Helen Keller's Glimpse Of Beethoven's 'Heavenly Vibration'

NPR's Scott Simon reads from a letter written by activist Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind. It was written in 1924, after she listened to a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

An extraordinary note appeared this week on the Letters of Note blog. Dated Feb 1, 1924, it was sent to the New York Symphony Orchestra after they'd performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall. The writer said she could neither hear nor see but she had placed her hand on the radio speaker. Then she wrote: What was my amazement to discover that I could feel not only the vibrations but also the impassioned rhythm, the throb and the urge of the music. I could actually distinguish the cornets, the roll of the drums, deep-toned violas and violins singing in exquisite unison. The great chorus throbbed against my fingers with poignant pause and flow. Then all the instruments and voices together burst forth - an ocean of heavenly vibration - and died away like winds when the atom is spent, ending in a delicate shower of sweet notes. I couldn't help remembering that the great composer who poured forth such a flood of sweetness into the world was deaf like myself. I marveled at the power of his quenchless spirit by which out of his pain he wrought such joy for others. Let me thank you warmly for all the delight which your beautiful music has brought to my household and to me. With kindest regards and best wishes, I am, sincerely yours, Helen Keller.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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