Beethoven in the Stars – in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary

Below are the two videos, part I & II of Beethoven in the Stars.

Beethoven in the Stars PART II: Cavatina

About the project BEETHOVEN IN THE STARS – Colin Pip Dixon

I am very touched by the way this all came together and the way people have reacted to these videos. This project was a great risk. It wasn’t granted at all that it would all work in the end. It was a risk because none of us had done this before. There were no professional sound engineers or video editors. The students had to each record themselves and film themselves many times, receive feedback, and try and improve. Some of the students are music majors but many of them aren’t. We added the extra challenge of wanting to create music together that was alive and connected in spite of everyone being apart. I didn’t want this project to be a kind of consolation prize for the live concert that couldn’t happen. We wanted it to be something that was unique and would stand on its own. 

I am touched because, in the end, so many people came together and gave above and beyond themselves in such a way that the whole became greater than each of the individual parts. I think this is what orchestra should be about.

Dr. Dijana Ihas, the director of the Pacific University Philharmonic Orchestra, originally came to me with the idea of a concert to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth at the beginning of March. We had no idea what lay before us. As the months passed, I felt that the mood of our times and our country wasn’t the mood of the triumphant and dramatic music that we often associate with Beethoven. The slow Cavatina movement from Beethoven’s late quartet op. 130 came to mind and it was easily adaptable for string orchestra. If I associate one word with this music, for me, the word is “prayer”. Prayer in the broadest sense. It is a prayer from the depths of Beethoven’s heart. As I worked on this piece, playing it, recording, listening to the recordings and putting it together over the past months I found that there was something very healing in this music. 

Once we had decided that this piece would be the center of the project, the question then became “how can we help prepare for this music, make it feel pertinent and personal for audiences today”. I composed an introduction inspired by themes from Beethoven’s Cavatina and I wrote a monologue to go along with it. This introduction was intended to serve Beethoven’s music and help us be ready to hear it. 

As I began to research more about the piece I found a very unexpected connection between the piece and NASA’s Voyager spacecrafts sent out into space in the 1970’s. You will hear more about this connection in the monologue. This discovery inspired my music for the introduction. It also connected everything together – Beethoven from 250 years go to the students playing his music today… to the unknown future that we’re all heading towards. 

While we worked on this project, Beethoven’s own personal struggle with his deafness became much more real as we tried to struggle to make music together without being together, using ways and technology that we had never used before. There is something about Beethoven’s feeling of isolation that speaks to us differently today in our current situations of isolation. And there is something in this piece of music which transcends the struggle and the isolation and goes beyond any rational explanation: Beethoven’s heart speaking directly to us across 200 years.

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