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Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery
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Robin Wallace
Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery by Robin Wallace at Abbey's Bookshop,

Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery

Robin Wallace


Chicago University Press

Western "classical" music


288 pages

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We're all familiar with the image of a fierce and scowling Beethoven, struggling doggedly to overcome his rapidly progressing deafness. That Beethoven continued to play and compose for more than a decade after he lost his hearing is often seen as an act of superhuman heroism. But the truth is that Beethoven's response to his deafness was entirely human. And by demystifying what he did, we can learn a great deal about Beethoven's music. Perhaps no one is better positioned to help us do so than Robin Wallace, who not only has dedicated his life to the music of Beethoven but also has close personal experience with deafness. One day, at the age of forty-four, Wallace's late wife, Barbara, found she couldn't hear out of her right ear-the result of radiation administered to treat a brain tumor early in life. Three years later, she lost hearing in her left ear as well. Over the eight and a half years that remained of her life, despite receiving a cochlear implant, Barbara didn't overcome her deafness or ever function again like a hearing person.

Wallace shows here that Beethoven didn't do those things, either. Rather than heroically overcoming his deafness, as we're commonly led to believe, Beethoven accomplished something even more difficult and challenging: he adapted to his hearing loss and changed the way he interacted with music, revealing important aspects of its very nature in the process. Creating music became for Beethoven became a visual and physical process, emanating from visual cues and from instruments that moved and vibrated. His deafness may have slowed him down, but it also led to works of unsurpassed profundity.

Wallace tells the story of Beethoven's creative life from the inside out, interweaving it with his and Barbara's experience to reveal aspects that only living with deafness could open up. The resulting insights make Beethoven and his music more accessible, and help us see how a disability can enhance human wholeness and flourishing.

By:   Robin Wallace
Imprint:   Chicago University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780226429755
ISBN 10:   022642975X
Pages:   288
Publication Date:   September 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Unspecified

Robin Wallace is professor of musicology at Baylor University. He is the author of Beethoven's Critics and Take Note: An Introduction to Music through Active Listening.

Wallace's striking volume is a detailed, erudite study of the effect of deafness on Beethoven's music and character, but it is also a deeply personal account of Wallace's late wife's experience of deafness. This unlikely combination works beautifully and provides a convincing and moving probe into Beethoven's essence. Throughout the entire book, one senses the author's profound love and admiration for his lost wife and for Beethoven himself. --Harvey Sachs, author of The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 Wallace provides a new and unique perspective on Beethoven's deafness. He combines a gripping and poignant personal narrative with the knowledge and skill of a seasoned researcher and musician. The book both reads like a novel and provides vivid insight into how Beethoven confronted the loss of a composer's most important asset. In weaving the personal and the scholarly, Wallace has created an intimate account of how Beethoven's deafness can be found in his music as well as how it shaped him as a person. In fact, in this book we see the human side of Beethoven in a way that has never before been portrayed. --Michael Broyles, author of Beethoven in America

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