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Deaf Composer

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"Deafness doesn't prevent composers hearing music. It prevents them hearing distractions."

A Deaf Composer enjoys cooking, painting, singing, sculpting, or some other creative activity...which they can never experience first-hand, because they suffer from a loss of one (or more) of the senses most closely tied with their art or have a unique biology that won't allow them to experience their creations. This usually results in or from Sense Loss Sadness, though it may just be that the Deaf Composer has found a way to compensate à la Disability Superpowers. They may pursue this passion either out of a love of it or as a means to compensate for their disability.


While this can be Played for Laughs with the Deaf Composer also being a Lethal Chef (or just amazingly bad for non-cooking arts), it can just as easily be Played for Drama with the character struggling with their Tragic Dream. Interestingly, they may not necessarily be bad at cooking, painting, etc., making quite competent creations. However, these may suffer from being by-the-numbers and uncreative due to the lack of all required senses, while other times it's that very same drawback that gives them such a unique and passionate perspective they blow rivals out of the water.

This trope is named in honor of Ludwig van Beethoven, who in the later years of his life continued to compose despite becoming mostly deaf (he didn't start deaf, however). Being an alien spy probably helped.

Contrast Creative Sterility, where a character is unable to create art (or procreate) not because they lack the corresponding senses but out of a lack of creative spark. See also the specific Sub-Trope Blind Musician. Opposite of Dream-Crushing Handicap, where it becomes physically impossible to follow the dream.



Anime and Manga

  • In XXX Holic, Watanuki turns out to be unable to remember the taste of his food.
  • Played with in Medaka Box as an android who, understandably has no tastebuds, has won a cooking contest.
  • In Classi9, Beethoven lost his hearing very early in his life. Like his real-life counterpart, it doesn't stop him from composing, but he does appreciate help to write his music. He also comments that operas are the only type of musical works he can still enjoy, as they consist of music and plays.

Comic Books

  • Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four is a blind sculptress. She creates amazingly detailed and more impressively accurate sculptures of people the FF have met just by hearing them described.
  • Maya Lopez aka Echo, who originated in Daredevil, is a deaf musician and actress, skills made possible by her adoptive muscle memory, similar to Taskmaster or Finesse.

Fan Fiction


  • Tortilla Soup, starring Hector Elizando as a chef who has lost his sense of taste. An Ethnic Remake of Eat Drink Man Woman.
  • Poked fun at in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, in the scene where they pick up Beethoven; they carry him off the piano mid-song, and he continues playing (that is to say, he mimes that he's still playing the piano).
  • In Trouble with the Curve, Clint Eastwood plays an aging baseball scout who is slowly losing his eyesight. Nevertheless, he still manages to cope with hearing the sound of the ball hitting the glove/bat.
  • The Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved contains a small deconstruction. In an early scene, Beethoven is conducting a performance of one his compositions (the Emperor Concerto), but loses track of where the orchestra should be, and begins giving out erroneous instructions to the orchestra. This confuses the musicians and seriously mars the performance, especially when an enraged Beethoven orders them to start over from the beginning. Truth in Television, sadly enough—Beethoven could compose just fine without his hearing, but conducting and performing were another matter, and he was ultimately forced to retire from both pursuits (during the performance of his Ninth Symphony, Beethoven was allowed to stand with the working conductor, but he was only permitted to tap out the tempo before each movement—and the musicians were ordered to ignore any direction he happened to give beyond that).
  • Proof is about the tribulations of a blind photographer played by Hugo Weaving.


  • The Discworld book Soul Music mentioned that most composers have gone deaf by the time they die, this being the gods' idea of a joke. The joke is on the gods, of course. Deafness doesn't prevent a true composer from hearing the music; it prevents them from hearing the distractions.
  • House of Leaves has Zampano, who wrote his manuscript in the form of a film review despite being blind and therefore unable to view films.
  • In The Chronicles of Amber, Random's wife Vialle is a talented sculptress who happens to be blind.
  • Pied Piper is the music teacher in DC Super Hero Girls. Harley didn't even know he was deaf until Katana mentioned it. He can feel the music more powerfully than hearing people.

Live-Action TV

  • Dr. Gregory House. As the canonical Wounded Healer, his medical genius bestows a second chance at life to almost all of his patients, while his own prolonged state of misery implies that he himself is unable to enjoy life.
  • Several chefs on Chopped have created dishes with mystery ingredients they can't taste due to allergies or other dietary restrictions (e.g., a Kosher chef cooking prosciutto or a vegetarian chef cooking meat). When one chef got through two rounds despite being allergic to ingredients in both, his competitor worried about how well he might do when he could actually taste the food.
  • Sue on Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye sings Christmas carols despite being deaf. She jokes that she can tell when she hits the wrong notes by the faces other people make. In her autobiography, the real Sue Thomas (whom the show was based on) describes learning to play piano by memorizing the keys and learning to sing by feeling the vibrations of her mother's voice box.
  • Emma Coolidge on Heroes is deaf and picks up the cello because her ability, an enhanced form of synesthesia, allows her to see the sound waves as bright colors. She can also concentrate the sound vibrations into a powerful sonic blast.
  • In an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, a nature photographer à la Matthew Brady comes to town, who is secretly losing his vision. He takes Sully on as a local assistant, pretending to teach him the basics of photography but actually using his eyes to frame the photos.
  • Spoofed in Psych’s Twin Peaks tribute episode, in which Dual Spires' local photographer reveals that he's secretly blind. Shawn discovers that the man's house is filled with photographs pinned to every available section of the wall... and they're all completely out of focus, with awful lighting, framing, and composition, depicting nothing in particular, and several are hung upside down. This manages to be humorous, tragic, and creepy all at once.
  • One episode of NCIS had a blind photographer as a witness.
  • Ned the Piemaker in Pushing Daisies owns a pie shop (hence the Piemaker title), and manages to stay afloat by buying rotten fruit on discount and using his powers to revitalize them. But if he touches them again, they would return to their original rotten state, so he can never taste his own creations.
  • Sometimes inflicted on contestants of Cutthroat Kitchen, when one of the items up for auction is exclusive rights to taste while cooking.
  • MasterChef Season 3 winner Christine Ha was blind.
  • On Project Runway, season 9 and All-Star Season 2 contestant Anthony Ryan Auld is colorblind but was often praised for his color choices.

Tabletop RPG

  • This is true of any vampire cook in Vampire: The Requiem. Since the curse of undeath also makes any food or drink that isn't blood taste absolutely horrible and forces them to puke it up in short order, they can cook to their heart's content, but not only will they be unable to eat it, taste-testing is impossible.

Video Games

Web Animation

  • In No Evil Xochipilli sacrificed his hearing to seal the black Tezcatlipoca, but it doesn't stop him from using Magic Music afterward.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Not a fully blind artist, but apparently the director of House of Wax (1953), André de Toth, had only one eye and thus couldn't see any of the film's 3-D sequences.
  • As mentioned in the trope description, Beethoven suffered from deafness later in his life. The cause of this disability has been argued, with such possibilities as lead poisoning, syphilis, or even his habit of dunking his head in cold water to stay awake being cited. Didn't stop him from creating masterpieces, however.
  • There are several famous blind sculptors. That actually makes sense if you think about it because although they can't see their artwork, they can still use their sense of touch to feel it. However, blind Italian sculptor Felice Tagliaferri deserves special mention for his re-creation of a famous 16th-century statue which he wasn't allowed to touch.
  • Czech composer Bedřich Smetana wrote most of his greatest works (including the symphonic suite Má vlast and the opera The Bartered Bride) after becoming completely deaf later in life. Ironically, his loss of hearing freed him from many of his career obligations, which gave him more time to compose.
  • French composer Gabriel Fauré was forced to retire from most of his professional obligations a few years before his death as his hearing loss (and other health problems) became too severe to work through, but he continued to compose; the most notable composition from his final years was his String Quartet in E minor, and he had to refuse an offer by four musicians to perform it for him while he was on his deathbed, as what little sound he could still hear was horribly distorted.
  • English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams served in the Royal Artillery during World War I, and his time surrounded by loud and powerful guns resulted in his going completely deaf later in life, but his hearing loss didn't stop him from composing concert pieces and film scores right up to his death in 1957.
  • John Bramblitt is blind. He's also a painter. On Jay Ingram's last show on Daily Planet, Bramblitt painted Ingram perfectly after only touching his face – he even got the colors right. You can see a collection of his paintings here.
  • Dame Evelyn Glennie, who was the percussionist for the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, is deaf. She once gave a TED talk about her experiences, online here.
  • Pete Townshend lost a good deal of his hearing over years of touring with one of the most famously loud rock bands ever. He now takes various precautions to keep his remaining hearing strong and to prevent himself from going entirely deaf, and he still composes and tours.
  • Film critic Roger Ebert published a book of recipes for rice cookers after thyroid cancer deprived him of his ability to eat solid foods. He explained, "To be sure, health problems have prevented me from eating. That did not discourage my cooking. It became an exercise more pure, freed of biological compulsion."
  • While not entirely deaf, Sakanaction frontman Ichirō Yamaguchi has lost his hearing in his right ear after a sudden hearing loss in 2010.
  • After years of playing loud rock music in front of huge speakers, Danny Elfman and a few other members of Oingo Boingo began to develop irreversible hearing loss and would have gone stone deaf had the band stayed together any longer, which is why in 2007, Elfman formally announced that the band would never reunite.
  • The real Sue Thomas went deaf at 18 months and found that she could expertly read other people's lips while learning to communicate. This got her a job lipreading for the FBI.
  • Lou Schiemer, one of the presidents of Filmation, is color-blind. This goes far toward explaining the odd color choices in some of their shows, particularly the infamous pink Kzinti.
  • Cartoonist James Thurber was legally (but not fully) blind as the result of a shooting accident, leading to his famous lumpy-looking art style.
  • Country Music singer Billy Hoffman recorded an entire album in 2000 despite being 97% deaf.
  • Renowned French painter Claude Monet was almost legally blind towards the end of his life. His cataract surgery left him unable to see any colors other than blue. This was known as his "blue period," and most of his works from that time reflected his vision impairment.
  • Sean Forbes is a born-deaf hip-hop artist. He was signed to Web Entertainment, the same independent record label that signed Eminem before he went with Universal.


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