All the Rage

All the Rage was written in 1997 as a kind of plundering of Beethoven’s Rondo Capriccio, Opus 129 (Die Wuth Über den Verlorenen Groschen, or Rage Over A Lost Penny) It’s a piece which I looked up after two infuriating weeks of vainly trying to get my phone line connected. I wondered what would happen if I replaced Beethoven’s material with my own, but left the rest intact–his form, dynamics, tessituras, note densities, etc. So I replaced the first two bars with material that was itself somewhat used (dominant seventh harmonies and syncopations, so beloved by Beethoven, plus figures from Afro- Cuban music and from Jimi Hendrix’s Crosstown Traffic). From the third bar, no more new material was necessary: in the spirit of the original, the opening motives are repeated, developed, transformed, and generally harassed until the piece ends.

The result is a piece that I would never have written. The incessant, unchanging repetition, the preponderance of four-bar phrases, the Beethovenian rhetoric (noticeable especially in the dynamics) are all foreign to my style. But sometimes it’s not a bad idea to take a vacation from yourself.

After finishing my own (per)version of this early Beethoven work (written sometime between 1795 and 1798), I found out that the original is in turn a posthumous version by an anonymous editor of a work left incomplete by Beethoven. The manuscript was auctioned off after Beethoven’s death, and bought by the publisher Diabelli, who invented the present title (replacing Beethoven’s original Alla ingharese. quasi un capriccio). One writer said of it: “Beethoven would never have resorted to the inane accompaniment figures with which the editor filled in a gap. hey are not only un-Beethovenian; they are musically poor. Note the inept dominant seventh . . .” Couldn’t have put it better myself.