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

Sparkle: "Just as Beethoven was a great composer because he was deaf!"
Bender: "And Rembrandt was blind and had wooden hands."


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 a 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 (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.

Examples of Deaf Composer include:

Anime and Manga

  • Being a demon, Sebastian Michaelis in Black Butler is unable to taste food the way humans do and thinks chocolate tastes disgusting. He learned to be a master gourmet chef purely by intellectual effort.

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.

Fan Works


  • Tortilla Soup, starring Hector Elizando rather than Edward James Olmos. An Ethnic Remake of Eat Drink Man Woman, but I don't know whether or not the same psychosomatic symptom is present there.


  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • Gregory House from House MD. 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 evidences 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.

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.
  • The Eberron RPG module Blind Man's Hunt features a blind patron of the arts who uses his knowledge of art from before he was blinded with his butler's descriptions to envision the pieces. This is actually the alien parasite bestowed upon him by aberrations pretending to be angels that has restored his sight, albeit at the cost of perceiving some things completely wrong, like his patrons as something other than the abominations they are.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Not a fully blind artist, but apparently the director of the original House of Wax, André de Toth, had only one eye, and thus couldn't see any of the film's 3-D sequences.
  • The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges went blind later in life and his most celebrated work was during that time. He even makes a fictionalized version of himself that is also blind to act as a narrator in almost all his short stories!
  • 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.
  • 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 colours right.
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