The First Four Notes


This is arguably the most famous passage in western music.


It has been likened to the sound of fate knocking at the door, though Carl Czerny, Beethoven’s pupil, maintained that Beethoven was inspired by the song of the yellowhammer, a bird he heard on one of his frequent long walks through the countryside near Vienna. The yellowhammer’s song, as you can hear in this video, has a short-short-short-long pattern, with the last note descending.

The first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C minor has permeated our cultural soundscape. It’s been adapted and performed in a variety of musical genres, including disco:


And salsa:

Here is Disney’s animation for the piece in Fantasia 2000.

Here it is as an old-school voicemail greeting:

Here it is adapted by a Minecraft fanatic:

And here it is (sort of) in an #EpicFail of a t-shirt:







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