Niccolo Paganini was the Jim Morrison of his day. He partied, drove the ladies wild, and was even rumored to have dabbled in the occult.

Paganini was a violin virtuoso. He could play three octaves across four strings. Ask your local fiddler; that’s all but impossible.

Paganini’s seemingly supernatural talents made him a celebrity, but also inspired rumors that he’d made a pact with the devil. There’s another theory out there, and this one’s a bit more scientific.  Some experts believe he had Marfan Syndrome. This connective tissue disorder can result in longer arms, longer fingers … and hyper flexible hands.

You’ve been listening to Paganini’s Caprice no. 24, recorded in 1920 by Jascha Heifetz, another great master of the instrument.

Sound Beat is produced at the Belfer Audio Archive, Syracuse University Library.