Welcome to Common Core Texts, a project by Michael DeJoseph. Here you'll find high-quality reading passages for grades 3 to 12 in ELA, Social Studies, History, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and many other topics.

Silent Music
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

It must have seemed like a cruel twist of fate to Ludwig von Beethoven when, at the age of 28, he began to go deaf. Beethoven was known as the greatest composer of his day. His beautiful symphonies had brought him money and fame. His creativity and skill were at their height. Then the ringing in his ears began.

Over the next ten years, Beethoven would go almost completely deaf. He could not even have conversations with his friends. Instead, he asked them to write to him in “conversation books.” Beethoven would read what they had to say, then respond.

But through this difficult time, Beethoven never stopped writing and conducting music. How did he do it? Through determination and an ingenious yet simple technique. Beethoven attached a metal rod to his piano. Then he bit down on the end of the rod while he played. This allowed him to “hear” the notes using the vibrations of the rod.

When our ears are working normally, sound waves vibrate our eardrums. These vibrations are passed from our outer ear to our inner ear. There they reach a tiny organ called the cochlea, which sends sounds to our brain. But Beethoven’s eardrums were damaged. By biting down on the metal rod, Beethoven allowed sound waves to vibrate the bones of his skull. The sound waves reached his cochlea through his bones instead of his eardrums.

In 1824, Beethoven conducted his now-famous Ninth Symphony. It was a work that would change musical history. Even today, almost anyone would recognize its familiar opening notes. But the one person who never heard the beautiful Ninth Symphony was Beethoven. By then, he was completely deaf. But this tragic misfortune never stopped Beethoven from doing what he loved: writing music.

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