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For example: did you know that lunchtime martinis aren't conducive to productivity? Partly, that's because it's comforting to learn that even Franz Kafka struggled with the demands of his day job, or that Franklin was chronically disorganised. But it's also because of a covert thought that sounds delusionally arrogant if expressed out loud: just maybe, if I took very hot baths like Flaubert , or amphetamines like Auden , I might inch closer to their genius. Several weeks later, I'm no longer taking "air baths", while the lunchtime martini didn't last more than a day I mean, come on.

But I'm still rising early and, when time allows, taking long walks. Two big insights have emerged. When I get straight down to something really important early in the morning, before checking email, before interruptions from others, it beneficially alters the feel of the whole day: once interruptions do arise, they're never quite so problematic. Another technique I couldn't manage without comes from the writer and consultant Tony Schwartz: use a timer to work in minute "sprints", interspersed with signficant breaks.

Thanks to this, I'm far better than I used to be at separating work from faffing around, rather than spending half the day flailing around in a mixture of the two. The one true lesson of the book, says its author, Mason Currey, is that "there's no one way to get things done".

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Or a Friedrich Schiller , who could only write in the presence of the smell of rotting apples. Still, some patterns do emerge. It's not that there aren't successful night owls: Marcel Proust , for one, rose sometime between 3pm and 6pm, immediately smoked opium powders to relieve his asthma, then rang for his coffee and croissant.


The 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards , Currey tells us, went so far as to argue that Jesus had endorsed early rising "by his rising from the grave very early". At one point in his career, the novelist Nicholson Baker took to getting up at 4. Psychologists categorise people by what they call, rather charmingly, "morningness" and "eveningness", but it's not clear that either is objectively superior. There is evidence that morning people are happier and more conscientious, but also that night owls might be more intelligent.

There's no shortage of evidence to suggest that walking — especially walking in natural settings, or just lingering amid greenery, even if you don't actually walk much — is associated with increased productivity and proficiency at creative tasks. It's long been observed that doing almost anything other than sitting at a desk can be the best route to novel insights. But they each did what they did with iron regularity. This kind of existence sounds as if it might require intimidating levels of self-discipline, but on closer inspection it often seems to be a kind of safety net: the alternative to a rigid structure is either no artistic creations, for those with day jobs, or the existential terror of no structure at all.

It was William James , the progenitor of modern psychology, who best articulated the mechanism by which a strict routine might help unleash the imagination. The new Archbishop-Elector's reign was marked by a considerable number of new, lavish buildings, as well as by the fabulous luxury and splendour of his court. Clemens August's extravagance by far surpassed his uncle's, and he spent colossal sums every year on expensive adornments, carriages, rare pieces of furniture, magnificent festivities, excursions, masquerades, operas and ballets, and on the salaries of his singers and dancers, as well as of all the assorted scoundrels and charlatans who converged on his court.

The upkeep of the opera alone cost him up to 50, thaler annually.

Bold Composer

Having reached the age of sixty amidst all this incredible luxury and splendour, Clemens August died during a ball in the Archbishop of Trier's castle at Ehrenbreitstein , where he danced himself to death with his host's beautiful sister and other radiant ladies. This happened on 9 February As a result of the extreme state of disarray of the territory's finances, the new Archbishop-Elector was forced to resort to radical reforms and make huge cuts in spending, so that his court distinguished itself far less for opulence and pomp than those of his two predecessors.

He was nevertheless just as ardent a lover of music as both Clemens August and the latter's uncle. This is strikingly evinced by the way in which the economic reforms introduced during his reign did not at all affect the electoral court orchestra, which continued to draw on the same number of musicians and to offer these just as good conditions as had been the case under the two earlier Electors. In , this orchestra was joined by a new court musician: Ludwig van Beethoven [8] , the grandfather of the great composer whose biography forms the subject of these pages [9]. In the early seventeenth century, there lived in a small Belgian village not far from the city of Leuven Louvain a family by the name of Beethoven.

One member of this family moved to Antwerp in , and his son Wilhelm married, on 11 September , Katharina Grandjean, who would bear him eight children.

Bold composer : a story about Ludwig van Beethoven - Sidney Memorial Public Library

Heinrich Adelard van Beethoven, one of Wilhelm's children, who also spent his life in Antwerp , was married to Maria de Herdt and had twelve children with her, including a son Ludwig, who would later figure in the ranks of the Elector Clemens August's court orchestra. While still a very young man, Ludwig, as a result of a family quarrel, ran away from home and was fated never to set foot in his father's house again. He was a well-mannered young man, with a level of education that was considerably high for those times, and, in particular, he was most knowledgeable in music.

At the age of eighteen he was already in Leuven, where for three months he discharged the duties of the tenor Louis Colf, who had been taken ill. It is not clear whether it was on his own initiative that he subsequently went to Bonn, or whether he was offered an engagement there, but the fact is that we next find him in that city receiving a salary of guldens.

Bold Composer

If Ludwig Beethoven had been reckoning on his gifts being appreciated better in Bonn than in Leuven, then he was certainly not out in his reckoning. The salary cited above was a very large sum of money in those times, and it shows that the young musician's merits must have been considerable. On coming of age Beethoven married the nineteen-year-old Maria Josepha Poll, and as the fruit of their marriage they had two sons and one daughter, of which only the youngest, Johann [10] , survived infancy.

Ludwig's circumstances kept improving little by little, and in he was appointed to the post of music director. This meant that, whilst other members of the court orchestra received the most limited pay, he was actually able to save up a part of his income. In the historical documents on Ludwig that have come to light there is nothing to suggest that he also tried his hand at composing.

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However, in addition to his obligations as music director, he did help to organize popular opera performances and acted as an examiner of those who applied to join the orchestra. Moreover, he also offered his services as a bass, which secured for him the most important roles at the theatre and in church. In vocal terms Ludwig had been so richly endowed by Nature, that even at the age of 58 he managed to astonish listeners with the beauty of his voice and artistry.

Ludwig van Beethoven died in His domestic circumstances do not seem to have been particularly favourable, since his wife, probably out of grief at the death of her children, started to drink heavily and had to be confined in a monastery near Cologne. Their son Johann, after marrying, also moved out of his father's house—a sign that they did not get on well together [11]. At the age of 12 Johann van Beethoven joined the court's choir as a treble.

From the age of 14 he sang alto, and when his voice finally broke he was again engaged for the choir as a tenor. It was only upon reaching the age of 16 that Johann was officially entered into the register of court musicians, thereby becoming entitled to a salary of guldens—a salary which was later to increase gradually. Johann was notable for a very reckless and fickle character, and it is obvious that he was at odds with his father, since he would sometimes disappear from the house for three days in a row. We have already mentioned above how he married against his father's will, and how this led to a certain discord between them which lasted for quite a long time.

Johann chose as his wife a nineteen-year-old widow called Maria Magdalena [12] , the daughter of the chief cook at the court, Kewerich. She had only lived two years with her first husband, Laym, before he died. After her marriage to Johann she gave birth, in , to a son, Ludwig Maria, who lived a mere six days.

On 16 December , she gave birth to a second son, also called Ludwig , who would subsequently illuminate the whole world with the rays of his mighty genius. Ludwig was christened on 17 December, his godparents being the child's grandfather and the wife of a neighbour called Johann Baum. It was in fact at the latter's house that the christening ceremony took place, as there was not sufficient room in Beethoven's own lodgings. As for the year of his birth, Beethoven 's biographers do not all agree on that score.

Many of them, citing the composer's own declaration, maintain that he was born in However, quite apart from the fact that Ludwig 's birth certificate states precisely the year , we also have some evidence which directly refutes the assumption that he was born two years later.

The point is that Beethoven was very fond of his old grandfather, and as a child he would often ask his mother all sorts of questions about him. When he later moved to Vienna , there was only one thing which he took with him from his parental home, and that was his grandfather's portrait, which would continue to gladden him right up to his death. It is doubtful whether Beethoven would have been able to retain even just a vague memory of his grandfather, who died in , if he really had been born only a year before his death. It is very likely that Johann Beethoven, who always sought to turn his son's talent into a source of income for himself, deliberately concealed his real age, so as to display the boy's aptitudes as a virtuoso player and a composer in an even more striking light.

Johann's clever trick would even mislead the composer himself, for he really did claim afterwards that he had been born in After his father's death, Johann Beethoven found himself in rather straitened circumstances, since his very limited salary was insufficient to satisfy all his wasteful habits, especially the taste for liquor that he had inherited from his mother [13].

Beethoven 's father soon noticed the boy's remarkable musical abilities, and, foreseeing the opportunity eventually to derive from them a significant proportion of his income, started giving Ludwig violin and piano lessons from a very early age, whereby he completely neglected his son's general education. Johann treated him with a severity which was often indistinguishable from cruelty and rudeness. The boy was strictly punished for the slightest sign of insufficient diligence, and several eyewitness accounts have come down to us which record how little Ludwig was often to be seen standing on the bench in front of the piano, crying bitterly.

The story about the spider which supposedly descended onto Beethoven 's violin while he was practicing on this instrument is quite uncorroborated. Beethoven himself in later years said that he did not remember anything of the sort, and he would frequently add that his proficiency on the violin at the time was such as to scare not only people out of the house, but also flies and spiders. We have already mentioned above how Beethoven 's father, who drilled the boy so strictly with his musical exercises, did not pay any thought whatsoever to his general schooling, and the result of this were the lamentable gaps in Beethoven 's knowledge, which would later manifest themselves so sharply, and which he would always be painfully conscious of.

It was only at the age of 13 that Beethoven started going to a town-school, where he somehow learnt to read and write and picked up the four rules of arithmetic, as well as a bit of Latin on the way. However, even these light scholarly exercises were relegated to the background by his father, who was impatient for his son to become a means towards his own enrichment. Little Ludwig was shy, sullen, and taciturn. He liked to indulge in day-dreaming and vague contemplation. Nobody ever saw him caper about, get up to any pranks, play with boys of his age, climb up hills with them or swim in the river.

Music was Ludwig 's sole pursuit from early morning till midnight. It is not surprising that Beethoven never subsequently developed the ability to articulate his emotions in plain language and with ease. On the other hand, he became accustomed from a very early age to express through music everything that had accumulated in his heart. In this way, spurred on by his own genius, by his father's strictness and his mother's gentle caresses, the child began to develop his musical gifts with astonishing speed, so that when he was 9 it was already clear that he needed a more knowledgeable teacher than his father.

Ludwig van Beethoven - Pianist & Composer - Mini Bio - BIO

Such a teacher appeared to have been found in the person of a certain Friedrich Pfeiffer, a good musician and a remarkable piano virtuoso, but an appalling pedagogue, so it seems. Frequently, returning with Beethoven 's father from some inn, he would walk into his friend's house, wake up the frightened boy, sit him by the piano, and keep him there until daybreak.

Fortunately, this original method of instruction only lasted for one year. The old organist van den Eeden, who had served more than fifty years at the Elector's court and had in fact come to the latter even before Beethoven 's grandfather, undertook to teach him to play the organ.

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As for his virtuosity on the piano, it is very likely that he attained a considerable technical perfection, since there is concrete evidence that in — his father took him to Holland, where little Beethoven , perhaps also due to the fact that Johann had deliberately struck a few years off his age, awakened everyone's astonishment. After van den Eeden, little Beethoven came under the supervision of Christian Gottlob Neefe [14] , whom the Elector himself had engaged to be Ludwig 's teacher—a favour which the Elector had granted to satisfy the pressing requests of the boy's father, who now needed more than ever to convert his son's talent into a source of revenue, since the number of mouths to feed in his family was rapidly increasing.

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Johann considered that if his son were eventually to be appointed organist, that would be the solution to all his problems which he so coveted. Now the post of court organist was held at the time by Neefe, but his complicated obligations made it necessary for him to have an assistant, and the young Beethoven had every reason to expect to be offered this assistantship, especially since Neefe was not only an excellent teacher to him, but also an affectionate and gentle friend, who right up to his death remained on friendly terms with the composer.

Neefe's need for an able assistant was growing all the time, and very often he had to call on the help of his pupil, in whose abilities and competence he knew he could place full confidence.