Jan 19, 2019 | Updated: 08:39 AM EST

New Study Reveals Beethoven's Music May Have Come from His Heart

Jan 10, 2015 07:09 PM EST


According a new essay published in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, the renowned composer Ludwig van Beethoven may have been suffering from a heartbeat disorder, that may have influenced parts of some of his greatest works. 

The deaf composer has been linked with numerous health problems, and now historians speculate that the famous composer of some of history's most beautiful musical masterpieces might have also had an arrhythmia -- an irregular heartbeat. 

"His music may have been both figuratively and physically heartfelt," study co-author Dr. Joel Howell, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a university news release.

A team of researchers that included a musicologist, a cardiologist and a medical historian, believe that the rhythms found in certain sections of Beethoven's most beloved pieces of music may reflect the irregular rhythms of his heart.

"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," Howell says. "The synergy between our minds and our bodies shapes how we experience the world. This is especially apparent in the world of arts and music, which reflects so much of people's innermost experiences."

A cardiac arrhythmia can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.  Researchers found that many of the unexpected beat and key changes in some of the famed composer's music appear to match variations often found in irregular heart rhythms. 

"While these musical arrhythmias may simply manifest Beethoven's genius, there is a possibility that in certain pieces his beating heart could literally be at the heart of some of the greatest masterpieces of all time" cardiologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and lead author of the study, Dr. Zachary Goldberger says.

The occurrence of arrhythmias are actually quite common, with an estimated 2.2 million Americans living with different types of arrhythmia.  A recent study even suggested that 1 in 4 adult Americans over the age of 40 could develop an irregular heartbeat. 

People suffering from an arrhythmia are at greater risk of developing heart disease, cardiac valvular disease and are at greater risk for heart failure.  Symptoms often experienced by patients with an irregular heartbeart range from feeling ones own heart beat, fainting, dizziness, chest paint and shortness of breath.

There is no way to know for certain if Beethoven, who died in 1827, suffered from a cardiac arrhythmia.   However, the researchers believe that the compositions analyzed "may [in fact] be musical electrocardiograms."

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