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“Dead Poets Society” Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphonys 5 and 9


In the movie Dead Poets Society Ludwig van Beethoven’s two renowned symphonies are used; Symphony number 9 and symphony number 5. The fifth symphony which was a division of PolyGram Classic was also known as Piano Concerto in the movie. This symphony was performed by Berliner Philharmoniker as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and it was however conducted by Feriand Leitner.

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Symphony 5

The fifth symphony in C minor was written in 1804 -1808 by Ludwig van Beethoven and. This is the most common and well-known composition in all classical music ever written in the European arena being one of the most oft-played symphonies. The most unique feature of Beethoven’s symphony 5 is in its movements. The four movements began with a sonata-allegro; then an andante, followed by a fast scherzo that finally leads to the attacca.

In other words, it has an unyielding concentration on one octave, a terse repeated note figure that is unharmonized at the beginning in an attention-catching fortissemo. It was first performed in 1808 at Vienna’s Theater van der Wien. It immediately attained its reputation being described as one of the most important productions at the time. A distinct characteristic, this symphony is the “short-short-short-long” motif that is repeated twice.

Symphony 5 in the movie

The populace of the fifth symphony is through the four-note opening motif with the motif again appearing in universal cultures such as clubs and discos, including rock and roll to even films and television programs. The presence of the symphony affects the delivery of the message to the viewer from a movie. In particular, the four-note motif has been overtime used to denote time connotations. For instance, the BBCs use the four-note motif during World War II to introduce its radio news broadcasts.

This was appropriate at a time when most of the world nations were in utter demise from the results of wars. The Morse code letter V denoted by the four-note motif served as an indication of victory which is an anticipation of everyone on the battlefield. They henceforth managed to attract their listeners’ attention towards the news. The movie’s use of this symphony heightened the achievements that were intended by the students having heeded Mr. Keating’s advice to ‘stand on their feet.

Increased use of the 5th symphony arose when there was pressure from several students against the minority to incline them with the regulatory stipulations according to the school rules and regulations. The director of the movie employs a similar four-note motif as the BBCs Morse code representation to portray danger when some students deviated from what was expected of them (Hopkins, p. 87).

Symphony 9

Beethoven’s ninth symphony was also a part of the movie Dead Poets Society. The symphony number 9 composed in D minor is Ludwig van Beethoven’s last symphony. This is one of the best works in Western classical repertoire and one of his greatest compositions having been completed in 1824. For the first time during its composition, the composer used voices in the symphony, which are sung by four vocal soloists and a chorus during the final movement. Its composition derived its words from Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy in 1785. The revision was later conducted in 1803.

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Just like the fifth symphony, symphony 9 had the movement format each with its mood. The symphony was composed of the first movement an allegro ma nontroppo, un poco maestoso with a sonata form and a stormy mood. The second movement was scherzo: molto vivace-presto which uses propulsive rhythms in addition to timpani solo. The third movement was adagio molto ecantabile-Andante Moderato being a loose variation form, while the fourth movement recitative: allegro assai.

The fourth movement is represented in the famous chorale finale in the Universal Brotherhood by Beethoven’s musical representation. This was characterized by Charles Rosen as a symphony in another symphony because it contained four other movements playing uninterrupted.

The form of movement in the ninth symphony is a characteristic of the “inner symphony” with the four movements. The movements thereof are first “movement” has a theme and variation with slow introduction and variation from the main theme; second “movement” is a schrzo 6/8 military with a conclusion variation and chorus; third “movement” has a new theme on the text but slow meditation; and the fourth “movement” is fugato finale on both the first and third themes “movements”.

Consequently, the movement’s thematic coordination bases each part on the main theme; Seid “umschlungen” theme. Therefore the first “movement within a movement” has several sections including an introduction that starts with a Presto passage that previously quotes the three previous movements consecutively. Then a series of orchestra variations arise from the theme, followed by the repetition of the introduction from the Presto passage but the soloist taking up the recitative place earlier on suggested by bases and cellos. Finally, the main theme is changed by altering the vocal soloists and chorus (Hopkins, p. 117).

Unlike in the composition of all the other previous symphonies, Beethoven in the ninth symphony transformed the usual pattern of Classical symphonies by bringing the Scherzo movement in front of the slow movement.

Symphony 9 in the movie

In the movie Dead Poets Society, the ninth symphony abridges the denotations arising from the musical accompaniments of the sceneries. The effect of the symphony improves the quality of the soundtracks in the movie by inclining the message with the activity at hand. This is an adoption of the four movements in the Symphony 9 compositions whereby the message goes through a series of steps before it finally ends in the destined place.

Beethoven’s contributions

In the years that followed Beethoven’s compositions, many composers were influenced by his works. For instance, Richard Wagner contributed in the 9th symphony when he had to decide which lines from the original composition had to be removed. Another composer who adopted Beethoven’s chromatic fourth for the third symphony was Anton Bruckner in the first movement composition.

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The work of Beethoven in the composition of the symphonies has drastically changed the way music has been in the many centuries. Composers and musicians alike have benefited from the symphonies both by coming up with new movements or by adopting already existing formats

The works of Beethoven in the movie industry has been a cornerstone for the various developments that have occurred for centuries thus the change in this industry has and always will be attributed to him


Hopkins, Antony. The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven. London: Heinemann. 1981. pg. 87-117.

The Internet Movie Database, IMDb. Literature for Deat Poets Society-1989. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 12). “Dead Poets Society” Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphonys 5 and 9.

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"“Dead Poets Society” Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphonys 5 and 9." StudyCorgi, 12 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“Dead Poets Society” Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphonys 5 and 9." November 12, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“Dead Poets Society” Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphonys 5 and 9." November 12, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“Dead Poets Society” Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphonys 5 and 9." November 12, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Dead Poets Society” Analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphonys 5 and 9'. 12 November.

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