First runner up on my Inspiring Artists series is Beethoven!
My youngest son is learning a very simplified version of Ode to Joy from Beethoven's 9th symphony. Which means he is whistling it 24/7. In order to get a small 5 minute break from the incessant melody, I decided to tell him the story behind the song.
I told him how Beethoven wrote that song after he had gone completely deaf and during the writing he was well aware of his decline in health. It got me all choked up and I could hardly tell the story. It really hit me that even after going through the worst trial a musician could have, instead of wallowing in despair and self pity for the rest of his life, he wrote the symphony that defined all symphony's and it was about joy and brotherhood. Not struggle and defeat.
But that is not the whole story. At the time of the 9th Symphony Beethoven had actually been going deaf for over 20 years. So it was not a new trial. When he first discovered his hearing loss and the permanence of it, he was actually in a lot of despair. He even considered suicide at one point, but his "art held him back" he wrote,
"It seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me."
He needed more time to finish all the creations in his head. That was more important than any suffering he was condemned to.
And what did Beethoven write as he excepted his loss of the thing he loved most? Symphony #3, The Eroica Symphony. Ultimately it was a piece written to celebrate Napoleon Bonaparte (something he later regretted.) However, artists cannot help but to put some of themselves into every piece they create. If you listen to the piece with the knowledge of the great despair Beethoven was dealing with at the time you can hear it in a different light. For the most part it is a very triumphant and happy piece. There is some dark turmoil intermixed, but that is life! How wonderful that even then he could write of triumph.
As beautiful as it is, compared to Symphony #9, Eroica falls short. Why? Beethoven spent most of his adult life and career thinking, writing, creating this final complete symphony. In a way, it was the ultimate culmination of his life and career. His life was not perfect. He never reached fame and adoration as we would define it. He fought illness, had a rascal of a nephew that caused a lot of heartache and died destitute. Over all one would say he did not have a happy life. Yet he found happiness in his art. His love for music and his ability to share that love through sound is so powerful that one can't help but be moved by it.
Why did I choose him as my first inspiration? Because he reminds me that regardless of what is happening in life. What turmoil is in the world, we can still put good into it. We can create beauty and celebrate in humanity and goodness. That is why he is amazing. He, of all people, had every right to create powerful dark pieces. Songs of dispair and sorrow. He also could have quit entirely and found some other career. Yet he chose the better part. He needed to bring forth "all that was within him."
If you have not had a chance to listen to the 9th Symphony in it's entirety, then I invite you to do so now! It is an hour and 6 minutes long. So listen while you are doing whatever you are doing. It is so amazingly put together you can see why it was the symphony to define all symphony's. I'm willing to bet that when you reach that final movement, that Ode to Joy, you too might get a bit choked up.