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In partnership with the Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO), BECOMING BEETHOVEN is a 9-part series documenting the creative process of the 2014 PSO Young American Composers Competition commission. Composer Michael-Thomas Foumai documents the creative choices, challenges and process of bringing together a new work inspired by the Beethoven Symphonies.

 

Becoming Beethoven is a work that strives to capture the story of Beethoven’s hearing loss. The work weaves together motives from the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th symphonies and strives to paint a picture of an artist losing the ability to hear his passion, his music, the struggle to cope socially with depression, thoughts of suicide, and of the enduring will to continue his work. In some ways the title represents both my attempt to channel Beethoven’s energy into my own voice and of the story of Beethoven ascent from his darkest depths into one of the greatest composers in history.

PART 1 - THE BEETHOVEN CONNECTION

October 19, 2014

Running Time: 4:00 min

Episode 1: The Beethoven Connection
Foumai introduces, traces and discusses the creative process of his new Beethoven-inspired work for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Explaining his method of deriving "new" ideas from the Beethoven Symphonies, Foumai begins to create connections with the composer's eventual hearing loss.

 

PART II - FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT

November 25, 2014

Running Time: 6:41 min

Episode 2: From Darkness to Light

A progression from darkness to light becomes the structure of the three-part work as Foumai strings together a dramatic arch using material from the Beethoven Symphonies and explains his process of recording ideas into the score.

PART III - ORCHESTRATING DRAMA

December 12, 2014

Running Time: 4:00

Episode 3: Orchestrating Drama

With the new work complete, Foumai discusses the method of using orchestration and layering as a method for creating drama while discussing common compositional techniques used by Beethoven to create drama.

PART IV - SCULPTING THE IDEA

January 10, 2015

Running Time: 4:02

Episode IV: Sculpting the Idea

Using a melody based on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Foumai demonstrates the surgical process of taking a broad or raw idea and sculpting the material into a complete musical thought. 

PART V - TRANSFORMING THE IDEA

January 11, 2015

Running Time: 2:40

Episode V: Transforming the Idea

Descending scales represent Beethoven's descent into depression and Foumai discusses one of his methods to transform this idea by presenting it in different instruments.

PART VI - UNVEILING DESTINY

January 16, 2015

Running Time: 3:04

Episode VI: Unveiling Destiny

There often is a saying amongst composers that there is point in which a work will write itself. Foumai discusses this idea of an invisible force or destiny that shapes the natural flow and pacing through comparison of early and final drafts of the score. Often, the process of going back to flesh out raw material changes the original blueprint of the work, which then demands a complete rethinking of the structure.

 

PART VII - THE SET-UP

January 17, 2015

Running Time: 1:53

Episode VII: The Set-Up

There are moments in a story, a film, or piece of music that play pivitol roles in the linear timeline. These moments can be surprising or felt with a lead-in or lead-out. This preparation is called the Set-Up and Foumai explains his choice for using one kind of set-up to prepare the ending of his work.

PART VIII - CONSTRUTING THE CLIMAX

January 19, 2015

Running Time: 2:30

Episode VII: Constructing the Climax

Foumai discusses the concept of constructing the climax, a pivotal point in the music that culminates all the music before and sets into motion the music to conclude the work.

PART IX - THE FINALE

January 21, 2015

Running Time: 2:11

Episode 9: The Finale

In this final episode, Foumai discusses his ideas of bringing a work to conclusion. The narrative of Beethoven's deafness and his will to preserve to compose the greatest works known to man becomes the foundation of the work's finale.

CODA - POST-COMPOSITION

January 22, 2015

Running Time: 2:24

Coda: Post-Composition

In this special Coda-extension episode, Foumai briefly touches upon the work that continues after composing. The composer as engraver and publisher is an art in itself and remains a task faced by many young composers today.

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