Mozart or Beethoven?

Following on from Elena’s post about her enviable concert experiences, one thing that has always fascinated me is how different writers (and musicians) produce.

So are you a Beethoven or a Mozart?

Here’s Mozart’s manuscript for K. 617, Adagio and Rondo for glass harmonica, flute, oboe, viola, and cello.

The glass harmonica was an instrument that plays on the principle of running your finger around the top of a wine glass to produce a beautiful humming, otherworldly sort of sound. The Metropolitan Opera used a glass harmonica for the mad scene in their recent production of Lucia di Lammermoor–here’s an article from the NY Times about it. It’s usually played on the flute since they’re aren’t that many glass harmonicas around now–or people who know how to play them. This instrument was made in 1785.

But I digress. Here’s one of Beethoven’s scores.

The point I’m trying to make (yes, there is one) is that Mozart was notorious for composing in his head and then just writing it all down; or writing the music down after he’d improvised it at a concert. So his scores, although they have a certain messiness from writing fast, tend to be very clean. Whereas Beethoven used the delete key a lot, scribbling out and, although you can’t see this here, digging his nib into the paper with splattery results–all sturm und drang.

So for the writers among us, who’s a Beethoven and who’s a Mozart?

And for everyone, did you hear the Met broadcast of Lucia? (I missed it, to my great annoyance.) And what’s your favorite instrument?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cara King
14 years ago

I’m more of a write-it-then-improve it type. Lots of polishing!

And I kind of like cellos. But if I were in a rock band, I’d want to play drums. πŸ˜‰


Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I’m SUCH a Beethoven, especially with the current WIP, which is by far the most plot-heavy story I’ve ever attempted. I keep barreling headlong into dead ends and having to backtrack. I swear I’ve written 500 pages on this thing, even though my page count as of last night stands at 272.

Favorite instrument? I played saxophone all through high school (had to quit when TMJ made it too painful), and I have extremely basic piano and guitar skills, but for some reason I yearn over violins. It’s the sound, and the look, and the idea of switching between sophisticated classical violinist and exuberant Celtic-Appalachian fiddler. Maybe one of these days I’ll get a chance to learn to play one.

14 years ago

I’m a Mozart.

My critique partner calls me a “finished” writer, whatever the heck that means.(It doesn’t appear to excuse me from editing and polishing…)

I think it might refer to the thousands of postie notes I jot down at my day job that end up in my purse and thus travel home and become manuscript.

But there is no formal outline process, just in my head. Total, undisciplined pantser!

Favorite instruments to listen to:
oboe, bassoon, French horn.

Instrument I want to be able to play?

14 years ago

I’m not a fiction writer, but in my work I’m definitely a Beethoven with lots of iterations and rework. Sorry to say I didn’t hear the Met’s Lucia, but I did go to the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Center last night to hear Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutti. Not the most complimentary view of women, especially considering how badly the men act, but the production finessed the ending pretty well — much easier to do than the ending of “Taming of the Shrew”.

As for instruments, I love the cello and think that Bach’s cello suites are proof that there is a deity.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

I’m definitely the sturm und drang type of writer, to which my long-suffering family and friends can attest!

As a listener, I like just about any instrument–even the sackbutt–gotta love anything that sounds so much like an inelegant bodily function!

I play piano (a little!) and the Lithuanian kankles. If I had time, I’d take harp lessons from a friend who played at my wedding. That would be very Regency, wouldn’t it? I also like to fool around with the Native American Flute my youngest got for Christmas.

Yikes, I could keep babbling on about different instruments. My fantasy house would have a music room with an eclectic collection of instruments. And of course I’d have time to learn to play them all. πŸ™‚

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I guess I’m more a Mozart (yeah right–I should be so lucky!!). I work hard to make as clean a first draft as possible, since by the time I finish I’m sick of it and don’t want to endlessly revise. πŸ™‚

I’d also love a music room in my dream house, Elena! And a dance studio.

14 years ago

Definitely a Beethoven here. I mean I tend to write a clean manuscript, print each chapter out as I finish and scribble it to death!

I so WISH I was a Mozart. I think I told you I studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the music library there is a repository for many of his original manuscripts. They are taken out on a schedule and you can go in and look at them under glass. I have notations in my opera scores from my study of those manuscripts. Yes, he had atrocious handwriting, BUT his manuscripts were a thing of beauty. No cross outs, no corrections, as if he was taking dictation from God. Amazing and very humbling to be sure.

I play the clarinet, the bassoon, and the piano ( I am a piano player rather than a pianist – there IS a difference!)

I love the cello and the harpsichord. I also have a thing for organ music if played on a really good pipe organ. I love the haunting sound of the bagpipes as well.

The Lucia scene with the glass harmonica is gorgeous. Lucia was one of my favorite roles to sing. Never was in a production in which there was a glass harp – always a flute, but just as haunting!

14 years ago

I’m not a writer, but I think the same styles prevail in many areas of work. While I’ve often gone over things repeatedly to fix mistakes and improve matters, I think that, by temperament, in problem solving I’m more of a Mozart (or anyway, I’d like to be :-). When I am trying to solve a problem, I revolve it around in my head repeatedly, thinking about it in different ways. I have often had the experience of an idea suddenly occurring to me, and knowing that it’s the key–and when I finally get around to checking it (often hours or even days later) it’s usually right.

In grad school I used to work on homework with a couple of friends of mine (who were also friends of mine who were a couple). She would usually work steadily, trying different things and grinding away at the problem; he and I would sit there and try to think of something clever that would skip all that work. It came out about 50/50–I’d probably have done better if I weren’t so lazy. πŸ™‚

As for instruments–a friend of mine plays the theremin, which may be the most bizarre instrument I’ve ever heard. And then there’s the hardart in P.D.Q. Bach’s “Concerto for Horn and Hardart.” πŸ™‚


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I’m definitely a Beethoven. I write and rewrite constantly, particularly with the current WIP, which is my first historical so for the first time, I’m editing while I write. My drafts are covered in ink squiggles from edits and notes.

I wish I taken up the violin as a child like my father because I love the sound it makes. Particularly in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake during the pas de deux in the second Act.