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Exhibit explores connection between Beethoven and Peanuts

The late ?Peanuts? creator Charles Schulz had a long love affair with Beethoven. In fact, he listened to his music so much while he worked ? from early piano sonatas to the late string quartets ? that his albums became scratched and worn over time.

Those pitted records are just a few of the unusual artifacts displayed in the exhibit, ?Schulz?s Beethoven: Schroeder?s Muse,? opening Saturday at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa in collaboration with the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University.

The exhibit attempts to show a clear connection between the musical scores Schulz incorporated into some of his ?Peanuts? comic strips featuring Schroeder and the meaning of the cartoon itself.

?We?re trying to argue that the choice of music was intentional,? said William Meredith, director of the Beethoven Center, who co-curated the exhibit with Jane O?Cain of the Schulz Museum. ?If you don?t read music, then you lose a lot of meaning of the strip.?

For the exhibit, O?Cain and Meredith went through about 300 of Schulz?s cartoons that feature the budding young pianist and his muse, Beethoven, and distilled them down to 55. Then they paired the cartoons with an audio track of the works featured in each strip.

?Musicians talk about the fact that they can play the music from the strip,? O?Cain said. ?Now the general public can hear the music from the strip as well.?

There will be about a dozen audio snippets related to specific strips plus entire movements of a few featured works at the end of the taped tour.

The use of sound, through audio wands that visitors hold up to their ears, is a first for the Schulz Museum, which opened six years ago this month.

Along with the musical excerpts, the audio portion of the program includes an introduction by Schulz?s widow, Jeannie Schulz, as well as anecdotes from former Santa Rosa Symphony conductor and pianist Corrick Brown and Schulz?s former secretary Sue Broadwell.

?She talks about how he opened her mind to classical music and encouraged her to take a music appreciation course,? O?Cain said.

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