Beethoven the Musical Genius – a Lesson Plan for music

Ludwig Van Beethoven has to be one of the most unusual and interesting characters to ever compose music. Here are a few ideas to help introduce him into the music classroom:

Beethoven composed most of his most beautiful music during the last portion of his life when he was almost completely deaf. Beethoven would play the piano while biting a metal rod with his teeth that was attached to the soundboard so that he could feel the vibrations during this period.

Hold a class discussion on deafness and share insights on it, after looking at some of the activities below.

Some ideas to get you started in your music lesson plan:

Touch and feel the vibrations of various musical instruments while you play them (what happens when you play a higher or lower note?). Have you ever felt the ground vibrate when you have been at a rock concert from the sound of the lower instruments?

Listen to some of the music which was written when Beethoven was deaf, including the Moonlight Sonata and the String Quartet No. 13 This second piece was considered so exceptional that it was included on Voyager Space Craft’s “Golden Record”

Experiment singing a song in your mind rather than out loud. Can you “hear” it?

Watch the excerpt from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus where he tries to communicate the idea of music to his deaf son through lights and color.

Discussion topics:
What would Beethoven and other deaf people have trouble doing or experiencing in everyday life?
What are some ways deaf people compensate for these difficulties?
How do you think Beethoven “heard” the music he was writing and playing?
How can you “hear” music without physically hearing it?
Do you know of any other deaf people who have overcome their disability in any area of endeavor? (See here for a list: http://deafness.about.com/od/articlesandnewsletters/a/famousdeaf.htm)

Here’s a more detailed extension activity:

Research the form of the String Quartet. Use the following questions to get started: What instruments play in a string quartet? How many movements do they generally have? Which other composers wrote string quartets? What are some other interesting facts about string quartets?

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