Thursday, April 21, 2011

Creativity and Madness: Any logical relationship between the two?


Franz Liszt composed the Hungarian Rhapsody no. 6, performed above by Martha Argerich, when he was a young man.  The piece is flashy, showy; it is meant to display the pianist's virtuosity and entertain the audience.  The musical garrulousness of the piece is typical of the works Liszt composed when he was a young man.  Indeed, it is typical of the early compositions of a number of composers.  The works of many composers are tripartite, with an early, middle, and late period.  Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody is an early or middle period piece.

Anthony Storr writes: "Actually, according to some psychologists, the work of all artists typically passes through three phases, provided they live long enough. Third period works have certain characteristics. First, they are less concerned with communication than what has gone before. Second, they are often unconventional in form, and appear to be striving to achieve a new kind of unity between elements which at first sight are extremely disparate, Third, they are characterized by an absence of rhetoric or any need to convince. Fourth, they seem to be exploring remote areas of experience which are intrapersonal or suprapersonal rather than interpersonal. That is, the artist is looking into the depths of his own psyche and is not very much concerned as to whether anyone else will follow him or understand him."

Franz Liszt's piano piece En Reve, written the year before the composer died, when Liszt was 74, is starkly different from his early and middle period compositions in its opaque simplicity.  It is a typical "third period" composition.



An even more stark example of Liszt's late period is La Lugubre Gondola No. 1, written in 1882, when he was 71.



It is interesting that Anthony Storr's observations about a composer's late period work can be paraphrased to give an apt description of the communicative style of many persons suffering from schizophrenia:

Schizophrenics are less concerned with communication than normal individuals; they express their thoughts with indifference to their listeners' comprehension. Their speech is often unconventional in form, and appears to be striving to achieve a kind of unity between elements which are extremely disparate; in fact, any logical relationship between the elements is largely nonexistent. The speech of the schizophrenic is characterized by an absence of rhetoric or any need to convince. They seem to be exploring remote areas of experience which are intrapersonal or suprapersonal rather than interpersonal. That is, the schizophrenic is looking into the depths of his own psyche and is not very much concerned as to whether anyone else will follow him or understand him.

The order of the schizophrenic's ideas is markedly different from the logical psychological sequence of ideas as developed by the nonschizophrenic individual. This psychotic order is not easy to comprehend, because the ideas of the schizophrenic are not entirely realized, they are left incomplete -- they are a sequence of unexplained or unelaborated references, a veritable fugue-like series of ideas.

5 comments:

Gary Freedman said...

Early Wagner: Lohengrin, Prelude to Act III --





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOQlG8YRxEQ&playnext=1&list=PL7047BC2BC7673244

Late Wagner: Parsifal, Prelude to Act III --





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyDsE9ARowc

Gary Freedman said...

Early Strauss: Don Juan--





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhC_phsb5q0

Late Strauss: Metamorphosen--



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPDDHk4XaB4

Gary Freedman said...

Strauss completed the composition of Metamorphosen, a work for 23 solo strings, in 1945. Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of the string repertoire, Metamorphosen contains Strauss's most sustained outpouring of tragic emotion. Conceived and written during the blackest days of World War II, the piece expresses in music Strauss's mourning of, among other things, the destruction of German culture — including the bombing of every great opera house in the nation. At the end of the war, Strauss wrote in his private diary:

The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany's 2000 years of cultural evolution met its doom.

In April 1945, Strauss was apprehended by American soldiers at his Garmisch estate. As he descended the staircase he announced to Lieutenant Milton Weiss of the U.S. Army, "I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier and Salome." Lt. Weiss, who, as it happened, was also a musician, nodded in recognition. An 'Off Limits' sign was subsequently placed on the lawn to protect Strauss; and the American oboist, John de Lancie, asked Strauss to compose an oboe concerto. Initially dismissive of the idea, Strauss completed this late masterpiece, his Oboe Concerto, before the end of the year.

(John De Lancie was for many years the principal oboeist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I heard him many times in the late 70s and 80s.)

Gary Freedman said...

The Bilkent Youth Orchestra: a bunch of young Turks!!

Gary Freedman said...

(Actually John de Lancie retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1977, so my memory slipped. I'm entering my late period, I guess, when faculties begin to fail!)