Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Beethoven’s Wig, a Singable Picture Book

Posted on: May 5, 2013

Singable Picture Book-wise, it doesn’t get much better than this.  BEETHOVEN’S WIG combines humor, delightful illustration and classical music.  The text is saturated with robust vocabulary.  We are introduced to one of the great characters and composers ever to have lived.  We will all be enriched by spending some time traipsing around Beethoven’s wig…

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beethoven's wig (read along symphony)
Beethoven’s Wig
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven (Symphony No. 5)
Words by Richard Perlmutter
Illustrated by Maria Rosetti

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Video for the song (matches the book exactly)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdRZl9g_5tw

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Beethoven Symphony Number 5 wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._5_(Beethoven)

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Website for the whole Beethoven’s Wig series:
http://www.beethovenswig.com/

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YouTube with full performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z4KK7RWjmk

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Helpful details to know:

  • Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67, was written in 1804–1808

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BEETHOVEN’S WIG
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Music based on Beethoven’s Sympony No. 5

Words by Richard Perlmutter

The words in (italic) are places in the song for the background singers or where the lead singer can pause in the music and take a breath (this song takes a lot of breath!)

Beethoven’s wig is very big
Beethoven’s wig is long and curly and it’s white
Beethoven takes his wig off when he sleeps at night
Because it’s big
It’s very big
Beethoven’s wig is big
It’s really big

Beethoven’s wig is heavy when he takes a walk
His wig is even bigger than the wig of Bach
It is tremendous
It is stupendous
It is gigantic and titanic
Monumental and colossal
And enormous and humongous

(Because it’s big)

It’s really big
It’s very big
It’s mighty big

(Beethoven’s Wig)

It’s oh so wide
You’ll need a guide
To see each side
(It’s really big)
It’s grandiose
Don’t get too close you’ll overdose

(Because it’s big)

Beethoven’s wig is big!

It’s stylish and it’s handsome
It costs a small king’s ransom
Five hundred bucks and then some
But the hair’s so long and flowing
That the wig seems like it’s growing
And it keeps his face from showing
Poor Beethoven’s wig needs mowing

(Beethoven’s wig is big)

Beethoven’s wig is very big
It’s oh so big
It’s filled with goo
It’s such a problem to shampoo

(It’s really very, very big)

Beethoven’s wig is very big
It’s awful big
It’s such a mess
It even has it’s own address

(Beethoven’s wig)

It’s such a mop
He should stop at the barber shop

(It’s way too big)

His mother called
She said he would look better bald

(Because it’s big)

It’s very big
Beethoven’s wig

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THE SONG IS FUNNY BUT THERE WASN’T REALLY A WIG

This song is a terrific opportunity to have some fun with classical music and introduce children to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Though Beethoven was painted with, and is frequently depicted as having, a large mane of wild hair
(As in Karl Stieler’s famous 1820 portrait of Beethoven)…

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler 1820

…and though this song is all about Beethoven’s wig, my research has revealed that Beethoven did not wear a wig (though I heard it mentioned in a documentary that, at the beginning of his career at least, he was provided with one).  The notion of such makes for a funny song, but the kids should know the song’s wig  is for humor (and maybe can be thought of as a tribute to his wild hair, or just as a joke in the picture book) and that the great composer didn’t wear one.

There’s the lyric, “His wig is ever bigger than the wig of Bach,” extra funny because Johann Sebastian Bach (another great German composer who lived 1685-1750), see in this 1746 portrait by Elias Haussmann, really DID wear a wig:
Johann_Sebastian_Bach

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Visuals are always helpful!
So, to help explain to the kids how Beethoven did not actually wear a wig, but Bach did, I put this together (the portraits above plus a short Beethoven bio),

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beethoven wig poster port only
Beethoven’s Wig (Beethoven and Bach) Composers Poster and Beethoven Bio
To view or print this packet, click here:
 beethoven’s wig poster

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1959 Ludwig_van_Beethoven German stamp
1959 German Stamp depicting Liwig van Beethoven

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A little info on Beethoven, gathered mostly from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_van_Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven
1770 -1827
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. He remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works, and songs.

Born in Bonn, Germany, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire, Beethoven displayed his musical talents at an early age. Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and began studying with Haydn, quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. He lived in Vienna until his death. In about 1800 his hearing began to deteriorate, and by the last decade of his life he was almost totally deaf. He gave up conducting and performing in public but continued to compose; many of his most admired works come from this period.

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Addendum 11/1/2013

I enjoyed this documentary about Beethoven,
IN SEARCH OF BEETHOVEN
in search of beethoven

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Web page for the documentary:
http://www.insearchofbeethoven.com/

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Watch IN SEARCH OF BEETHOVEN for free, here:
http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/in_search_of_beethoven

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You can also steam IN SEARCH OF BEETHOVEN on Netflix.com account.

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Addendum 11/2/2013

Not long ago, I went to the Friends of the Library book sale at Arlington County’s Central Library and found a very good copy of BEETHOVEN’S WIG to keep in reserve in case I over-use the one I’ve been singing to the children at local schools and libraries.  At check out, the volunteer took a second look, interested in BEETHOVEN’S WIG.  She said she is a music teacher.  I told her that the book is sung to the beginning of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and how funny it is about the wig.  She sang a few lines of the book, enchanted and tickled as I always am with it.  Then she told me about this wonderful book:

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beethoven's hair
Beethoven’s Hair (An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved)
By Russell Martin

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A documentary film was made, but it’s rather expensive ($295 to purchase, $95 to rent),
http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/bh.html
Sure would be fun to see it…too bad they are making it so “rare.”

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Trailer for the documentary, BEETHOVEN’S HAIR

www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRIzmsw4tA0

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Related Posts

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EDUCATIONAL CONTENT

A list of SPBs with fun and sneakily educational content.  The kids won’t even know they’re learning!
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/singable-picture-books-with-sneaky-educational-content/

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Beethoven’s Wig, Musical Parodies of Symphonies and Piano Classics

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BEETHOVEN’S WIG ADDENDUMS, 11/2/2013
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/beethovens-wig-addendums/

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CLASSICAL MUSIC IN ILLUSTRATED SONG

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-in-illustrated-song/

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