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Beethoven Writes Great Music Though Deaf|
Widely regarded as the greatest composer ever, Beethoven began losing his hearing at age 31 and was completely deaf 16 years later.
As he became more and more deaf, Beethoven grew profoundly depressed. Shortly before his death, Beethoven wrote, "O how harshly was I repulsed by the doubly sad experience of my bad hearing .' [B]ut little more and I would have put an end to my life."
Even so, Beethoven persisted. He felt called to produce his art, and he would not quit. As his prison of silence grew quieter, he had to rely on his "inner ear"his memory of sounds. All the odds were against him, and so it would have turned out, had it not been for something inside Beethoven that would not bend. He would not quit.
In the midst of his affliction, he wrote: "There is no greater joy for me than to pursue and produce my art. Oh, if I were only rid of this affliction I could embrace the world! But I will seize it by the throat; most assuredly it shall not get me wholly down."
Beethoven continued to compose even after he became completely deaf. The most enduring and beautiful works Beethoven ever conceived, and some of the greatest musical works of all time, were entirely created during this periodincluding the monumental Ninth Symphony, Missa Solemnis, his last five piano sonatas, and his last five string quartets.Rich Tatum, Romeoville, Illinois; sources: "Beethoven, Ludwig van," The Columbia Encyclopedia (Columbia University Press: 2001); Andreas Nothiger, "Ludwig van Beethoven"; E. Cobham Brewer, "Dying Sayings," Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898); Ludwig Van Beethoven, "Beethoven's Heilgenstadt Testament"