Smells Like Fifth Symphony: A Dissertation On The Works Of Cobain And Beethoven

Musical legends Kurt Cobain and Ludwig Van Beethoven may have lived in different timelines, played different kinds of music and had different musical influences but their passion and the workmanship that they have rendered to perfect their craft is so commendable that their masterpieces are still considered as one of the pillars of the music industry of today. Kurt Cobain as Kurt Donald Cobain was born on February 20, 1967. On the other hand, Ludwig Van Beethoven was born on December 16, 1770.

Both of them had families that had musical backgrounds, Cobain’s maternal uncle Chuck Fradenburg starred in a band called “The Beachcombers” while his Aunt Mari Earle played guitar and performed in bands throughout Grays Harbor County, and his great-uncle Delbert had a career as an Irish tenor; making an appearance in the 1930 film King of Jazz . On the other hand, Beethoven was a grandson of a musician named Lodewijk van Beethoven where he was named after as Lodewijk which was the Dutch cognate of Ludwig.

His grandfather was employed as a bass singer at the court of the Elector of Cologne, rising to become Kapellmeister (music director). Moreover, his grandfather had one son, Johann van Beethoven who worked as a tenor in the same musical establishment, was also giving lessons on piano and violin for additional income . With those musical genes encrypted in their DNA, it was no wonder that both of them made a mark in the music industry with their compositions. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Kurt Cobain’s Smells like Teen Spirit both catapulted them to superstar’s status and fame to say the least.

Even though the compositions of the two musical geniuses were 183 years apart, Smells like Teen Spirit was released on 1991 while Fifth Symphony was released on 1808, both had changed the way the music should be played in their various eras. The song “Smells like Teen Spirit” talked about teenage angst and not following the guidelines that the adults expect the teenagers to be. It was sort of a revolutionary anthem among teenagers at that time . On the contrary, experts believed that Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” was about fate knocking at the door or at the gate .

Among the other differences of the two pieces was the key of the song, Teen Spirit was written in the key of F minor while Fifth Symphony was written in C minor. Furthermore, instrumentation was one of the major differences among the two pieces; Fifth Symphony used flutes, clarinets, horns among others while Teen Spirit used heavy guitar distortions and drums. However, tempo was one of the resemblances of the two compositions. They both had transition between slow notes and faster notes and vice versa. Furthermore, they also had distinctive notes played mostly throughout the song.

One thing that could really connect the two musical geniuses was that Cobain loved to focus on the melodies of the songs and not the lyrics. Cobain said, why in the hell do journalists insist on coming up with a second-rate Freudian evaluation of my lyrics, when 90 percent of the time they’ve transcribed them incorrectly? With that kind of mentality, given the chance, Cobain’s musical idea could have worked well with the idea of Beethoven. It would like the mash-up between the classical music and rock music. For sure, the music industry would never be the same again.

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