Beethoven and The Beatles: Hearing the Connection

Vanderbilt University

Michael Alec Rose is a composer at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. His many commissions include ones from the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation, Austin Camerata with the Blanton Museum of Art, the Cassatt String Quartet, and the Nashville Symphony. He has received 30 annual awards in composition from ASCAP. For twelve years, Rose co-directed an International Exchange Program between the Royal Academy of Music, London (RAM) and the Blair School. His book AUDIBLE SIGNS is published by Continuum. Professor Rose has won several major teaching awards at Vanderbilt, including the Chair of Teaching Excellence.


The Beatles & Beethoven

What do the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Beatles song “Hey Jude” have in common? For one thing, the scope of each work is unprecedented: a vast choral movement and a seven-minute song marked radical breakthroughs for both symphonic music and popular music. Even more outsized is the spiritual message shared by these pieces: it it the grand vision of shared humanity, of boundless compassion and communal wonder, which binds the two works together across time and stylistic difference.

For thirteen years Professor Rose has taught a Vanderbilt course called “Beethoven and the Beatle,” motivated by the simple idea that great art knows no historical boundaries. Ludwig and the Fab Four make their music in beautifully analogous ways, designing their song structures through similar principles of economy, logic, and irrational instinct. Another thrilling correspondence between these Classic and Rock ‘N’ Roll masters is their shared devotion to the musical traditions that inspired them in the first place. Rose will expand these various connections between the Ninth’s finale and “Hey Jude” into a resonant triad, by drawing comparisons with one of William Shakespeare’s sonnets.

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