Scientists say this 191-year-old symphony could help your heart health.

I'm going to play you a song.

You probably know it. In fact, you probably know it extremely well.


That's the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, aka "Ode to Joy." Arguably the single most recognizable piece of music of all time.

(Sorry, "Too Much Time on My Hands," by Styx.)

Now I'm going to play you something else. Really listen closely this time.

That's the third movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Part of the same piece of music. But there's a good chance you've never heard it before.

It's kind of a deep cut. Like the beginning of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Or the fourth verse of "The Star Spangled Banner," which we know exists, but don't actually know.

And turns out it's just a stream of anti-British obscenities. Image by Neutrality/Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, the fourth movement pretty much gets all the love, glory, and fame (not to mention all the sweeeeet electric guitar covers). Which is a shame.

Because the third movement might have magical healing powers.

Seriously.

According to a group of fancy Oxford University scientists, listening to the third movement of Beethoven's No. 9 might actually lower your blood pressure and help fight heart disease. In real life.

Music therapy has been a thing for a while. But British researchers just hit upon some of the first concrete evidence that it's actually, like, a thing.

According to Laura Donnelly at The Telegraph:

"Research presented to the the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) conference in Manchester found that listening to music with a repeated 10-second rhythm coincided with a fall in blood pressure, reducing the heart rate.Such recordings include Va Pensiero by Italian composer Giusuppe Verdi, Nessun Dorma by Giacomo Puccini and Beethoven's 9th Symphony adagio[*]."

*They're talking about the third movement here. ("Adagio" is just a fancy Italian word that means, "Yo, Mikey! Play this part kinda slowly! ...

...and say "hi" to your sister for me.") Painting by George Agnew Reid/Wikimedia Commons.

What's more? There's evidence that the composers might have even done this intentionally.

"Professor Sleight explained some composers, including Verdi, seemed to have managed to mirror the natural rise and fall of blood pressure in the human body.' Verdi may well have been a physiologist,' he said, 'he hit on this ten-second rhythm in blood pressure and you can see it in his music.'" — Elizabeth Davis, Classic FM

That's right.

A bunch of 18th- and 19th-century composers — before the dawn of modern medicine — got together and basically said, "OK, guys. It's obvious that lots of our fellow Austrians and Italians and Prussians and whatever are super stressed out. Since a low-sodium diet won't be invented for another couple hundred years, let's help 'em out and write some calm-as-hell classical music that mimics the function of their circulatory system."

And that's kind of amazing.

OK, but what does this mean? You know, for us?

First, nothing's been proven. This is not, like, prescribable medicine (yet). But the study suggests that these effects aren't individual, but universal. If more evidence confirms these findings, it could mean that the same types of songs with similar rhythms (like Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, third movement) might work to lower blood pressure in all of us. That's pretty neat.

And even though nothing's been proven, why not spend some time listening to some dope classical music that's not only free but might be magic medicine?

There is literally zero downside and possible tremendous upside to chilling out with this magnificent Verdi tune:

And this Beethoven one (you know the one):

And this sweet Puccini track:

Interestingly, the same study found that listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers actually increased subjects' heart rates pretty much across the board.

"Bjzzeijf Californburggg Tnksahruuuunnnnfffff Giveitawaynnaaabbbusfdna." Image by Carlos Delgado/Wikimedia Commons.

Which doesn't mean that listening to RHCP would necessarily immediately cause a massive heart attack of course, but uh ... you can't totally rule it out now, can you?

But I digress.

The most important takeaway of all?

If you're pushing the fourth movement of Beethoven's No. 9, even Beethoven knows you're basic.


Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler.

Beethoven's No. 9, third movement: Good for the heart. Better for the soul.

Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
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