Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Music, Madness and Creativity

From The Guardian:
The truth is that there is no more a link between star sign and intelligence than there is between madness and creativity. That a link has been drawn between the two is, however, understandable. How else can we explain the outrageous creative power of a Mozart or a Beethoven without resorting to some kind of brain chemistry imbalance? If these guys were as normal as everyone else, then where is the magic? It is the sad way of the world that someone doing something extraordinary (Beethoven) has to have an extra dollop of extraordinary (bipolar disorder) to make it, well, even more extraordinary.

Creativity is a broad subject. Musical creativity is what I know about. It’s my job, my passion, my absolute reason for being. And let me tell you something categorically: the great composers were not mad. Disturbed, sure. Angry, broke, alcoholic, anxious, neurotic, syphilis-ridden, depressed, grieving – often. As are most of us for that matter (minus the syphilis). But with the singular exception of Schumann, whose fictional characters Florestan and Eusebius were invented by him to depict in music his bipolar mood swings, there is not one big-name composer who, by today’s standards, would be hospitalised, or likely even diagnosed, with one of the more severe mental illnesses.


When it comes to being creative, my mental health is irrelevant. But when it comes to my mental health, creativity becomes very relevant. It seems to me vitally important to communicate the message that these composers achieved so much not because of, but despite, being anxious, neurotic and socially awkward.

Creativity is, for me, a sign of mental wellness and not one of mental illness. Because when it’s 4am and the wolves are at the door – when the solution is either suicide or homicide, and the twitching, itching, head gremlins are out in force – then being able to sit at a piano, and pour out notes on to the manuscript paper is the way out. Or so I keep telling myself because, going over piano pieces in my head, checking memory, trying out new interpretations and playing through entire concert programmes is more often than not the only thing that stops me throwing myself out of the window. Music helps my own particular brand of madness. It’s the only medicine that has never let me down. (Read more.)

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