Beethoven’s hearing loss may have shaped the musical style

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Ludwig van Beethoven’s hearing loss may have profoundly influenced the style of his music throughout his career, study finds.

New research in the British Medical Journal indicates a distinct development in the great composer’s music from his childhood until the time he first mentioned his hearing loss in 1801 to the point where he became deaf in 1825 .

The study by a team from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands analyzed Beethoven’s use of high notes throughout his career as a composer.

According to study author Edoardo Saccenti, the German composer who lived from 1770 to 1827 lost his hearing for high notes around the age of 30 and his compositions from this period relied more on middle and low notes. .

But after completely losing his hearing, he retreated to an inner world where he composed music completely in his head and his works had significantly higher notes, the researchers found.

“When he came to rely entirely on his inner ear, he no longer had to produce music that he could actually hear when played and slowly returned to his inner musical world and his experiences. of earlier composition, “Saccenti wrote in the BMJ.

Music scholars often divide Beethoven’s achievements into three periods – early, middle, and late in life.

The first works (String quartets Opus 18; 1st Symphony Opus 21) used a variety of high notes, the researchers found.

But as Beethoven began to suffer from tinnitus and could no longer hear the woods and the singer’s voices, he composed works in the range he could hear, including the Opus 74 and 95 quartets, which have more low frequency notes, they found.

In 1801, the composer wrote to his doctor about the problem: “For three years my hearing has been steadily weakening … I can give you an idea of ​​this particular deafness when I have to tell you that in the theater I must m ‘approach very close to the orchestra to understand the performers, and that from afar I do not hear the high notes of the instruments and the voices of the singers. “

Researchers followed milestones in his hearing loss, including the use of a trumpet, against several of the composer’s works.

After 1825, when Beethoven was completely deaf, he wrote the last string quartets Opus 127 to 135 which have significantly higher ratings, research has shown.

Saccenti warned that the researchers only used selected compositions, so their analysis may not take into account the full scope of the composer’s work.

“As they encompass only a limited subset of Beethoven’s compositions, our results are far from conclusive: to prove or disprove whether Beethoven’s hearing loss had a substantial impact on the formation of his musical style would require Comprehensive and comprehensive statistical and spectral analyzes of the entire composer’s catalog, “he wrote.

Beethoven had a very common form of hearing loss which can be corrected today with digital hearing aids.


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