This chapter discusses effects of mental disorder upon musical creativity. The concept of the mad genius has not been confined to composers but has been liberally applied to painters, poets, playwrights, scientists, inventors, and to all those, in fact, who have that particular quality of mind that lesser men are apt wrongly to regard as visionary; however, there appears to be no firm evidence that mental instability is conducive to creativity. Almost as many composers who showed signs of a mood disorder also exhibited neurotic or abnormal personality traits; although there is a considerable overlap between these two groups that are not, of course, mutually exclusive.
… Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go Act iii, Scene 1, line 196)
This chapter discusses the effects of mental disorder upon musical creativity, defined here in its widest sense, so as to include instances not only of frank mental illness but also abnormalities of personality or character severe enough to cause some disability or to give rise to eccentricities of conduct which may transgress generally accepted bounds of normality. We are not concerned with performers but composers, regardless of the fact that these include many who were also accomplished executants, often in the virtuoso class. While eccentricity is not unknown in performers – the pianist, Vladmir Pachmann for example – these, while allowing for occasional emotional display when under stress, seem on the whole to be fairly stable, despite the popular stereotype of the temperamentally volatile opera singer. Indeed it is unlikely that any performer of the first rank, confronted as he inevitably must be by severe competition and ruled by an intensity of purpose sufficient to carry him through the daily ordeal of hours of arduous practice, can afford to be temperamentally self-indulgent and yet remain at the top of his profession, However, this may not be so true of composer-executants: as exemplified by Busoni, Chopin, Liszt, Paganini or Rachmaninov.
There are several questions to be answered: the first being that of prevalence. How common is mental disturbance among musicians as compared with those having no discernible creative powers? Secondly, where abnormality is evident, how characteristic is this? Thirdly, what is the effect of mental disorder upon musical output, and upon its quality? As these are not distinct questions, but interrelated, it may not prove possible to give them separate answers.
Before attempting the task, some consideration needs to be given to the justification for undertaking it in the first place. As Philip Heseltine (alias Peter Warlock) said of Delius – “It is the music that matters not the man” In view of his own profound psychological problems he might well have said the same of himself. Likewise, Erwin Ratz is reported to have said to de la Grange:
“I want to tell you Mahler’s music is so much more important than his biography. In fact I don’t think his biography is important at all!”
The justification for turning personal matters into public property is that knowledge of them may lead to a better appreciation not only of the man but of his music also. Furthermore, not all composers would agree with Heseltine. Thus, in 1907, Grieg, who too had his problems – although in his case these were probably largely due to severe respiratory disease – wrote to Percy Grainger:
I have always found that they are mistaken who would divide the artist from the man; on the contrary, the two are indissolubly wedded one to the other. In the man can be found the parallels of all the artist’s traits
Among other things, it is tempting to believe that Grieg may have had in mind how much Grainger’s customary ebullience was reflected in his music.
Finally, we may perhaps care to agree with Thomas Carlyle who, giving his views on the propriety of biography, stated:
No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence. … To paint man’s life is to represent these things. Let them be represented, fitly, with dignity and measure; but above all let them be represented
Before exploring the vexed question of prevalence, some prior consideration should perhaps be given to whether there is any absolute association between mental instability and musical creativity. While in the main we are inclined to think not, or at the most to believe that if there is any such relationship, this is likely to be only of an indirect kind, such consideration cannot be avoided if for no other reason than that the investigator does not have to look too deeply into the lives of very many composers, including some of the most eminent, before becoming aware of their eccentricities, some of which, at least, can be construed as evidence of frank mental disorder. Despite this, it soon becomes apparent that the vulgar notion of the mad genius is an overstatement which, if it is not to obscure more important issues, must be put aside. Thus, while Henry Raynor (1972) has made the point that the 19th century invented the legend of the great unappreciated genius, misunderstood, neglected and held in contempt by his contemporaries, so, in the 20th, must we beware of further compounding this stereotype by adding mental derangement to its qualities.
The concept of the mad genius has not, furthermore, been confined to composers, but has been liberally applied to painters, poets and playwrights, to scientists and inventors, to all those, in fact, who have that particular quality of mind which lesser men are apt wrongly to regard as visionary; but after all is said, there appears to be no firm evidence that mental instability is conducive to creativity. Indeed, in the case of frank mental illness the reverse almost certainly obtains. An empty vessel – demented, as it were – produces only a hollow sound; a cracked bell – intolerably distorted harmonics. The essential qualities must have been present in the first place; there being no evidence whatsoever that those in whom these qualities are lacking are, by virtue of mental disorder, capable of undergoing some kind of metamorphosis into genius, or anything remotely resembling it. When a musician does become mentally ill but is nevertheless able to continue with his creative work, at least for a time, it is likely that he does so in spite of his derangement and not because of it.
As with mental illness, so with alcohol or drugs: this, despite William James’s view that alcohol has the power “to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature” What needs to be better understood, and especially by those who believe that it is possible to achieve some entirely new-found inspiration via alcohol or drugs, is that the effect of these upon the central nervous system is essentially subtractive or disintegrative, particularly in regard to the function of the higher brain centres.
This is relevant, for there are a number of composers who have become addicted to alcohol, although only one example of drug dependence can be found. This was Bernard van Dieren (1884–1936), whose addiction was probably of iatrogenic origin, in that he was prescribed morphine in order to combat the pain of chronic gall-bladder disease There may well have been more to his addiction than this. Van Dieren was an unusual and possibly highly eccentric person. Of mixed Dutch and Irish extraction he was, according to Sacheverell Sitwell a man of prodigious memory, an expert bookbinder, carpenter and electrician who “had the appearance of and was dressed like an alchemist of the 16th Century”. He is also said to have been a crack pistol-shot.
In the case of those composers who suffered from alcoholism all the usual kinds of causes appear to have been operative. Tchaikovsky confessed not only to an over-fondness for brandy, but to “secret tippling” possibly in an attempt to numb his neurosis. Alcoholism is, in any event, known to be common among homosexuals. This conceivably, although it has not been expressly stated, may also have been the reason for Mussorgsky’s downfall, for not only did he die of drink when aged 42, but there are suggestions that he too had some emotional difficulties in his relationships with women Riesemann, Scriabin, whose sexuality was also probably abnormal, is said to have drunk heavily as a young man and continued to do so until later in his life when he appears to have gained some degree of inner relief from tensions by becoming engrossed in seemingly spiritual matters, following which he became more temperate. Beethoven, who had a penchant for fortified wines died of cirrhosis of the liver, as did Satie it is not certain in the case of either that the cause was entirely due to drink. Beethoven, indeed, apart from his very obvious emotional problems suffered from a chronic intestinal Perhaps, therefore, he was inclined to drink more at times than he should have done to dull his discomfort, not to mention the misery of his deafness.
Figure I Bernard van Dieren.
However, neither Beethoven nor Tchaikovsky probably had alcoholic propensities to anything like the same extent as did W. F. Bach, Moeran, Mussorgsky and Lambert; or were possibly as intemperate at times as Reger or Glazunov, whom Darius Milhaud, on a tour of Russia in 1926, found “cut off from the world by a veil of vodka fumes” Another with an undoubted tendency towards alcoholism was Peter Warlock, whose rumbustious beer-swilling habits can be regarded as intrinsic, at least to one side of his character, as is perhaps reflected in his drinking songs.
Although there is no evidence in the case of any of these composers that their alcoholic habits had any directly beneficial effect upon their music, the possibility of some rather more indirect effect could be argued. Busoni, for example, stated that he was in the habit of taking a glass of wine to help him to relax before he began to compose; just as at his later recitals he would often take a glass or two of champagne before starting to play. It may have been this, together with his sometimes convivial way of life, which gave rise to the rumour that he was an habitual drunkard. The idea has, however, been strongly refuted both by Dent (1933) and van Dieren (1935) who apparently knew him well. Apart from this instance, many gifted artists, including musicians, are known to have hedonistic tendencies the suggestion here being that a more than ordinarily developed capacity for sensual pleasures, including those of the table and the bed, may have lent colour, if not impetus, to creativity. Delius is a good case in point for while in the end he suffered from tabes dorsalis and on this account paid dearly for his earlier indulgences in the pleasures of Paris, his behaviour at the time was probably entirely in character. Indeed, much of his music seems to reveal this sensual characteristic. But although Delius was at one time known to have been a bon vivant there is no suggestion whatsoever that he was at any time an alcoholic.
One of the difficulties in trying to establish the prevalence of mental disorder among musicians, or among any other group of creative artists, is bound up with the matter of trying to define what is normal or not. But apart from this, who is to be included in the group under scrutiny? For example, if a number of musically knowledgeable persons were asked to name 30 European composers whom they would consider as coming within the category of genius (whatever this term really means) or those among the most gifted, there would probably be a reasonable consensus, but if asked to name a larger number, increasing divergencies would soon become apparent.
At the other end of the spectrum, and in contradistinction to those whose names, musically speaking, are household words, are the serried and earnest ranks of “church-cum-hymn-and-anthem” composers, together with a largish number who have written operas or music for the stage who, while they may have enjoyed some success in their own day, have since vanished into relative obscurity, so that were it not for Grove’s dictionary we should probably know nothing of their existence. Although few might care to go so far as van Dieren who, in his book Down Among the Dead seems to suggest that to be a forgotten composer is almost a matter of chance, there is some need for caution in making invidious assumptions about seemingly obscure composers. It is, for example, salutary to recall that J. S. Bach was much more highly regarded in his own day as an organist than as a composer, so that after his death little attention was paid to his works until, almost a century later, interest in them was revived, initially by Forkel and Rochlitz and subsequently by Mendelssohn and Samuel Wesley
It is difficult to know where to draw the line, for while it may be easy to distinguish a musical genius from a mere hack, there is nevertheless a rather ill-defined frontier having boundaries broad enough to conceal some who might, on closer scrutiny, turn out to be composers of real merit, but whose works due to a variety of circumstances are currently neglected. It is this, perhaps more than anything else, which presents what seems to be an insurmountable difficulty in establishing the prevalence of mental disturbance among composers. Even if we were to agree to go to the absurd lengths of including all of those who, at one time or another, had so much as a single one of their compositions published, this would clearly throw no useful light on the matter. Furthermore, it is likely that the information necessary to make an adequate assessment of their mental stability would, in most cases, be insufficient.
Difficulties of determining prevalence are also bound up with the problem of establishing adequate controls. This task when carried out contemporaneously is challenging enough; historically it is obviously impossible, but neglecting such difficulties, efforts have been made to try and settle the problem. Thus, the German psychiatrist, Ernst Kretschmer, although referring not only to composers, was in no doubt that the proportion of neurotics, psychopaths and the frankly insane was very much higher in geniuses than in lesser men. He observed furthermore:
In contrast to stable, limited talent which is inherited, true genius occurs almost invariably as a non-repeatable, non-inheritable phenomenon. In addition degeneracy is a demonstrably important factor. The posterity of persons of genius almost always shows a tendency to die out rapidly; frequently the man ot genius himself has no direct descendants
While the notion of degeneracy has an old-fashioned ring, there appears to be much truth in what Kretschmer said. It is, for example, remarkable how many composers of eminence have remained single – though, like Paganini, not necessarily celibate or childless. Balakirev, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Chopin, Handel, Liszt, Mussorgsky, Ravel, Satie, Schubert and Wolf are some of those whose names spring readily to mind. Others, such as Tchaikovsky and Gesualdo, married disastrously; while some such as Berlioz, Mahler, Rossini, Scriabin, Warlock and possibly Charles Ives and Cesar Franck seem to have had considerable marital problems. Even Mozart and Schumann, who had relatively sizeable families, seem to have passed little or nothing of their musically creative genius on to their children, although one of Schumann’s sons, Felix, had some talent as a poet, some of his poems being set by Brahms as solo songs. Musically there are relatively few father-and-son combinations to be found. Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart may be regarded as one exception. Nevertheless, and even though Wolfgang clearly inherited his father’s musical talents, Leopold did not have the genius of his son. The same applies to the brothers Haydn. Joseph is usually hailed as a musical genius but not his undoubtedly talented brother, Michael. Again there have been families with several gifted members, but usually only one musical giant among them. Examples include the Couperins; Johann Strauss, his father and brothers; the Puccini family; and, of course, the Bachs.
At first sight the Bach family appear to contradict Kretschmer’s hypothesis. Closer inspection may, however, suggest that their example could be the exception which turns out to prove the rule. Covering seven generations, many members of which were cantors, organists and town musicians who gained considerable reputations in their own day, the growing musical genius of the Bach family undoubtedly reached its peak in the person of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), following which it began fairly rapidly to decline. Although four of Bach’s sons, Wilhelm Friedmann, Carl Philipp Emmanuel, Johann Christoph Friedrich and Johann Christian Bach all achieved considerable musical eminence in their own right, they seem to have passed little or nothing of their own genius to future generations. It is a reflection perhaps of hard times and the difficulties of child-rearing that of J. S. Bach’s 20 children – seven by his first wife, 13 by his second – nine died within five years of birth and most of them within a much shorter period of time. Of the other 11 the majority seem to have remained unmarried. Only four bore children, of whom only one, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst, son of Johann Christoph Bach, appears to have become a musician, being cembalist to Queen Louise of Prussia and music teacher to her children. He was the sole direct descendant of the great Cantor present at the unveiling of the Leipzig monument in 1843 and although he had two daughters he himself was the last of the male line.
Apart from the fact that none of J. S. Bach’s male issue survived beyond a second generation, what perhaps might also be construed as further evidence of the impending dissolution of the Bach family soon began to show itself. Wilhelm Friedmann Bach, who has been hailed by some as the one who most inherited his father’s genius seems to have developed not only alcoholic but psychopathic tendencies also, including such a degree of indolence as to lead him, when organist at Halle, to try and execute a commission for some music for a university festival by passing off some of his illustrious father’s work as his own. Soon after this he gave up his post, left his wife and daughter and became both a vagabond and increasingly addicted to drink.
Bach had yet another son, Johann Gottfried Bernhard, who while not a composer was apparently an organist of some competence, and caused his father considerable distress on account of debts and other irresponsible behaviour until his death at the age of 24. Apart from any hereditary influences which may have been at work, as both Wilhelm Friedmann and Bernhard were sons of Bach’s first wife, Maria Barbara, who died when they were aged only six and four years respectively, it seems reasonable to suggest that the premature loss of their mother may possibly have been a contributory factor. Finally, and despite the fact that such an occurrence could be construed as no more than coincidence amongst so large a family, Gottfried Heinrich, Bach’s first son born to his second wife Anna Magdalena, while surviving 39 years, appears to have been feeble-minded.
There is another possibly feasible way of tackling the problem of prevalence. This is by means of what might be called the nomination whereby a list of the names of artists appropriate to the subject matter is obtained from a number of experts. Those about whom there is sufficient agreement are chosen and then subjected to more detailed scrutiny. This essentially was the method used by Dr. Adele Juda who approached a number of academic bodies and men of known distinction in various specialist fields, asking them to name those German-speaking persons whom they regarded as the most gifted and creative born since the year 1650. Her final list included 294 names, of whom 28 were
Juda’s data has since been re-analysed by Slater and Meyer, whose conclusion was that the main weight of evidence was, on the whole, on the other side – that is, against the generalisation that genius is charactèrised by mental abnormality
Of those on Juda’s list, one, Robert Schumann, was clearly manic-depressive and suffered on this account for most of his life. It appears that he had a strongly positive family history of this disorder. Two others – Gluck and Wolf – suffered in the end from dementia; as did Schumann apparently. As, therefore, only three all told suffered from major mental illnesses, the concept of an association between genius and gross mental instability proves difficult to sustain. However, there were four others, Bruckner, Franz, Liszt, and Loewe, who sought medical treatment at one time or another for some kind of nervous condition. Nine at least, including Bruckner and Liszt, were also regarded by both Juda and Slater as having fairly well-defined psychopathic tendencies. There was disagreement between them about Gluck and Schubert, whom Juda saw as psychopathic while Slater did not, and in the case of Beethoven, where the reverse obtains. As some of the others whom Juda listed were also of fairly marked cyclothymic disposition, it can be concluded that the prevalence of what could be regarded as evidence not of overt madness but of at least some degree of mental instability among these 28 Austro-German composers is really quite high, those affected being not too far short of half their number.
Turning from prevalence to consideration of the kinds of mental disturbance from which composers appear liable to suffer, it must be stated that the conclusions put forward here are based on an examination of the lives of some 60 subjects, all currently deceased and selected largely because relevant information about them is fairly readily available. Bearing this bias in mind, it can be said that these subjects exhibited between them virtually the whole range of identifiable psychiatric illness or personality disorder, although not necessarily in the proportions in which such disturbances are found in the population-at-large.
Easily the commonest and most important of these are clinically recognisable affective amounting in some cases to depression of such a degree that most psychiatrists would, today, recommend treatment. Whereas in some cases these states of depression were prolonged, leading to a very considerable reduction if not a cessation of musical output, in others more of a cyclothymic tendency is evident, leading to periodicity or to fairly rapidly recurrent mood swings and congruent fluctuations in creative activity. If four who are thought to have committed suicide are and also several of the 13 who are thought to have been alcoholic, then not far short of half the subjects under consideration may probably be considered as being of melancholic temperament. In sharp contrast, it is only possible, with any degree of certainty, to identify one composer – Ivor Gurney – as having suffered from a schizophrenic illness.
Almost as many composers who showed signs of a mood disorder also exhibited neurotic or abnormal personality traits; although there is a considerable overlap between these two groups which are not, of course, mutually exclusive. One subject, Johann Strauss, suffered severely from phobic anxiety; a number of others had more or less marked obsessional trends. These include Bruckner, Lully, Mahler, Ravel and Satie; Scriabin and possibly Chopin and Dvořák also. Those who appear to have had some other form of personality disorder, with or without associated melancholic tendencies, include Beethoven, Berlioz, Busoni, Gluck, Liszt, Paganini, Pfitzner, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, together with a number of others, some of whom have already been mentioned.
There are, in addition, a number who developed organically determined disorders, such as general paralysis. George Gershwin, who died aged 38 of a temporal lobe tumour, had his first seizure five months before his death, while actually performing his Piano Concerto in F Acquired cerebral disease of this and other kinds must, however, be regarded as incidental and not wholly relevant to the main theme of this discussion. However, and as will be shown, there are certain aspects of the matter which are worthy of further consideration.
The suggestion of a relationship between manic-depressive tendencies and creativity, or between melancholy and genius, is not new, but stems back to Aristotle, who observed that all those proficient in politics, philosophy, poetry or the arts, tend to be of melancholic temperament. Several 20th century writers have said the same of musicians Schrade, Slater (1958) even went so far as to suggest that a cyclothymic disposition might, in some ways, be useful to a creative artist seeing advantage in the fact that the cyclothyme is, as a rule, extraverted and capable of strong emotion; a view shared by Onuf who regarded those of manic-depressive temperament as intensively responsive to emotional factors Thus such persons, if musically creative, are able to inject this heightened capacity for emotional experience into their music, but there is, perhaps, more to it than this. As already suggested, it is characteristic of affective disorders, of whatever type, that although it is the fluctuation of mood which may appear to be the primary feature this may turn out to be only a part or reflection of a much more profound disturbance, which being all-pervasive may affect every aspect of the physical and mental life of the sufferer, leading not so much to depression of mood but to a lowering of vital activity to the point where any kind of productive work, and in particular creative work, becomes quite impossible. Owing to semantic confusion, the sufferer and those around him, may describe this state of lowered vitality and reduced mental and physical energy as if it were primarily a disorder of mood when, as has been suggested, this may be no more than part of it. Thus Rimsky-Korsakoff gave a vivid personal description of how, in 1892, his own musical vitality was affected by a state of mental depression:
But lo and behold! One fine morning at the end of August or at the beginning of September, I was overtaken by an extreme lassitude accompanied by a sort of rush to my head and utter confusion of thinking. I was frightened in real earnest, and in the first few days even lost my appetite completely … Whenever I did remain alone, unpleasant obtrusive fixed ideas persistently crept into my head. I thought of religious ideas and of humble reconciliation with Balakireff. … But I had grown altogether cold to music and the thought of occupying myself with philosophic education pursued me unremittingly
Such fluctuations of energy which lead periodically to a state of comparative if not total inactivity seem to lend themselves to comparison with episodes which appear to resemble a kind of hibernation during which, however, the hibernator may be “gathering steam” for a further period of productivity which takes place as resurgence begins.
Confirmation of this is to be found in the letters which several composers have written about themselves and their work. Elgar “… ebullient one minute, downcast the next”, when depressed – which appears to have been by no means infrequent – would write to his friends that he was giving up music; that he was sick of it and all connected with it. On one occasion he even went so far as to state “… music is a trade and I am no tradesman”, possibly expressing, thereby, his continuing resentment at his relatively humble birth. Michael Kennedy has observed how Elgar’s creative periods were usually preceded by a period of acute depression:
The (Enigma) Variations and Gerontius followed one such period; the bleak and despondent 1907 was followed by a burst of activity which produced two symphonies and a concerto
Similar insights can be gleaned from the letters of Peter Warlock, of whom E. J. Moeran, who shared a cottage with him for three and a half years, stated: Warlock’s methods as a composer were dictated by the peculiarities of his temperament. For weeks he would be sunk in gloom unable to think of a note and as Warlock himself wrote in a letter to Colin Taylor in June, 1918:
I am grieved to hear that you have been labouring again in the toils of the fiend dejection – how well I know him too! He has treated me lately to a much longer spell in his society than I had any wish for. I think there are few influences more wearing than his; the inactivity, the consciousness of being void and sterile … I cannot write a note of music. I am utterly desiccated. …
However, within two months of writing these words, he suddenly composed ten songs in a fortnight Warlock was not only manic-depressive, as his recurrent hypomanic and depressive episodes and his subsequent suicide clearly show, but a man deeply disturbed and divided in other ways, as was apparent to D. H. Lawrence who drew a cruel caricature of him as Halliday in Women in Love
Other instances of the relationship between music and melancholy are not hard to find. There is, however, one example which deserves special mention, not only because it appears to be unique but because it is a musical statement of the matter
Figure 2 Middle section of the final movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 18 No. 6, La Malinconia showing fast and slow passages.
This is the final movement of Beethoven’s string quartet, Opus 18, No. 6, which he composed between 1798 and 1800, and which he entitled La The piece contains six alternating slow and fast sections. While the slow passages seem intended to convey a gloomy disposition, the fast ones are perhaps rather more phrenetic than elated, which, nevertheless, is not necessarily out of character. In view of its phasic quality the movement appears to be an attempt to describe, in musical terms, the fluctuations of mood and activity, to which the cyclothyme is subject. Beethoven’s title leaves no doubt about this; it is indeed, the only composition which, it has been said, has made a psychiatric term immortal and yet, as Joseph Kerman has observed, the piece: plumbs melancholy in a curiously aloof speculative way … revealing an almost heartless preoccupation with its own harmonic meditations over those of the poor melancholic
Despite Beethoven’s own acquaintance with despondency, it may be concluded, therefore, that La Malinconia is, perhaps, more of an intellectual description of melancholia than an emotional one. It certainly fails to arouse that degree of affective response in the listener that so many of his other works do, for example the third movement, molto of his later string quartet in A minor (Op. 132), the “Hymn of Gratitude”.
The case of Robert Schumann (1810–1856) is undoubtedly the best documented example illustrating the relationship between periodic fluctuations in mood – in this instance of frankly manic-depressive proportions – and musical output. A histogram which relates the composer’s annual output in terms of works either completed or, in a few cases, taken to the point of final abandonment, contrasted year by year with his prevailing mood state (see Slater, shows this clearly From this it may be observed that Schumann’s most productive years appear to have been 1832, 1840 and, above all, 1849, although the years 1850 to 1853 also saw the completion of a considerable number of works which, towards the end of this period, and due apparently to organic brain disease supervening, were of deteriorating quality, particularly perhaps his later choral works What is of greater interest is that these productive years appear to have been preceded by periods of up to a year when the composer was predominantly depressed, as can be clearly seen during the period 1831 and 1834. In the six years preceding 1840 – one of Schumann’s more prolific years – a gradual build-up of output is evident during which period there also appear to have been considerable fluctuations in his mood. Following this there was a fairly rapid diminution of his output and, with the exception of a short sharp upward swing at the end of 1843, a return the following year to deep depression. During the period 1845–47 Schumann’s prevailing mood appears to have returned more or less to normal, so that he remained moderately productive until 1848, when despair overcame him once again, despite which he still appears to have continued to be moderately musically active, but as can also be seen this depressive phase led directly up to the year 1849, a year in which he was probably more productive than at any other time during the whole of his musical life, and one throughout which he remained in high spirits.
Figure 3 Histogram indicating Schumann’s annual output of compositions ( Slater,
Cyclothymia is not, of course, the only type of disposition which may give rise to fluctuations in output. In some instances there occurs what may perhaps be called a creative pause due apparently to a depressive phase of much longer duration. Several examples of this are to be found.
One of the most striking is the case of Mily Balakirev (1837–1910), who retired in 1871, when aged 34, from music altogether and became a railway goods clerk. Apart from becoming quite obviously melancholic he also became intensely religious, which sudden conversion, it is said, occurred on the anniversary of his mother’s death, which happened when he was ten years old. His state of depression lasted four years altogether, following which he recovered and set to work once more on his unfinished opera, But even then he is said to have remained a man of rather narrow outlook and autocratic temperament, in whose case age tended to increase the less endearing aspects of his character
There were clearly several different factors operative in bringing about Balakirev’s mental illness. He was a man of compulsive character who had previously had a nervous ailment when aged 21. This, although described as “inflammation of the brain”, was probably an unrecognised depressive bout. In any event, the illness seems to have left him irritable and prone to headaches. Apart from losing his mother when he was a child – a factor which has been thought to predispose to the development of a severe depression during later life – Balakirev also had problems with his father, who was an unsuccessful civil servant and a gambler. Because of this he had to contribute to the financial upkeep of his sisters. To add to this in the years immediately preceding the onset of his depression he fell not only into financial difficulties but also suffered some professional reverses, including being ousted from the conductorship of the Russian Musical Society after having offended its patroness, the Grand Duchess Elania Pavlova.
The case of Giacchimo Rossini (1792–1868) is altogether more complex. By the age of 37 he had composed 36 operas. Then, in 1829, his career as an opera composer ended. Although often entreated to write further operas, he refused adamantly to do so. Eight years silence followed; then between 1837 and 1842 he completed his Stabat following which, and apart from a few relatively minor works, he again became musically silent until 25 years later, when he wrote his Petite Messe Solonelle which, despite its name, is by no means a minor work.
Rossini’s cessation of creative activity when apparently at the height of his powers – the so-called “Great Renunciation” – has given rise to much discussion. Schwartz (1965) states that the reason for it was that Rossini, who was over-attached to his mother – herself an opera singer although not of the first rank – became depressed following her death in 1827; his grief over this event being reactivated when his first wife, Isabella Colbran, from whom he had been separated for a number of years, also died. Isabella Colbran, a prima donna, between 1815 and 1823 sang leading roles in the first performances of no less than ten of Rossini’s operas. Schwartz’s interpretation of these events is that Rossini’s ambivalence to his mother made it impossible for him to mourn her in a healthy way, and that his refusal to compose further operas could be construed as an expression of unconscious anger at her for having deserted him by dying – a psychoanalytically-based hypothesis of a not unfamiliar kind. There are several serious objections, however, to Schwartz’s formulation. The first is that Rossini wrote two more operas after his mother died, Le Comte Ory and William Tell – one of his greatest successes. The second is that at the age of 27 – that is about two years before her death – Rossini had already announced his intention of stopping composing at 30, having by then, as Stendhal observed, amassed a considerable fortune, both on account of his own success as an opera composer and by marrying Isabella Colbran Thirdly, although Rossini later fell ill this did not occur until 1832, some five years after his mother’s death.
Rossini’s prolonged illness was both of a physical and mental kind. He suffered from chronic gonorrhoea, and fearing a stricture catheterized himself daily; which practice may well have caused superadded infection and exacerbated his chronic urethritis. However, according to Riboli the torment which Rossini suffered on this account did not suffice to explain the strong physical and psychic prostration into which he fell, while Olympe Pélissier, who nursed him and later became his second wife, observed that he appeared changed “even more morally (i.e. mentally) than physically”.
Riboli regarded him as manic-depressive which, in view of his previous outgoing personality, his pyknic somatotype, and the nature of many of his symptoms, seems likely. Among other things he is said to have suffered from psychic inhibition, loss of weight, debility, auditory illusions, delusions of poverty, fears of suicide, inability to eat and sleep, and moods of black despair. Like most manic-depressives his condition underwent considerable fluctuations. Thus in 1836 Mendelssohn found him “big and fat, in his most able and festive mood”. It was soon after this that he completed his Stabat In 1839 his father died and he relapsed, but by 1844 he was better again and had begun to take interest in various musical activities. Again he relapsed, so that in 1852 Lombroso, who saw him then, stated he was “definitely mad” and Hunter, while in 1854 another visitor, Morgani, noted how “he gave vent to heavy laments and sighs, unexpectedly broke into sobbings and looking in the mirror accused himself of cowardice” In 1855, when aged about 63, he began to recover once more and gradually to assume his old gregarious habits. This time he appears to have remained mentally well until shortly before his
There are other more puzzling cases: for example, that of Paul Dukas (1865–1935) – best known perhaps for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – who appears to have given up composing in early middle age having, it is said, burned the unpublished products of over a quarter-of-a-century’s labour As there seems to have been no evidence of mental disorder in his case, did he, like some others may have done, run out of “creative steam”? And what of Sibelius (1865–1957) who, having written his last major work, 30 years before his death, produced nothing but a handful of small-scale stuff thereafter? Although the evidence is not conclusive, it seems possible that alcoholism may have played a part However, more needs to be known to account for Sibelius’s later unproductive years. Layton states that he was undoubtedly irked by the lack of success of his works in Germany and “that his powers of self-criticism, always acute, definitely sharpened”. There were also certain psychological shocks “among them the loss of a trusted friend and critic, Capelan”. There is evidence, too, that the long-awaited Eighth although never finally published, may have been in an advadnced state of completion at the time of the composer’s death
Charles Ives (1874–1954) was yet another composer whose output came apparently to a sudden halt. Partly this may have been due to a heart attack in 1918, but possibly, according to Aaron Copland, because Ives had never had an audience, and had heard little or nothing of his music played, he may have become disenchanted with composing (Perlis, 1974). There is no suggestion to be made, however, that this cessation of Ives’s musical output was due to mental abnormality. The more immediate neglect of his music seems to have stemmed from its complexity, its technical difficulty in performance, and possibly by reason of the expression of musical ideas too far ahead of his time for ready acceptance. However, following improvement in his physical condition and considerable revision of some of his work by the composer, the value of much of his music has come to be recognised, so that it has begun to assume a rightful place in the orchestral repertoire and much of it is now available in recorded form
Perhaps one of the most remarkable examples of all is that of the French poet, painter and composer, Henri Duparc (1848–1933), of whom Northcote (1949) has written:
Seldom has any creative artist laid so small an offering on the altar of fame as Henri Duparc. Some 14 songs, a symphonic poem, an orchestral nocturne, and a three-part motet comprise almost the whole of his existing compositions.
At the age of 72 Duparc explained in a letter to his publishers that all his songs were written before 1885, when he was aged 37, and that he had never been able to compose since then. Although it has been suggested, because he went blind at the end of his life (possibly due to tobacco amblyopia) and suffered from some kind of paralysis, that his inability to compose may have been due to a progressive neurological disorder, this does not appear to have been the case. While Alajouanine has suggested that he may have been manic-depressive the real reason seems to be that Duparc, who probably always had neurotic tendencies, later became musically completely inhibited by increasing psychasthenia and obsessional self-criticism Duparc apparently destroyed a good deal of his work, including the first act of an opera as well as some early piano pieces. He is said to have taken meticulous care over his works and to have subjected them to constant revision There is, however, nothing it seems to be found of Duparc’s neuroticism in his songs, which are generally agreed to be of superb quality. One other, and probably again an obsessional symptom, was an idea from which Duparc suffered that a bird would come to his window at the same time each morning and trouble him with its warbling, and in some way interfere with his musical sensibility. Curiously enough all these kinds of difficulties seemed to have affected Duparc’s musical life only; his gift for painting, which is said to have been considerable, seems to have remained unaffected.
In contrast perhaps, there can be seen in the case of the English poet and songwriter, Ivor Gurney (1890–1937), not only a cessation of musical output due to mental illness, but also a deterioration in the quality of his work. Gurney was invalided from the Army in 1918 after considerable suffering in Flanders, where he wrote much of his poetry and some of his songs. In 1922 he was admitted to a mental hospital with a diagnosis of delusional insanity, where he remained for the next 15 years until dying of tuberculosis. An examination of his medical records leaves no doubt that the nature of Gurney’s illness was paranoid schizophrenia. This is confirmed by Professor E. W. Anderson (1974) who looked after Gurney for part of the time he was in hospital.
Although Gurney’s mental illness is usually ascribed to his suffering in the trenches and was no doubt exacerbated by these privations, it seems clear that well before his admission to the mental hospital where he passed the remainder of his days he had had a whole series of nervous breakdowns, usually following the completion of any major piece of work. These recurrent episodes of nervous illness, which began as early as 1913, appear to have been largely of a depressive kind and accompanied by threats of suicide They must, however, be regarded as precursors of his later paranoid psychosis.
Gurney continued to write music for a time, even while in the asylum, but his later songs – those composed around 1925 – which are still in manuscript, and appear to be the last he wrote which were not subsequently destroyed, show not only a deterioration in their quality but are, in some instances, annotated with delusional statements which refer to such things as “electrical Some of his poetry of about the same period is similarly annotated.
Figure 4 Final page of Gurney’s setting of W. B. Yeat’s “All the words that I utter” showing some of his annotations. (By kind permission of Mrs. Joyce Finzi.)
Other of Gurney’s scrawls appear to reveal a confusion of ego identity, a common and important symptom of schizophrenia; this being further borne out by his statements that he was the author of Shakespeare’s plays, that Beethoven and Haydn had never existed and that he had composed their music. On at least one of his manuscripts Gurney signed himself “L. van Beethoven of Louvain” – the pun being unwitting, not an attempt at humour, but a fairly typical example of schizophrenic thought disorder. Musically, Gurney’s later songs show a considerable degree of structural deterioration with, according to Dr. Howard Ferguson: unrelieved semiquaver movement so that the music tends to wander on without any real sense of direction … Each bar considered individually makes harmonic sense: it is only the ability to define and organise material, and to construct a coherent whole, that is altogether lacking
This analysis fits in remarkably well with what might be the expected effect of a schizophrenic process upon the ability of an otherwise talented musician to compose.
In those composers who later developed organic brain syndromes, their ability to write music came not unexpectedly to a halt; in some cases more rapidly than in others. Possibly the two best examples are Robert Schumann, to whom considerable reference has already been made, and Hugo Wolf. Both, like Donizetti and possibly Smetana, are thought to have suffered from general paralysis (one variety of tertiary neurosyphilis), although in Schumann’s case there still seems to be room for doubt, despite the fact that he clearly suffered (during the final years of his life) from some form of organic brain disease.
Although there may be fairly clear evidence of deterioration in Schumann’s later music, not only, according to Dr. Eric Sams of the actual fabric of the musical material, but also in its relationship to verbal comprehension, this interestingly enough is much less obvious in the case of Hugo Wolf (1860–1903). Wolf suddenly became acutely psychotic when, in September 1897, after assembling a group of his friends to hear him play a piano arrangement of his unfinished opera, Manuel he suddenly declared that Mahler had been dismissed from his position as Director of the Vienna State Opera and that he, Hugo Wolf, had been appointed in his place. This grandiose delusion not only startled his hearers but not surprisingly heralded his admission to Dr. Svetlin’s asylum. For at least a year before this, however, it is on record that Wolf had Argyll-Robertson pupils – a sign strongly suggestive of neurosyphilis. Even before then, and during the rehearsals and performance of his one and only completed opera, Der in 1896, Wolf’s behaviour seems at times to have been so outrageous that it must be concluded, despite his lifelong temperamental instability (he, too, had cyclothymic tendencies), that his judgement was even more grossly impaired than may have been usual. Nevertheless, little of Wolf’s brain disease is revealed in his music.
In March 1897, six months before he went overtly mad, Wolf wrote his three Michaelangelo songs. Of the last of these – Fühlt meine Seele – Eric Sams has written: This is not a perfect work, nor is it easy to grasp at first hearing. But the workmanship is so exquisite, the emotion so intense, that a man might be immortal for having written this one song. It was Wolf’s last
There is also, of course, Manuel which Ernest Newman has described as a “pathetic fragment” showing however, “no signs of failing inspiration” But while it is certainly not first-rate Wolf, it is nevertheless still difficult to understand how a man with so advanced, presumably, a degree of brain damage could have written it.
Sams has put forward the notion that in considering a composer’s weakening of creative powers, it might be useful to divide this concept into component parts. He states:
If one such part were originality, I think I should concede that Wolf’s last songs do indeed show a deterioration in this respect which is not paralleled in (say) Brahms’s last songs; or Schubert’s, or (come to that) Richard Strauss’s
The fact that the ability to compose, in some cases at least, may, in the face of advancing organic brain disease, be relatively well-preserved, is an interesting finding deserving further consideration. Music, it is said, is the most abstract of all arts; and yet it is the power of abstract thought which appears to be the first casualty in the journey towards dementia. How can it be, therefore, that the pathological march of organic brain disease may be such, in some cases, as to leave whatever part of the brain is concerned with musical composition unscathed – at least until a relatively late stage?
It could be postulated that musicianship is primarily a temporal lobe function (possibly a non-dominant one) and that as the ravages of a disease such as general paralysis are prone, at least in the earlier stages, to attack the frontal lobes, the neuronal source of musical genius, if indeed there is one, may remain unimpaired until the later stages; but such a notion may overvalue topography. A more likely explanation is that musical ability, especially when highly developed, tends to show itself at a very early age. There are many instances of this, Mozart probably being the most striking example. Thus, following the phylogenetic law – the last gained, the soonest lost – musicianship, in the face of a not too rapidly advancing dementing process, might be expected to remain relatively well-preserved until the end draws near. It should also be borne in mind that what a person with progressive brain degeneration can accomplish at any particular state of his disorder is a factor not of the diseased part of his brain, but of that which, up to that time, has remained intact
There remain to be considered in what ways the personality problems or emotional disturbances from which some composers have suffered may be reflected in the quality of their music. This is the most difficult of all questions to answer, for the pitfalls of subjectivity lie in wait for those indulging in even the most tentative speculations.
While there are many varieties of personality disorder, two principal groups stand out – the and the Of those in the first category perhaps the two prime examples are Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) and Richard Wagner (1813–1883). It has nevertheless to be said, in dealing with those kinds of personalities as are currently under consideration, that any attempt at a fairly conventional classification is likely to turn out to be highly inadequate, being relatively so crude as to do little more than rough justice to matters both delicate and of extreme complexity.
Berlioz’s extraordinary behaviour when rejected by his fiancée, Camille Moke, in favour of Pleyel is nothing if not indicative of his tendency to dramatise. As soon as he heard about it he decided to go to Paris, shoot Camille, her lover, her mother, and himself. After purchasing the complete outfit of a lady’s maid, which he intended to wear as a disguise, loading his pistols and putting into his pockets a bottle of strychnine and another of laudanum and after “wandering the streets of Florence with the sickly, restless air of a mad dog” he appears, after contemplating drowning himself en only to have got so far as Nice when he apparently recovered his senses. We are not told what happened to the pistols and the poison; however it is possible that Berlioz’s failure to use them indicated a degree of faint-heartedness, well in tune with the hysterical character in which the most seemingly violent emotions may not penetrate much beyond skin deep. Reflecting on the matter Berlioz himself said:
“It would have made a fine scene. It really is a great pity it had to be dropped.”It should also be known that despite his apparent frenzy over the affair, he still found time to write a note regarding an alteration to his Symphonie the work which, more than any other perhaps, reveals his true nature.
Berlioz, despite his periodic exuberance, suffered from a variety of nervous complaints including, it is sometimes alleged, epilepsy. This he himself denied, and there seems no real reason to believe that the notion has any foundation in fact. However, a rumour to this effect may have grown out of knowledge that Berlioz was given to fits of frenzy, these emotional storms being provoked by frustration, arising either from difficulties in getting his works performed or having to indulge in musical journalism for a living, which pursuit he appears to have detested Later Berlioz became depressed by the death of his wife from whom he had been for some time estranged, and even more so by that of his son As a result of this his last days, which have been described as empty and solitary were passed in a state of considerable despair.
It is almost impossible within so small a space to do justice to a character as colourful and complex as Richard Wagner (1813–1883). Many might agree that his operas, if for no other reason than their size and scale alone, betray his expansive histrionic tendencies, but despite the esteem in which he is held there are many for whom his music has little appeal and who, perhaps like Rossini, regard it as “all sauce and no substance” Wagner’s most striking personality characteristic was his monstrous egotism, to which so much of his life bears evidence: his shameful treatment of his first wife, Minna; his affairs with Frau Wesendonck and others who took his passing fancy, and perhaps above all the outrageous manner in which he carried on with Cosima von Bülow, later to become his second wife but, whose husband, although a friend and colleague, Wagner more or less publicly cuckolded. Indeed it was even said of von Bülow that he not only owed his appointment as Kappellmeister to the Court of King Ludwig of Bavaria to Wagner’s friendship with the King but to “his compliance as a husband”
Add to all this Wagner’s flamboyance, his pathological fondness for silk, satin and other creature comforts; his constant tendency to live beyond his means; his attitude to money – particularly that of others to whom his reputation soon became that of a reckless spendthrift – then his personality presents an image closely resembling that of Henderson’s creative psychopath
There, you see it all – the egotism, the insanity of altruistic feeling, the unfeelingness, the eccentricity, the near-genius type, and yet coupled with violent tempestuous behaviour, which might break out at any time and in any way irrespective of what it might mean to the central figure and those in close association with it. There, too, you may perhaps discern – if you can think in such a way – the strange fascination and charm which such a person may exert.
These words were actually written of Lady Caroline Lamb, but, except for the fact that few would deny his real genius, Henderson’s description might have served Wagner equally well. The testimony of his contemporaries bears this out. Thus Hanslick stated:
He talked incredibly much and rapidly … He talked continuously and always of himself, of his works, of his reforms, his plans. If he happened to mention the name of another composer, it was certain to be in terms of disdain … He was egoism personified, restlessly energetic for himself, unsympathetic towards and regardless of others (Hanslick, quoted by Newman, op. cit.).
There can be little doubt that this very streak of ruthlessness contributed greatly to Wagner’s creativity and to the form which it took. His work could hardly have flourished had the flame of his self-esteem burned low.
This same streak of ruthless egotism is evident in the character of some other composers, although in no instance so obvious as in Wagner’s case. Beethoven certainly had it – as evidenced by the extraordinary affair over the custody of his nephew, Karl, and also, perhaps, in some of his somewhat unscrupulous dealings with his publishers. Hugo Wolf, possibly, and Liszt and Richard Strauss seem to have had at least some of the same degree of egotistical endowment; but perhaps next to Wagner the most striking example may be that of Delius. How else could a man, blind, paralysed and tortured by lightning pains – a terrible symptom of the illness from which he suffered – continue to have composed music, even with the help of his indefatigable amanuensis, Eric Fenby, unless driven relentlessly onwards by a ruthless force of self-justification? If Delius, like Wagner, was in doubt of anything whatsoever, it was never of himself. This cannot be put down merely to his disease for there is ample evidence that before it took its terrible toll of him, Delius had all the necessary strength of self-purpose to carry him through to what must have been the bitterest end.
It has been said of Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) that the more expansive side of his nature is revealed by his attempt to create works of greater compass than, possibly, were within his powers. However, it is the obsessional aspects of his character which appear to be the more important, although these are reflected only secondarily in his music, largely in the detailed and minute instructions given in his scores; but this, as has also been postulated, is not necessarily evidence of an obsessive tendency, it could equally well be interpreted as the work of a master craftsman who knew just what he wanted and how to get it et al., However, although Mahler had a valvular lesion of the heart and died ultimately of bacterial endocarditis, his hypochondriacal concern about his cardiac condition – albeit iatrogenically induced according to Alma Mahler (1946) – clearly betrays obsessive trends, as probably does his excessive detestation of noise, excessive even for a musician and about which he complained in his letters to Alma, almost everywhere he went. He also had a number of other rather finicky habits.
Some other composers seem to betray obsessionalism in their music. Anton Bruckner (1824–1896) appears to be a good example. Bruckner was not only obsessed with death and with corpses but was of a highly pedantic turn of mind, having a compulsion to collect diplomas, and a tendency to waste time – of which he stated that he never had enough – in endless revision of his scores Although strictly celibate he was fascinated by adolescent girls to whom he many times proposed and was invariably rejected. Bruckner also suffered a compulsion to count, which according to Redlich (quoted by Slater, shows itself in his music as a partiality for stiff regularities of periodisation sometimes approaching rhythmic monotony.
A repetitive phase has also been identified in several of the works of Antonin Dvořák (1841–1904) which it is thought the composer himself may not have recognised. This may be evidence of some degree of obsessionalism, accounting also perhaps for the fact that his earlier works tend to be long-winded and repetitious. Although there is not too much evidence of obsessionalism in Dvořák’s non-musical life, it is recorded: that he was fascinated by trains and kept track of schedules and the serial numbers of locomotives; even sending someone out to read them when he was too busy with music and Pinsker,
Perhaps the most striking example is that of Erik Satie (1866–1925) who, although he lived alone in somewhat squalid surroundings in Paris and apparently at times in considerable poverty, dressed fastidiously and in so correct a manner as would befit a senior civil servant. Despite this, and when shortly before his death Satie was removed to hospital, his only toilet accessories were found to be a scrubbing brush and a piece of pumice stone. When his room was entered – no one was allowed in it during his life – his wardrobe was found to contain a dozen identical old-fashioned but brand new suits, an excessive number of shirts, collars, old hats and walking sticks and a cigar box containing several thousand pieces of paper, on which he had made curious drawings and extravagant inscriptions which spoke of “enchanted shores, pools and marshes in the time of Charlemagne”. Satie’s obsessional nature is further revealed both in his elaborate handwriting and the ornate manner in which he wrote out his music (see Figure Milhaud,
Figure 5 An example of Erik Satie’s very precise musical notation and ornate handwriting. (By kind permission of Dennis Dobson, Ltd.)
Constant Lambert who described Satie as the only modern composer whose music could at that time be described as abstract, likened Gymnopèdies – a short suite of three remarkably similar piano pieces – to musical sculptures, stating that:
Just as it does not matter in which way you walk around a statue, nor does it matter in which order you play the pieces.
Two of these pieces (the first and last) were later orchestrated by Debussy, who was taken to task on this account by Cocteau and others, on the grounds that Satie’s original idea was misinterpreted and that the “transparent clarity and simplicity were clouded in an impressionistic haze” Certainly Debussy’s treatment of the pieces considerably destroys their obsessional character.
Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915) could also be classed as an obsessional, although one cast in a very different mould from some of those already mentioned. He was very particular concerning his appearance and would spend hours preening himself before entering a room full of guests. His handwriting (like Satie’s possibly) was said to have been perfect and symmetrically lettered; so much so that it is recorded that on these grounds alone he was once declared clinically insane – a somewhat slender basis, perhaps, for arriving at such a profound conclusion. However, many of his contemporaries also regarded him as mad on account of his sometimes strange behaviour
Further evidence of Scriabin’s obsessionalism may be gleaned from his dislike of every-day financial transactions and his strange habit of putting on gloves before receiving or giving money to As a child and during adolescence, Scriabin suffered from a variety of neurotic symptoms and on this account was periodically subjected to “cures”. As he grew older this tendency to nervous disorder increased. In 1895, he consulted the eminent neurologist, Dr. Wilhelm Erb, and, it is said, gained complete relief from troublesome migrainous headaches after receiving psychotherapy. As he grew older, Scriabin seems to have become progressively immured in theosophy, oriental mysticism, satanism and a variety of eccentric semi-religious pursuits. He is said to have indulged in flying experiments, and on one occasion to have tried to imitate Christ by walking on the waters of Lake Geneva. Being unsuccessful “he settled for preaching to the fishermen from a boat” (Bowers, op.
Like other obsessionals, Scriabin’s sexuality was as divided and disturbed as the man himself. Although twice married on the second occasion), and the father of seven children, this was by no means the limit of his sexual activities. At one time he is said to have had a taste for very young girls and much older men, and caused a considerable scandal in Moscow in 1903 by seducing a 15-year old girl student at a school where he was music teacher. According to Bowers once again, Sabeneeff, a contemporary of Scriabin, referred to his “lust and utter depravity”, which suggests that in addition to his heterosexual escapades he may also have ventured in other directions. While at the Conservatory his fellow students called him “Pussy” which, it is said, he did not appear to mind. It is also on record that he was greatly admired by his piano teacher, Zveryov, apparently one of Russia’s most notoriously homosexual musicians.
Be this as it may, Scriabin’s obsession with sex has probably never more clearly been revealed than in his Poème de which, without the composer’s “foggy, turgid, prolix, diffuse, almost comically cosmic verse purporting to explain the music” is quite clearly as voluptuous an account of the sexual act as was ever expressed in any medium. Much of Scriabin’s other symphonic works are said to express his interest in theosophy and like matters. Constant Lambert referred to the “opulent vulgarity” of his works, while Busoni, who was ruder still, described his piano sonatas, which have been considerably acclaimed, as indigestion de Not unnaturally the Soviets saw him as decadent, but it is difficult to decide whether it was Scriabin’s music or his personality they disliked more.
When we come to consider those composers whose music may have been primarily influenced by fluctuations in mood, we are confronted by what is perhaps a real dilemma; the question being when a composer at one time writes music which is cheerful, gay and abandoned, and, at others, sad or solemn, whether this really is or is not a true reflection of his prevailing emotional state at the time. We should perhaps agree with Hindemith (1952) that a man who labours several months over a funeral piece does not, during all this time, necessarily remain in a funereal mood. What is much more likely is that his ability to compose music of this or any other kind indicates his ability to inject his experience of his own alterations of mood into his music, as and when he chooses. It might also be asked whether those composers of predominantly melancholic temperament are largely compelled to depressed musical utterances, whether those of predominantly cheerful disposition are given primarily to the writing of music which is carefree, euphonious and in a major key, and whether those who are cyclothymic, and familiar with both extremes, reveal their temperamental fluctuations in the variability of their compositions.
While it is possible to answer all these questions affirmatively, not being mutually exclusive, it is as well to be aware of the risks of over-simplification. None of the questions does justice to the complexity of the matter, for not only are there many shades of mood which lie between the extremes of deep depression and high-spirited elation, but a variety of other emotional states which, not being primarily determined by mood, lie qualitatively outside this dimension. Furthermore, although there may be considerable consensual agreement as to the portrayal, in musical terms, of moods such as gaiety and despair – by having resort to such simple devices as fast or slow tempi, major or minor keys and certain harmonic progressions which, having predetermined if not absolute associations, tend to invoke an appropriate response in the listener – such relatively concrete conventions are not only of limited effects, but they cannot possibly do justice to the subtleties of emotional expression which lie within the ambit of musical artistry, and which defy analysis other than in the most abstract terms. As Deryck Cooke has pointed out, music is “extra-musical” in the same sense that poetry is “extra-verbal”. Thus, notes like words may have emotional connotations although in an entirely personal way
The matter has been taken further by Hindemith, who insisted that music cannot actually express a composer’s feelings and that if he himself believes it does, then he deceives himself. What he really accomplishes is something learned by experience: that is he uses certain patterns of tone-setting which, he has learned by experience, correspond with appropriate emotional reactions on the listener’s part. By his technique, therefore, he obtains the desired response. He went on to stress that although listener, performer, and composer alike can be profoundly moved by perceiving, performing or imagining music, the feelings evoked are not real feelings for, Hindemith insisted, if they were real feelings they would not begin and end precisely with the musical stimulus that aroused them. He stated:
Real feelings need a certain interval of time to develop, to reach a climax, to fade out again; but reactions to music may change as fast as musical phrases do. they may spring up in full intensity at any given moment and disappear entirely when the musical pattern that provokes them ends or changes.
This is arguable in that it bears upon the nature of reality. There seems, indeed, no reason to suppose that a feeling which is musically evoked and which on this account may be short-lived, and not necessarily intense, is for this reason not a real feeling. Also, and apart from this, there are, surely, many musical pieces which having been heard, but not immediately succeeded by something fresh, may linger and leave behind them an affective state in the mind of the listener which may persist for a considerable period of time.
Bearing these things in mind consideration may be given to the songs of Peter Warlock (1894–1930), which appear to provide a striking illustration of the qualitative effects of cyclothymia upon musical content; this quite apart from that of the wider influence of mood upon unevenness of output, which in Warlock’s case has previously been considered. Currently, Warlock is generally thought of as a minor composer – possibly miniaturist would be a better description – for most of his compositions consist of short songs. Nevertheless, there appears to be a growing body of opinion that many of them are of remarkable quality.
Warlock’s songs fall stylistically into several fairly clear-cut groups. Captain Stratton’s Fancy, Good and Rutterkin obviously reveal the more manic aspects of his character. In contrast: Sleep, Rest Sweet the exquisite Balulalow, The and a number of his other songs and carols reflect what could perhaps be most appropriately designated as a state of tender melancholy. Warlock’s masterpiece is undoubtedly The a setting of four poems by W. B. Yeats, which Kennedy (1974) has said “explain” might be a better word) the melancholy and despair which lay at the roots of his Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. It is certainly a piece of infinite sadness and tender beauty. However, there was clearly another more sinister and complex side to Warlock’s character, one which has yet to be fully explored. This is suggested by the nature of certain of his other songs, which, in addition to being melancholic, have a decidedly macabre quality. These include The Frostbound Wood, The Shrouding of the Duchess of Malfi and, in particular, The Fox – which Constant Lambert is reputed to have said had “the smell of death about it” Lambert’s prophecy was right: within a year Warlock committed suicide.
Allowing for an interval of just over 300 years, a comparison – possibly valid in certain respects – may be drawn between Warlock and the remarkable Carlo Gesualdo (1560–1613). It is probably no coincidence that Warlock, together with Cecil Gray, contributed to a biography of Gesualdo. Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, had both strong melancholic and sadomasochistic tendencies. He murdered his first wife and her lover in a particularly sanguinary manner, having caught them, as he intended, in flagrante His second marriage was hardly more successful He himself enjoyed physical ill-treatment and employed young men to beat him during which it is said “he was wont to smile joyfully” and Heseltine,
Gesualdo, a contemporary of Monteverdi, was a composer of madrigals and motets, some of which must have been considered as quite remarkable at the time when they were written, both on account of their chromatic modulations and their not infrequent defiance of some of the more generally accepted rules of part-writing. Gesualdo’s music certainly gained the disapproval of some academic musicians, in particular Dr. Charles Burney (1726–1814), probably England’s first musicologist of note, who could find nothing in his music but “unprincipled modulation”. For example, Burney regarded Moro one of his most remarkable madrigals, as “extremely shocking and disgusting to the ear”. In contrast, Constant Lambert (1934) categorised Gesualdo, along with Berlioz, Busoni and Schoenberg, as an orginal: – “One of the great isolated figures of music”. Although one can do no more than this, it is fascinating to speculate just how much Gesualdo’s melancholic temperament and deviant sexual tendencies are reflected in his music, some of which, even after the passage of three and a half centuries, is still remarkable to the ear.
One might look and find melancholic tendencies in the work of many others – or cherish the illusion of doing so: in Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninov, or Tchaikovsky; in the solemn and exquisite cadences which, as they die away, bring a sense of finality to the in Bach’s B Minor a sense dispelled a moment later by the triumphant in Purcell’s superb I am Laid In in Gerald Finzi’s tenderly moving Dies and in the remotely plaintive lament of the softly speaking trumpet, which lulls momentarily the gathering storm that brings William Walton’s First Symphony to its titanic close. Also, of course, in Elgar, particularly in the final movement of his Cello Concerto which so clearly reveals the disillusionment of his declining years.
There is one last point to be made. It has been said by his daughter, Imogen, that her father, Gustav Holst, who so often spent his time sunk in utter despair regarded Egdon Heath as the best of all his compositions Holst, In spite of the sense of desolation which the piece at first seems to evoke, there emerges that degree of affective warmth, which, together with despair, is so characteristic of the creations of those who really know what melancholy means and which, when musically expressed, immediately arouses empathy. It is that self-same warmth which gives rise to the unique sense of emotional inundation which, whenever it is experienced, leaves the discriminatingly appreciative listener in little doubt that what he hears is music worthy of the name, and no mere sentimental artifice. Indeed, it is just that touch of melancholy expressed in some form or other which, if it does not mar the man, so often provides the piquancy which transforms his music from what might otherwise be no more than a passing pleasure into an unforgettable experience.
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to Professor Walter Smith, Beethoven may well have suffered from Crohn’s disease (regional ileitis) which could, apart from his deafness, have accounted for all his other symptoms as well as his cirrhosis
W. F., Bach, J. S., Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Cornelius, Franz, Gluck, Handel, Haydn, Hindemith, Liszt, Loewe, Lortzing, Mahler, Marschner, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Pfitzner, Reger, Schubert, Schumann, Stamitz, Strauss, J., Strauss, R., Wagner, Weber, Wolf.
characterised by fluctuations in mood and mental energy.
Clarke, E.J. Moeran, Peter Warlock and possibly Tchaikovsky also.
more charitable portrayal of Warlock is to be found in Aldous Huxley’s Antic in the character of Coleman
the duration of Rossini’s melancholia may seem surprisingly long, it should not be forgotten that such prolonged illnesses were not uncommon in the days prior to electroconvulsive therapy and antidepressive drugs.
should be emphasised that this was well before the introduction of electroconvulsive therapy into psychiatry, and seems to have referred to Gurney’s delusional belief of being influenced by the wireless.
term hysteria has in recent years achieved a somewhat unfortunate connotation. It is used here to denote a flamboyant, demonstrative often histrionic, extravagant and extraverted personality type, capable not only of attracting attention but if, in addition, talented, of holding it.
doctrinaire Freudian would unhesitatingly regard the equation money-paper-faeces-dirt as unequivocal evidence of the possession of anal-erotic, i.e. obsessional tendencies.
Music has the power to trigger feelings in listeners. Three main areas of the brain are responsible for these emotional responses: nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and the cerebellum.
These are (1) empathy circuits, (2) oxytocin secretion, (3) reward and motivation, including dopamine release, (4) language structures, and (5) cortisol. What is this? Empathy helps us to tune into how other people are thinking and feeling, and can be improved through interpersonal musical coordination.
Music can alter brain structure and function, both after immediate and repeated exposure, according to Silbersweig. For example, musical training over time has been shown to increase the connectivity of certain brain regions.
It provides a total brain workout. Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.
- Auditory Cortex. The auditory cortex is mainly part of the temporal lobe at each side of the brain, slightly above the ears. ...
- Cerebrum. ...
- Cerebellum. ...
- Limbic System.
Happy, upbeat music causes our brains to produce chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which evokes feelings of joy, whereas calming music relaxes the mind and the body.
The neuroscience of music is the scientific study of brain-based mechanisms involved in the cognitive processes underlying music. These behaviours include music listening, performing, composing, reading, writing, and ancillary activities.
Music has been found to stimulate parts of the brain, and studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer's and dementia patients, including a study conducted at UC Irvine, which showed that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer's patients improved when they listened to classical music.
For an example, listening to music while driving can positively rock mood instantly. In addition, listening to music can have a largely effect on a person's minds and a person's body. Later, listening to music also reduces stress, anxiety and depression that lead a person becoming calm and soothing.
Music activates just about all of the brain
The parts of the brain involved in emotion are not only activated during emotional music, they are also synchronized. Music also activates a variety of memory regions. And, interestingly, music activates the motor system.
Furthermore, different genres of music affect the brain in different ways—causing differing cascades of hormones, triggering different neurons to fire, calling up specific sets of memories and giving rise to disparate wells of emotion.
Music is said to enhance intelligence and focus, improve mental health, and boost the immune system as well as self-esteem and confidence. It can be used to relax, to boost and lift our mood, or to improve concentration. Music can also be used to aid in insomnia, helping to encourage and induce a deeper sleep.
“We use the language center to appreciate music, which spans both sides of the brain, though language and words are interpreted in the left hemisphere while music and sounds are inerpreted in the right hemisphere,” Yonetani says.
Music has the ability to evoke powerful emotional responses such as chills and thrills in listeners. Positive emotions dominate musical experiences. Pleasurable music may lead to the release of neurotransmitters associated with reward, such as dopamine. Listening to music is an easy way to alter mood or relieve stress.
Studies have found that listening to music can help calm your nervous system and lower cortisol levels, both of which can help reduce stress. And the same goes for making music; research shows that creating can help release emotion, decrease anxiety and improve overall mental health.
One of the first things that happens when music enters our brains is the triggering of pleasure centers that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy. This response is so quick, the brain can even anticipate the most pleasurable peaks in familiar music and prime itself with an early dopamine rush.
Various studies have demonstrated the positive effects of both listening and playing music on brain development. These effects include improved visual-spatial, linguistic, and mathematical performance, in addition to increased memory, emotional development, and self-esteem.
Studies have shown music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer's, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood.
1. Classical Music. Researchers have long claimed that listening to classical music can help people perform tasks more efficiently. This theory, which has been dubbed "the Mozart Effect," suggests that listening to classical composers can enhance brain activity and act as a catalyst for improving health and well-being.
Other studies have found that classical music enhances memory retrieval, including Alzheimer's and dementia patients. The thought is that the classical music helps fire off synapses, creating or re-energizing, brain pathways previously left dormant.
Research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer's disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease.
Music is a pleasant sound which is a combination of melodies and harmony and which soothes you. Music may also refer to the art of composing such pleasant sounds with the help of the various musical instruments. A person who knows music is a Musician. The music consists of Sargam, Ragas, Taals, etc.
Research shows that it can stimulate mood and imagery that foster emotional and mental health. In fact, plenty of mental health agencies now employ professional music therapists. All signs indicate that this type of mental health will only keep gaining momentum.
The Mozart effect is the theory that listening to the music of Mozart may temporarily boost scores on one portion of an IQ test.
Research has found that when a subject listens to music that gives them the chills, it triggers a release of dopamine to the brain. And if you don't know, dopamine is a kind of naturally occurring happy chemical we receive as part of a reward system.
The researchers found that listening to and playing music increase the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system's effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Listening to music releases dopamine and serotonin into the brain, helping you relax and stay focused. Music has an energizing effect, so your mood naturally improves.
It is suggested that music with a high degree of long-term periodicity, whether of Mozart or other composers, would resonate within the brain to decrease seizure activity and to enhance spatial-temporal performance.
Listening to classical music has not been shown to improve intelligence in children or adults. In fact, researchers have found that young children who watch classical music-based television learn fewer words, just as children who watch regular television do.
With regard to the popular meaning of the “Mozart effect,” the answer is no. No research has ever demonstrated that merely listening to Mozart's music can have a lasting impact on general intelligence or IQ.
Music is said to enhance intelligence and focus, improve mental health, and boost the immune system as well as self-esteem and confidence. It can be used to relax, to boost and lift our mood, or to improve concentration. Music can also be used to aid in insomnia, helping to encourage and induce a deeper sleep.
Music has been found to stimulate parts of the brain, and studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer's and dementia patients, including a study conducted at UC Irvine, which showed that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer's patients improved when they listened to classical music.
By removing the negative energy, music also helps people concentrate better. It is often used by doctors during medical procedures as well. Healing centers also surround people with calming sounds or noises to make them feel at ease. In such ways, music therapy can solve cognitive knots or deficiencies in the brain.
Music can restore some of the cognitive functions, sensory and motor functions of the brain after a traumatic injury. Music does more than just put us in a good mood. It's a wonder drug that sets a lot of things right: It energises your mind, eases stress, evokes emotions and soothes your soul.
Music therapy can reduce stress and promote relaxation. It's been shown to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety levels before surgery. A study published in 2017 found that a 30-minute music therapy session combined with traditional care after spinal surgery reduced pain.
These results would be attributed to increased central dopamine release due to caffeine antagonizing the inhibition of adenosine α1 and α2 receptors on dopamine, with a subsequent reduction in brain serotonin synthesis.
- 1. " Clair de Lune" -- Debussy.
- 2. " Adagio for Strings" -- Barber.
- 3. " Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor ("The Tempest")" -- Beethoven.
- 4. " First Breath After Coma" -- Explosions in the Sky.
- 5. " Adagio for Strings" -- Tiesto.
- “ Stereo Hearts” – Gym Class Heroes (feat. ...
- “ Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj. ...
- “ Fergalicious” – Fergie, will.i.am. ...
- “ Hey, Soul Sister” – Train. ...
- “ Dynamite” – Taio Cruz. ...
- “ Whatcha Say” – Jason Derulo. ...
- “ Worldwide” – Big Time Rush. ...
Music and the Brain: Studies in the Neurology of Music is a collaborative work that discusses musical perception in the context of medical science. The book is comprised of 24 chapters that are organized into two parts. The first part of the text details the various aspects of nervous function involved in musical activity, which include neural and mechanicals aspects of singing; neurophysiological interpretation of musical ability; and ecstatic and synesthetic experiences during musical perception. The second part deals with the effects of nervous disease on musical function, such as musicogenic epilepsy, the amusias, and occupational palsies. The book will be of great interest to students, researchers, and practitioners of disciplines that deal with the nervous system, such as psychology, neurology, and psychiatry....
A histogram which relates the composer’s annual output in terms of works either completed or, in a few cases, taken to the point of final abandonment, contrasted year by year with his prevailing mood state (see Slater, shows this clearly From this it may be observed that Schumann’s most productive years appear to have been 1832, 1840 and, above all, 1849, although the years 1850 to 1853 also saw the completion of a considerable number of works which, towards the end of this period, and due apparently to organic brain disease supervening, were of deteriorating quality, particularly perhaps his later choral works What is of greater interest is that these productive years appear to have been preceded by periods of up to a year when the composer was predominantly depressed, as can be clearly seen during the period 1831 and 1834.. By the age of 37 he had composed 36 operas.. Rossini’s prolonged illness was both of a physical and mental kind.. This time he appears to have remained mentally well until shortly before his. Nevertheless, little of Wolf’s brain disease is revealed in his music.. He states:. Reflecting on the matter Berlioz himself said:. Like other obsessionals, Scriabin’s sexuality was as divided and disturbed as the man himself.. Thus, notes like words may have emotional connotations although in an entirely personal way. He stated:. Musical 1955; 96:128–130.
Music and the Brain: Studies in the Neurology of Music Edited by Macdonald Critchley and R A Henson: Hardcover/Pappeinband. (1977) ›
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The Resource Music and the brain : studies in the neurology of music, edited by Macdonald Critchley and R. A. Henson ; with a foreword by Sir Michael Tippett. Title Music and the brain Title remainder studies in the neurology of music Statement of responsibility edited by Macdonald Critchley and R. A. Henson ; with a foreword by Sir Michael Tippett ContributorSubject Language eng Cataloging source DLC Illustrations illustrations portraits music facsimiles. InstantiatesPublication Bibliography note Includes bibliographies and index Carrier category volume Carrier category codeCarrier MARC source rdacarrier Content category text Content type codeContent type MARC source rdacontent Contents Part I.. Neurological aspects of musical experience / R.A. Henson -- The inheritance of musicality / R.T.C.. Sears -- Memory and attention in music / Diana Deutsch -- The timing and time of musicians / W. Gooddy -- Musical faculty and cerebral dominance / A.R.. Damsìo, Hanna Damsìo -- Musical ability : a neuropsychological interpretation / Maria A. Wyke -- The development of early musical talent in famous composers : a biographical review / D.F.. Scott, Adrienne Moffett -- Music, emotion and autonomic function / G. Harrer, H. Harrer -- Ecstatic and synaesthetic experiences during musical perception / Macdonald Critchley -- The language of music / R.A. Henson -- The search for a morphological substrate in the brains of eminent persons including musicians : a historical review / A. Meyer -- Is there an anatomical localisation for musical faculties?. 2, The later story : its relation to auditory hallucinatory phenomena / D.F.. Control code 3093075 Dimensions 24 cm Extent xiv, 459 pages Isbn 9780433067030 Lccn 77371202 Media category unmediated Media MARC source rdamedia Media type codeOther physical details illustrations, facsimiles, music, portrait System control number (WaOLN)182873. Publication Bibliography note Includes bibliographies and index Carrier category volume Carrier category codeCarrier MARC source rdacarrier Content category text Content type codeContent type MARC source rdacontent Contents Part I.. Neurological aspects of musical experience / R.A. Henson -- The inheritance of musicality / R.T.C.. Sears -- Memory and attention in music / Diana Deutsch -- The timing and time of musicians / W. Gooddy -- Musical faculty and cerebral dominance / A.R.. Damsìo, Hanna Damsìo -- Musical ability : a neuropsychological interpretation / Maria A. Wyke -- The development of early musical talent in famous composers : a biographical review / D.F.. Scott, Adrienne Moffett -- Music, emotion and autonomic function / G. Harrer, H. Harrer -- Ecstatic and synaesthetic experiences during musical perception / Macdonald Critchley -- The language of music / R.A. Henson -- The search for a morphological substrate in the brains of eminent persons including musicians : a historical review / A. Meyer -- Is there an anatomical localisation for musical faculties?. Control code 3093075 Dimensions 24 cm Extent xiv, 459 pages Isbn 9780433067030 Lccn 77371202 Media category unmediated Media MARC source rdamedia Media type codeOther physical details illustrations, facsimiles, music, portrait System control number (WaOLN)182873