Perfect music: Beethoven’s 9th


Prior to performing orbital rim filling on a patient today I warned her that I would not totally eliminate the tear trough under her eyes as I preferred her result to be a plausible improvement rather than an implausible stab at perfection. Then the topic of “perfection” arose.


Many plastic surgeons have been taught that there is such a thing as a “perfect” or “ideal” shape to a face or an eye. That the brow must be of such-and-such a shape, of so-many-mm height and this-many-mm in width. That the nose should be exactly so, and the mouth exactly that.


Some have even gone to the absurd length of building a mathematical argument around this notion, invoking phi


(suffice to say, I don’t agree with this notion)


But sufficient surgeons believe in an arithmetic approach to beauty such that persons who have had plastic surgery can tend to all look the same.


NOW –  if I were to ask you: what might be the most perfect music ever written, amongst the top likely answers would be Beethoven’s 9th: Song of Joy.


For argument’s sake, let’s call this piece of music Perfect. It’s not such a long bow to draw.


Imagine then if someone were to argue that all musicians should aim to play only Beethoven’s 9th.




Every school orchestra. Every busker’s recorder.


We would all soon tire desperately of this music. In music, as in beauty, the endless repetition of an example deemed “perfect” simply destroys its attractiveness.




There are of course rules to cosmetic medicine as there are to musical composition and performance. Yet, within these rules, our task is to create the better face and body for that individual patient, respecting the uniqueness of their composition and hiding our tracks in order to create naturalness and balance. Just as music must balance novelty with harmony, so faces, to create interest, must bear their own points of difference.


Chasing an arithmetic aesthetic perfection is a highly imperfect approach


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