Beethoven, Julia, and creativity

29 01 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Those of you who know me from twitter may have figured out that my day job is actually a night job. A weekend night job. A job that has me working while the rest of the world is playing.

I play in a professional symphony orchestra, a job that I have held for over thirty (gulp!) years. It’s fun, it’s horrifyingly awful, there are moments of great beauty, and moments where you want to either 1) scratch someone’s eyes out, or 2) scratch your own eyes out. In my experience, this work has a larger helping of ups and downs than many other lines of work. But that’s not what I want to write about today. I want to write about an epiphany that I had last night during the concert.

This week was Beethoven, his Symphonies 6 and 7, to be precise. If you ever saw the original Fantasia you may remember the centaur scenes, which were set to Symphony 6. And here is the Finale of Symphony 7 (which is much more of a Baccanale than the Scherzo of Symphony 6, no matter what Disney thought!)

I was listening and waiting for my next entrance when something occurred to me: Here I was, sitting with 70 of my colleagues, playing one of the absolute masterpieces of Western Music, a piece that scandalized the audience at its first hearing, and continues to surprise and delight generation after generation of music lovers. But what if Beethoven had not believed in himself? What if he hadn’t shouldered his way through learning his craft? What if he had listened to his critics? What if he had succumbed to his deafness, which was profound by the time he wrote these two symphonies? What would the history of Western Music have been without this towering compositional Master?

In a word: unrecognizable to those of us lucky enough to have lived in this world, where Beethoven slaved over his compositions until every note was perfect. (Get a load of the pic!)

In the same manner, what is literature without Shakespeare?

Or Horror without Stephen King?

Or Forensic Murder Mystery without Patricia Cornwell?

(Or Fantasy Eocene Illicit Romance Among Great Big Lizards With Feathers without Julia Indigo…)

Yeah, right. But you get where I’m going? At any time, in any place, the people you idolize for their creativity, whether a Beethoven, or a Brahms, or a Shakespeare, could have called it quits… and the world would have become a colder and less friendly place in consequence.

Last night, as I waited for my next cue, I realized what being a writer means to me. It means standing on the shoulders of every human being who has ever put pen to paper, or brush to canvas, or chisel to marble, or sugar and butter and soft white flour to cookie sheet; standing among this mass of The Creatives, the humans who have striven against the odds of their times, to birth something that the world has never before seen.

I have found my tribe.



12 responses

29 01 2012
Karen McFarland

Bravo, bravo Julia! *Applause, takes a bow*

Couldn’t say it any better girl! You made music with your words!

Beautifully done! 🙂

29 01 2012
Julia Indigo

Oh Karen, you’re so sweet! Thank you!

29 01 2012
Karen Rought

Beautiful post! I think I just got my daily dose of inspiration. 🙂

30 01 2012
Julia Indigo


Thank you, Karen! You made my day!

30 01 2012
Matthew Wright

I was blown away by this post. Seriously. I think you’ve nailed something absolutely fundamental to the human condition. To me music and writing are the same thing – ways in which human creativity can invoke an emotion, first in the creator or performer, and then in the audience. And not just any emotion. Beethoven, for one, absolutely knew how to manipulate that response in ways that worked for his audience then – and for audiences and performers later. Though personally, as a callow piano student, I learned how to play the Moonlight way too early to actually understand how to make it emotionally float. You know what I mean.

I think Beethoven kept creating because he was driven – driven to express, driven to create, and he could hear that stuff in his head even when he couldn’t hear it live. Was pushed to express it. I wonder, though, whether the system of notation really allows us to perceive what he – isolated, alone in his mind – actually ‘heard’? Are we hearing but a pale shadow of his internal concept? I don’t know. But he was driven. Of that there is no doubt.

Writers are too. And where, indeed, would we be without people like the ones you mention?

Matthew Wright

30 01 2012
Julia Indigo

Matthew, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to blow you away. One thing that I didn’t mention in the blogpost was that the realization blew ME away. There I was, waiting for my cue, and WHAM. Beethoven is my cousin. (and yours, too!). Boom.

Time to take this urge to write more seriously. Time to recognize the gift that it is. Time to recognize the RESPONSIBILITY that it is.

How likely is it that I will write something that will matter in 100 years’ time? Not very. But I certainly won’t unless I glue my butt in the chair and do the work.

And yes, Beethoven was driven, as most of the musical geniuses were. I think that it was highly unlikely that he would’ve/could’ve ever given up. But just the notion of ‘what if’puts being a creator/creatrix into perspective, doesn’t it?

30 01 2012
Rebecca Stanfel

What a stirring and beautiful statement of first principles. You have inspired me to “keep on striving against the odds of our times.” It’s so easy to doubt that we’ve got something to say, but so important not to.

Thank you,

30 01 2012
Julia Indigo

Thank you, Rebecca! I appreciate you taking time to comment!

30 01 2012

Such a beautiful post and INSPIRING! I can’t wait to show my 13 year old son, who plays viola in his school orchestra and an advanced high school extra-curricular orchestra. He will love this immensely.

Now, I’m off to create with my words, fingers on the keys, my heart tapping out onto the screen. 🙂

31 01 2012
Julia Indigo

Thank you, Ginger! Good for your son! Recently we changed the seating in our orchestra, and the violas are where the 2nd violins used to be… right next to me. I have a new appreciation of the viola section!

30 01 2012

What a wonderful ephiphany, Julia, and so beautifully expressed in this post!

31 01 2012
Julia Indigo

Thank you, Lynn. It rather hit me between the eyes, and I’m so glad to have the platform to share it!

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