Thursday, December 17, 2015

Schools : Music education : Let's play Beethoven !

Ludwig van Beethoven
portrait:  Joseph Karl Stieler, 1828

Ludwig van Beethoven, baptized December 17, 1770, Bonn, archbishopric of Cologne, probably born a day or two earlier, German composer, the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras.

Widely regarded as the greatest composer who ever lived, Ludwig van Beethoven dominates a period of musical history as no one else before or since.

Google Doodle Beethoven's 245th Anniversary

Oh! My God! Today, Google honours the 245th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven born (probably on this day, December 17,1770) with a Doodle that highlights his most recognizable compositions. I am kind of excited about seeing it. 

In fact Beethoven biography starts with his baptism. He was baptized on December 17th 1770, in Bonn.

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most famous and influential composers of all time. He is best known for his nine symphonies, which have been described as the "cornerstones of Western civilisation".

  • Google Doodle:

First let's talk about this wonderful DoodleThe Doodle went live on Google’s main search page starting on the evening of Dec. 16 and will stay up through Dec. 17, the date Beethoven was baptized in the year 1770. His exact birthday isn’t known, but is believed to be around that time.

Google Doodle Beethoven's 245th anniversary

The Doodle is so exciting! So creative! Beethoven's Doodle is an interactive video. It's more of a puzzle than it is a simple picture. 

We can listen Beethoven's music and at the same time, we are tasked with arranging Beethoven’s sheet music in the correct order after he mixes up the pieces on his way to conduct a concert. 

Google Doodle Beethoven's 245th anniversary

The puzzle focuses on the composer’s most widely-received works, such as Fifth SymphonyFür Elise, the Moonlight Serenade, the Ode to Joy Ninth SymphonyEach piece becomes harder to piece back together as the puzzle progresses.

Google Doodle Beethoven's 245th anniversary

The Doodle group stuck with this idea over others because of its subtle educational aspect. I agree! Completely!

“You can actually see the music notes, so you can get the concept of written music,”

Jordan Thompson

Congratulations to artist Nate Swinehart and engineers Jonathan Shneier and Jordan Thompson. Divine this interactive video. Beethoven deserves it !

credits: Mark Tucker

Even when we are the preeminent musical genius of our generation, not my case, however I studied Piano since my childhood, and I have a Master. 

played Beethoven piano pieces as Für Elise or The Moonlight Serenade, not the Fifth or Ninth Symphonies (these master pieces are symphonic). But I played sonatas, a piano concerto among others. It's one of my favorite composers.

Watching the puzzle, I just step on it. I began with joy (my memories came to me) Beethoven’s trip to the symphony hall in today’s musical puzzle. And I was lucky. I completed the four puzzles very fast. My musical hear and the knowledge of the master pieces helped me a lot.

I am a 'gifted' person today. In my childhood, my parents gave me the wonderful chance to play the piano. I have a Master in Piano at the Conservatory of Music.

credits: on the picture

  • Biography in few words:

"It’s unclear when Beethoven was actually born, but December 17th marks the 245th anniversary of his baptism. 

Today provided us a rare opportunity to construct a game in step with beautiful music, whose evocative moods, drama, lightness, and depth made conjuring visuals to match it rollickingly fun. Here’s to one of history’s greatest artists, and to hoping that, wherever you happen to be traveling this holiday, your life’s work isn’t eaten by a horse."

Google doodle team

Ludwig’s father, a middling singer in the Elector’s court and a man too often in his cups, pulled the precocious child out of school at the age of ten in hopes of earning some money on the shoulders of his talent (as a result, his handwriting was so bad that musicologists still struggle to authenticate his signature). 

He lost two siblings prematurely, had to assume full responsibility for his family as a teenager, fell madly for unrequited lovers twice, and, most famously, began losing his hearing at the peak of his career.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Lithograph after an 1819 portrait by Ferdinand Schimon, c. 1870

Despite all of this, Beethoven’s music prevailed. As Mozart reputedly said, “one day, [that boy] will give the world something to talk about.” That he certainly did. 

Sure, he may have raised his voice a few times, but he could overwhelm his friends with excessive kindness and generosity just the same. And while his romances brought him more anguish than happiness, would we have Für Elise or Moonlight Sonata if they hadn’t?

By his 30's his hearing began to deteriorate, and by the last decade of his life he was almost totally deaf. In 1811 he gave up conducting and performing in public but continued to compose; many of his most admired works come from these last 15 years of his life.

He passed away surrounded by his closest friends on March 26th 1827, just as a storm broke out, in Vienna.

Ludwig van Beethoven
portrait: Christian Horneman,1803

  • Some useful links:

Ludwig van Beethoven's Biography

Ludwig van Beethoven| Encyclopedia Britannica

Ludwig van Beethoven| Wikipedia

Das Digitale Beethoven-Haus

After the 360th anniversary of Bartolomeo Cristofori (the piano inventor), the 193rd anniversary of Clara Schumann (pianist, piano teacher and mentor); the 332nd anniversary of Antonio Vivaldi (virtuoso violinist, composer) the anniversary of Igor Stravinsky (modern composer), Claude Debussy (composer and pianist) or the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt (composer, virtuoso pianist), Google celebrates today, Ludwig van Beethoven, considered one of the best composers that has ever lived. 

credits: Getty Images/Glow RM


"Music is the language of God!

Musicians are the closest to God as men can be. We hear His voice. We read His lips."

Copying Beethoven (film)

As a musician, I think that every child have the right to learn a musical instrument. 

Every child, from any background, should have a chance to play music if they so wish. And they all can. It’s a myth that music is difficult. Nothing is difficult if we love it.

Try taking a child out of class for 15 minutes nowadays for an individual music lesson, as we used to in the 70's 

They would miss some swotting for a test or wreck a target – and, anyway, what would the child play and how would they learn?

The holistic immersive approach of Music (classical or not) and the engagement of important and skilled musicians is central to achieving significant transformation, particularly to the lives of the most vulnerable children.

credits: Photofusion/UIG/Getty

What school could pay for instruments and one-to-one tuition? How could they ever build up an orchestra, for poor as well as rich? Yes, they can.

Gustavo Dudamel did it with El SistemaThe program offers instruction as many as four days a week to some 500 under-privileged kids in undeserved areas of the city, most of them Latinan or African American.

In Portugal the Orquestra Geração follows the El Sistema. The Orquestra Geração programme offers children from underprivileged suburbs of Portugal (different cities in the country), the opportunity to keep on practice music: instruments and music courses are available to them free of charge. It's a musical project for inclusion of the young Portuguese who live in underprivileged suburbs.

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1945. 
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division


  • The Doodle:
Start your lesson, if you are at school before festive season, asking your students to enter on Google’s main search page and let them try by themselves to help Beethoven's unfortunate journey to the symphony hall by arranging his masterpieces in time for the big crescendo (puzzle). If they are in a Music course, it will be easy. If not help the younger.

Even they are not playing an instrument, they will love to arrange music sheets by order. Ask them to pay attention to the tune.

On the website, you will find Hello Beethoven for Children (interactive activities) 
in five languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Turkish. 

Ten chapters (all interactive) cover different aspects of Beethoven's life. Don't miss this pedagogical resource.

Copying Beethoven
Agnieszka Holland, 2006

  • A biopic: Copying Beethoven
There's a wonderful film, Copying Beethoven that you can include into your lessons. It's a good digital resource and students will love it.

The film was directed by Agnieszka Holland and it's almost a love story about music or through music.

"The journey during the film is to learn about the music, but also to learn about the man... to come closer and closer to the music and to the man."

Agnieszka Holland

The film takes place in 1824, toward the end of Beethoven’s life. Directed by the Polish veteran Agnieszka Holland, the film tells the agonies of a man who lives very much alone in his head. 

"I will help you, I will stand where you can see me, I'll give the bite for you."

(Copying Beethoven)


Copying Beethoven looks as if it might be following the typical period film. Ed Harris (Beethoven) proves an ideal substitute for deaf, brooding composer, acting with a violent turbulence that sometimes floods the room. 

Diane Krueger plays Anna Holtz, a Viennese music student who through talent, ambition and happenstance finds herself summoned to transcribe Beethoven’s messy musical notations. 

Stone deaf, Beethoven initially rebuffs her services (you’re a woman, he all but shouts, as if her sex were a crime), but quickly relents. 

"I may be a woman but I am the best student!"

Time and life are running out, and he is too preoccupied with finishing his latest symphony, the Ninth Symphony (we can hear the Ode of Joy in the doodle video).

Copying Beethoven
Agnieszka Holland, 2006

So together, in a darkly lighted apartment where rats scuttle underfoot amid eggshells and overflowing chamber pots, he composes and she copies. 

"I will help you, I will stand where you can see me, I'll give the bite for you."

(Copying Beethoven)

In time, the work and the notes join forces until one evening, with Beethoven conducting, the Ninth Symphony erupts into a dazzled world.

The presentation of the Ninth is heaven! On screen is the Kecskemet Symphony Orchestra of Hungary, but what we hear is a 1996 Decca recording of Bernard Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. 

"He changed the very notion of music, destroying rules, conventions [...] bombastic, brilliant, generous, unforgiving, yet kind hearted, Beethoven ruled over the cultural landscape of Europe in the first quarter of the 19th century."

Agnieszka Holland

To explore movies in the classroom, you will find different posts on my blog. Movies can be used to teach reading strategies for example. Films can offer teachers and students a nice motivating push to a different lesson, for developing different skills.

Films are interesting digital resources:

  •  to teach music, literacy, arts, sciences, civics, values.
  • for reinforcing skills, reading, writing, drawing, composingfor reinforcing or introducing the skill of inference.

"Movies present language in a way that is often more natural than that found in course-books, the fantastic visual context aids understanding and boosts listening, and students just simply love them."

Steve Louw

  • ActivitiesApply to the level(s) you are teaching. You're the master of your lessons.

Cross-curricular project: Music, Languages; Literature; Arts ; Multimedia


  • Primary to Secondary Education. 
  • Vocational: #Music#Arts.

Other Resources: 

  • Articles:
- Deus Ex Musica: Beethoven transformed music - but has veneration of him stifled his successors?

- Beethoven's Famous 4 Notes: Truly Revolutionary Music (Fith Symphony)

Interesting articles for Vocational Music schools (students).

Ludwig van Beethoven
illustration: Daniel Adel

Some thoughts:

Children and young people from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at school, making music with class mates, learning to sing or to dance, having the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence.

Music has the potential to achieve social and psychological transformation of children and young people. Their sensibility will be accurate. 

We must never waste such an opportunity as teachers! Captivating the major interests of our students to Music.

"High quality music education enables lifelong participation in, and enjoyment of, music, as well as underpinning excellence and professionalism for those who choose not to pursue a career in music."

Music, as you can read on several posts on this blog, is fundamental in Education of young people.

Note: 2020 is celebrating the 250th Birthday of Beethoven

"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine."

Ludwig van Beethoven
updated 17.12.2020
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