Engaging with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, “Ode to Joy,” through a Focused Lens: Analyzing with an Official Video Commentary

Byvu lita

Sep 13, 2023

In Focusing workshops, in order to help people understand the “Step of Resonating” in the Six Steps, I have often explained it by having them listen to the first five to six minutes of the fourth movement, “Ode to Joy” of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The music metaphorically conveys what the Focuser is experiencing. It is this music that evokes the process of going from “It doesn’t fit” to “It does fit.”

I found an officially uploaded performance of the 9th Symphony on YouTube, so I will link to it to explain:

As many of you know, in those “a few minutes” at the beginning of the fourth movement, the music proceeds by repeating the pattern of “music played by the whole orchestra” and “response played by the bass strings” several times. I would like to compare this to the suggestion by the listener and the response by the Focuser, or the internal dialog between “I” and “my felt sense”. The “orchestral” music is the symbol that throws itself at the felt sense, and the “low string” melody is the response by the felt sense that rises from the bottom of my stomach.

52:13 At the beginning of the fourth movement, the “orchestra” plays dramatic music like a storm with a series of timpani.

52:25 Then immediately the “low strings” counteract it with the melody (recitative) “Oh friends, not these sounds (O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!)”

52:43 “Not good? No, it’s not, it’s supposed to be good, check it again,” the “orchestra” plays the music of the storm again.

52:53 But still the “low strings” answered, “No, no, no”.

Next, the “orchestra” begins a review of the 9th Symphony so far.

53:05 First, the “orchestra” recreates the beginning of the first movement, which evokes the separation of the sky and the ground from chaos.

53:20 But again, the answer by the “low strings” was categorical: “No, no, no, it doesn’t fit.”

53:47 The “orchestra” then recreates the light music of the second movement.

53:53 The “low strings” responded positively, “Oh, that could be good,” but finally they balked, saying, “Well, but there’s something different about it…”

54:11 Then the “orchestra” recreates the peaceful music of the third movement.

54:24 The response by the “low strings” seemed to be in limbo. It was like, “It sounds good, but it doesn’t sound good…hmmm…” But in the end, it cancels out.

54:48 Finally, the “orchestra” came up with a whole new melody. But since it had been rejected several times before, it gave them the short melody gently, as if waiting for their response.

54:53 Suddenly the low strings responded, “Yes, yes, that’s it, that’s it. That’s right.”

55:00 The “low strings” and the “orchestra” zigzagged and joined together in fine-tuned harmony, and for a while, they continued to enjoy the feeling of being in perfect harmony (resonating).

55:26 Finally, at last, the “low strings (felt sense)” themselves begin to sing this joyful song in a “still small voice”.

56:12 The various instruments begin to respond to the low strings little by little (obbligato). The music swells, squeezes, swells some more, squeezes, and gradually becomes a big swell.

57:44 Finally, “Ode to Joy” is played by the full orchestra.

As mentioned above, Beethoven may have been a 19th-century natural Focuser, using music rather than words.


1) The video above is a performance of “The 9th Symphony” conducted by Riccardo Muti and uploaded to YouTube by the official channel of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

2) The following video explanation of the process of finding a suitable melody after rejecting several melodies is helpful:

Gardiner, J. E. (2020). Symphony No. 9: ‘Up above the stars he must dwell’, Retrieved from the official YouTube channel of Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras.

3) The text above is an English translation of a Japanese article I posted to the Japan Focusing Association mailing list over 20 years ago:

Tanaka, H. (2002). [focusing-net: 3206] A Focuser in the 19th Century Whose Name is Beethoven.

Source: Listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, “Ode to Joy” in a Focusing-Oriented Way: Commentary Using an O|田中秀男 (Hideo TANAKA) (note.com)

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