Pathetic. That was what Beethoven’s publisher called the Sonata No. 8. The title stuck: “Sonata Pathétique.”
You may think that Beethoven’s publisher was insulting Beethoven. But read on...
There are two distinct meanings of this word: “Pathetic,” meaning pitiful and worthless; and “Pathétique” -- meaning deeply meaningful and with feeling. I think you’ll agree, upon hearing Beethoven’s masterpiece, that his publisher was referring to the second. (Hear the sonata’s Adagio Cantabile here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuN3yCmHb_U -- then comment on where you can hear it in our arrangement.)
Pathetic and Pathétique.
This is, perhaps, exactly the same distinction Lauren Daigle (who we LOVE) sings about in her masterful tune, “You Say.”
The world may say we’re pathetic, pitiful and worthless. Or worse, we may even say this about ourselves.But there is another voice that says we’re Pathétique -- deeply meaningful and worth every feeling.
Whose voice is that? It could be a mentor, a trusted friend, a family member. It could be the RIGHT voice in your head that doesn’t get enough air time. It could be a God that loves you with deep meaning and feeling -- with an endless and infinite love that is powerful and never pathetic -- an encircling love that doesn’t pull away, but holds us closer when we make a mistake or fall short.
Here’s what Lauren had to SAY:
“When I wrote You Say...I felt like so many things were pulling me in so many different directions. I think a lot of times we build these complexes based on insecurity, based on fear, based on rejection, and lies that we have to constantly overcome. And so this song for me was just a reminder of identity. It was a reminder that I know when I’m weak, He’s strong—so how do I change that and bring that into my everyday life? When I feel inadequate how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supersedes my inadequacies. This entire song was so every single day I would get up on stage and remind myself—no, this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth. Don’t get buried in confusion. Don’t get buried in waywardness. Just remember to steady the course, steady the course.”
Now here’s what Beethoven had to SAY:
“O, you men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me. You do not know the secret cause which makes me seem that way to you, and I would have ended my life - it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me.”
We think these songs were meant to be together. And perhaps there’s something to this, because only after we paired them, we discovered that Beethoven was 27 years old when he composed the Pathétique. Guess how old Ms. Daigle was when she wrote “You Say?”
You guessed it. 27.
As you listen to this, we hope it helps you silence the “pathetic” naysayer in you and embrace the “Pathétique” yeasayer that has always been with you. The one that wants you to not leave this world until you have brought forth all that is within you.
MORE of the story:
We’re often asked “How did you get the piano up there?” -- this video was another page in the book of crazy piano escapades.
One of these days I wish someone would ask “How did you get the cello up there?” I carried it. Myself. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Here’s something you may not have noticed (but wished you would have?) -- we featured more grand pianos in this video than any other we’ve filmed before. And we had 24 hours to set them all up, film them and take them down. That was fun. You should totally try it sometime. Kidding. Don’t try this at home. Or at your nearest construction site either. We used a giant crane to lift one of them onto the top of the half-built building that. Jon and I (Steven Sharp Nelson here) climbed up several sets of rickety ladders to get there ourselves. It’s a good thing I’m not afraid of heights! Jon always says he’s afraid of widths. (I don’t get it either). As for the red rock canyon shot, this was the best story of all. No crane, helicopter or vehicle could traverse that terrain. So we used good ol’ fashioned MANpower. (All of the Piano Girls said they were busy that night). Five guys (or was it 20?) carried the grand piano up each step of the natural rock staircase that you can see in the video. It took a lot longer than we thought, and by the time we got to the right place we were running out of sunlight. We rushed to set up the piano. As we did, we noticed something was missing. Something important. Something mission critical. We forgot the bolts. The BOLTS! The ones that fasten the legs to the piano. The ones that make the piano stand up so it’s not a big hockey puck with keys? Ya, those bolts. We were in the middle of nowhere and “Uberbolts” isn’t a service yet invented. (There’s an opportunity there...) So we did what any forgetful man who messed up big time would do. We faked it. We said as sincere a prayer as we could muster, then we laid that piano on its legs, balancing it ever so carefully and left it all up to gravity. As you can imagine, Jon was a little nervous to touch the keys, let alone put his legs under it. Pianos don’t weigh that much. Only around a half-a-ton, really. So this is the first video in which Jon had to play “air piano” … on the piano. Or above it. I think you get the picture. That’s why that location didn’t have any closeups! My favorite moment was when, in the middle of one of the drone shots, my cello endpin (the spiked metal rod that holds up the cello) slipped on the rock and made a scraping sound. Jon totally FREAKED OUT, thinking the piano was falling! I felt bad. But I was able to laugh it off... :-)
OK. Pushing pause on the goofball for just one sec. On a more serious, personal note, I had a very emotional experience atop the half-built building. It was so beautiful. It was almost as if its raw, but uniquely majestic sunset lit perspective, disallowed worried and overanxious thoughts. As we were playing the song over and over again while Paul and Shaye learned to drive the drone, (sorry, couldn’t resist that one), I thought about the meaning of this song. I thought about where I was in my life emotionally. I expect a lot from myself. I always have. Often I expect too much. I admit it. And when I don’t reach the zenith of those expectations I can be pretty hard on myself. If ever there was incarceration for self-abuse perpetrators, I’d be prisoner of the month. As I was thinking about how much I still need to build in my life, a very strong impression came to me. Has that ever happened to you? When you feel an impulse that prompts thoughts that don’t feel like “normal thoughts.” They feel weightier, with more perspective or profundity than the average passing notion -- the same way a good bridge in a song throws you from a repetitive verse and chorus regimen. These are thoughts that teach you rather than learn from you.
I had such a moment. They don’t come that often, but when they do I try my best to listen and learn. The impressions persuaded me to look at my life from the top of a half-built building. Figuratively and literally. I began to think that maybe I spend too much of my life in the bottom floors of my life’s half-built building -- that I fuss over the mess of my construction site, I fret over the lack of finishes -- the ugly marred subflooring or the exposed metal framing. I berate myself for being way behind in the building process. I need to ascend more often to the top floor. Where there’s a view of how far I’ve come, how high part of my building has reached. And most importantly, where there’s an incredible view of the sunset, reminding me that tomorrow is another day and that I should keep building one day at a time. I totally embarrassed myself as I shed tears, trying to describe these “elevated thoughts” to one of the site’s supervisors after we had finished filming as I thanked him for the opportunity they had given us to give visual meaning to the music.
So I guess, for me, and perhaps for anyone listening, that’s the takeaway. You don’t have to live your life on floor one. Or floor two. Or three of four. Or on any floor that isn’t yet completed. It will get there one day. And so will you. Don’t worry that the building next door is at floor 10. Just take a trip to the top however often you need and watch the sun set on all that you’ve strived to accomplish. Remember that there is Someone who built that sunset for you. And He doesn’t care how high your building is, just that you’re willing to keep building. And He says you’re plenty high enough for Him to see.
You Say written by Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury and Jason Ingram
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, commonly known as Sonata Pathétique, written by Ludwig Van Beethoven
The Piano Guys Arrangement of both tunes together written by Al van der Beek & Steven Sharp Nelson
Recorded, Mixed and mastered by Al van der Beek at TPG Studios in Utah
Jon Schmidt: Piano
Al van der Beek: Vocal textures, percussion
Steven Sharp Nelson: Acoustic & electric cellos, piano