Writing Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus blindfolded

The story of Woodwind was born in Vienna ten years ago. I had moved back to Austria to complete the research, after a rather curious incident occurred while initially beginning (what was then a different) screenplay in South Africa.

I was writing an original fiction but through the process of discovering the direction, I closed my eyes while listening to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica.

When I had visited the grave of Beethoven in Zentralfriedhof months earlier, there was a deafening thunder that led me to hide under a tree nearby. Back then I didn’t know that the rain pours down in Vienna as if a man was standing on the clouds with a giant bucket and clapperboard. It was like the opening of the Fifth Symphony, but I began with Beethoven’s Third because of the ballet score.

As I began writing I didn’t want to mention Beethoven or his music. You see, my story was about a ballerina, so the sound was like a spirit behind the pages and I assumed that the reader couldn’t hear music by simply reading words in a book. Then when I began to research the Third Symphony, I had learnt Beethoven had composed a ballet, which was lost. He used fragments of the lost ballet like a ghost in Eroica. Fascinated, I searched for existing information about this ballet.

The music library in South Africa couldn’t help me. All they knew was that his early composition was called The Creatures of Prometheus. I was looking for details of the ballet story or choreography. Finally in Vienna at the Burgtheater, they preserved just an outline of the ballet and to my astonishment it was the same as the scenario I had written while listening to the remaining fragments of music. Then it wasn’t about finding Beethoven’s lost ballet anymore. Those years in my 20s, the skeptic in me was searching to disprove the significance of what we might a call, a coincidence.

After reading about the mythology of Pygmalion, Orpheus and Prometheus in Vienna, I reasoned that these themes registered into my mind earlier in my life on a subconscious level. From the original myth you get a world of artists creating their own versions. So, over the centuries the number of references multiplied and spread out like a never ending spider web. A world wide web. Even in our lifetime there are artists creating counterfeits out of counterfeits out of counterfeits until these mirror images recur like an endless hall of mirrors. I’ve seen parts of these stories in children’s cartoons, television series, films, scriptures and a library of fiction and non-fiction books. All these elements connected to me personally. They may be made up of thousands of little experiences throughout my life, all adding up to the original mythology. So, wasn’t Beethoven just one piece in this string, extending all the way from Prometheus and pulling me to Vienna?

On the other hand the romantic realist inside me wondered if a composer is able to transmit literal story details from one person to another through the sound of his music alone? Remember Beethoven himself said, “It is the power of music to carry one directly into the mental state of the composer. The listener has no choice. It is like hypnotism.”

I could have written about any other segment of these mythologies but how else could the exact same scenario from the Creatures of Prometheus follow through into my story? The skeptic spoke louder in my mind when I took into account that all these ideas have been used before. Writer creators worldwide were like a collective consciousness, feeding from the constant pumping of ideas through media. They can be born in different shapes and sizes but inevitably all these puzzle pieces fit together to reveal the same full picture.

Finally, I stopped searching. I realized that in order to know the truth, you don’t need to search, you should know, by feeling. How could I suddenly be able to feel what I previously couldn’t? Well, something altogether stranger occurred, stranger than Beethoven, so much so that the significance of the Creatures of Prometheus had diminished in comparison. The resultant, mysterious stronger force pulling forward is where the story of Woodwind was born. For Woodwind is a story of coincidences too, and how we read these signs to shape our journeys in life.

The story of a contemporary mythology. After the experience of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, I wanted my own character, Bonifaz to be his own myth, and so in Woodwind there’s not even a single mention of the event of The Creatures of Prometheus or Beethoven. This decision was in line with the music of Woodwind, a stance where we had moved on from the pioneers of Western Classical Music, and turned full circle to the power of sound that inspired all music.

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