The Most Important Note in Music

The most important note in all of music is in Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th symphony, in the fourth movement – the Ode to Joy.

You’ve all heard this melody.  In case you need a refresher, it runs from 7:21 to 7:50 in this clip:

And from 0:24 to 0:52.  And 1:08 to 1:37.  And 1:52 to 2:22.  And 2:37 to 3:03…

(This isn’t even the entirety of the fourth movement, let alone the whole symphony.  The fourth movement alone is usually about 25 minutes long.  And it’s glorious.)

The melody’s divided up into four phrases, and they’re mostly plodding sequences of quarter notes:

One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One…. and-three.

One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One…. and-three.

One two three four / One two-and three four / One two-and three four / One two three.

One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One… and-three.

Except… that’s not it.  That’s what you expect it to be, if you’ve absorbed the piece by osmosis but never really sat down to listen to it.  But it’s not.

Take another listen.  Listen carefully to the end of that third phrase – the line that ends with just “One two three” –  and the beginning of the fourth.  Right at 7:43:

The initial “one” in the fourth line isn’t there, is it?  It’s back in the previous line.

Let me lay it out:
One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One…. and-three.
One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One…. and-three.
One two three four / One two-and three four / One two-and three four / One two three FOUR.
… Two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One… and-three.
That note – what should be the first note of the fourth line, to bookend the stanza – comes in early.  A full beat early.  It ends up back in the previous line.
It’s too eager.
It can’t wait.
It refuses to wait.
That is the most important note in all of music.
It’s an ode to joy, people.  Who wants to wait for joy?