It is 1818, and Ludwig van Beethoven warmly welcomes an Englishman who is delivering a gift to his flat – a sturdy Broadwood piano from London. They drink, and Ludwig enters into a “raptus” (the rambling trance-like state he is susceptible to whenever he’s in the midst of Creation). He shares with his guest some of his new sonata, the Hammerklavier, which he promises will be the greatest sonata he ever writes.
The audio drama has five episodes. Episodes 1 and 2 follow the first movement, the Allegro -- formally classical, ambitious, and full of vigor, matching Ludwig’s “Early Period”, his childhood and early adulthood in Bonn, as he strove to attain Mozart’s greatness. Bits of Bach and Mozart are played, along with his earliest successes, such as the Pathétique.
Episode 3 follows movement two, the Scherzo; fast, healthy, and light -- as Ludwig was in his earliest days in Vienna. He rejoices in nature (his temple) by playing some of his Pastoral sonata. But this movement also hints at coming war and tribulation, with its Eroica theme variation. Remembering Napoleon, Beethoven plays some of his Les Adieux and Tempest for the English visitor.
With episode 4 / movement three (the famed Adagio), the structure of the audio drama and sonata both evolve out of classical form and into Beethoven’s “Middle Period”, into modernity, as Ludwig suffers unrequited love, illness, deafness, family strife, and financial hardship, leading finally to a deep and artistically fruitless depression, punctuated by Waldstein and Appassionata sonata themes.
Episode 5 / movement four, Beethoven finally breaks this raptus and returns us to the "present". Ludwig and the audio drama work within an ambitious and experimental form -- a new type of Fugue -- for this final movement. He will challenge himself as he never has before, and throw down a gauntlet to any performer who dares to play it, or any audience who wants to hear it. He revels in its ridiculous complexity -- for as his mother taught him, "what is difficult, is good."
The Boondogglers are “agit-info” performers from the Seattle area. Freaking out audiences since their Seattle Fringe Festival days in the ‘90s, they return from hiatus to keep confusing, educating, and utterly entertaining audiences. James Jordan wrote five plays with The Boondogglers, including eMpTy V, a Seattle New City Playwrights Festival Finalist, and CJD: USA, spotlighted by The New York Times during UTC’s NeuroFEST.
Ludwig and the Hammerklavier was originally produced as a stage play at the Vancouver Fringe Festival in 2019.
"Whackjob: the Cog-Sci Spectator Study", an agit-prop play about pharmaceutical multinationals, psychopathy, unethical human clinical trials, and cognitive science, performed at Vancouver Fringe Festival in Vancouver, BC, and West of Lenin Theater in Seattle, WA, 2014.Drama in the Hood review
"C.J.D., U.S.A.", a play about C.J.D. and 9-11, where America's short-term memory loss becomes America's "rapidly progressive dementia", for Untitled Theater Company #61’s “NEUROFest”, New York City, 2006.http://www.untitledtheater.com/plays/CJD.html
New York Times review
The Scientist review