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April 27, 2005

To Revel in the Transition

It probably isn't but so much of an exaggeration to say that just about everybody in the world with at least a cursory familiarity with Western society would recognize the main motif of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, first movement. But the first movement isn't the best part of the symphony. The transition from the third to the fourth is.

The significance of this disconnect — that the most famous riff in the history of Western music misses (arguably) one of the most compelling musical moments in history by a shy two movements — sends the author's inner metaphorist scurrying among the synapses chasing loose thoughts. Not the least, it must be noted that the symphony, being of the cyclic variety, is a dramatic unity. In music history class, the professor suggested that the theme is the struggle between the major and minor keys — which applies neatly to any light/dark or good/evil plot. The abrupt knock on the door at the very beginning (ba ba ba bum) announces that a struggle exists, and we humans are infatuated with its existence. Moreover, the buildup, transition, and climax require the annunciation.

Bringing me to the minutia of my day — which I have off while hovering between two companies. I could have leapt from one job to the next, I'm sure, but I've been standing under a teetering pile of unaccomplished tasks and wanted to plane it down. Somewhere between dealing with an abrasive mechanic reinspecting my car (who may have been bitter that the $600+ for required repairs went elsewhere) and calling to confirm the reissuance of one of my credit cards because the number may have been "compromised," I recognized the exact bar of Beethoven's score through which my life is currently passing.

After four months in the minor key of semi-employment (punctuated by major key accomplishments with the writing) and two months of overwork with underpay (and literary connections fading), the first hints of a melody in major are audible above the grumble. My new schedule should open enough space in which to maneuver in my juggling, and my new salary should push me just past the necessity of deciding which bill(s) not to pay in a given month. The second week of May will bring my first biweekly column for, and the third week of May will bring me to thirty years of age — a bona fide adult, beginning my decade of establishment... I can hope.

Beethoven's Fifth is in C-minor, the home chord of which is a minor third (C to Eb) beneath a major third (Eb to G). The famous four notes that have become a cultural representation of the knock of doom — or at least of fate — are actually the major side of the chord (G, G, G, Eb). These past few weeks, especially, I haven't felt like myself — out of key. But the past isn't the concern, and it is worth pausing, on days such as today, to revel in the transition, realizing what family and faith ought to have kept always beyond doubt: that major and minor are a unity, tempering glee with beauty and morosity with hope.

Posted by Justin Katz at April 27, 2005 5:35 PM
Diary & Confession


With your considerable talents and abilities, you are obviously paying a steep price to be near family. If you lived in Oklahoma, I have no doubt that scads of people would be eagerly willing to pay you handsomely for those talents and you wouldn't have to feel the pressures of semi-employment, high cost of living, etc. However, I understand that roots and family proximity are important to a lot of people. So, all I can do is empathasize with you and pray for the easing of financial pressures.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at April 27, 2005 6:40 PM

Thank you, Joel. Very much.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 27, 2005 6:56 PM