Today is Ludwig Van Beethoven's 240th birthday. It's hard to adequately sum up the man's contribution to music because frankly no modern figure comes anywhere close. In honor of the undisputed master of all that is classical music, Rocks Off thought we'd put together some interesting tidbits about the man's life.
It's fairly well known that Beethoven began to lose his hearing at a young age. As early as 1786 he noticed some hearing loss, and by 1814 he could no longer hear music or conversation. What exactly caused his hearing loss isn't known. Some scholars think it was lead poisoning. Doctor were still using some lead-based treatments at this time, and it's also believed this might have been what finally killed Beethoven in 1827.
What's interesting about Beethoven's deafness is that he continued composing long after he ceased being able to hear his own work. In fact, at the premier of his Ninth Symphony, he had to be turned around to acknowledge the thunderous applause because he had no idea it was happening.
"I love Beethoven! Especially the poems!"
Beethoven has both an asteroid and a crater on Mercury named after him. The main belt asteroid/minor planet 1815 Beethoven was discovered in 1927. The Mercury crater that bears his name is as huge as Beethoven's musical influence, being the 11th largest impact crater in the entire known solar system.
"If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music... and aviation."
Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" is probably the most famous reference to the composer in modern music, but calling it a tribute is stretching it. The whole point of the song was the hope that rock and roll and rhythm and blues would supplement classical music in the modern mind.
Apparently, it was written by an annoyed Berry after his sister Lucy hogged the family piano playing classics while he wanted to play contemporary. Other artists who have named songs after Beethoven include Alphaville and The Eurythmics.
"Music will get you girls. I don't know if that's why Beethoven wrote symphonies, but it sure as hell would explain why a deaf guy played piano.
To our knowledge, Beethoven is the only classical composer whose music is essential to killing zombies. Playing his "Moonlight Sonata" is part of an early puzzle in the original Resident Evil. The sheet music to the song is hidden on a shelf in the music room, and using it in front of the piano will make the player play the song. Upon completion, a secret passage opens enabling you to switch the gold crest for the wooden one.
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Beethoven has a pretty impressive grave. While you may be thinking that that should be expected for a musician of his fame and caliber, you have to remember that Mozart was unceremoniously tossed in a mass grave like most people in Vienna.
The wacky adventure of Amadeus's cadaver is a story for another time, though. When Beethoven died, over 20,000 people lined the streets for his funeral, and Franz Schubert was one of the torchbearers. Schubert would be buried next to Beethoven when he died the next eyar.
"I like your opera. I think I will set it to music.
Beethoven composed nine symphonies in his life. He should have stopped at eight since it's well established that the ninth symphony is cursed. Beethoven's friend Schubert died after his ninth, as did Dvorak and Vaughn Williams.
Gustav Mahler tried to cheat by just sketching out his ninth and finishing his tenth. Death caught him doing it and reaped him. Anton Bruckner also tried to find a loophole by numbering his first two symphonies 0 and 00. Nice try, but it didn't work.
As proof of the curse, Jean Sibelius stopped at eight symphonies and lived another 33 years.
We've mentioned this story once before when we talked about the greatest musician boasts of all time, but it's good enough to bear repeating.
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The legend goes something like this...
A violinist had the audacity and poor judgment to complain to old Ludwig Van that a piece Beethoven had composed was so hard that it was virtually unplayable. Rising in a rage, Beethoven, who is responsible for classical music's greatest pop hits, is alleged to have said, "When I composed that, I was conscious of being inspired by God Almighty. Do you think I can consider your puny fiddle when He speaks to me?"
According to the Bill and Ted Institute of Excellent Adventures, Beethoven's favorite works are Handel's Messiah, Mozart's Requiem and Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.