Board Certified Periodontist

59 – My Favorite Composer

Hi there. You are listening to the Perio Patient Podcast, a podcast for my patients and anyone else who cares to listen. My name is Dr. Ben Young and I am a periodontist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas. This is podcast episode 59 and I have entitled it “My Favorite Composer.”

The overall purpose of this podcast is to keep in touch and to provide updates and reminders that I hope will help you do your 80% of the work on behalf of your oral health, and I believe it is also true about your overall health. Those who come to see me for gum related concerns watch a video presentation I call A Tooth Has Four Parts and in it I talk about 80/20. You can watch this presentation on the front page of my website

Doing a podcast the way I do and for the reasons I do swim against the current. Most people want to grow an audience. I don’t care about that. My focus is on the real people I serve and the real dentists and dental hygienists I am fortunate to work along-side. The rest of the world is not my focus in this podcast even though I am aware it exists. This is because my business model has nothing to do with monetization of a big audience. I don’t live under the Illusion that what I have to share and say Is earth shattering or entertaining to a large audience. You and I meet here because we share just a couple of things. First we may actually know each other and second we are Interested In keeping our mouths as healthy as we possible can. I just saw the podcast wave as a platform I could use in an unconventional way — to communicate with you at your convenience and mine and in a way where the messages just show up every once in a while on your playlist — to again, be listened to at your convenience.

Another reason for this podcast has to do with periodontal disease being managed more by what you do on a daily basis and not what I or other professionals do every once in a while. Again, this is explained in A Tooth Has Four Parts. So, my idea is to at least be a voice of reminder. to stick with routine, the mundane, and take care of yourself every day — and see your family dentist, dental hygienist or me at a reasonable recommended interval so that this particular infectious/inflammatory disease does not reestablish itself. But podcasts offer even more than just basic reminders, They open up the opportunity to go a little deeper — to share things we don’t have time to when our focus in the office is in accomplishing treatment procedures.

Which brings me to what — actually who — I would like to share with you in this podcast. I love classical music. I enjoy and am interested in all forms of music, not just classical, but classical has a particular place in my heart due to my childhood being exposed to it and playing in a number of bands and orchestras through to the end of my high school years. It’s an amazing thing to hear some large multi-instrument composition being played around you and then actually contributing to the piece yourself.

Over the years I have studied and been interested in different composers and one of the things people generally like to do is ask the question which one is the best? It’s an interesting exercise but there is no true answer — it only reveals something about our own particular likes but, which I think still makes it an interesting question. My favorite composer is Beethoven. Top contenders for me in classical music would be J. S. Bach, or Big-Daddy Bach — he had a large family and a lot of them became composers as well. Also born the same year as Bach 1685, was George Fredrich Handle — who wrote The Messiah. It’s funny, he was born in Germany but wrote music for Italian Opera and English Choirs. Also, I would add to the list Hayden, Mozart, Brahms, some Russian composers and on into some more obscure ones. But back to Beethoven. Why him? Well for one thing, if you look at his influence to music, he actually by himself spans two large periods of music Classical and Romantic. In other words, people don’t really know how to classify him. He disrupted classical music and was very much in inspiration for those who followed him into the romantic period.

Now I know for many this is getting into the deep weeds. I completely understand, but my reason for talking about this subject, is not to even necessarily to attempt to talk you into liking classical music if you don’t. What I want to show you is how remarkable our musical heritage is — how even the things we enjoy or even consider to be modern sounds may actually have been around for a few centuries if not longer. So, what is so interesting about Beethoven? His life’s story is inspirational to me — and the little I will share with you here I hope you find it to be the same. Most people, if they know anything at all about Beethoven, know that he was deaf, but most people think this was to Beethoven a musical limitation. Poor Beethoven was deaf. I will argue that Beethoven’s deafness actually has a great deal to do with how he was able to influence music when others didn’t to the same extent.

To show this, let me tell you a little more.

Ludwig was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770 to a father who happened to be both a musician and a miserable parent. So, his son learned piano at an early age, was discovered to have extraordinary talent and was exploited because of this by his dad. Mozart, also a child prodigy, had similar problems. As soon as Beethoven was old enough to escape this miserable family life he moved to Vienna. He was probably in his late teens, early twenties, and there came under the instruction for a period of time of Josef Hayden, one of the greatest composers of his age, and of all time. Hayden was the consummate classic composer and taught his methods that were loved by royal courts of the time.

Now what do you think of when you imagine a royal court? How about ceremony? How about orderliness? How about rules of conduct — of what it is to be nobility? So the music, if you were a duke or king, that you would want composed, would express to the world — especially your fellow nobles, just how refined and superior you are. This was how you would use your court composer and court musicians. They would play music for banquets, formal balls, and other important events to the nobility. That was the music of Hayden. Again, I don’t want to cut Hayden short. He was amazing and prolific and his music is well worth listening to. But what was happening at the end of the 18 th century was the disruption of nobility as the industrial revolution along with the American Revolution and then the French Revolution began to weaken the ruling classes and usher in powerful industrialists and a larger middle class, who now could afford entertainment of their own.

The public concerts became popular and for musicians a new source of income. Mozart was at the beginning of this societal change and Beethoven followed him and actually became quite financially successful without requiring as much ruling-class support. Attitudinally, because Beethoven in his lifetime became famous and fairly successful he always saw himself equal to any man, even royalty — which of course got him into hot water at times. Hayden who was thirty-eight years older than young Beethoven found him almost impossible to teach. To put it mildly, Beethoven was a difficult person to relate to. He was bull-headed — and certainly being hard of hearing didn’t help matters. He accepted what he liked and discarded what he didn’t. And in fact, my guess is that he would have been diagnosed if he were living today as having some form of mild autism or a personality disorder of some sort. Well as you can tell, I get a little nerdy when it comes to this particular man, and there are a number of reasons for this.

First has to be his music. Now I know, for many, classical music is not their favorite genre — but if you like the musical scores behind movies, then you actually do enjoy classical music. You just don’t think of it with this particular label. The second reason I admire this particular composer has to do with how he wrote music. By age 44 he was completely deaf, and yet he composed some of his most memorable pieces in this last period of his life which lasted another twelve years. For example, this was when he composed the Ninth Symphony, also known as his choral symphony. So think with me, how does a deaf person hear and write music?

He has to remember what everything sounds like from his past. What he is not able to do very well is hear the music of other musicians. This isolation, I believe, resulted in Beethoven experimenting with sounds in his head. I will play you part of a piano piece where it sounds like he is doing just this. When I write about flossing or share a story called A Tooth Has Four Parts, a part of me looks around and draws in a world that for the most part is moving rapidly along in a frenetic way toward goals and ideas that happen to be popular in the moment.

Every generation has its fads. Every night on some YouTube or cable channel some new product will be introduced and promoted as the latest and greatest you-can’t-live-without sort of thing — hurry and buy it while supplies last — it will revolutionize your life, it will give you the happiness or the love-life you seek. It will make you look a hundred years younger and give you energy you have never had before. Hurry and buy. Beethoven reminds me that there is an inner life and that some truths are found inside ourselves and need to be held on to even if in many ways it requires shutting off the noise of the world. I guess I am encouraging you to find your own inner music, your own rhythms. So now, a section of Beethoven’s last piano sonata, written in 1822, again when he was completely deaf. See if you don’t hear what sounds like jazz.

Thanks for listening. If you liked this episode, let me know. Subscribe and share. Have a great day.

Selection taken from Beethoven: Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Performed by Jeno Jando, 1990 Piano Sonata No. 32 In C minor, Op. 111.