James Bennett II is a staff writer for WQXR.
How Beethoven Composed While Deaf
Friday, December 16, 2016 - 10:32 AM
Beethoven’s deafness is the music fact to end all music facts. You might have learned it in school, where it soon became your go-to “did you know?” But even though it’s something you might have known for a while, it still blows your mind from time to time. How did someone without the ability to hear create music as sweet as "Fur Elise" or uplifting as his Ninth Symphony?
Turns out, the answer is math. In this slick TED Ed animation, mathematician and music lover Natalya St. Clair explains the surprisingly complex role that math plays in your favorite compositions. She uses the "Moonlight" Sonata to illustrate her point; the strict patterns of the piece’s central theme are a perfect example of how one could build, in theory, a deeply emotional piece of music without actually needing to hear any of it.
That’s not to say Beethoven wasn’t an exceptional composer whose huge talent was able to carry him during those silent years. If anything, the fact that he could recognize and rely on these structures to create more great music is astounding.
Number nerds, this one is for you.