Researchers Edoardo Saccenti, Age Smilde and Wim Saris of the Netherlands Metabolomics Centre conducted a pilot exercise which indicated the existence of a possible relation between the progression of Beethoven’s deafness and his music. They published their results in BMJ.
Beethoven (1770 - 1827) first mentioned his hearing loss in a letter to the physician Franz Wegeler in 1801. The periods of Beethoven’s composition - the so-called three styles - correspond to stages in the progression of his deafness. The researchers considered the first violin part of each quartet and counted the number of notes above G6 (1568 Hz.). They found that use of higher notes decreased as the deafness progressed. To compensate, Beethoven used more middle- and low-frequency notes. These he could hear better when music was performed.
"When he came to rely completely on his inner ear, he was no longer compelled to produce music he could actually hear when performed, and slowly returned to his inner musical world and early composing experiences," says the paper. Thus explaining why the higher notes returned in the quartets he wrote when he was totally deaf.
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