How A Composer Made Music From Famous Hair Recovered From Nazi Extermination Camp

How A Composer Made Music From Famous Hair Recovered From Nazi Extermination Camp

This is the bizarre tale of how a Scottish composer recovered some locks of Beethoven’s hair from a garment that survived the holocaust, and then used the hair as the basis for a new work of music. Brilliant? Creepy? Both.

The Daily Mail recounts the story of how Stuart Mitchell wrote “Ludwig’s Last Song” based on DNA from Beethoven’s hair. It’s almost too outlandish to be true.

Ludvig van Beethoven died in 1827, but it seems that his musical legacy wasn’t the only thing to survive into the 20th century. A few clippings of his hair were passed on from generation to generation until they ended up in the hands of an unfortunate soul at Auschwitz where the prisoner was forced to hide the hair in his arse, lest the guards discover the artifact and confiscate it. The prisoner survived the camp and so did the hair.

Fast forward to 2009 when Beethoven’s hair was sold at auction. With the help of another artist, composer Stuart Mitchell secured a tiny DNA sample from the purchased hair, which he used to make music:

The DNA was passed to Scots composer Stuart Mitchell, who is involved with a technique called “Cymatics,” which focuses on the shapes that musical frequencies make when passed through either water or a layer of sand. Mitchell pinpointed the 22 unique amino acids in Beethoven’s DNA and assigned to each one a note on a musical stave directly related to the amino acids’ resonant frequency. From these frequencies he composed a piece of music for piano and viola based on Beethoven’s DNA.

“Ludvig’s Last Song” is certainly a moving composition, and the concept behind it is remarkable, even if it’s hard to believe. [The Daily Mail]

Image: Georgios Kollidas/