New York: The striking rhythms found in some of world-renowned musician Ludwig van Beethoven's most famous works may have been inspired by his own heartbeat, says a team of US researchers.
Researchers from University of Michigan and University of Washington that included a cardiologist, medical historian and musicologist analysed several of Beethoven's compositions for clues of a heart condition some have speculated he had.
The rhythms of certain parts of renowned works may, in fact, reflect the irregular rhythms of Beethoven's own heart caused by cardiac arrhythmia.
"His music may have been both figuratively and physically heartfelt," said co-author Joel Howell, professor of internal medicine at University of Michigan's medical school.
"When your heart beats irregularly from heart disease, it does so in some predictable patterns. We think we hear some of those same patterns in his music," he claimed.
The synergy between our minds and our bodies shapes how we experience the world.
"This is especially apparent in the world of arts and music, which reflects so much of people's innermost experiences," Howell added.
The team studied the rhythmic patterns of several compositions that may reflect Beethoven's experience of an arrhythmia, a condition that causes the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
Sudden, unexpected changes in pace and keys in Beethoven's music appear to match such asymmetrical patterns.
Take for example the final movement "Cavatina" in Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 130, an emotionally-charged piece that Beethoven said always made him weep.
In the middle of the quartet, the key suddenly changes to C-flat major, involving an unbalanced rhythm that evokes dark emotion, disorientation and what has even been described as a "shortness of breath."
In the composer's directions to musicians playing the piece, the section is marked beklemmt - a German word that translates to "heavy of heart".
Authors noted that "heavy of heart" could mean sadness but may also describe the sensation of pressure, a feeling that is associated with cardiac disease.
"Beethoven experienced arrhythmia and the works we describe may be 'musical electrocardiograms', the readout of modern heart rhythm testing equipment," the authors concluded.
The study appeared in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine.