Mysterious composers or drug addicts?

Recently, there’s been some news about Chopin possibly having epilepsy, observation based on Chopin’s troubled life marred by hallucinations, insomnia, periods of anxiety, fear, and jamais vu (when a familiar situations seems unfamiliar). Chopin is not alone in the company of “troubled” composers. Just to mention Beethoven, Mozart, or Schumann. Doctors and scientist are trying to assign some disease to explain their strange and, let’s be honest, a bit mad behavior. Music-lovers like to give them an aura of mysteriousness. I wonder if they were simply alcoholics and drug addicts.

If we’d put them in our era they wouldn’t be any different than the majority of musicians and actors. Their compositions are a bit more complex than those of Britney Spears but why would their addictions and behavior be any different? Maybe fame and money didn’t spoil them. Their lives were rather tough and in many cases they were just struggling to go by (They would do much better now – especially in a film music industry). However, I bet that “being an artist” did have something to do with their behavior. To compose Don Giovanni, Symphony No. 9 (Ode To Joy), Revolutionary Etude… Imagine the complexity of emotions that convey such music. Being a brilliant artist has its price.  And such remedies as “opium drops on sugar” – Chopin’s favorite – wouldn’t help much with “clearing the mind”…

What particular diseases could explain weird behavior of so many composers? Or were they simply overdosing on certain “stimulants”? Do we even have to ask these questions? Their “maladies” surely influenced their music. But all that matters is how it influences us. What do you feel when you listen to the Moonlight Sonata? Now, that’s the right question.

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