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.
Meanwhile, the Beethoven Center, which owns the largest collection of Beethoven materials outside of Europe, contributed more than 30 artifacts to the exhibit.
These include first-edition scores of Beethoven?s works, maps of Vienna from the composer?s lifetime, an original musical sketch, an engraving of the theater in Vienna where the Ninth Symphony premiered, a pastoral silhouette of Beethoven made by Austrian artist Josefine Allmayer and an original letter signed by Beethoven.
The exhibit and its 100-some artifacts are organized around six themes, from Beethoven?s Greatest Hits to Beethoven?s birthday, as celebrated by Schroeder, the obsessive ?Peanuts? character ever hunched over his toy piano.
Schroeder?s endless fascination with all things Beethoven and Schulz?s corresponding love of classical music are overlapping compulsions that the exhibit explores together.
?Schulz had to feel it first, in order to communicate it,? Meredith said. ?The more you see the strips together, the more you see how much Beethoven meant to him.?
Why was Schulz so drawn to Beethoven?
?I think Charles felt there was something for everyone,? Meredith said. ?And if he was going to pick one (composer) for Schroeder to play, Beethoven was the most logical person.?