After analyzing the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, a research team boasting a cardiologist, medical historian and musicologist suggest some of his most striking rhythms may have been inspired by a heart condition.
Writing in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, researchers from the universities of Michigan and Washington say certain parts of renowned works by the 19th century German composer seem to reflect the irregular rhythms of cardiac arrhythmia.
“His music may have been both figuratively and physically heartfelt,” said co-author Joel Howell, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. “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.”
Example: In the final movement “Cavatina” in Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 130, the key suddenly changes to C-flat major, involving an unbalanced rhythm that evokes dark emotion, disorientation and what has even been described as a “shortness of breath.”
In Beethoven’s directions to musicians playing the piece, he marked the section “beklemmt,” a German word that translates to “heavy of heart.”
Interestingly, the actual cause of Beethoven’s death is much disputed. He was chronically ill, with numerous conditions attributed to his demise. Among them: alcoholic cirrhosis, syphilis, infectious hepatitis, lead poisoning, sarcoidosis and Whipple’s disease.
Mania of the week
Planomania – an abnormal desire to wander and disobey social norms
A tall Starbucks hot chocolate made with whole milk and with whipped cream (340 grams) contains 330 calories, 162 from fat. It has 18 grams of total fat or 28 percent of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet, according to the CalorieCount.com database.
It also contains 68 milligrams of cholesterol (23 percent); 150 mg of sodium (6 percent); 33 grams of total carbohydrates (11 percent); 1.5 g of dietary fiber; 27.8 g of sugar and 11.3 g of protein.
Body of knowledge
Information travels at different speeds within the body depending upon the central nervous system cell involved. Some messages travel as “slow” as half a meter (1.6 feet) per second, while others cover 120 meters (393 feet) in the same time. Given the actual distances involved, it’s all quite speedy.
“God will pardon me. That’s his line of work.”
–German poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), best known for lyric poetry set to music by contemporary composers, such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.
“If your doctor’s last name is Google, it’s time to get a second opinion.”
Never say diet
The speed-eating record for French fries is 2 pounds in 3 minutes, 54 seconds, held by Dave “Coondog” O’Karma, who obviously fried, fried and fried again until success or he just has good karma.
This week in 1875, George F. Green of Kalamazoo, Michigan, patented an electric dental drill for sawing, filing, dressing and polishing teeth. He rather benignly described it as an “electromagnetic dental tool.”
53 – Percentage of American adults polled in December 2014 who said they would be willing to share information anonymously with health care researchers
61 – Percentage of these adults who were age 35 or younger
43 – Percentage of these adults who were 65 or older
Source: NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll
Scott LaFee is a health science writer at UC San Diego.