Beethoven, the Heart and Arrhytmias

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In highly charged passages of certain pieces, the possibility of cardiac arrhythmia can lend a quite physical aspect to one’s interpretation of the music in question. 

These passages can seem, in an unexpectedly literal sense, to be heartfelt.

Highlights

Whether or not music stirs inside, each of us bears a living metronome at our core.   The human heart quietly marks the rhythm of our lives.

A new study focusing on the music of Ludwig van Beethoven treats shifting musical rhythms as a sort of musical electrocardiogram.  Where most hear greatness, they hear cardiac arrhythmia.

In the String Quartet No. 13, the authors hear, in a seven-measure section in the middle of the fifth movement (the “Cavatina”), “a short paroxysm of an atrial tachyarrhythmia.” They cite Beethoven’s notation: that the passage should be played “beklemmt,” or “heavy of heart.”

In the third movement of the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, the authors point to an “arioso dolente” (or lamenting song) preceding one of two fugues. The left hand plays a repetitive run of notes that “bears some resemblance to rapid tachyarrhythmia,” they write.   

Beethoven’s litany of physical woes clearly predisposed him to atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter or even multifocal atrial tachycardia, Goldberger, Howell and University of Michigan musicologist Steven M. Whiting wrote in the paper 

“However, in highly charged passages of certain pieces, the possibility of cardiac arrhythmia can lend a quite physical aspect to one’s interpretation of the music in question,” they wrote. “These passages can seem, in an unexpectedly literal sense, to be heartfelt.”

 

Los Angeles Times
January 9, 2015 
Melissa Healy

 

Dr. Parker’s Commentary

In searching for the connection between atrial fibrillation and music, I came across this fascinating article.

The question would be whether the right music could help entrain the heart rhythm  —  this might not be the music to play.

 However, it does seem that the right music, the right rhythm should be helpful to the heart….

 

“What I have in my heart and soul – must find a way out. That’s the reason for music.”

-Ludwig van Beethoven-

 

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Dr. Parker is a 68 year old heart attack survivor and cardiac psychologist. He is an Honors graduate of Stanford University with forty years of clinical experience. Dr. Parker is available for consultation on heart matters. Contact him at heartcurrents(at)gmail.com.