BEETHOVEN AND THE 200 STUDENTS

“Life is not fair. Get used to it”.

This quote is often attributed to Bill Gates but it was actually written by Charles J. Sykes as quoted in Quora. It remains a mystery how it became accredited to … I don’t think it is such a big deal. A quick surf on the internet showed quite a few claims as to who was the first. I am definitely not going to write a thesis on it.

A couple of days or so ago, it was reported in a couple of non-mainstream news publications that 200 straight-A students failed to get into the govt matriculation programme due to what can be described as a “birth defect”.

Getting this far at being straight-A students at high school level, is itself, a feather in their cap. Whatever adversity they may have faced; they overcame with flying colours.

Now, they face a new challenge – they have been denied a place in the matriculation system as 90% of those places have been reserved for students based on race. This system has been in place for a while. The danger for the students in this 90% group who winged a place in the matriculation system without having to compete based on meritocracy, is that they may believe that this will be the system throughout their lives. In all reality, it won’t, especially if they were to go abroad. So, it can be viewed as a “disadvantage” if they are ill-prepared to face the world beyond their shores.

Back to these 200 students. In every adversity, there are great possibilities. They just have to look for these possibilities.

One of the greatest music composers of all time was Ludwig Van Beethoven (December 11, 1770 – March 26, 1826). Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany. A famous music composer while he was alive, legendary even today. What distinguished Beethoven from other famous music composers such as Johann Strauss II and Frederic Chopin was that Beethoven became totally deaf by the time he was 46 years old. (1)

Did Beethoven complain how life was so unfair? Well, we won’t really know for sure. But he continued his work.

So if Beethoven was completely deaf, how did he compose?

Beethoven had heard and played music for the first three decades of his life, so he knew how instruments and voices sounded and how they worked together. His deafness was a slow deterioration, rather than a sudden loss of hearing, so he could always imagine in his mind what his compositions would sound like.

Beethoven’s housekeepers remembered that, as his hearing got worse, he would sit at the piano, put a pencil in his mouth, touching the other end of it to the soundboard of the instrument, to feel the vibration of the note. (2)

But Beethoven was notorious for corrections, so the process didn’t necessarily come easily to him. Still, like all composers, he had an “inner ear” for music. By the time he wrote his Ninth Symphony — the one over an hour-long with full orchestra, chorus, and soloists — he had been profoundly deaf for nearly a decade (CPR Classical, Sept 28, 2020).

Beethoven’s love for music put it above and beyond the hearing impairment he had. It allowed him “to hear the way he wanted his music to be performed by a whole new orchestra”. His “inner ear” for music allowed him to explore music with no boundaries.

Life’s journey is only but just beginning for you two hundred students. Life never promised to be fair. Get used to it. Just like Beethoven’s “inner ear”, you must have the “inner belief” that you will accomplish all that you set out to do. Your altitude of sight depends on your attitude in life.

Beethoven’s deafness and his three styles

NOTES:

  1. Popular Beethoven
  2. Classic fm

“The Blue Danube” is the common English title of “An der schönen, blauen Donau”, Op. 314, a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, composed in 1866.

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