Google Doodle honors Beethoven

Today’s Google Doodle is an animated puzzle celebrating Beethoven’s 245th birthday. Click on the screenshot below, and then on the arrow, to start the game. You’re required to assemble in order manuscript sheets containing the notation for some of Ludwig’s masterpieces. Only when you get them in order can you continue the game by going to the next piece of music:

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 5.45.05 AM

Time Magazine explains the game and its origin:

Google’s Beethoven Doodle is more of a puzzle than it is a picture. Players are tasked with arranging Beethoven’s sheet music in the correct order after he mixes up the pieces on his way to conduct a concert. The game focuses on the composer’s most widely-received works, such as Moonlight Sonata and Ode to Joy. Each song becomes harder to piece back together as the game progresses.

While the game itself may be simple, coming up with the idea was anything but. Google’s team of doodlers had been brainstorming ways to capture Beethoven’s achievements in a Google Doodle for about two years. The problem, however, was the challenge of creating something interactive and unique to Beethoven’s life that hasn’t already been done in previous doodles.

“We went through a lot of different prototypes for what we wanted a Beethoven doodle to be,” says Jordan Thompson, an engineer on the Google Doodle team “But none of them really filled the role of what we wanted, which was to teach people about Beethoven and his music.”

The group stuck with this idea over others because of its subtle educational aspect. “You can actually see the music notes, so you can get the concept of written music,” says Thompson.

I’m sure our many music-loving readers will succeed. I failed miserably on the second attempt: I got the opening of the Fifth Symphony (easy), but then failed on Für Elise.



  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Being the Beethoven maniac that I am, I was able to figure this out pretty quickly. Too bad, though, that “Fur Elise” remains ensconced in the popular imagination. If I’m not mistaken, I think Beethoven grew to detest this annoying little work and wished he had never written it. Yeah, yeah, I suppose it’s pretty, but it hardly represents Beethoven at his greatest.

    Also, it would have been nice if Google had been a bit more adventurous instead of choosing the most well-known works. The man wrote thirty-two piano sonatas, sixteen string quartets, and several piano trios, violin sonatas, and cello sonatas (in addition to the nine symphonies). Using some more “obscure” pieces in the game would have made it more challenging!

    • Robert bray
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      This is a real piece of bah-humbuggery, Mr. Lyons.

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        Do you mean my pointing it out or my noting that Beethoven grew to dislike his own piece?

        Gee, they could have used a snippet from the Violin Concerto! Wow, what a great work that is. I have three recordings of it.

    • Posted December 17, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      To honour Beethoven, one really should sort the music without sound.

      • Grania Spingies
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        As the late, great Terry Pratchett pointed out in his novel Soul Music:

        “Deafness doesn’t prevent composers hearing the music. It prevents them hearing the distractions.”

        • Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          Yes, an accomplished musician will have developed a vivid and accurate mind’s ear, but still, music is meant to be heard and one’s imagination is no substitute for actually hearing it.

          When Beethoven conducted the premier of the 9th symphony, so the story goes, he had to be turned around at the conclusion by one of the musicians so he could see the ovation he was receiving. Beethoven himself was proudly depressed by the realization he was going deaf, as documented in the Heiligenstadt Testament. Pretty tragic stuff.

    • noncarborundum
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      I don’t see how that can be true. Für Elise wasn’t even published until 1867, a full 40 years after Beethoven’s death. It’s hard to imagine a work so popular that Beethoven grew to detest it could have remained unpublished for so long.

    • Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      I think using well-known pieces makes more sense than trying to convey the greatness of more obscure pieces in only a few measures. Greatness is something that emerges out of longer-range relationships, larger-scale architecture. You can’t call those first eight notes of the 5th symphony great by themselves. It’s what he does with them over the course of the work.

      That writ, here is something a little more off the beaten path (a little). I challenge anyone to listen to this and not melt.

      • darrelle
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        Thank you. I always pay attention, and enjoy, your comments regarding music. I’ll save this link for later this evening.

        • Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          “Beautiful” is too vulgar a word for that piece.

      • Kevin
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        I am melted. But then again, Helene has melted me before.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        Your link – (the 2nd movement of the Emperor) – would be my choise too. Particularly the first couple of minutes, it’s one of the most magical moments in music. And it’s so – spare, so deceptively simple – it sounds almost tentative, as if the pianist is searching for the next note. (But I’ll bet it’s hard to get the timing and the expression exactly right).


    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      For me Beethoven was the greatest composer who ever lived.

      He didn’t have the massive output of Mozart, but he was such a perfectionist that he rejected many compositions that Mozart would have done something with (though Mozart was a musical genius also). As you point out there were many more pieces than his most popular but, even so, I’d give my three favourites as

      1. Second movement of the seventh symphony (surely one of the simplest themes ever).
      2. The violin concerto.
      3. The Choral Fantasia

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Ahem, Ahem, Ahem.

      Fur Elise was a manuscript found after Beethoven’s death and first published 40 years thereafter.

      It is thus improbable that Beethoven’s feelings about the piece were known.

      Methinks this be ein Legende städtisch.

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for that. Maybe I was thinking only of the Septet, published, I think, in 1800.

        That “Fur Elise” had to be discovered long after Beethoven’s death might confirm Beethoven’s likely view of it: if he had been proud of the piece, it wouldn’t have remained unpublished (or lost, whatever the case may be). Keep in mind that Beethoven DID like writing short pieces. I’m speaking, of course, of the Bagatelles. “Fur Elise” is not worthy to live amidst those great little works.

  2. George
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I posted this in the Hili dialogue but I will repost it here for the non-Hili Beethoven fans -if there are any and if so you should be ashamed of yourself.

    I am sure Hili is excited to be celebrating the 245th Anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s baptism. No exact record of his birth date exists. Great Google doodle in his honor today. An even better treat, the full Ninth Symphony by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Riccardo Muti. An official authorized version by the CSO with great video and audio.

    You can view it here.

    • jwthomas
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      And now for something completely different the great Brigitte Engerer plays all the Beethoven Nocturnes here: http://bit.l/1Yngq0J

      • jwthomas
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        Oops! try this:

        • noncarborundum
          Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          Those are Chopin nocturnes. I’ve never heard of a nocturne by Beethoven.

          • Barry Lyons
            Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

            Correct: no Nocturnes by Beethoven.

            But aren’t Chopin’s Nocturnes incredible? I especially love the two Op 27 pieces. Wow. Nelson Freire’s recording of the Nocturnes (the second one, on Decca) is fantastic.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      I am no expert, but Muti is one of my favorite conductors. Over the past 20 years or so it seems more often than not that when I come across a favorite recording of a piece it turns out to have been conducted by Muti.

      • George
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        When the CSO hired Muti at age 69, many, including me, were dumbfounded. We were wrong. This performance of Beethoven’s Ninth is remarkable. Arguably, the greatest piece of music ever composed performed by an orchestra which at its best is almost overwhelming under the direction of a genius.

        Locally in Chicago, the CSO’s most popular recent recording was of Chelsea Dagger, the song by the Scottish band The Fratellis. It is the goal song used by the Chicago Blackhawks who have won three of the last six Stanley Cups. Muti conducts wearing a Blackhawks jersey.

        In 1985, the CSO recorded the Chicago Bears fight song, Bear Down, Chicago Bears. Georg Solti wore a furry Bear hat when it was performed at Orchestra Hall. The usually staid CSO crowdwent nuts, on their feet clapping along.

        A great orchestra still has to attract fans.

        • George
          Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

          Goofed up the link to Bear Down.

        • darrelle
          Posted December 18, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          Thank you for the interesting comment.

  3. James Walker
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Technically it’s not his birthday (which is not known with any certainty) but the date of his baptism 😉

    • Christopher Bonds
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Right, I think the theory is that the nameday usually was the next day after the birth. I can’t remember if his official birth record was lost or if it never existed.

      • James Walker
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure what the guesstimate was, it’s been a while since I read “Lives of the Great Composers” or wherever I picked up that factoid.

        We were in a similar situation with my grandfather’s birthday – he was born in a remote location in the Ontario bush in 1905 and it was his oldest sister who eventually had his birth registered, but nobody could remember the exact day in late June, so she just picked the 27th.

  4. Posted December 17, 2015 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    A bit of the old Ludwig Van in the morning.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      I was wondering what reader would post referring to “A Clockwork Orange”.

      In the novel, listening to Beethoven brings out a nicer side of Alex’s personality, but this trope is entirely discarded in the film in which he has all kinds of violent fantasies while so listening.

    • Kevin
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      Good morning droogs.

  5. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I had the worst time to get the pieces playing in my browser, so had to go after the written music. Well, I made it … eventually.

  6. Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:01 am | Permalink


  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    My favorite Beethoven joke.

    When exhuming Beethoven’s coffin, they find him sitting on a bench erasing musical manuscripts. When asked what he was doing, he replied “I’m decomposing”.

    • James Walker
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      • James Walker
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        “You can still hear Beethoven, but Beethoven cannot hear you.”

  8. Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I am beginning to have something in common with Beethoven, and unfortunately, it isn’t talent.

  9. Christopher Bonds
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Here are my choices for a more challenging quiz:
    1. “Pathetique” Sonata (piano), second movement
    2. Violin Concerto, first movement, beginning
    3. Symphony No. 7, second movement, Allegretto
    4. Grosse Fuge, Op. 133, for string quartet

    Any Beethoven aficionado should be able to do those, if they read music at all.

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes! I was thinking of the second movement of the Seventh as well. It may just be my favorite orchestral movement by anyone (but my favorite Beethoven symphony is the Sixth).

      Right now, as I type these words (at work), I’m listening to the Clarinet Trio. The Septet is coming up next.

      • Christopher Bonds
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Beethoven wrote a clarinet trio? Is it an arrangement of a work originally written for something else? I’m not familiar with it.

        • Barry Lyons
          Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Clarinet Trio, Op. 11. Very charming early work as is the Septet (another piece, by the way, along with “Fur Elise”, that Beethoven grew to detest because of its popularity). I’m listening to a recording of both pieces, available on a CD by The Nash Ensemble.

          • Christopher Bonds
            Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

            Oh OK, I do remember that now. Never listened to it, though.

    • Christopher Bonds
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Or, for the complete Beethoven nerd:
      1. Christ on the Mount of Olives
      2. Overture to the Consecration of the House
      3. Variations on “Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu”
      4. Rage over the Lost Penny

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        “Rage Over a Lost Penny” is a fun throwaway piece, certainly a better work than that damn “Fur Elise”. Sorry, I’m just siding with Beethoven, who wished he had never written that cloying piece. Did I just write “cloying”? Looks like I did.

        • Christopher Bonds
          Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          Cloying is better than smarmy!

          • Barry Lyons
            Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Permalink


  10. Posted December 17, 2015 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    PDQ’s version of Symphony #5.

    • Posted December 17, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Let’s try that with a link this time.

      • Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        YT app is frozen on my phone. Is that the play-by-play?

        • Posted December 18, 2015 at 3:26 am | Permalink

          yes, it sure is… a live version I hadn’t seen before. About 10 minutes long & pretty damned funny.

  11. Posted December 17, 2015 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    So many comments on how Google could have gotten it better, when it’s incredibly cool they honored Beethoven at all.

    And as the Time magazine excerpt mentioned, it took them two years of work to come up with today’s doodle, hardly easy-peasy.

    Kudos to Google and to Jerry for sharing the info on the Heethoven doodle.

    Carl Kruse

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely agree there.

    It’s always easy to nitpick the details. But Beethoven experts were not the target audience.

    And I too am delighted Beethoven featured in a doodle.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      … that was in reply to Carl Kruse, of course…

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