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If this story were true, it would demystify how Beethoven composed in his late years after his ears had failed him.But Beethoven’s creative process was actually less daunting than the myth would have us believe.When he wrote this music, Beethoven needed to augment his perception of aural cues, much as a person with progressive hearing loss might augment their understanding of speech by beginning to read lips even if they’re not conscious they’re doing so.
For most of his adulthood he experienced progressive hearing loss, as many of us do as we age.
When he wrote the Fifth Symphony, his most recognizable work, he could hear well enough to correct mistakes in the performance.
And Beethoven wasn’t a “supercrip,” the term for a person who responds to a disability in ways that inspire others but also set unreasonable expectations.
He never claimed to be overcoming his hearing loss.
There is no easy triumph or memorable musical tidbit to be found in them, but they contain a novel sonic universe that seems all the more remarkable when we know that they were written by a man who could not hear.
Late in his life, Beethoven commissioned the creation of a specially designed resonator that would be placed over his piano to magnify both sound and vibration.To begin with, accounts of Beethoven’s triumph are often overdone.He did not completely lose his hearing until the last decade of his life, if even then.The piano music he wrote at this time incorporated powerful repeated chords, new ways of resolving harmonies, and carefully synchronized passages in which the two hands combine to set the frame of the instrument vibrating from top to bottom. It has been said that both Mozart and Beethoven would compose an entire piece of music in their heads before writing it down.Scholars have known for decades that neither composer ever claimed to have done anything of the sort, but the story persists—perhaps because it provides an idea that is easy to grasp.Thus, though he was increasingly deaf, Beethoven began to feel sound in an entirely new way.His final string quartets—actual products of his deafness—have a reputation for a kind of profundity that few nonmusicians could describe in words.109, shows him creating music on paper, getting carried away with rhythmic, repetitive writing patterns that mirror the emphatic rhythms of much of his music. The most obvious answers to that question are probably wrong, or at least misleading.Beethoven wrote a lot of loud music, but for someone with hearing loss, loud music is not necessarily better. Listening to a quiet piano sonata in an environment without distractions would likely be more pleasant than hearing a dramatic symphony. Repetition is particularly important to someone who is unable to absorb everything on first hearing.The English Broadwood piano he owned during the last decade of his life was both louder and muddier sounding than the ones with which he grew up—again, the exact opposite of what someone with hearing loss would seem to require.But Beethoven fell in love with the Broadwood for another reason entirely. The soundboard, which amplifies the vibrations produced by the strings, was connected directly to the body of the instrument, conveying those vibrations back to the keys and even to the floor beneath the instrument.