Industrial-Sized Deals TextBTS15 Shop Women's Handbags Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon $5 Albums Fire TV Stick Subscribe & Save Shop Popular Services tmnt tmnt tmnt  Amazon Echo Starting at $99 Kindle Voyage AutoRip in CDs & Vinyl Gear Up for Football Deal of the Day
The First Four Notes and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Qty:1
  • List Price: $26.95
  • Save: $2.99 (11%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Temporarily out of stock.
Order now and we'll deliver when available.
Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item.
Details
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
The First Four Notes: Bee... has been added to your Cart
Used: Very Good | Details
Sold by KYBOOKS
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Eligible for FREE Super Saving Shipping! Fast Amazon shipping plus a hassle free return policy mean your satisfaction is guaranteed! Tracking number provided with every order. Slight wear on edges and covers; otherwise item is in very good condition.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 13, 2012

26 customer reviews

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover, Deckle Edge
"Please retry"
$23.96
$2.52 $0.01

Save up to 40% on professional, scholarly and scientific resources.
Wiley's Summer Savings Event
Save up to 40% on professional, scholarly and scientific resources. Learn more.
$23.96 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination + The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824
Price for both: $36.02

One of these items ships sooner than the other.

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Essay by Author, Matthew Guerrieri

In his bestseller Beethoven: the Man who Freed Music, first published in 1929, the poet and essayist Robert Haven Schauffler polled a parade of opinions of Beethoven’s Fifth from a pool of straw men: “To Brown it may signify a fierce conflict with a sexual obsession. To Jones a desperate campaign against an inferiority complex. To Robinson an old-fashioned pitched battle à la “Paradise Lost,” between the forces of good and evil. To a victim of hysteria it may depict a war between sanity and bedlam. To a neurasthenic a struggle between those two mutually exclusive objectives: ‘To be, or not to be?’ To an evolutionist it may bring up the primordial conflict of fire and water, of man with beast, of civilization with savagery, of land with sea.”

Such mutable celebrity has perpetually surrounded the symphony. Beethoven’s Fifth, the Symphony in C minor, opus 67, might not be the greatest piece of music ever written—even Beethoven himself preferred his Third Symphony, the Eroica—but it must be the greatest “great piece” ever written, a figure on which successive mantles of greatness have, ever more inevitably, fit with tailored precision. And its iconic opening is a large part of that: short enough to remember and portentous enough to be memorable, seeming to unlock the symphony’s meaning but leaving its mysteries temptingly out of reach, saying something but admitting nothing.

The First Four Notes is a book about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. More specifically, it is a book about the opening notes of that symphony; and more specifically than that, it is a book about what people have heard in those notes throughout history, and how history itself has affected what was heard. It is, then, history viewed through the forced perspective of one piece of music (though, to be fair, there is only a handful of pieces of music that could yield a comparable view, and most of them are by Beethoven).

To say a piece of music has meaning is to say that it is susceptible to discussions of meaning; by that standard, Beethoven’s Fifth is easily one of the most meaningful pieces of music ever written. The number and variety of the interpretations assigned to the Fifth, the creativity with which the piece has been invoked in support of countless, often contradictory causes—artistic, philosophical, political—is a tribute to its amorphous power. It is also, on the side of the interpreters, a testament to human creativity, ingenuity—and folly. The vaunted universality of Beethoven’s achievement encompasses the sublime and the ridiculous.

Not that he didn’t try to warn us. In 1855, an unknown writer felt compelled to make a handwritten addition to a copy of Anton Schindler’s biography of Beethoven: “Something about the beginning of the C minor Symph[ony]. Many men were disturbed over the beginning of the Fifth. One of them ask[ed] Beethoven about the reason for the unusual opening and its meaning. Beethoven answered: ‘The beginning sounds and means: You are too dumb.’”

— Matthew Guerrieri (adapted from the prologue to The First Four Notes)

From Booklist

Music critic Guerrieri traces the cultural history of the most famous musical motif, recognized from its rhythm alone—da-da-da-dum (you know the tune). Identified with revolution right out of the gate, partly because “La Marseillaise” opens with the same rhythm, it was made to signify Fate by Beethoven’s German literary contemporaries, to point to the ultimate by both Hegel’s nationalizing epigones and the individualist American Transcendentalists, to be the repository of repressed Victorians’ emotions, and to sound the death knell of the Third Reich (in Morse code, da-da-da-dum denotes V, as in victory). Guerrieri closely inspects those developments, bogging down some in the effusions of the notoriously recondite Hegel, Nietzsche, and Adorno, to be sure, before concluding with “Samples,” on the many uses pop culture has found for da-da-da-dum—the disco hit, “A Fifth of Beethoven,” is not the least consequential, he avers. For readers taught not to pile philosophical and literary baggage on music, the most enjoyable chapter may be the first, which places the motif in strictly music-historical context, but the others definitely have their fascinations. --Ray Olson

See all Editorial Reviews
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307593282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593283
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #723,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By subquark on November 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I grew up hearing Beethoven's Fifth in everything from cartoons, to commercials, to movies and the term iconic is overly used today, however if ever anything is truly iconic - this is. When I heard about this book I saw an opportunity to learn why this movement is so culturally embedded in the West.

I usually read tech manuals (oh fun, lol, is that actually reading?) so I took this as a refreshing change and was pleased at how much I did learn.

What other book would make a connection between Beethoven's Fifth and Beecham's Pills?

It was an informative and entertaining read and now I have a better understanding why this one piece of music is something that so many people have found, and will continue to find, as a part of our day-to-day culture.

Nice read, loads of references, and a sense of wit that I love!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Hardcover
The title of Matthew Guerrieri's The First Four Notes has a rather In The Beginning feel. Undeniably those notes mark a new era, be it the early years of the Romantic period, or of instrumental music, even the beginning of symphonies composed with a metronome. The subject matter - the four-second melody which opens Beethoven's Symphony # 5 in C Minor - seems too long for a blog post, too short for a book, too specialized for a general audience and too well-trodden for the specialists. Fortunately Guerrieri errs to the side of hardcover in spite of that, briefly exploring every divergence available, from Georg W.F. Hegel to Ralph Waldon Emerson and Charles Ives. But while some readers may bask in the measure's aesthetic and philosophical family tree, others may resort to pruning.

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the Fifth during - and indeed, was largely responsible for - a transitional period in music history. Given, the metronome had not been invented yet, but neither had the conductor's baton or, not insignificantly, the electric motor. Critics reviewed symphonies from sheet music and audiences rarely attended concerts by permanent orchestras; instead, the Fifth was normally "interpreted by either amateur or essentially freelance groups." Rumors must have flourished in this environment, and two survive even today: first, that Beethoven composed the Fifth and all of his subsequent work stone-deaf, and second, that the opening measure - and its refrain throughout the seven-minute allegro - represents the knock of fate, or the knock of death, our one shared fate.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By welloff on July 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this because I love Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It's not only giving me an even greater appreciation of the music, but I am learning so much about history, philosophy and music theory.

I am enjoying this book but I'll be the first to admit that it's over my head. It contains a lot of philosophy, and I don't have any background in philosophy. There is also a lot of music theory, of which I have a thimbleful of knowledge. So I am reading it on different levels - as an introduction to some philosophical principles (such as 'amor fati') which I struggle through, rereading multiple passages multiple times; as a trip back into music theory, with passages that I don't necessarily have to reread, but I definitely need to slow down; as a biography and historical account of events, customs and controversies before, during and after Beethoven composed the 5th, in which I become engrossed.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MB932 on May 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wide ranging review of the interpretation of Beethoven's work by diverse philosophical thinkers which come from a surprising range of the political spectrum and covers the whole range of years since the first performance of the work. Very thought stimulating - but some knowledge of philosophy does help.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Reader One on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book, full of both tidbits of musical history (the invention of the metronome) as well as a fabulous and surprising interpretation of the history of listening... I loved it.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By BlOl on April 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
amazing depth and fascinating story ... I have a totally new appreciation for Beethoven and his Fifth! I read this book sitting not far from a music source and found and listened to most music references in the book. I particularly loved his list of eight interesting recordings of the Fifth, especially the ones by Glenn Gould and the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Enjoyed connecting again with "A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy and now can't get it out of my mind lol. A multi-faceted feast. Bravo and lots of praise for a great addition to any library!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Wagner on December 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony -- Da Da Da //Dum// -- are now so ubiquitous, that it seems they have come to define the entire symphony. This delightful book takes a tour through the meanings attributed to this work, and especially those first four notes, since its premiere. Beethoven's Fifth seemed, musically, revolutionary, and was soon conscripted as the theme for both revolutionary and anti-revolutionary forces from post-Napoleanic France to World War II. Strange myths have grown up around its inception, some of which have been remarkably resilient in all manner of literary and musical commentaries. The Fifth has been used in victory campaigns, advertising campaigns, movie themes and cell phone ring tones, and has been used as support for diametrically opposed ideas, frequently at the same time.|| This book ranges widely, across philosophy, history, music theory, literature and art. The author has carefully researched incidences of Beethoven's Fifth, which turn up in several surprising places. After following each rabbit trail to completely unanticipated ends, he deftly wraps back around to the beginning; his fun, finely crafted writing is very enjoyable to read. These simple first four notes have had an incredible influence on human culture for the last two hundred years, and still have relevance today; this history is an entertaining journey showing how and why.
I received a copy from the San Francisco Book Review in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews


What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?