"The old record drops to the turntable and begins to turn. The tone arm lifts, moves sideways with disinterested mechanical grace, hovers for a moment over the edge of the record, then descends. The speakers crackle loudly and I realize the record is more badly scratched than I'd remembered. A single muted violin begins the quartet. The tone seems distorted. Maybe something's wrong with the needle. The second violin joins in, the viola and cello.

"And once again the miracle happens. The flaws are forgotten. Ludwig van Beethoven is here in the room. He is addressing himself to me alone. I know him. Across more than 200 years, transmitted by lines and dots on paper, put into sound by four men playing wooden instruments in Boston, translated into electronic impulses and thence into the mechanical vibrations of a stylus on a master disk, mass-produced into records, translated back into electricity then sound, Beethoven's personal presence survives. Ten times removed in time and space and intermediaries, his C-Sharp Minor Quartet, Opus 131, still contains him, is him."