James H. Donelan describes how two poets, a philosopher and a composer - Holderlin, Wordsworth, Hegel and Beethoven - developed an idea of self-consciousness based on music at the turn of the nineteenth century. This idea became an enduring cultural belief: the understanding of music as an ideal representation of the autonomous creative mind. Against a background of political and cultural upheaval, these four major figures - all born in 1770 - developed this idea in both metaphorical and actual musical structures, thereby establishing both the theory and the practice of asserting self-identity in music. Beethoven still carries the image of the heroic composer today; this book describes how it originated in both his music and in how others responded to him. Bringing together the fields of philosophy, musicology, and literary criticism, Donelan shows how this development emerged from the complex changes in European cultural life taking place between 1795 and 1831.