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How Did Beethoven Hearing Loss Affect His Music

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Evidence Of Compositional Method

How Did Beethoven Hear Music?

Beethoven’s sketches give scholars an insight into his compositional process. The sketches do not dictate how audiences should interpret or experience the piece. However, they do reveal information about Beethoven himself and act more as a bibliographic aid rather than an analytical tool.

According to biographers, Beethoven’s compositional process was undergone in two distinct phases. First, he would sketch the main thematic ideas and motifs. Once he had these sketched, he would compose the piece through what was considered by scholars to be a laborious and painstaking process.

Beethoven was known to make many drafts and corrections before finishing a composition. Unlike Mozart, who would often compose the entire piece before writing it down, Beethoven made many sketches with various edits at every stage. His conception of pieces was evidently a process of compiling fragments of musical ideas until they became a whole composition. The process is argued to have been a slow process and one that Beethoven wrestled with until the composition was completed. The sketches illustrate this process through providing evidence of his many drafts.


Kafka sketchbook

One of the most analysed documents of Beethoven’s is the Kafka sketchbook. The sketchbook contains a variety of complete and incomplete compositions from the 1780s and 1790s. The Kafka sketchbook became very useful for scholars to get an insight into the conception of Beethoven’s works.

I Think Beethoven Encoded His Deafness In His Music

Gabriela Lena Frank, a composer born with high-moderate/near-profound hearing loss, describes her creative experience.

Gabriela Lena Frank, a composer and pianist and the founder of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, which aims to foster diverse compositional voices and artist-citizens, was born with a neurosensory high-moderate/near-profound hearing loss. In an interview with Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, she described her creative practice and her exploration of the music of Beethoven, who gradually lost his hearing and by his 40s was almost totally deaf. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

From the time I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with how deafness affected Beethoven. If you look at his piano sonatas, in that first one in F Minor, the hands are very close together and the physical choreographies of the left and right hands are not that dissimilar. As he gets older, the activity of the hands become more dissimilar in his piano work, and farther apart.

The progression over the course of the sonatas a musical document of his hearing loss in transition is not perfectly linear by any stretch of the imagination, but its undeniable. By the time of the Waldstein Sonata, not only are the hands far apart, but they are doing very different things: that left hand pounding in thick chords against the right hands spare little descending line, for instance.

How Did Beethoven Create Music After He Went Completely Deaf

Music is associated with sound and noise. The concept of listening to music or creating it without hearing it can be quite strange to some. It is something that can definitely be done though. Some of the most fabulous pieces of music of all time were composed by Beethoven, who was deaf. The way that Beethoven created music without hearing could be helpful to others experiencing hearing loss.

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Drunk On More Than Just Music

Ludwig was partial to an alcoholic beverage too. Laura Tunbridge, author of the biography Beethoven: A Life in Nine Pieces, notes that his doctors did recommended that he cut back, which is actually quite unusual for the early 19th century because people are only just getting to grips with the medical consequences of drinking too much too often.

Lead acetate or ‘lead sugar’ was, at this time, used to make bad wine taste better, and its likely that Beethoven was imbibing this toxic substance.

Beethovens friends were also concerned, particularly about his consumption of adulterated wine. Lead acetate or “lead sugar” was, at this time, used to make bad wine taste better, and its likely that Beethoven was imbibing this toxic substance. This appears to have been borne out by posthumous tests on his hair showing traces of lead in it.

Beethoven And The Theatre

Beethovens deafness and his three styles

Symphony No. 2 in D Major

The next few years were those of Beethovens short-lived connection with the theatre. In 1801 he had provided the score for the balletDie Geschöpfe des Prometheus . Two years later he was offered a contract for an opera on a classical subject with a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, who had achieved fame and wealth as the librettist of Mozarts The Magic Flute and who was then impresario of the Theater an der Wien. Two or three completed numbers show that Beethoven had already begun work on it before Schikaneder himself was ousted from the management and the contract annulledsomewhat to Beethovens relief, as he had found Schikaneders verses such as could only have proceeded from the mouths of our Viennese applewomen. When the new management reengaged Beethoven the following year, it was largely on the strength of his now almost-forgotten oratorio, Christus am Ölberg , which had been given in an all-Beethoven benefit concert, together with the first two symphonies and the Third Piano Concerto.

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major

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Personal And Family Difficulties

Beethovens love life was hampered by class issues. In late 1801 he met a young countess, Julie Guicciardi through the Brunsvik family, at a time when he was giving regular piano lessons to Josephine Brunsvik. Beethoven mentions his love for Julie in a November 1801 letter to his boyhood friend, Franz Wegeler, but he could not consider marrying her, due to the class difference. Beethoven later dedicated to her his Sonata No. 14, now commonly known as the Moonlight Sonata.

His relationship with Josephine Brunsvik deepened after the death in 1804 of her aristocratic first husband, the Count Joseph Deym. Beethoven wrote Josephine 15 passionate love letters from late 1804 to around 1809/10. Although his feelings were obviously reciprocated, Josephine was forced by her family to withdraw from him in 1807. She cited her duty and the fact that she would have lost the custodianship of her aristocratic children had she married a commoner.;After Josephine married Baron von Stackelberg in 1810, Beethoven may have proposed unsuccessfully to Therese Malfatti, the supposed dedicatee of Für Elise;;his status as a commoner may again have interfered with those plans.

How Did Beethoven Compose When He Was Deaf

What makes Beethoven all the more remarkable is that he was able to continue composing even after his hearing started to go. Fortunately for him, his hearing loss was gradual, not sudden. This meant that he could still hear some music for years after he started to go deaf. When he became unable to hear higher-frequency sounds, he would use primarily lower notes. Moonlight Sonata is a good example of a piece of music from this period.

Beethoven is also known to have composed by feeling the vibrations from his piano. He knew he had the right note when he felt the correct vibration. Also, he had so much experience composing that he could remember a great deal about which notes from which instruments sounded best together.

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What Was Beethovens Personality

A lock of Beethovens Hair Beethovens personality was also challenging: As a young man Beethoven was frank to the point of rudeness. Headstrong and proud, he was never willing to conform in his behaviour As he grew older and deafness overrtook him, the negative aspects of Beethovens personality came to the fore.

Did Beethoven Still Compose While Deaf

Beethoven’s deafness and his three styles

Knowing the rules of how music is made, he could sit at his desk and compose a piece of music without hearing it. Beethovens style changed, however, as he retreated from public life. His once-vivacious piano sonatas began to take on a darker tone. His famous Sixth Symphony also reflects his different life in deafness.

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What Caused Beethovens Deafness

When Ludwig van Beethovens magisterial 9th Symphony premiered in 1824, the composer had to be turned around to see the audience cheering he could not hear the audiences rapturous applause.

Beethoven first noticed difficulties with his hearing decades earlier, sometime in 1798, when he was about 28. By the time he was 44 or 45, he was totally deaf and unable to converse unless he passed written notes back and forth to his colleagues, visitors and friends. He died in 1827 at the age of 56. But since his death, he remains as just relevant and important to Western culture if not more so.

What caused Beethovens deafness? It is a query that has carried many diagnoses over the last 200 years, from tertiary syphilis, heavy metal poisoning, lupus, typhus fever to sarcoidosis and Pagets disease.

Beethoven was baptized on this day in 1770 , making him 249 today.

At any rate, the doctor bequeathed the lock, consisting of 582 strands, to his daughter, who subsequently put it up for auction in 1994. It was purchased by an Arizona urologist named Alfredo Guevera for about $7,000. Guevera kept 160 strands. The remaining 422 strands were donated to the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University in California.

Guevera and Ira Brilliant, a real estate developer, collector and university benefactor, then pursued the question of how Beethoven became deaf.

His Hearing Loss Did Impact His Music

Beethovens hearing loss actually did influenced his composition style.

In his earlier works when he could hear the full range of frequencies, he often used lots of high notes. But as his hearing began to worsen, he could no longer hear these high notes so instead he chose to use lower notes in his compositions which were easier for him to hear.

But towards the end of his life, the high notes actually returned this is when he started to let his compositions take shape in his imagination and listen with his inner ear.

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There Are Some Wild Theories About Beethovens Final Words

Beethoven died at the age of 56 during a thunderstorm that his friend likened to one of the composers great symphonies, saying crashes that sound like hammering on the portals of Fate.

Looking back on his life, Beethoven was plagued with poor health including chronic hepatitis, jaundice, colitis, various skin diseases, rheumatic fever and cirrhosis of the liver but his actual cause of his death is still unknown.

Like the cause of his death, Beethovens final words are also a mystery.

Some report that after receiving a case of wine as a gift, he said Pity, pity, too late. Others speculate these words were Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est meaning, applaud, my friends, the comedy is over and some say his final statement was I shall hear in heaven.

The Middle Period: Sliding Into Deafness

Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery ...

It has been said of Beethoven that he was fully deaf when he wrote all his great works, but that he was able to compose, perform, and even conduct his work without being able to hear a note.

This is a lovely myth, but it does not take into consideration the progressive nature of his hearing loss. ;The reality is that its quite possible to chart his slow but steady descent into total deafness through the periods of his career.

It was during Beethovens middle period, approximately 1801 to 1814, that the hearing problems became more apparent. ;He became acutely aware of the tinnitus and a gradual worsening of his hearing.

In these years, his music got louder, deeper, and grander and, perhaps as a direct result, his star began to ascend as he captured strong emotions in his work. Representative work from this period would include the Symphony No. 3, Op. 55, Eroica, as well as the Piano Sonata No. 23, Op. 57, Appassionata.

The middle period is sometimes referred to as Beethovens heroic era, as the composer began to conceive many of his works on a grand scale.

In this period, Beethovens work to a large degree lost its brightness and high tones, which were supplanted by the more resonant tones of the deeper ranges that he could still hear despite that continuous ringing caused by the tinnitus.

Watch how Beethoven advanced the development of the piano through works like his Piano Sonata No. 23: Appassionata

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If He Couldn’t Hear How Did He Write Music

Beethoven had heard and played music for the first three decades of his life, so he knew how instruments and voices sounded and how they worked together. His deafness was a slow deterioration, rather than a sudden loss of hearing, so he could always imagine in his mind what his compositions would sound like.

Beethoven’s housekeepers remembered that, as his hearing got worse, he would sit at the piano, put a pencil in his mouth, touching the other end of it to the soundboard of the instrument, to feel the vibration of the note.

What Treatment Did Beethoven Seek For His Deafness

Taking a lukewarm bath of Danube water seemed to help Beethoven’s stomach ailments, but his deafness became worse. “I am feeling stronger and better, except that my ears sing and buzz constantly, day and night.”

One bizarre remedy was strapping wet bark to his upper arms until it dried out and produced blisters. This didn’t cure the deafnessit only served to keep him away from his piano for two weeks.

After 1822, he gave up seeking treatment for his hearing. He tried a range of hearing aids, such as special hearing trumpets. Take a look:

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Custody Struggle And Illness

Between 1815 and 1817 Beethovens output dropped again. Beethoven attributed part of this to a lengthy illness that afflicted him for more than a year, starting in October 1816.;Biographers have speculated on a variety of other reasons that also contributed to the decline, including the difficulties in the personal lives of his would-be paramours and the harsh censorship policies of the Austrian government. The illness and death of his brother Carl from tuberculosis may also have played a role.

Carl had been ill for some time, and Beethoven spent a small fortune in 1815 on his care. After Carl died on 15;November 1815, Beethoven immediately became embroiled in a protracted legal dispute with Carls wife Johanna over custody of their son Karl, then nine years old. Beethoven, who considered Johanna an unfit parent because of her morals and financial management, had successfully applied to Carl to have himself named sole guardian of the boy. A late codicil to Carls will gave him and Johanna joint guardianship. While Beethoven was successful at having his nephew removed from her custody in February 1816, the case was not fully resolved until 1820, and he was frequently preoccupied by the demands of the litigation and seeing to Karls welfare, whom he first placed in a private school.

Beethovens Father Pushed Him To Become A Child Prodigy

How deaf people experience Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony | Music Documentary

Beethovens Dad , planned all along for Beethoven to be a child prodigy. Born in Germany in 1770, Beethoven was thrown into the world of music from a very young age and made his public performance debut at just 7 .

Sadly, it wasnt just encouragement Beethoven got from his Dad he also regularly received emotional and physical abuse and was forced to practice for days on end.

Legend goes that as a small child, Beethoven was forced to stand on a stool, so he could reach the piano keys and was whipped for any mistakes.

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Beethoven’s Deafness May Have Influenced His Music Throughout The Years: Study

Ludwig van Beethoven, the eponymous classical music composer, is famous for churning out compositions despite his deafness. And now new study in the British Medical Journal shows that his musical compositions actually seem to be influenced by his worsening deafness with age.

Beethoven’s deafness is attributed to severe tinnitus, which is a sensation of ringing or noise in the ears, according to BBC News.

The researchers reported that Beethoven first wrote about his hearing problems in an 1801 letter, saying: “In the theatre I have to get very close to the orchestra to understand the performers, and that from a distance I do not hear the high notes of the instruments and the singers’ voices.”

Researchers reported in the journal article that the hearing in Beethoven’s left ear was first affected, “and he reported tinnitus, high tone hearing loss associated with poor speech discrimination, and recruitment with loud noises.” In 1818, Beethoven began communicating with people via writing in notebooks, and researchers reported that Beethoven may have been completely deaf by 1825.

As a result, the BMJ article shows that Beethoven’s later work — when his hearing problems had grown more severe — used more lower-pitched notes versus high-pitched notes.

BBC News reported:

These days, tinnitus can be improved as long as it’s treated, according to the Mayo Clinic. The hearing condition affects as many as one in five people.

Why Did Beethoven Go Deaf

The exact cause of his hearing loss is unknown. Theories range from syphilis to lead poisoning, typhus, or possibly even his habit of plunging his head into cold water to keep himself awake.

At one point he claimed he had suffered a fit of rage in 1798 when someone interrupted him at work. Having fallen over, he said, he got up to find himself deaf. At other times he blamed it on gastrointestinal problems.

“The cause of this must be the condition of my belly which as you know has always been wretched and has been getting worse,” he wrote, “since I am always troubled with diarrhoea, which causes extraordinary weakness.”

An autopsy carried out after he died found he had a distended inner ear, which developed lesions over time.

Here’s Beethoven’s famous Symphony No.5, written in 1804. Its famous opening motif is often referred to as ‘fate knocking at the door’; the cruel hearing loss that he feared would afflict him for the rest of his life.;

Quiz: How well do you REALLY know Beethoven’s 5th? >

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Poignant Stories From The Deaf Composer

A number of poignant stories about Beethovens hearing loss have trickled down over the years, although they are largely anecdotal and unverifiable.; One story tells of Beethovens tendency to perform bizarre pieces composed of low-range notes, as he lost the ability to hear higher pitches first; in a more well-documented episode, Beethoven was brought to tears upon realizing that at the end of the debut of his breathtaking Ninth Symphony, he had been unaware of the audiences roaring applause until a friend hinted that the deaf composer should turn his head.; Whatever the status of these stories, it remains clear that Beethoven was not only one of the worlds greatest composers he was also one of the bravest and most persevering hearing-impaired people of all time.

The Whole Story Of Beethovens Deafness

Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery ...

How he dealt with this deafness is one of the great stories of humanity, not just of music.Music Director Donato;Cabrera

Imagine directing an orchestra you cant hear. Or playing a soundless piano for a staring audience.

Most know classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven struggled with deafnessbut many dont realize how much of a struggle it was. Beyond composing without hearing a note, Beethoven grappled with living in the 1800s when few understood deafness, hindering his ability to communicate, work as a musician and even find a place to live. How he dealt with this deafness is one of the great stories of humanity, not just of music.

Losing Sound

Beethoven began losing his hearing in his mid-20s, after already building a reputation as a musician and composer. The cause of his deafness remains a mystery, though modern analysis of his DNA revealed health issues including large amounts of lead in his system. At the time, people ate off of lead platesthey just didnt know back then.

Continuing to compose and conduct, he changed lodgings constantly in Vienna, which could be due to Beethovens landlords frustration with him pounding on his piano at all hours.

Beethoven even continued performing publicly as a musician, which was necessary for many composers of the age: Thats how they got their pieces out, not just composing but performing. For the longest time he didnt want to reveal his deafness because he believed, justifiably, that it would ruin his career.

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How Did Going Deaf Affect Beethoven And His Music

4.6/5Beethoven’sdeafnessimpact on Beethoven’shis musicbecomingmusichishismusic

Beethoven’s deafness is attributed to severe tinnitus, which is a sensation of ringing or noise in the ears, according to BBC News. As a result, the BMJ article shows that Beethoven’s later work — when his hearing problems had grown more severe — used more lower-pitched notes versus high-pitched notes.

Also Know, how did Beethoven lose his hearing? Loss of Hearing. Around 1801, Beethoven began to lose his hearing. The cause of Beethoven’s deafness is unknown, but it has variously been attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, or possibly even his habit of immersing his head in cold water to stay awake.

Similarly, you may ask, what did Beethoven write after going deaf?

About 1800, he discovered that he was slowly becoming deaf. By 1820, when he was almost totally deaf, Beethoven composed his greatest works. These include the last five piano sonatas, the Missa solemnis, the Ninth Symphony, with its choral finale, and the last five string quartets.

How did Beethoven learn music?

Beethoven’s regular schooling was brief. In 1782, the composer and Kapellmeister Christian Gottlob Neefe succeeded van den Eeden as the court organist in Bonn and would become an important teacher for Beethoven. Beethoven studied piano and music composition under Neefe intermittently.

Facts About The Life Of Beethoven

Beethoven amazingly composed a huge amount of his music once he was deaf. Find out more about this remarkable man.

Beethoven might be considered one of the greatest composers of all time, but its surprising how little many people actually know about him.

This musical master managed to achieve some remarkable things in his life including composing his most complex and highly regarded symphony, while deaf. Find out more about this remarkable man.

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Did Beethoven Continue To Perform

He did. But he ended up wrecking pianos by banging on them so hard in order to hear the notes.

After watching Beethoven in a rehearsal in 1814 for the Archduke Trio, the composer Louis Spohr said: “In forte passages the poor deaf man pounded on the keys until the strings jangled, and in piano he played so softly that whole groups of notes were omitted, so that the music was unintelligible unless one could look into the pianoforte part. I was deeply saddened at so hard a fate.”

When it came to the premiere of his massive Ninth Symphony, Beethoven insisted on conducting. The orchestra hired another conductor, Michael Umlauf to stand alongside the composer. Umlauf told the performers to follow him and ignore Beethoven’s directions.

The symphony received rapturous applause which Beethoven could not hear. Legend has it that the young contralto Carolina Unger approached the maestro and turned him around to face the audience, to see the ovation.

This is how the moment might have looked, with Gary Oldman playing Beethoven in the film, Immortal Beloved:

We Dont Know What Caused Beethoven To Lose His Hearing

Was Beethoven REALLY deaf ? (Find out)

There are lots of theories flying around about what caused Beethoven to lose his hearing, including syphilis, lead poisoning, and lupus. Some even blamed his habit of dunking his head in cold water when he was tired!

But the truth is, no one can confirm the cause what we do know is at 26, he started hearing a ringing and a buzzing in his ears, and things worsened from there.

Beethovens biggest fear was that his lack of hearing would affect his career, so even though he had nearly completely lost his hearing by the time he was 44, he desperately tried to hide this from everyone, even his closest friends.

This caused a big impact on his social life, with Beethoven writing for two years I have avoided almost all social gatherings because it is impossible for me to say to people I am deaf. If I belonged to any other profession it would be easier, but in my profession, it is a frightful state.

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