Sonification of cardiac arrhythmias in the Beethoven’s music, or «The heartfelt music of Ludwig van Beethoven»-2

Main Article Content

V. I. Berezutsky
M. S. Berezutska


Researchers S. Vaisrub, B. Lüderitz, T.O. Cheng, Z.D. Goldberger et al. in different years (1980–2014) discovered the similarity of the rhythmic figure of the fragment of Ludwig van Beethoven’s piano sonata op. 81a «Les adieux» with an auscultative and electrocardiographic picture of ventricular premature beats. This allowed them to assume that the composer expressed in music his own irregular heartbeat. The hypothesis is very relevant, since sonification (the use of non-speech audio to convey information) of biological signals has a long history and is actively developing both in music and in medicine. This article is devoted to testing the hypothesis of sonification of cardiac arrhythmias in Beethoven’s music. An analysis of numerous musicological studies has shown that a variety of rhythmic figures, similar to the electrocardiographic signs of all known disorders of the cardiac rhythm, are found in many Beethoven’s works throughout 1799–1826. It is established that each of the revealed musical equivalents of cardiac arrhythmias is a certain means of musical expressiveness (musical language), the meaning and origin of which is known. Pathographic analysis showed the absence of a chronological link between «arrhythmic» music and the diseases of the composer. Any indication of the cardiac disease in Beethoven has not been found. Such results allow us to connect the music of Beethoven with his heart only in a some romantic sense.

Article Details


Beethoven, cardiac arrhythmia, musification.


Gol'denveizer AB. Thirty-two Beethoven sonatas: performer's comments. M : Muzyka, (In Russ.)

Kirillina LV. Beethoven. Life and art. Nauchno-izdatel'skii tsentr. М.: «Moskovskaya konservatoriya», 2009;2:590. (In Russ.)

Albrecht T. Anton Schindler as Destroyer and Forger of Beethoven’s Conversation Books: A Case for Decriminalization. Music’s intellectual history. 2009:169–181.

Barnes DJ, von Herbay A, Schuhmacher F, Ditton HJ, Maiwald M, Lüderitz B, Kubba AK, Hofbauer LC, Heufelder AE, Joy M. Beethoven's final illness. Lancet. 1996;347(9003):766–767.

Beaudry P. The truth about Beethovenʹs so-called Moonlight-sonata. (Online)

Bento RF. Beethoven’s Deafness, the Defiance of a Genius. Int. Arch. Otorhinolaryngol. 2009;13(3):317–321.

Bernstein L. The unanswered question: Six talks at Harvard. Kultur International Films, Ltd; 1973; and Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1976:317.

Bower H. Beethoven's creative illness. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 1989;23(1):111–116.

Breitenfeld D, Breitenfeld T, Buljan D, Skrgatic L, Vuksanovic M, Zivkovic M. Diseases and Destinies of Famous Composers. Why should one even write about composers’ diseases? Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research. 2013;49(1):55–60.

Burke R. Revolutionary and Operatic Models for the Funeral March of the" Eroica" Symphony. The Beethoven Journal. 2004;19(1):2–9.

Cheng TO. A Beethoven reprise. Cortlandt Forum. 1997;10(7):14.

Cheng TO. Cardiac arrhythmias set to music. Postgraduate medicine. 1998;103(4):25.

Cybulska EM. Boléro unravelled: a case of musical perseveration. The Psychiatrist. 1997;21(9):576–577.

Davies PJ. The Question of Beethoven's Syphilis Reconsidered. The Beethoven Journal. 2003;18(1):30–39.

Doernberg E. Anton Schindler. The Musical Quarterly. 1965;51(2):373–386.

Fortoul van der Goes TI. La música en la medicina y la medicina en la música Parece, pero no es lo mismo. Revista de la Facultad de Medicina (México). 2016;59(5):57–60.

Franzen C. Syphilis in composers and musicians—Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, Schubert, Schumann, Smetana. European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases. 2008;27(12):1151–1157.

Frohlich M. Ideas of Closure, Derivation and Rhythm in the Sketches for the Andante of Beethoven's" Pastorale" Sonata Op. 28. The Journal of Musicology. 1998;16(3):344–357.

Goldberger ZD, Whiting SM, Howell JD. The Heartfelt Music of Ludwig van Beethoven. Perspectives in biology and medicine. 2014;57(2):285–294.

Hajar R. The air of history (part V) Ibn Sina (Avicenna): the great physician and philosopher. Heart views: the official journal of the Gulf Heart Association. 2013;14(4):196–201.

Helm EE. Clavichord Music of Johann Kuhnau and CPE Bach. Joan Benson, clavichordist. Performance Practice Review. 1990;3(1):12–16.

Holcman J. The legacy of Chopin. New York: Philosophical library; 1954, 128 p.

Hoyt RJ. Rhythmic Process in the Scherzo of Beethoven's Sonata Op. 110: Analysis As a Basis for Interpretation and Criticism. Indiana Theory Review. 1988;9(2):99–133.

John PS. Creativity and Disease: How Illness Affects Literature, Art and Music. 1993;10(2):103–104.

József PV. A theory upon origin of implicit musical language. Health psychology research. 2015;3(3):63–70.

Kammer T. Mozart in the Neurological Department–Who Has the Tic? Neurological Disorders in Famous Artists-Part 2. Karger Publishers: Bazel; 2007;22:184–192.

Karenberg A. Retrospective diagnosis: use and abuse in medical historiography. Prague Med Rep. 2009;110:140–145.

Kather JN, Hermann T, Bukschat Y, Kramer T, Schad LR, Zöllner FG. Polyphonic sonification of electrocardiography signals for diagnosis of cardiac pathologies. Scientific reports. 2017;7:44549.

Kirby FE. Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony as a" Sinfonia caracteristica". The musical quarterly. 1970;56(4):605–623.

Kirkendale W. The "Great Fugue" Op. 133: Beethoven's" Art of Fugue". Acta musicologica. 1963;35(1):14–24.

Kubba AK, Young M. Ludwig van Beethoven: a medical biography. Lancet (London, England). 1996;347(8995):167–170.

Lerner V. The pathography of composers: Modest Mussorgsky. Journal of medical biography. 1998(3):175–181.

Lüderitz B. History of the disorders of cardiac rhythm. Armonk: Futura Publishing Company; 1995:277.

Lüderitz B. Clinical and Interventional Electrophsiology: A Personal Historical Perspective. Journal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology. 1997;1(3):243–254.

Lüderitz B. Historical perspectives on cardioversion and defibrillation. Cardiac Arrhythmias, Pacing & Electrophysiology. Springer; Dordrecht; 1998:245–256.]

Lüderitz B. Profiles in cardiac pacing and electrophysiology. Blackwell Publishing: Malden; 2005:69, 170.

Mahaim I, Levin E. The First Complete Beethoven Quartet Cycles, 1845-1851: Historical Notes on the London Quartett Society. The Musical Quarterly. 1996;80(3):500–524.

Mahaim I. Naissance et Renaissance des derniers quatuors 2 vol. 580 p. Dcsclées et Browers: Paris; 1964.

Meredith W. The History of Beethoven's Skull Fragments: Part One. The Beethoven Journal. 2005;20(1–2):3–46.

Miranda ER, Eaton J. On Mapping EEG Information into Music. Guide to Brain-Computer Music Interfacing. Springer-Verlag: London; 2018:255–269.

Neugebauer P, Thomas J P, Michel O. Historical Vignette: The “Case” of Joseph Haydn: A Rhinological Patient During the Eighteenth Century. The Laryngoscope. 2000;110(7):1078–1081.

Oiseth SJ. Beethoven's autopsy revisited: A pathologist sounds a final note. Journal of medical biography. 2017;25(3):139–147.

O'Neill D. Allemande l'Asthmatique and Étude Asthmatique. (BMJ: British Medical Journal. 2010;341:5042.

Palferman TG. Beethoven: medicine, music, and myths. International journal of dermatology. 1994;33(9):664–671.

Pesic P. Music, mechanism, and the “Sonic Turn” in physical diagnosis. Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences. 2015;71(2):144–172.

Pon A, Pattison E, Fyfe L, Radford L, Carpendale S. Torrent: Integrating Embodiment, Physicalization and Musification in Music-Making. Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction. ACM, 2017:209–216.

Rolland R. Beethoven. Translated by B. Constance Hull with a brief analysis of the sonatas, the symphonies, and the quartets by A. Eaglefield Hull mus. doc. (oxon). with 24 musical illustrations and 4 plates and an Introduction by Edward Carpenter. Henry Holt and Со: New York; 1917:435.

Schweisheimer W. Beethoven's physicians. The Musical Quarterly. 1945;31(3):289–298.

Siraisi NG. The music of pulse in the writings of Italian academic physicians (fourteenth and fifteenth centuries). Speculum. 1975;50(4):689–710.

Solomon M. Some Romantic Images in Beethoven. Lessons of Romanticism: A Critical Companion. Duke University Press: Durham; 1998:225.

Stadlbauer C, Reiter C, Patzak B, Stingeder G, Prohaska T. History of individuals of the 18th/19th centuries stored in bones, teeth, and hair analyzed by LA–ICP–MS—a step in attempts to confirm the authenticity of Mozart’s skull. Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry. 2007;388(3):593–602.

Stadlen P. Schindler's Beethoven forgeries. The Musical Times. 1977;118(1613):549–552.

Thayer AW, Krehbiel HE, Dieters H. The life of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Vol 3. Edited, revised and amended from the original English manuscript and the German editions of Hermann Deiters and Hugo Riemann, concluded, and all the documents newly translated By Henry Edward Krehbiel. Published by The Beethoven Association New York, Press of G. Schirmer incorp.; 1921:309.

Tyson A. Conversations with Beethoven. The Musical Times. 1970;111(1523):25–28.

Vaisrub S. Beethoven and Einthoven—More Than a Rhyme. JAMA. 1980;244(17):1963–1971.

Van Gogh W. Van Gogh's Vision Digitalis Intoxication? JAMA. 1981;245:727–729.

Von Seyfried I. Autopsy protocol of Ludwig von Beethoven, translated from Latin Ludwig von Beethoven Studien im Generalba B. Contrapunkt und in der Composition, ed. 1832(2):1852–1853.

Wegeler FG, Ries F, Kalischer AC. Biographische notizen über Ludwig van Beethoven. Schuster & Loeffler: Berlin, Leipzig; 1906:279.

Weinberg LG. Beethoven’s Janus-faced Quartet: Opus 130, the Groβe Fuge and the Allegro: Dissertation. Wesleyan University Press: Middletown, Connecticut; 2008:56.

Wolf PL. Hector Berlioz and other famous artists with opium abuse. Neurological Disorders in Famous Artists-Part 3. Karger Publishers; 2010;27:84–91.