9 Symphonies*

I’ve been busier than usual as of late, and I realized that I’d been slacking off on my solemn duty as a blogger, that of promulgating crackpot theories. Without the constant nourishment of entertainingly improbable hypotheses, this whole Internet thing would beach itself like a disoriented right whale—there, I’ve met my quota for not-quite-pertinent similes at the same time! Anyway, try this one on for size:

Ludwig van Beethoven was a steroid abuser.

Wouldn’t that explain an awful lot? The notoriously difficult personality? The megalomanaical fury of the middle period? The wild mood swings of the late period? The rather remarkable growth of his head? Dude’s head went from normal to huge. Not to put too fine a point on it:

Barry Bonds in 1986; Barry Bonds in 2007.

Beethoven in 1801; Beethoven in 1818.

How’s that for circumstantial evidence? I will also point out the original words to the finale of the Ninth Symphony (NOTE: not actual original words to the finale of the Ninth Symphony):

Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Alle Sachen das Erhell’n;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Mit ihren großen Muskeln.
Your magic frees all others,
The brightening of all things;
All men become brothers,
With their huge muscles.

Let’s review, shall we?



Little head

Enormous head

Awkwardly friendly

Cranky and temperamental

Symphony no. 1

Symphony no. 5

Some literalist is probably at this moment self-inflicting a herniated disc with head-shaking and complaining that anabolic steroids weren’t synthesized until around the 1930s. Well, the British novelist and critic Angus Wilson has my back (OK, OK, he’s talking about Dickens and Dostoevsky—same difference, I say!):

I think this refutation of evidence of direct influence is not all that important, for the relation… is much more exciting than a matter of provable evidence of somebody being influenced by this particular thing or that particular thing.

Next time: Liszt and crystal meth—of course, you all knew that one already.


  1. In true Bondsian fashion, Beethoven would most likely defend himself against the charge of doping that he ‘never injected steroids into my ears’.

  2. I will never think of Barry Bonds without a picture of Cranky Beethoven popping into my (smallish) head. That was very, very funny, and you’re right, it explains so much.

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