Beethoven's Second: Exclusive Preview of "Trillium #2"

It's hard to read Trillium, to read Jeff Lemire and not think of dangers Beethoven faced during his early life, when those dangers may stolen him away, long before anyone ever knew to speak his name.


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Could Beethoven, even in his deafness, have retained the memory of perfect pitch? Could his music be nothing more than the rigorous working out of an abstract calculus? A working out on a scale of genius far beyond any of us?

And therein lies the secret joy of Beethoven. Not a single phrase of his music is beyond any of us; every note he ever penned, is for all of us. Every note easily accessible, every phrase the sublime made handheld and portable and subject to the forces of social media, centuries before social media even existed.

The secret joy of Beethoven? It's the victory of a tyrannical father-figure who could see no better us for genius than to establish itself and barter itself for needful things. It's no secret that Beethoven Senior beat his son and at court pretended that his son was younger than he actually was. Beethoven Senior would see his son rival Mozart, but time was already against him.

It's in this horrible, Oedipal environment that Beethoven himself makes an unlikely stand, allowing his music to speak for himself, refusing his music to be hijacked by the kind of people who praise technical proficiency over accessibility. The kind of people, who speak down to their audience. Beethoven instead finds a place beyond technical proficiency, beyond even virtuosity, to come to rest in a shared notion of the popular. A music everyone can understand. A music that needs no explanation, no formal education. A music that simply moves you. Whoever you are.

How does any of this relate to Jeff Lemire and to Trillium?

In the most obvious of ways. If you've read the first issue of Trillium you would have, like I have, and like everyone you respect has, been in awe of the sheer virtuosity of the flipbook format. Although the format itself now seems decades old, a rightfully-so discarded novelty from a bygone era, Lemire leveraged the format in a radically new way--to tell the story of two characters whose independent stories converge in a single one.

But such technical proficiency, regardless of the virtuosity that drives it, can easily become the most insidious kind of trap--performance for mere performance sake. Genius bartered for worldly things, art that speaks down to its audience. But Lemire elegantly steps out from under that spell. Just like the second Renaissance signaled by Beethoven's music, Lemire is able to outwit stylistic virtuosity and return to a focused narrative that is accessible to all. As Trent Reznor reminded us, the way out, is through.

Enjoy our exclusive preview of Trillium #2.


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