his hearing gradually, starting in his 20s. By the time he wrote his final works, he was completely deaf, but still able to write music because he had perfect pitch.) I like the way that this episode connects visual and aural sensory loss. It reminds us that making music is not purely an auditory activity, but can also involve other senses. Beethoven was keenly aware of this; he famously sawed off the legs of his pianos as his hearing deteriorated, trying to at least feel the vibrations of his playing even if he could not hear it.
Personally, I completely buy that Beethoven would be drawn to flashy rock bands or passionate singer-songwriters in the modern day. Beethoven's music is often very powerful and flashy, along with being emotionally-stirring. I think he'd love that about modern popular music. More importantly, the way that this music engages people on a visual and physical level would be valuable to someone who felt "cloaked in darkness" when he lost his hearing. With his flame-shooting guitar, he can literally light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.
As usual, Bach comes across as a huge jerk in this episode. He knows that turning off the lights would be emotionally traumatizing for Beethoven, but he does it anyway in order to trigger his Musik. This implies that he treats Tchaikovsky and Badarzewska similarly, and that can't be good for them. Speaking of the girls, they're right back to their previous, obedient, emotionless selves this week. It really speaks to the hold that Bach-sama has over them. I hope we learn more about that in future episodes. Classicaloid is a two-cour show, so it might be a while before we see the full picture—but it would be nice to get more than hints at this point.
I loved Beethoven's Musik this week. There's nothing like a raucous electric guitar solo that leaves everyone in 18th-century clothing. I compared the Musik sequences to Flip Flappers last week, but this one especially feels like something out of Pure Illusion. It was also inspired to use a piece Beethoven actually wrote for a string instrument for his guitar-shredding. (It's the Kreutzer Sonata for violin—the guy didn't write a whole lot for guitar.)
There's a lot about this episode that feels completely out of left field. Classicaloid did all it could with the gyoza thing, so it's time to push Beethoven right into a new obsession! Still, it manages to make this work by showing rather than telling. The thematic meat of this episode is all based on implication. But if you're willing to read between those lines, it's richly rewarding. On top of that, the episode is one of Classicaloid's funniest, from Schubert's sloppy attempts to keep up with his senpai to Beethoven's dismissive comments toward the street musician.
Episode 9 is a great reminder of why Classicaloid is such a strong show. It's particularly skilled at juggling drama and comedy, making even the silliest stunts fit into the facts of each composer's life. Again and again, I go in thinking that it's gone too far this time, but Classicaloid keeps proving me wrong by attempting the impossible and nailing it.
ClassicaLoid is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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