Beethoven’s deafness and its contribution to his composing great music has been discussed a lot over the past number of years. However, recent studies of his music suggest that he may have also had significant heart problems which accounted for some of the rhythms found in his music. Researchers for the University of Michigan and the University of Washington believe he had an irregular heartbeat caused by cardiac arrhythmia. Due to his deafness, Beethoven was highly attuned to the rhythm of his own heartbeat. When they studies the rhythmic patterns of several of Beethoven’s compositions, they found sudden, unexpected changes in pace, and keys which appear to match such asymmetrical heart patterns.

For example, “the researchers point to the final movement CAVATINA in Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 130. In the middle of the quartet, the key suddenly changes to C-flat major, involving an unbalance rhythm that evokes dark emotion, disorientation, and what has even been described as a shortness of breath. According to the study authors, the arrhythmic quality of this section is unquestionable. They identified arrhythmic patterns in other pieces as well, including the opening of the LES ADIEUX Sonata (sonata opus 81a in E-flat major).”

It has been suspected for a long time that Beethoven had many medical problems including possible inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, alcohol abuse, and kidney disease as well as his deafness. It is impossible to prove or disprove that he had many of the diseases he’ s been supposedly afflicted with because almost all of today’s diagnostic medical tests didn’t exist in the 18th century and the physicians are trying to interpret medical description that are centuries old based on what we know to be true today.

Zachary D. Goldberger, MD, lead author of the article who is an assistant professor of medicine and a cardiologist at Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington School of Medicine said, “The symptoms and common association of an abnormal heartbeat with so many diseases makes it a reasonable assumption that Beethoven experience arrhythmia – and the works we describe may be ‘musical electrocardiograms. 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.”