Beethoven's compositions "changed when he lost his hearing"


How is it possible for a genius composer to be deaf and, even more so, how could this deafness have affected his creation? This is one of the biggest questions everyone around him has Ludwig van Beethoven. Science now has a first answer… 

Dutch researchers have put together his compositions Beethoven in the scientific microscope and found that, as his deafness progressed, he began to use notes only at the frequencies that could be "caught" by his hearing.

However - and this is perhaps the most impressive - when he completely lost his hearing and now imagined music only in his mind, the whole musical scale and all the frequencies returned to his compositions.

Loss of hearing.

Based on his correspondence, Beethoven first mentioned that he had hearing problems - first in his left ear and then in both - in 1801, at the age of 30, noting that he had difficulty hearing "high notes". both musical instruments and human voices.

A decade later, in 1811, people close to him had to shout loudly to be able to communicate with him, and in 1818 he began to communicate with notes. From 1825 until his death in 1827, he is believed to have been completely deaf.

Researchers at the Metabolomics Center in the Netherlands at Leiden wanted to look at whether this hearing loss affected its synthetic creation by "counting" the high and low notes it used in its string quartets.

Study in periods.

Based on the above historical reports and the course of the deafness, the experts divided Beethoven's string quartets into four periods, from that of "complete hearing" (from 1798 to 1800) and that of its complete loss (from 1824 to in 1826).

As they describe in their study, which published in the review “British Medical JournalThe researchers studied the first part for a violin of the first phrase of each quartet, counting how many notes above the 6th sol (which corresponds to 1.568 Hz) were included in it.

They found that the higher notes were reduced as the deafness progressed. To compensate for this reduction, Beethoven used more notes of medium and low frequencies, which he could hear better.

Return to all octaves.

In his latest quartets, however, which he composed when he is believed to be completely deaf, Beethoven returned to all octaves, bringing back the high notes in his compositions.

"When he ended up relying entirely on his 'inner ear', he no longer felt compelled to produce music that he could really listen to in his performance, so he slowly returned to his inner music world and his original synthetic experiences," the researchers note in the article. their.

The study was co-authored by Eduardo Saccenti and led by Agke Smilde and Wim Saris, all researchers at the Metabolomics Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Source: Science Step