He was going deaf, and crazy . . .


and writing incredible music. Music always reveals things to me as only music can – through its unique transcendence – but lately I’m going through a classical music phase – especially classical piano. I have this one piano student that’s working on the Moonlight Sonata – by Beethoven. The emotion that he [Beethoven] wrapped up in that piece of music is so thick . . . I wonder if a non-musical type can sense it. He wrote it when he was 31, and had been dealing with the symptoms of going deaf for about 3 years. He had a constant humming and buzzing and whirring noise in his ears, which was probably driving him as crazy as it was scaring him of losing the one thing he thought he needed to rely on the most – his hearing.

The Moonlight sonata started breaking the rules. It was one of the first of the sonata form that didn’t start out with an Allegro (fast) movement. Instead – it was slow, minor, sad, contemplative. And he was losing his hearing. In fact, with the exception of the first and maybe 2nd symphonies – he wrote most of them while losing his hearing.

I about lose it when I think about the inaugural performance of his 9th symphony. He was completely deaf, and had been for years (the next time you listen to the 9th symphony – Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, imagine writing that and never hearing it, except for what you had going on in your head). He insisted on conducting the first performance, and when it was over his first chair violinist had to turn him around to see an audience that was on their feet, overwhelmed with emotion for what they had just witnessed. His writings were ground breaking – and paved the way for the romantic era of music, and he couldn’t hear it. At one point – he even cut the legs off of his piano so it would sit directly on the floor and he could feel the vibrations of the music.

So it probably drove him to insanity. He may have been crazy. OR – he may have had so much music going on in his head – and writing just as quick as he could to get it out to the world.

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