Spike versus Beethoven: a Poll

This is a long post. Don't feel pressure to read everything. But at the very least, I encourage you to listen, watch, and vote!

My FAQ post the other day lent itself to some Buffy discussion in the comments -- Spike quote-sharing, favorite and least favorite characters, etc. -- if you've seen Buffy, feel free to contribute. And I've started Season 5 and couldn't be happier. I'm thinking way too much about it, really, and want to talk about this show more here someday. And maybe particularly about Spike, because while I continue to love his humor, his insight, his large yet despicable heart, his twisted approach to relationships, and his reliably terrible decisions... I KNOW there must be some Spike dissenters out there who'd like to express themselves. HOWEVER. Now isn't the time to get into it, because I'm only on Season 5, so I don't have all the data yet. So. Maybe we could talk about Buffy more sometime in the future? :)

(NOTE: please feel free to comment now as much as you like! I know the plot of Buffy in general and Spike in particular all the way through Season 7, and I don't mind Buffy spoilers. [It's the only thing I don't mind spoilers for, actually!] All I mean to say here is that I don't feel qualified to contribute to the discussion myself yet. Knowing what happens is different from watching how it plays out. For example, I know the facts of what happens with Buffy and Spike in Season 6, and let me tell you, I'm prepared for the possibility that it's going to be fabulous OR the most horrible, creepy thing ever. -- Feel free to tell me what you thought.)

Now, stand back, because I'm about to geek out about Beethoven. (Again.)

Behind this link is one of the most beautiful movements of a piano sonata ever written, IMO: the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23, Opus 57 (the "Appassionata"). (If you want to hear the whole sonata, just click on the first movement and it will carry you all the way through.) What I love about the second movement is its simplicity. It presents a single melody, plays it through once, and then repeats it, faithfully, four more times, but in four beautiful variations. Listen for yourself. The melody is played through the first time in the first 1:40. You'll notice that it itself contains repetition: a simple melody; repeat; a second simple melody; repeat. Then, at 1:41, we start the whole thing over, with minor variations, and play it all the way through. The version that makes me want to die of happiness is the third go-through, which starts at 3:05. The fourth go-through starts at 4:18, and the final, which very much recalls the original, starts at 5:28.

Much of music is about repetition and variations on a theme... but, well, I guess I love how simply it's all played out in this lovely little movement. Plus, for me, with Beethoven, it isn't just the way he repeats and plays with his melodies and themes. I love the way he repeats notes within his melodies and themes. Have you ever hummed or whistled a melody and suddenly realized you've been humming/whistling the same note over and over again? This happens a lot with Beethoven; it's a thing you might notice now and then in the Appassionata. He is so good at repeating the same note over and over again and making it beautiful!

Oh my goodness. I just went off to find a youtube of the second movement of his Seventh Symphony, intending to try to explain what I mean in words -- so guess how excited I am that I found THIS?

Press play and watch along; it shows just what I mean about Beethoven repeating the same note over and over, while using other instruments to weave all around the repeating notes. It's characteristic of much of the movement, but the most glaring example is probably from 6:00 to 6:22 -- note the places where a single color remains stuck in a horizontal pattern, a straight or dotted line. Gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh! The Fifth Symphony has some other good examples. Especially go to 3:28 or 3:55 or 6:51 here.

Okay. Some of you have been very patient today, humoring me and the Beethoven squee. Others have decided to drop me from your blog readers. Regardless, it's now time for a highly scientific poll. In the interest of fairness, since I've stuck so much Beethoven in your faces, I need to stick some Spike in your faces before asking you to vote, especially for those of you who've never met him. Context: Buffy has just found Spike lurking behind a tree outside her house, and has punched him in the face.

And if you care to see the next part of the conversation:

And now, please vote! (If you can't see the poll, click here!)

Have a nice weekend, everyone :o). Coming next week: short posts!


rustmoon said…
This is a tough one, because I love both Spike AND Beethoven. But I love Bach too (Mass in B Minor is my most favoritest ever), so it's a good thing I wasn't asked to choose between all three.
mysteryflavour said…
I LOVE that movement - now you (and everyone who reads this) absolutely HAVE (has) to see the movie 'The Fall,' starring Lee Pace, directed by Tarsem (2006) because it is one of the best movies of all time and yet nobody has heard of it. It uses this piece to great effect, along with lots of other wonderfully crafted work-of-art music... that is NOT AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE, the tyrants.

Anonymous said…
NO NO NO!!! I LOVE LONG POSTS!! Please don't shorten them :) I also had a hard time with this decision, because S and B are both on the 'awesome things in life' list. So, I decided to judge as a result of the videos.. The Beethoven color movement rocked-- literally. I greatly enjoyed it with my peppermint tea tonight. Yat! ;-0)

Mel said…
I cannot answer your poll! Spike is snarky and hot (but fictional), but Beethoven fills me with endless joy!
Ai said…
Aw, that's tough, but I had to vote for Spike since, while I love Beethoven, he's not my favorite classical musician/composer. I did really love that video clip of his 7th with the colored lines representing different instruments. I'm going to have to watch more of those videos now. :)
Sarah Miller said…
BEETHOVEN. Any time you need a Beethovenswoon, I'm in.

My Miss Spitfire playlist consisted entirely of:
Sonata #14 in C sharp minor (Moonlight)
Sonata #4 in C (Waldstein)
Sonata #21 in C minor (Pathetique)

I've never even heard #23 before today, but it took me straight back to Annie and Helen. Boom.
Tabatha said…
Got a huge kick out of that Beethoven video! Thanks.
Anonymous said…
Spike is AWESOME! How could anyone not vote for him?

Anonymous said…
If you're a Spike fan, then I think you need to visit this site: http://www.soulfulspike.com/indexintro.htm

Lots of great reviews of Buffy and Angel, as well as a message board that's still pretty active even after all this time--and comprised of a great group of people to boot. And yes, I am one of those who frequents the forums. ;)

Also? We're big on using capital letters, punctuation, grammar, and all those other little extras that so often are absent from internet forum posts. Tara would definitely approve. The board can be found here: http://scubiefan.proboards.com/index.cgi

Anyway, just thought you'd like to know. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to finally digging into Fire this weekend...
Sarah Miller said…
Foolishly commented *before* watching that Beethoven video. HOLY CATS. That is the coolest thing of the week. I've always been baffled when I try to comprehend the sort of mind that can compose a multi-part piece of music with melody and harmony and variations, and now I can SEE it.

Not only that, but this is possibly the best visual metaphor for plotting and/or multi-voice narration, ever. I will be blogging about this. Yes ma'am.

And now I'm going to die of happiness watching the music animation machine crank out Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
Artemis Grey said…
I cheated. Flat out honest. I voted for both. If you'd posted ANY OTHER piece of Beethoven's work, I could have just said Spike. I don't even watch Buffy and I'm in love with Spike. He's just so ridiculously, awesomely bad, and yet totally endearing. He reminds me in a way of Steve Valentine's character of Nigel on Crossing Jordon.

Oh, but THAT movement from Appasionata... It can't be ignored. I wonder if we can get a video of Spike playing that piece on a musical instrument... or dancing to it... or maybe just put together a compilation of Spike moments set to it...
Andrea Cremer said…
Had it been Chopin this might have been a tougher call. But I have to go with Spike this time.
Anonymous said…
I want to say that I'm trying to avoid being a massive music geek all over your blog, but I would be lying.

Beethoven is totally amazing at doing a lot with a little. Two more examples are the "Ode to Joy" in the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony and the Diabelli Variations, a massive piece of music based on a little waltz theme.

That visualization of the second movement of the Seventh Symphony is both really simple and really powerful. I immediately started thinking of other pieces of music I'd like to see that way. The third movement of the Brahms Requiem would be interesting. The last three minutes of the movement, the lowest instruments in the orchestra all play a single low note continuously while the rest of the orchestra and chorus play a complex fugue above them.

I'm totally fascinated by sets of variations. Some of my favorites include Bach's Chaconne from the Violin Partita in D minor, Brahms' Handel Variations, Paganini's Caprice #24 for violin, and Berio's "Four versions of Boccherini's 'Riterata Notturna di Madrid' superimposed and transcribed for orchestra," which is its own special brand of craziness. The Paganini caprice is very popular with other composers who have written their own sets of variations on his theme. Some composers who have written Paganini variations include Rachmaninoff, Brahms, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Also, because I can't let things go, I have to mention that the Pathetique and Waldstein sonatas, mentioned by Sarah Miller above, are usually listed as #8 and #21 respectively.
MelissaKeaster said…
Kristin, did you ever take a Form and Analysis class in college? For a non-music major, you have a good understanding of music. I think your interest and observation are wonderful! I think you would really like to study F&A if you haven't already. I have to warn you though--Beethoven's sonatas are extremely difficult to align with traditional sonata form. I had a difficult time understanding what he was doing at times (which is why there is debate among musicians whether he was really Classical composer, a Romantic composer or some strange hybrid). Either way, I love him!
Sarah Miller said…
Geesh -- what on earth was I looking at when I typed those sonata numbers? (Something other than iTune or my keyboard, apparently.) Thanks, mrmorse.
Heidi A Wilde said…
I can't decide! They are too different! The 7th Symphony is one of my all time favorites, thank you for sharing such an awesome video clip. It illustrates the layers perfectly.

I'm sure you have, but if you haven't seen "Copying Beethoven"(2006, Ed Harris/Diane Kruger) - watch it this weekend!!
Anonymous said…
Also, choosing between Spike and Beethoven is like choosing between cheese and the Internet. It's a totally unfair question.
Kristin Cashore said…
I"m proud of Beethoven, holding his own in the voting! I thought he was going to get creamed.

Melissa, I studied piano for years, took a Beethoven class in college, and have always been an amateur student of music. I'm sure I would absolutely adore an F&A class. Maybe I'll keep it in mind for the future. (In my imagination, I have lots of time for things in the future. ^_^)

Artemis: Spike playing Beethoven -- what a perfect solution to the problem of having to choose one or the other! (Which reminds me: I love how in recent episodes, Giles has shown his stripes as a musician.)

Sarah, it didn't occur to me to relate the video to plotting or narration, or writing at all. I LOVE that idea. And I have to say that one of my favorite piano moments was when I tried (unsuccessfully) to play the 3rd movement of the Moonlight and discovered, in my extremely slow attempt, how many parts of it recall the 1st movement. Just played WAY faster.

I'm now about to put a couple movies on hold at the library -- thanks, everyone!
redheadedali said…
Spike pwns all. Period, the end.

And feel free to make your posts as long as you like, provided there is Buffy squee at the end.
AndrewsMommom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
AndrewsMommom said…
This was a WAY too difficult poll for me. I admit, I waffled back and forth, back and forth, until DH asked what I was doing. I responded, 'choosing between two men I adore and using youtube to help with the decision'. I wanted to add, 'OBVIOUSLY' - but he probably wouldn't have appreciated my snarky retort.
I voted Spike. But I agree with mrmorse - cheese and the internet. Both great. Very tough decision.
Candelion is also correct (imho) - most of us love your long long posts. And I promise next time to read them unhurriedly (unlike I did with Monday's post when I didn't answer your actually question). Sorry Kristin and fellow posters. In apology, I will leave you another great Spike quote from Season 6:
Spike: *Randy* Giles? Why not just call me Horny Giles or Desperate-For-A-Shag Giles? I knew there was a reason I hated you.
Anonymous said…
i love spike. i've been watching buffy since i was ten.

SPOILER: they first kiss in Once More With A Feeling episode. The MUSICAL episode!! best episode ever.

Tegan xox

PS Spike does have the best hair
The Beethoven video was joyous and visually intriguing, but nobody beats Spike. Ever.
My first visit here and enjoyed it tremendously.
cindy said…
had to give it up for spike. as much as i'm loving learning more about classical music and listening since writing the sequel. =)
Anira said…
I was staring at the video of the animated music you posted, totally hypnotized, when my sister started banging on the door. I freaked out and tried to pause the video and change windows like I was doing something conspiratorial. ;)
Felt you should know...
Cynthia Hand said…
I remember watching that episode so clearly. My friends and I literally rolled around clutching our sides laughing for 10 whole minutes after that wonderful ine from Spike. Sigh. They just don't make them like Buffy anymore.
RobinPS said…
I do love me some Spike. That scene is delicious. Thank you for the laugh.
Anonymous said…
This isn't actually related to the post above but... I just looked at your tour schedule. You are coming to New York! But... I have college. =[ I got really excited because not only are you going to be there but Suzanne Collins too. Graceling and Hunger Games are my favorite books. T-T Oh how I wish I could have gotten my books signed. =[ It's still exciting that you guys will be there though. =]
Kat said…
two things! Firstly, I stayed in bed all day and read Fire. Completely adored it just as much as Graceling (now feel like I have to go back and reread Graceling, actually). Thanks for writing such an amazing, absorbing book and making my Saturday wonderful.
Second! Beethoven = love (& so is Clockwork Orange and I love that you used that quote).
s.f.martin said…

I was recently reccommended your books to read as i was looking for a series that features strong female characters as well male ones. I also wanted to read a series that featured diverse multicultural characters as main characters not just as background decoration, can you tell me if your books have that (i.e characters of different races (indian, black, oriental). If your books don't do you have any plans for future books? or could you recommend a series? I'm particularly looking for books which feature black or asian heroines/lead characters.

Thanks for your time

mstohl said…
Spike, season six, is even better. And perhaps the musical episode, the single greatest hour in the history of television, will seal the deal for Spike in the Spike v. Beethoven challenge. Though not Beethoven, Joss is pretty talented! Spike singing...ah, that's about as good as it gets. And yes, after halloween my teenager did give me the wooden stake she had carved for her Buffy costume. It has "I <3 Spike" carved into the side..
mstohl said…
oh yeah, i didn't see that comment. i totally give it up for CHEESE and SPIKE. at a writers' retreat in italy one summer i posed the question to a group of artists: a life without love or a live without cheese? spirited debate ensued. cheese won.
Spike is lovely, but Beethoven wins my vote. When I was 17, I wrote two chapters of a historical fiction romance about Beethoven. Four or five years later, the movie "Immortal Beloved" came out.
Lord Voldemort said…
This was a hard one, but Spike/James makes my day with his British accent and awesome wit... but seriously? The 'you have stupid hair' comment made me fall off my chair laughing. So Spike for making me laugh. X)
Joost Boekhoven said…
Hello Kristin,
Sorry, this is partly off-topic but I couldn't find an email address anywhere to send you my appreciation about your pep talk for Nanowrimo on November 21st. It was so encouraging to read that you deal with the same problems as I do, with doubts about the ability to do this writing job and in particular to put all these ideas (all over the house) in the right place in the growing novel. It's my daily fear and obstacle, but seeing that you face it too and deal with it in a loving way, encouraged me a lot.

I share your love of Beethoven! Very nice to have it visualised like this. I'll show it to my daughter (9) so that she will be even more enthusiastic about classical music than she already is.
Thanks very much,
Joost Boekhoven
The Netherlands

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