Roll Over Beethoven -or- The Dreams of Ludwig van Beethoven

Age of The Enlightenment -or- Music Experiments in Dreams

Dreams of Mozart's music (2) can be found circulating in dreams of those living in the 20th century. With Mozart's death, much of the resultant classical music vacuum was filled by the sounds of Ludwig van Beethoven. While Mozart was a Freemason, Beethoven reportedly was a member of the "Order of the Illuminati". Mozart and Beethoven can both be viewed as being part of the Western culture's epochal movement known as the "Age of the Enlightenment". The political utopian ideals of the Enlightenment played a key role in the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence. 

Maynard Sullivan "Beethoven Essays", has reported the dreams of Beethoven, here are two of them;  

The dream is reported in a letter Beethoven sent to Ignaz von Gleichenstein dated June 13, 1807.  "The night before last I had a dream in which you seemed to me to be in a stable, where you where wholly bewitched and captivated by a pair of magnificent horses that you were oblivious to everything around you." 

A letter (below) written to the Archduke by Beethoven, may shed some light on the contextual meaning of the dream above. 


I notice that your Imperial Highness wishes to make an experiment on horses by means of my music. It is to see, so I perceive, whether the riders thereby can make some clever somersaults. Ha ha, I must really laugh at your Imperial Highness thinking of me in this matter; for that I shall be to the end of my life,

Your most willing servant' Ludwig Van Beethoven 

N.B.- The desired horse-music will reach your Imperial Highness at full gallop. 

Beethoven's dream in which Gleichenstein is "bewitched and captivated", may represent the feelings surrounding the vision of Beethoven's musical experiments using horses. Does Gleichenstein act and symbolically stand in for Beethoven's listening audience and their response (bewitched and captivated) to his music? Said differently did Gleichenstein become Beethoven's eyes and ears.

A second dream was reported in October 15, 1819 in a letter to the Archduke Rudolf. "Last night I dream of Y.I.H. (Your Imperial Highness). Although no music was performed, yet it was a musical dream. But in my waking hours too I think of Y.I.H. The Mass soon will be finished-May Heaven empty the cornucopia of its blessings daily and hourly upon your illustrious head." 

The Mass that Beethoven is speaking about in the letter, is most likely "Missa Solemnis" that he began working on in 1819 and completed in 1824. The Mass was dedicated to the Archduke Rudolf. From the psychoanalytic perspective, we can turn to Theodore Reik's "Listening with the Third Ear" to search for understanding of Beethoven's dream. Reportedly at age 26 (1796), Beethoven started loosing his hearing and by 1814 Beethoven was completely deaf, yet he continued to compose. Beethoven remarks about the dream that "no music was performed, yet it was a musical dream". Is Beethoven saying that he could not hear the music, yet could still create musical dreams? Did Beethoven's musical composition dreams help to artistically compensate for his hearing loss? 

Today Beethoven's music work can be found in a multitude of popular films including "Dead Poets Society", "Crimson Tide", "Fantasia" and "Horse Whisperer". Chuck Berry's 1956 hit "Roll Over Beethoven" (watch music video) was written as a popular music response to his sister's playing classical music and stands at #97 of the Rolling Stone's top 500 songs of all time. 

Further Reading: 

  1. Maynard Solomon, American Imago. XXXII, 1975: The Dreams of Beethoven. Pp. 113-144. 
  2. Mark Hagen, "Mozart's Magic Flute"  
All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.