Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Lisa Arsenault is an elementary-school teacher in Ajax.
Ten-year-old Christoph’s mother has rented a room to Beethoven, who is
deaf, in increasingly failing health, and in the midst of composing the
Ninth Symphony. The boy finds the strange noises emanating from the
rented room and the lodger’s unorthodox behavior disturbing and
embarrassing. The book is written as a series of letters between
Christoph and his musician uncle. The boy’s initial complaint-ridden
correspondence gradually changes in tone as, with his uncle’s help, he
comes to understand and be stirred to compassion by the great tragedy of
Beethoven’s deafness. The story culminates with Christoph attending
the debut performance of the Ninth Symphony and appreciating the
magnitude of Beethoven’s achievement: “Ode to Joy,” set to music
by a joyless, deaf, ailing musician.
Beethoven Lives Upstairs is the written version of the audiotape/CD of
the same name, which features Beethoven’s music as background
accompaniment to the text, with the Ninth Symphony timed for
Christoph’s attendance at the concert. Together with the tape, this
book would provide invaluable curriculum support for the study of
Beethoven, and would be a good introduction to the study of musicians in
general. On its own it would also be a useful tool for teaching
tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of physical handicaps. The
theme of awakening compassion is woven throughout the text on various
levels, one of which involves the befriending of a homeless animal.