Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Going To Have To Take The Family To See This

By "The Family", I mean, um... including me.

By "This", I'm referring to this.

So at the Charles M. Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA, they have a new exhibit up on the Music of Schroeder. Schroeder was, of course, the character in Peanuts that was always playing the piano. And one of the things Schultz often did when showing Schroeder playing the piano, was to include a couple bars of music in the frame--whatever Schroeder was supposed to be playing at that moment.

Well, apparently Schultz was a big fan of Beethoven. (He was a bigger fan of Brahms, but he didn't think Brahms was quite as comical a character as Beethoven, so it was the latter who became Schroeder's muse). And so whenever he drew Schroeder playing something, and he wanted to include a few bars of music in the frame, he would meticulously transcribe a little something from a genuine Beethoven piece. It is actually possible to read the music in these comic strips and figure out what piece of music the passage was drawn from--if you know enough about Beethoven.

Well, it just so happens that my Alma Mater has a little institute dedicated to the genius that was Beethoven--the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, at San Jose State University (sometimes just referred to as the "Brilliant Beethoven Center"). They apparently have a whole bunch of nifty stuff there, like original manuscripts. And they know their Beethoven inside out.

So the director of this center, William Meredith, decided to go through all those Peanuts strips and figure out, for each one of them, exactly what it was that Schroeder was playing. By the way, that was hundreds of strips over the fifty-year span that Schultz was doing Peanuts. And Dr. Meredith discovered something fascinating.

Turns out, the selections of music in those strips was carefully selected to enhance the main joke of each strip. The article gives an example of this kind of humor. One strip showed Schroeder "warming up" to play the piano, by doing a whole bunch of highly energetic exercises: running, jumping, boxing, sit-ups... And then Schroeder sits down, and plays a passage from the "Hammerklavier" Sonata, Op. 106, which is renowned for being extremely difficult. But the thing is, that little bit of humor would only be caught by the very few people in the world who'd actually tried to learn that piece, or who could sight-read well enough to tell what it was he was doing.

So basically, a huge number of these Schroeder strips had musical inside humor, fully accessible to only a select, elite few.

Well, Dr. Meredith put together an audio museum exhibit. The various stations in the exhibit show the comic strips, and allow the patrons to push a button and listen to the musical works depicted therein.

Is that totally awesome, or what?

Well, the exhibit runs through the 26th of January at the Charles M. Schultz museum in Santa Rosa, CA, whereupon the exhibit will be taken down and moved to the Brilliant Beethoven Center for a May 1 opening date.

Seeing as my eldest daughter has become rather taken with the Peanuts comic strips, we'll have to put this on our to-do list....


Anonymous said...

You are so lucky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have no chance of seeing this exhibition as I live in England.Come to England PlLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!! A life long Peanuts fran SNOOPY especially as well as Good Old Charlie Brown

Crimson Wife said...

Ooooh, I'll have to take a trip down the Peninsula to SJ State when this opens in May.

Timothy Power said...

Crimson Wife,

That means there's a non-zero chance that I'll actually meet another blogger sometime! It would be rather fun to meet someone who knows my daughter only as "The Pillowfight Fairy...."