Are Beethoven’s African Origins Revealed By His Music?

There are two reasons he was careful to organize his image for posterity. First, he must have thought that the rumours and social pressures existing during his lifetime would continue immediately after his death. What would have happened if in the 19th Century, historiography had discovered this deception? The risk was that his music would no longer be played. He had spent his life convincing the public to believe that he had only European origins. After composing one of the most important monuments of the history of art and the human spirit, he wished above all that his work would be passed to posterity.

A second, more important reason exists: to play his music as he played it, to understand it, to hear it, so that it produced the same enchantment as when he played or led it when alive, one had to understand that an important part of the music education that he received in his childhood and early adolescence was an intimate knowledge of polyrhythmic science and art. And, he was a bit of a joker. He must have been amused to see that with the scores he had produced, interpreters were unable, and still are, to produce the same music that came out these texts when he played it. He often said, “It will take at least 50 years before my music is understood.” In actuality, his calculation was off by 150 years. Today, we realize that to play it properly, one has to understand that he had a dual identity. That he was also an African.


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