Monday, April 02, 2007

Symphonic Knitting

I know it's a cliche to say that something is a "symphony of colors," and even though I want to say that, I don't mean it in that cliched way.

Let's talk Beethoven. He wrote beautiful and interesting music, and he liked to play head games with people. Not only is there a great deal of humor in his music, but there's the occasional whiplash moment, as well as at least one instance of brilliant teasing. (I'm sure there are more, but I am alas not a Beethoven scholar.) I can imagine him snickering to himself as he composed, imagining how audiences would react, and in some cases squirm uncomfortably in their seats. You know that college admissions essay topic, about having lunch with a famous person from history? Sneaky, wry old Beethoven would be near the top of my list. I'd love to pick his brain a bit.

I bring this up because I thought of him while knitting my Autumn Color Cardigan hem. In particular, I thought of the beginning of the last movement of his first symphony. It teases you with a scale that builds... and builds... and builds... but just takes way too long to complete itself. If you're paying attention, it feels like an itch you can't scratch, or like when someone says the first half of a favorite quote, and then leaves off the rest. You just want him to get to the point, already, and finish the damn scale. It's beautifully torturesome -- a drawn out diatonic agony, forcing you to hold your breath until it reaches its climax, and the movement gets moving.

This is exactly what knitting this hem felt like. I loved it, but it was also somewhat torturesome. Similar to the irritation of hearing just a few notes of a musical scale, at first I was only seeing a few colors of the spectrum. I knew that something approximating a rainbow was going to result, but as each row took about as long to knit as the entirety of Beethoven's first symphony takes to play, this rainbow was slow in coming. With each color change, I anticipated the next one, to draw me closer to the chromatic conclusion. And it felt so good when I finally got there:

Autumn Color Cardigan hem

(In other words, pumpkin yellow and forest green look like arse together. But you just know that when the rest of the colors come into play, there will be metaphorical harmony. And it will be good.)

Wondering what that section of Beethoven's first symphony sounds like? I'm sure you are just on the edge of your seat. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I can deliver. Click here for a video of that movement. Yes, do it. NOW. I command you. You only have to listen to about 42 seconds to hear the entirety of what I was describing above. (Or, if you can get your hands on a recording, listen to that. The sound quality in the video isn't spectacular.)

Now I want to design garments based on composers. Or famous works. Or sections of famous works. That could be a fun concept for a book, and might only take me 2 or 3 decades to complete...

For those of you wondering, yes, I am using the same colors of yarn as in the book. There is no way that I'm prepared to re-design a colorway this complicated on my own. I consider this project a learning experience in many ways, and one of those ways is a lesson in color theory. I already know that I'm going to learn a lot.



Blogger Sabrina Hirsch said...

I believe that is the most beautiful hem I have ever seen! Wow!

4/02/2007 5:27 PM  
Blogger Marina said...

That was so well-written. Love how you compared it to Beethoven's symphony! And your corrugated ribbing is brilliant.

I'm too old (and lazy) to start learning something new but having knit quite a few, as per Her instructions, I feel I can tackle a couple that were done in discontinued Rowan yarns.

4/02/2007 5:34 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

I love your comparison. Beethoven was quite the trickster. He's so clever--the piano sonatas are full of things exactly like that.

I might have compared that hem to the opening of the Waldstein sonata - sits on a C major chord for a while, but you know something good has got to come eventually.

4/02/2007 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude. that looks awesome.

4/02/2007 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*insert standing ovation here*

4/03/2007 12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic analogy! I'd buy that book. :)

4/03/2007 3:09 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

Nice post. As I was reading it and then saw the colorwork, the colorwork started to remind me of those bars on the stereo system that move up and down as the song moves.

4/03/2007 11:24 PM  

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