Heart condition behind Beethoven's famous work?

Heart condition behind Beethoven's famous work?

The striking rhythms found in some of musical great Beethoven's most famous works may have been inspired by his own heart condition, according to a new study.

Researchers analysed several of Beethoven's compositions for clues of a heart condition some have speculated he had.

The rhythms of certain parts of renowned works, researchers said, may in fact reflect the irregular rhythms of Beethoven's own heart caused by cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that causes the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.

"His music may have been both figuratively and physically heartfelt," said co-author Joel Howell, a professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"When your heart beats irregularly from heart disease, it does so in some predictable patterns. We think we hear some of those same patterns in his music," said Howell.
The team led by Zachary D Goldberger, a cardiologist at Harborview Medical Centre, University of Washington School of Medicine studied the rhythmic patterns of several compositions that may reflect Beethoven's experience of an arrhythmia.
Sudden, unexpected changes in pace and keys in Beethoven's music appear to match such asymmetrical patterns.

Take for example the final movement "Cavatina" in Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 130, an emotionally-charged piece that Beethoven said always made him weep, researchers said.

In the middle of the quartet, the key suddenly changes to C-flat major, involving an unbalanced rhythm that evokes dark emotion, disorientation and what has even been described as a "shortness of breath."

In the composer's directions to musicians playing the piece, the section is marked beklemmt, a German word that translates to "heavy of heart."

Researchers note that "heavy of heart" could mean sadness but may also describe the sensation of pressure, a feeling that is associated with cardiac disease.
"The arrhythmic quality of this section is unquestionable," they said.

Researchers identified arrhythmic patterns in other pieces as well.
Beethoven has been linked with a litany of mysterious health problems including inflammatory bowel disease, Paget's disease (abnormal bone destruction), liver disease, alcohol abuse, and kidney disease.

"The symptoms and common association of an abnormal heartbeat with so many diseases makes it a reasonable assumption that Beethoven experienced arrhythmia – and the works we describe may be 'musical electrocardiograms,' the readout of modern heart rhythm testing equipment," said Goldberger. The research appears in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine.

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