Chicken Soup for the Sole: Ludwig van Beethoven

This month’s Chicken Soup for the Sole is going to detail one of the most enduring classical musicians of all time: Ludwig van Beethoven. Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, you’ve likely heard his music before, whether it’s his haunting Moonlight Sonata or the music-box favorite Fur Elise. His musical legacy is especially impressive considering that he was born in 1770 and lived hundreds of years before the invention of recorded music. You might not know that Beethoven is remarkable for another reason: he composed much of his music after going completely deaf.

The Rise of a Musical Genius

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770. From a young age, Beethoven displayed a clear talent for music. Luckily for him, he grew up in a musical family; his grandfather was an eminent musician and his father was Ludwig’s first music teacher. It wasn’t long before Beethoven was hailed as a child prodigy. He turned out a consistent stream of work throughout the late 1700’s, but it was in 1801 when Beethoven, for reasons still unknown to us, began to lose his hearing. At first, Beethoven was deeply distraught and even considered suicide. But by utilizing his immense talent and channelling his love for music into everything he did, Beethoven began his most productive and memorable period of composition.

Adapting to Life Without the Ability to Hear

How can a musician compose music if he or she is unable to hear? It seems unimaginable to most of us, but when you have talent like Beethoven had, it was simply a new reality for him to adapt to. Luckily, Beethoven had no problem tuning in to the music of his mind, and naturally had the music theory knowledge that allowed him to translate that music onto paper. Composing music was no problem, however, giving public performances grew increasingly difficult. Luckily, much of Beethoven’s correspondences with his friends survives and gives us an up-close view of the methods Beethoven used to adapt to the loss of his hearing.

An Inspirational Legacy

Beethoven was quoted as saying that “there are no barriers for a person with talent and love towards work,” and he clearly embodied that quote in every piece of music he composed. A musician losing their hearing could be a soul-crushing thing, but Beethoven’s commitment to his craft, iron-clad determination, and willingness to adapt to a misfortunate event is the reason he is still being talked about hundreds of years after his death.

I’m Jessica Cox, and although I’m not a classical musician I too believe that there are no physical or emotional barriers that can stop you from living the life you want. I enjoy spending my time and energy helping others adapt to life’s difficulties so they can achieve true happiness and fulfilment. If you’d like me to inspire the attendees at your upcoming meeting, conference, or religious gathering, please contact me.