Beethoven Makes Life Worse

Für Elise ruined Middle School for me.

I was reminded of that fact when Emanuel “Manny” Ax performed the piece as an encore to Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 with the San Diego Symphony at Copley Symphony Hall on January 11, 2020.


I purchased my only watch in 1983. A Casio, with a Velcro strap, which I wore for 2 weeks before neglecting it in a drawer somewhere on Long Island.

The Casio played a Casio-level version of Für Elise as its Casio-quality alarm. I thought it was charming when I heard it in the store!

“Wow, this will show what a modern, hip 8th grader I am!” I thought.

This, by the way, was during the same period I thought Petra should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and The Baby Elephant Walk should be a jazz standard. It was an awkward time for everyone who knew me.

I purchased my wristwatch Sunday afternoon, threw away the conveniently folded instructions in fifteen languages, and left for school the next morning proudly wearing Beethoven’s nightmare.

That Casio was nothing if not punctual. At exactly noon that day the watch unleashed Für Elise during a moment of silent prayer in an auditorium full of 7th to 12th graders!

The problem was “amplified” by the fact that I, as a proud Luddite, neglected to learn how to communicate effectively with the machine on my wrist.

Translation: I repeatedly hit the “Reset” button rather than “STOP”.

So roughly four hundred middle and high school students, earnestly interfacing with The Divine, heard:

E D# E D# E B D C… (Brief pause) 

E D# E D# E B … 

E D# E D# … 

E D# E D# …

E D# E D# … 

E D# E D# … for most of the prayer. 

The prayer ended. Four hundred students and EVERY ONE of our teachers looked directly at me, sweating, gasping, and staring in betrayed bewilderment at the hateful thing on my arm!

It was charming.

Come to think of it, maybe I ditched the watch after 2 DAYS.


So that flashed through my mind when Ax began Für Elise.

Thanks for nothing, Manny.

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