Saturday, April 25, 2009

Master Composers - Dysfunctional Men!

Staying with the same topic of the 'G' in music from my last post, there is sometimes an obvious question that could be asked: If music can have such a redeeming influence on man, what explains the clearly dysfunctional lives of many of the great composers and (to extend that further) even some of the great performers of music?

Beethoven confessed that he was misanthropic. Brahms was a recluse. Tchaikovsky contended with frequent bouts of severe depression throughout his life. Schumann went insane and committed suicide.

The explanation that works for me is this: Firstly, God uses 'imperfect vessels' to do His work. That applies not only to leaders and saints, but also to composers, painters, sculptors; in fact to everybody.

That explains the dichotomy of Beethoven’s radiant and mystical Missa Solemnis and his actual double-dealing with several publishers to get this work published for the highest returns. That explains how Wagner could compose some of the most stirring music ever penned and yet be a confirmed anti-Semitic in not only his own beliefs but also in his published writings. That explains how Mozart’s music has a purity far removed from the frequent vulgar jokes that punctuate his many letters.

Secondly, the process of creation (for the composer) or re-creation (for the performer) demands infinitely more from the individual than the process of listening. It is almost as if some of the great composers gave everything they had emotionally, intellectually and sometimes spiritually to their music, that they (and unfortunately those around them, including close family and friends) were left with only the ‘leftovers’.

Finally, it is often the case that composers communicate more intuitively through their music than through social interactions or the written or spoken word. In that sense, their actual self comes out best through their works and 'says' more about them than what they say or do outside of music. It is almost like parallel universes - the mystic reality of the process of composition and the mundane reality of everyday living!

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