33 Variations of a Theme

Have you ever gone to an event that took your breath away? And you couldn’t get it out of your mind for days? That is how I felt after seeing the play 33 Variations of a Theme at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea MI a few weeks ago. I’m still thinking about it.  Why?

The story is about a woman who is a music PhD of something. She is on a mission to understand why Beethoven spent so much time writing 33 variations of a simple waltz written by a publisher that was to be a contest for the musicians in his day.  What was intended to be a month-long project became an obsession that lasted several years. The musician wanted to understand why. The thought of the day was that he hated the publisher's theme and had to show it for the crap that it was, but as she studied every document she could find, including volumes of Beethoven’s musical iterations, she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t an ego thing at all for the maestro. It was as if the theme itself said, "I have enough raw inspiration here for you to create 33 variations of me, each of which will be glorious!" Beethoven was driven to write the music until the music itself said it was finished.

There are a few things that have me captivated. Today’s conversation will start with the way Beethoven couldn’t stop writing the variations. It wasn’t a decision he consciously made. They had to be expressed, and they weren’t done until they were done. It was about what he was feeling at a soul level. I think of each person I have had the privilege of working with, and how my favorite clients have that internal knowing that demands their “music” is expressed through the work they do, or the life they live. That kind of passion is a gift. I get that, because of their burning desire, I get to do what I have to do. How cool is that?