Hear, hear!

Historians musicians and present-day otologists
continue to speculate why Beethoven went deaf
and marvel that he was able to compose the Ninth and Ode to Joy.

I remember studying Eliot’s poetry,
reading how he thought Beethoven’s quartets
were meant to be audited, in depth, later in life.

They affected Eliot deeply, changed his spirituality.
I thought I might wait ’til I was mature to be enriched
by the string quartets; but when I reached that accepted stage,

I was still listening to his symphonies; trying to play his sonatas.
I now know I am never going to play the Apassionata as it
requires two hands to play four hands’ worth of notes.

I manage to acceptably play the Moonlight, and with patience
deliver the Pathétique. That brings me to the present, a time
in life most would say is past being simply “mature”.

Nevertheless, this week I downloaded his sixteen quartets.
I determined that I better get started understanding them.
Though I wonder if I haven’t waited too late for spiritual

and poetic enrichment because I, too, am going deaf.
I may not have time to absorb their spiritual depth
and be transformed into a poet of deeper meaning and merit.

But I shall try…as long as I can hear at all…I shall try.

Not sure this qualifies as a poem, but it is about another sense besides sight. I dread going any more deaf. For now it’s low voices and low noises I’m missing but it is continuing and not much can be done my doctor says.
In response to Brian’s request for poetry without images today..using other senses. 
© Gay Reiser Cannon * 3.13.14

45 thoughts on “Hear, hear!

  1. mmm…would he hard to lose any sense…hearing would def be hard to me as i love rhythm and hearing sound…and if i knew i was, i would want to absorb as much as i could in the time i had…even if i could gleen just a little bit you know…..i def would love to find that same response as eliot as well….

  2. i think for a musician it is tough if you cannot hear anymore – and i have no idea how beethoven has done it…the music must have been not only in his ears but in his whole body and mind… i do hope you’re not going deaf gay and that you’ll have the time to enjoy and understand those pieces…

    • Well it’s a slow process – a little at a time. I miss more than I did last year but I can still play and hear it…(possibly a little too forte). I am practicing everyday for about an hour. I have been working Bach, Beethoven’s little sonatinas, the Pathetique once in a while, some Mendelssohn, and yesterday I started a new Shubert. So I can hear the piano coming back for now but one never knows how long it will be.

  3. A wonderful mix of joy & sadness in this one, Gay. Composers still hearing the music in their head while being deaf, artists painting with their feet, runners racing on prosthetics–the human spirit will not be denied. As an old actor, my instrument is damaged, disabled, yet I still have the passion to perform, and continue to do so, circumnavigating the imperfections, working on soul & driven by unseen forces

    • Yes your stage is the page Glenn and you take us into towering sets with casts of thousands at time. The thrill and wonder of words can always be found at your blog, my friend. Yes one has to continue and counter getting older with the wisdom one has accrued, the courage and the fortitude. There may be only a little time but it can be concentrated!

  4. I love the piano sonatas.. and having the ability to play even one of them is beyond me. To be deprived of hearing would indeed be a hard blow… I go, regularly to the Stockholm symphony orchestra (we have a series which means we have the same seats throughout the seasons)… great to see good guest artistis playing..

  5. I can only image how difficult the loss of hearing must be…or any sense for that matter. They do say, that in the absence of one sense, the others become more in tune. So absorb as much as you can right now of the sixteen; pull what you can to add to your spectacular poetic ensemble. And when the time comes, allow your other sense to awaken even more. A lovely and heartfelt write.

  6. Oh, I have always wondered how Beethoven could compose such beautiful music when he was deaf. I guess I will just chalk it up to genius and imagine that he was able to hear exactly how it would sound in his head. Hope you will keep practicing, Victoria. Make those keys sing as long as you can. I took lessons for a while, but never attained the skill of being able to play Beethoven!

  7. The loss of any sense seems crippling but look at Beethoven and Helen Keller. You might not hear as much with your ears but can always hear the notes in your mind. Who knows? Perhaps one day you can imagine playing with four hands and marvel at your own talent.

  8. Your dedication to your playing will pay off in the end, Gay. Hopefully, your hearing will only be diminished, not lost, and you will be able to hear enough to enjoy your own playing. If not, you’ll still be able to bring pleasure to those who hear you when you sit at the keyboard..

  9. I can’t imagine losing any one of the senses and am so sorry that you’re experiencing some loss. They say when one sense goes others heighten, I hope that brings some comfort. I can tell you love music and playing . . . keep at it.

  10. Oh it qualifies as a poem Gay – and a very powerful one at that. You capture so painfully the threat of loss of a sense … this is such a stopper of a line: ‘I may not have time to absorb their spiritual depth/ and be transformed into a poet of deeper meaning and merit’ but the other senses are still doors to poetry enrichment.

    • Yes, of course (and it was meant a bit tongue in cheek) as though I would approach poetry of the quality of Eliot’s Four Quartets, the four poems: Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages,, and Little Gidding. Imagining that would be completely presumptuous but I think you know what I meant. 🙂

  11. I like that you have chosen to focus on music and am sorry you are going deaf. I am no musician but appreciates the skill in others and can be quite moved by some of Beethoven’s music.

  12. I’m so sorry you are struggling with your hearing – my dad had no hearing in his left ear, and strangely I think my step-dad also has problems in the same ear. Some other people I know have industrial deafness, caused by decades working in printing and the steel industry. What life throws at us…

  13. I pray your hearing will be as intact as possible for as long as possible…but isn’t it amazing to consider Beethoven’s will to not succumb to his defect and to continue to compose? This makes me want to listen to those quartets, too. Music is such a spiritual experience.

  14. I too wonder how he played brilliantly when he was deaf ~ I can empathize with gradual fear and dread of hearing loss or for any senses ~ But we adapt and manage what we can ~ Perhaps the appreciation becomes sharper when we realize all is fleeting as we age ~ Take care ~

  15. Thank you for your kind words. I didn’t mean to be self-pitying but I suppose it comes off that way. I think one does have to compensate and challenge ourselves regardless of what comes our way. I appreciate all your kindness and know eventually I will get ’round to you all.

  16. My mom was a gifted piano player and teacher. The notes will live on in my memory, as they will for you even if you can’t hear them all.

    • Thank you Laurie – her favorite music and the pieces she played will always bring her close to you. Listen often; you will start to remember so many things that you’ve tucked away. It will be a place of solace for you, I think.

  17. It’s just amazing that Beethoven could do what he did despite being deaf. Could not imagine such a scenario. But then again those afflicted without sight or sound normally have other senses more enhanced, so they say! You are very much into music too, Gay! That’s great! Keep it up and forget about what might happen!


  18. I thought this was a wonderful poem Gay. You explore a real problem the lose of hearing and the desire to learn more from Beethoven’s music, then again don’t we all. I do hope you get to receive the enlightenment of the music before you lose too much more hearing. I liked also your wry humour throughout.

  19. I have a lot of empathy for people in your situation…unlike having been born deaf, it would be a huge adjustment; two thoughts – there had to be some sort of genius in Beethoven, a gift, and then there is Beverly Sills who sings beautifully and whose daughter is deaf….I hope you still can enjoy music for a long time to come.

  20. I marvel at the gifts bestowed on us by Beethoven – a man with music in his soul. Sad to hear of your hearing loss Gay and if it continues – may it be slow.
    Kind regards
    Anna :o]

  21. But you certainly, Gay, have an inner hearing since you’re playing long time…this is how Beethoven composed…Also I was thinking about the low of compensation: your other senses have to be stronger now…watch the scents…they able to switch moods up and down…hugs

  22. It’s something to wonder if Beethoven was augmented by his going deaf … our “Ode to Joy” sounding like “Say What?” to the Master … Eliot’s later quartets must have been mined from his sense of Beethoven’s, a wholly different, mature work that we become the explorers of as we get old. There never is enough time for such transformations but we try, we try … Great stuff, Gay.

  23. as to your comment about whether or not that was a poem…I would say a resounding “Yes! That was Poetry!!” You have taken your fear and given it voice. Losing my hearing is, perhaps, my greatest fear as I love music. (I’ve played piano, trumpet, and french horn, although I play very little now). I can certainly understand your fear, as it appears we share that love of music. Beethoven was certainly amazing in his ability after losing his hearing!

  24. Our senses, we cherish those which are closest to our passions, to our love. I’m not a musician, a passable singer of harmonies and cow-soothing tunes, but I appreciate and love music. I found your poem to be not self pitying, but a bold and honest assessment of the situation, and an acknowledgement of how other artists struggle with their bodies betraying them. I’m pretty sure one day in the future I’ll be wishing I had taken better care of a few things that I am learning not to take for granted.

    Your poem is a lovely piece, and I’m thankful you shared it.

    • Thank you Shanyn – you really saved my day as a person today told me that if he hadn’t known me, he would have found the piece not only tedious but self-pitying. I appreciate that it fell on some who thought it worth the read. Much gratitutde!

      • I didn’t see either, tediousness or self-pity. It is so worth the read. Glad I was able to tip the scales a bit for you, so you can have some smiles!

      • Had lots of smiles today (fortunately can hear the loud speakers in ice rinks). Judge show skating competition tonight and touched base with old friends through the many years in the sport! Thanks Shanyn

  25. I think of my grandmother who used to say “sometimes I hear too much,” but I am very sympathetic–I feel I am going blind and a little deaf. It is very disturbing. What can be done–but do as you do–enjoy the wonderful senses you have and the very great ways to employ them–i.e. Beethoven–you must be quite a pianist! Take care, k.

  26. It most certainly qualifies as a poem! And an unusual and moving one at that.

    I am grateful for my Government issue hearing aids which I have had for several years!

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