Leftover Beethoven Miscellany: Roll Call

From time to time until the book comes out, this space will feature bits and pieces that were too esoteric, tangential, or just plain odd to make it into the final version.

An article in a 1918 issue of Sunset magazine reported the opinion of one Professor Arthur Conradi that the World War I anthem “Over There” owed its popularity to the same factors that made Beethoven’s Fifth a hit:

The great German—the Germans were great in his day—heard a rapping on the door. It suggested the tap of the hand of Fate, and he wrote his deathless symphony. George M. Cohan took a bugle call, a three-note idea, like the rat-a-tat-tat on the door, and in the cold analytical view of a serious musician has written a war song that will live forever.1

That the comparison necessitates the elimination of one-fourth of Beethoven’s actual motive went unmentioned.

1. Robin Baily, “Songs Our Soldiers Sing.” Sunset, vol. 40, no. 5 (May, 1918), p. 23.

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