If you know one fact about Beethoven it is that he was deaf, but do you know how he was able to compose what is considered some of his greatest music whilst being deaf?
Born in 1770 Beethoven was introduced to music by his father who was a piano and violin teacher and talented tenor. He was not born deaf but his hearing gradually diminished. Around 1796 we have references in letters of Beethoven hearing “buzzing noises,” and in 1801 Beethoven wrote to his physician about being unable to hear high notes. You can actually hear the gradual decline of Beethoven’s hearing through his music.
Beethoven: The Early Period
The Early Period is where he had his full hearing, starting around 1777 to 1803 his music was characterized by high notes and he composed his first symphonies: Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2 plus much more.
Beethoven: The Middle Period
The Middle Period is where Beethoven’s hearing was in decline and is characterized by lower notes, as his ability to hear high notes was diminishing. During this period he composed the infamous Moonlight Sonata.
Beethoven: The Late Period
The Late Period starts just before 1820 where we believe he was close to being fully deaf. Surprisingly here his music developed back into high notes. This reintroduction of high pitched notes suggest that he was “listening” using his knowledge of music rather than actually hearing the music he was creating. The Late Period starts just before 1820. During this time, his music switched back to including more high notes. If he wasn’t already fully deaf at the start of this period, he was likely close to it. One of his most famous compositions was written during this period, the Ninth Symphony.
So there you go, he was able to compose music whilst deaf due to his familiarity and deep knowledge of music and the fact that he was not always deaf. What I find interesting is that his compositions actually changed in reflection to his hearing capabilities.
Why not play some of his songs? Check out our classical piano sheet music collection!