What is Music to a Deaf Composer?

Years ago I had the pleasure of seeing a handwritten score by Beethoven. The piece was written after Beethoven had become deaf. I remember staring at it and wondering what it was like for the genius composer “hearing” the music entirely in his own mind.


I do my best to have this blog be about things of my own experience even if I am seduced by the infinite cycle of regurgitation found in a myriad of ways in which most of us are held in a constant and oblivious pattern of reaction. If you dip your toe into the mass culture it is easy to be played like puppets. Sometimes the puppeteers are governments and corporations using media to divert, direct, or distract. It’s the same game, whether Lady Gaga cultivating her fame, Nations using the media to Beat the Drums of War, or corporations working us up in any way that moves money into their pockets.

I’m a little too wary to believe in a grand sinister conspiracy, but I am a little too wary to believe that it isn’t. Mostly, I believe we are participants in a complex culture that by its sheer connectivity drives us insane, because most of what we react to we have little ability to change, whether environmental, political or other issues foisted upon us with great urgency.

Most of us live in rather small bubbles and perhaps that is a good thing.

This week received an impressive dose of snow and then below freezing temperatures. It is certainly the coldest prolonged temperatures we’ve had in my twenty-two years living here. Our world shrank to some very basic chores- staying warm, feeding and watering the animals, taking care of water pipes, friends and neighbors. The road was silenced as the passing of cars stopped.

The days have been simple and complete. If there is an element of stir craziness I haven’t really noticed as all the “Normal” activities seem pretty insignificant and uncritical. We have food, heat and water and even if admitting this hurts a little- the Internet and an occasional DVD from Netflix in the mailbox (Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.)

The local kids came over for pizza and Yahtzee, we had cocoa with another neighbor and on the coldest afternoon and evening of them all, we ventured out five miles for the memorial celebration of a friend on the road who left us five weeks ago. In a cold, cold, cold, barn we shared the life of a good man even if we had to shuffle our feet to stay warm, it was worth it.

In a few days the snow and ice will melt off, the rain will return, the culture will once again induce us back to its temptations (Oh, can you imagine what that will be like with the Christmas Orgy having been held in check for a full week?). But the silence and the serenity of this week has been a pleasure greater than anything awaiting us when the noise returns.

With all of this, perhaps I get an inkling of what deafness was for Beethoven. image