Director’s News

“Doc Talk”/Class Lesson 5/4/2020




…to everyone for sending me your “grade points” the past few weeks.  I realize that WCPSS has made grades much “easier” for the most part…in fact it is my understanding that students may opt for a simple “pass-fail” type grade rather than a grade point.  Rest assured, by checking in with me, I will keep your GPA quite high because your grades are going to be way up there!

I think it is a true sign of your work ethic, character, and overall love of music that you continue to try to stay engaged—keep trying to learn—each week.  This is the way you want to LIVE!  Learning is FUN!


Today’s Lesson:  A study of the allegretto movement of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7”…one of the most simplest, profound pieces of music ever written.

You want to know a piece that aptly describes the “surreal” atmosphere that we are all experiencing in today’s world with this crazy pandemic?  Look no further, Beethoven’s 7th, movement 2.

You want to know a piece that can literally put you in a hypnotic trance…one that you can listen to for hours and hours and not tire of, even though the basic rhythm of the piece never changes?  …Beethoven’s 7th, movement 2.

You want to know a piece that you can enjoy on all 3 of Aaron Copland’s listening levels—the sensuous, the expressive, and the musical?  You guessed… Beethoven’s 7th, movement 2.

Like the Chopin Ballade in g minor that we listened to a few weeks ago, let’s explore this work TOGETHER… I will be like a tour guide, pointing out what is so cool about the work.


Music cue #1:  0:22-1:13 in link in assignment

Familiar?  Yes!  This beautiful theme has been used in countless movies describing hardship, persistence, sorrow…


The plaintive “a minor” chord in the woodwinds at the very beginning is like an anguished cry.

The main theme is then sounded by the strings alone… a theme that doesn’t necessarily sound like a melody—but there is kind of one there…it is really harmonic and rhythmic—based entirely on the same 2 measure rhythm over and over:  quarter, 2 eighths, quarter, quarter.  Like a funeral dirge.  Yes, it’s an ostinato.

Note that this “theme” begins in “a minor,” then modulates to the relative major key of C, before returning to “a minor”–all in 16 measures.  Then Beethoven repeats the last 8 measures of the theme even softer—at pianissimo.


Music cue #2:  1:13-1:59 in link in assignment

Ah!  A counter melody is sounded with the first theme—and one very different from the first theme.  Although it begins with longer notes (half notes), these notes are answered with sixteenth-note figures which are faster that the first theme.  Also note that the principle theme is an octave higher.

Curious point:  this “second theme” sounds more like a real melody than the first; however, both still sound like “counter melodies.”  Hmmm….


Music cue #3:  1:59-3:30 in link in assignment

Theme 1, Theme 2, and arpeggios in the middle strings.  The music is growing more active in texture.  Theme 1 is another octave higher…the music is growing louder to forte.  And here’s the fourth statement, with the entire orchestra including timpani.  It’s really an anguished cry.


Music cue #4:  3:30-4:50 in link in assignment

What’s this?  Something new!  We are now in the key of A Major—the parallel major key to “a minor.”  It’s like a ray of sunshine…Note that the clarinet presents a new chorale-like melody.  But wait—listen to the bass…a remnant of the

first theme is still being sounded:  quarter, eighth-eighth!


Music cue #5:  4:50-5:45 in link in assignment

This theme does not last too long before Beethoven shoos it all away and reintroduces the music of the first section:  both themes sounding together with faster arpeggios in the strings.  In the words of a famous poet, it is like “one fatal remembrance, one sorrow, that throws its black shade alike o’er our joys…”


Music cue #6:  5:45-7:15 in link in assignment

Wow!  OMG!  What is Beethoven doing here? After cadencing in “A Major” (Picardy third), he has inserted a little fugue-section in this restatement based on a fragment of theme 1… This is cool…ingenious…  Fun fact:  Beethoven was obsessed about learning to write good counterpoint like Bach.  He always felt that it was his weakness and worked on this craft his entire life.  He even took lessons from Franz Joseph Haydn, although he was not a very good pupil.  Note the chains of syncopated notes in the countersubject parts.  Cool!  He uses this fugato section to build the music toward a CLIMAX (6:55).


Music cue #7:  7:15-7:55 in link in assignment

Ah, we are back to A Major—the sunshine!  So the overall form of this work so far is “A-B-A-B” where the A sections are in minor and sad, and the B sections are in major and happy.


Music cue #8:  7:55-end in link in assignment

Okay, time for a coda…  Let’s see what we are doing.  Beethoven is vacillating between “a minor” and “C Major” (the relative major).  It’s like he is trying to decide which way to leave us—sad or happy.  Ah, he settles on sad with theme 1 divided into 2 measure statements, each played by a different small instrumental group.  It’s like the burden of this melody has grown so heavy that no one section can carry it the entire way.  And we end with the same plaintive woodwind cry that we began the work with… as if all of this was a dream!



There are so many thoughts/stories which can accompany this music.  Perhaps Beethoven was writing it as an autobiography.  He was not totally deaf when he wrote this work, but profoundly hard of hearing.  The minor sections (section A) may represent his depression over his health, the major sections (B) may represent memories of happier times.



1) Here’s a few links to recordings of this great work—enjoy listening to each, note the musical expression, and even the faces of the conductors and performers!  Also listen to the work while watching the score!

Bernstein direct link to this movement (the one I am referencing):

Good video of entire symphony:

Watch the symphony while reading the score!


2) Here’s a fun topic to think about…  If you were writing a movie about your life, what music would you choose to accompany it?  What music would you use for your triumphs, your failures?  I betcha you would find a place to put this movement of Beethoven’s…




Dr. Jerry Markoch, Director of Bands

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