The First Four Notes

Ludwig-van-Beethoven

This is arguably the most famous passage in western music.

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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:

Metal:

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:

incorrect-beethoven-t-shirt-1508488316

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