The Well-Tempered Imagination series

Please post your reflections for The Well-Tempered Imagination ‘dialogic’ seminars here

16 Responses to The Well-Tempered Imagination series

  1. Lyric says:

    Manual labour (for K.K.)

    “Little stone in my shoe,
    what makes me choose
    to walk with you a while?”
    Robyn Sarah


    It’s a rhythm of being where dreams in chokehold
    fall to the woodsy floor & rise again –
    a breakthrough conundrum involved with practical ethics
    losing their sense, their virtue, their reliability –
    a rhythm like love that needs to be forced to succeed –
    this is what tabulating work accomplishes…


    River politics – man out ghosts his woman,
    debris wash up on the battered beach.
    River scenario – another place to fall
    golden, heretics with the best stories
    sailing off into the sunset.
    Now we are truly here, no birds
    to fly away with our surprise,


    There is the sullen carpenter
    who thinks he’s modelling himself
    after Jesus – the man with pockets full
    of drifting aphorisms – a new wall
    in a bright add on kitchen –
    hope, distressing hope…


    So now where are we – labels
    & dynamic spokes
    in a wheel, a sign language, a cope.
    Tomorrow give in gracefully,
    eschew taking over,
    round the skid road tapestry softening,
    work to your heart’s wizardry content…

    • Karen Kaderavek says:

      Lyric, I thank you for responding artistically, creatively and metaphorically to “The Well-Tempered Imagination” in your explorations during the days prior to the seminar, at the event itself and then in this poetic format afterward.

      It is wonderful to have this contribution of yours to a subject matter that is inherently subjective but so often demands to be analyzed precisely, even clinically, such that our understanding and our various interpretations of it can be discussed, and shared.

      Yet, in its most essential domain, music, like “poetry cannot be taught; it offers signs.”
      ~ Jean-Paul Richter ~

  2. Heart-strings says:

    Karen Kaderavek and Dr. Jaswant Guzder / May 7th 2011

    It was a treat to sit in on Karen’s performance –and both Karen’s and Dr. Guzder’s dialogue on creativity, inspiration, mental illness and genius. I always thought that a genius walked a very thin line –balance, nowhere to be found. I think genius carries a plethora of meanings, colors and shapes –the definition depends on who is doing the defining and when. I believe the word and the individual genius should never be defined to concretize a final analysis –just let it be.

  3. Fleetwood says:

    On the conclusion – Fleetwood
    There are so many complexities and subtleties here that it’s hard to comment.
    The ‘creative tension’ is a neat and tidy solution for such a complex issue, and it’s courageous of the author to attempt to collapse this to a one dimensional scale. It’s been reduced to the balance between manageable mania and depression. An interesting hypothesis but what can we do with that.
    How does it inform other factors such as; nourishing and exposing our minds to with different music, stories, stimuli, etc; a strong creative habit; and a motivational drive?
    Why talent is separated from practice/repetition/effort and why is genius associated more with spontaneity than craft? Do we even need the word genius? Is it a distorting or unhelpful term?
    How could this be cast into the lives of musicians important in recent decades like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney or my idol Pete Doherty?
    Can we say that people were born to express in a certain way, perhaps through something as artificial as a piano keyboard? In fact all modes of expression are human made. Maybe dance isn’t, maybe drumming isn’t, but a piano keyboard certainly is.
    The future of brain science and creativity surely is going to be one of the most liberating and exciting fields.

  4. Fleetwood says:

    Fleetwood – On the Schumann section
    Tired Ramblings
    Interesting but hard to read as it is so dry and fact filled. I think I’d be better with a Novelisation. Before reading this I couldn’t tell you a thing about Schumann. The insight here is great, just there is a lot to chew over and we don’t have much time. I need some context and emotion and something at stake for me to absorb this. Maybe if we read a bit and then listen to a classical piece written at this time we could start to associate sounds and melodies with his state of mind. Of course not in a one-to-one, this causes this effect, but to add context and more sensory stimulation. I didn’t manage to finish the last 10 pages of the chapter, I had to skip through.
    Does the author believe in natural talent? If we are going to detach talent from effort then we’ve completely devalued the creative process.

    • Karen Kaderavek says:

      This is the author and Yes! – you can be assured that I do believe in natural talent (please see the excerpts below from Part One of the text, the Schumann section that you have read and are commenting on, that indicate any number of ways in which I have iterated Schumann’s giftedness).*

      Schumann’s extraordinary talents have been acknowledged and examined since the late 19th century, and I hope to contribute to the continuum which encompasses that tradition. Allow me to clarify that in my book I am exploring heightened and elevated artistic and self expression, which cannot be accomplished either by talent alone – as motivation is possibly the outstanding feature that mines any talent, be it mammoth or modest – or effort without talent. In fact, it is the creative process that I address in my book, and one cannot consider one without the other: talent without effort or vice versa.

      As for needing context, emotion or something at stake in order to be fully engaged with a piece of prose writing such as this, I agree with you – I think that the accompaniment of biography with music IS ideal. I hope that as of this writing you will have had the opportunity to explore some of Schumann’s music. For example, the sheer popularity of Schumann’s piano music is an indicator of his talent. Allow me to respectfully recommend to you, Kinderszenen (Scenes From Childhood), Album für die Jugend (Album for the Young), Papillons, the A Minor Piano Concerto and the Piano Quintet. I can’t help but believe that any individual who avails themselves of these works will be forever changed, and greatly enriched.

      • Frau Schumann “prided herself on being called ‘the living book of arias, ’”and derived great pleasure from teaching her preverbal infant to mirror her voice precisely in pitch and rhythm. His ease at this pastime led her to believe that he was uniquely gifted.” p 16.
      • His musical gift had long been apparent and he began music lessons at the age of seven with the sole organist and pianoforte player in Zwickau, Johann Kuntsch. Kuntsch appears to have been competent at best, self-taught and pedantic, but Schumann understandably showed a fondness for his first music tutor and quickly soaked up everything the man had to offer. Already in childhood, keyboard improvisation – which remained Schumann’s greatest talent throughout his life – had ignited his imagination. p 17.
      • It seems that August was able to take vicarious pleasure in the talent and boundless energy of his inventive son, especially as he himself was so physically frail. p 18.
      • In addition to his exceptional gift for improvisation, he had also begun composing by the age of seven or eight. p 19.
      • Despite his reclusive ways Schumann was well known and celebrated in quaint Heidelberg for his prodigious talent. p 39
      • (Noting his extraordinary imagination in literary matters and here, self-preservation): This ingenious invention [of Florestan and Eusebius] and externalization of opposing forces neutralized many of the conflicts that drove Schumann increasingly to dangerous states of mind and emotion. The creative impact that these “two best friends” had on Schumann’s work can not be overestimated […] p 47.
      • Schumann composed prolifically after this breakthrough, all the more remarkable given this creative work followed on the heels of a temporary breakdown. […] Papillons is a masterpiece of Schumann’s early years, not only in terms of its novel pianistic brilliance but also in that it conjoins music with poetic depiction, an artistic goal by which the Romantics were possessed. Among other compositions, Schumann’s Six Intermezzi, Op. 4, and his Toccata in C (Étude fantastique), Op. 7, emerge from a similarly inspired emotional center […] pp 47-8.
      • To add to this visual portrayal, “his passionate warmth and irony attracted people to him; his occasional silence and melancholy, as well as the mark of genius which he bore, made them remain.” p 57.
      • (He was not only immensely gifted as a composer, but his extraordinary talent for music criticism and his instinct for creative excellence are also highlighted): Able to recognize genuine musical talent, Schumann aided the burgeoning careers of Mendelssohn, Wagner, Berlioz and Clara Wieck, to name a few. In advancing support for emerging artists, sometimes immeasurably, he helped bridge the distance between a creator and a public wary of new sounds. He also advanced the works of the under-appreciated and recently deceased Franz Schubert. Schumann’s undying admiration for, and public praise of, Beethoven, was also testament to his unquestionable musical taste, knowledge of history, veracity of instinct and artistic integrity. p 59.
      • “How blissful it is to write for the voice!” Schumann wrote to his fiancée. Indeed it must have been, for within a month of setting upon this creative path, he composed an enchanting cycle of 26 lieder by diverse poets called Myrtle; one lied for each letter of the alphabet, replete with personal significance on marriage-related topics. The songs astonished Clara: “This I did not expect! My reverence for him grows along with my love. No one alive today is as musically gifted as Robert.” p 83.
      • His creativity was flowing, too, at a stunning rate of productivity that empowered him, much as his recent legal victories. […] News of this triumph unleashed an avalanche of songs. In July, Schumann composed an astonishing 20 lieder in as many days. pp 83-4.
      • News of Clara’s first pregnancy, combined with the feelings of concern and anxiousness of parenthood, further incited Schumann’s extraordinary creative powers. In January, he produced – within four straight days and four sleepless nights – the sketches for his first successful symphony, the Symphony in B Flat (“Spring”). p 88.
      • In June, just before his 32nd birthday, Schumann composed, remarkably in a mere two weeks, his Three String Quartets, Op. 41. By any standard, this is a staggering achievement. p 89.
      • He responded with another masterpiece – written inside of just one week – the Quartet for Piano and Strings. Again, this piece would redefine the boundaries of a pre-existing genre. The inventive, melodious intimacy and the sheer indulgent energy this piece exudes, continue to fascinate and enchant chamber music enthusiasts to this day. p 90.

  5. Heart-Strings says:

    Well Tempered Imagination

    Reading –Ear-plugged

    Rapture and Despair –the Bipolar Affect and Creativity –Part Four Comparative Analysis

    May 6th, 2011 / Heart-Strings

    Although my exposure to depression and mental illness is not completely foreign, I found myself ill-equipped, lacking knowledge and proper tools to comment on this last section of Karen’s book. Nevertheless I was moved to jot some things down as I read.

    Abandonment seems to be a common thread in the early years of the four musicians –Schumann, Mingus, Tchaikovsky and Elgar. The ghost of loneliness revisiting each life throughout their adult years was evident. I thought that when one internalizes abandonment and processes it as a justified act, then subsequent relationships in adulthood would suffer because the one who was abandoned would search out a partner who had the inclination to abandon. Or the abandoned would have learned to abandon. This is what one has learned from a primal source.

    Perhaps the excitement of searching for and finding a partner would ultimately turn bitter/sweet because that partner would eventually leave. On the flip side, if the abandoned one meets someone who does not leave, that loyalty is not intuitively trusted, thereby contributing confusion to someone who believes he is not good enough to keep. Resolving and reconciling the abandonment issue is paramount for moving beyond and ahead. However, a young child can only process abandonment for what it is –a frightening and stressful situation.

    Emotional and physical detachment might de-sensitize and also might over-sensitize a person who experienced such a break. De-sensitize because that person wants to protect his self from further hurt and trauma, and over-sensitize because that person can read others with a sixth sense, and intuit emotions and sensations in other persons –sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Opening up the blocked artery, as well as channeling sensitivity into beneficial activities is the key to unlocking whatever it is that needs attention and expression.

    Schumann, Mingus, Tchaikovsky and Elgar were struggling in their world –and they suffered greatly emotionally. But I think each one of them found some precious jewel.

  6. Heart-Strings says:

    Reading Part Three:

    Tchaikovsky & Elgar
    May 5, 2011 –Heart-Strings
    Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), an old soul at age 8. Not only musically gifted, but also linguistically, poetically and intellectually –Intense, and acutely sensitive (to others and upon hearing music.) What was he intuiting in people and music at such a young age?

    I thought about his yearning for his mother’s attention, something she was cool with, and the attention of his first governess Fanny who paid attention and detected his moodiness and melancholy. His yearning to be understood and not misunderstood, his need to express his pure truth seemed to consume him. Yet, his sexual orientation could never be released into the public forum. Instead, suppression replaced expression. Perhaps what we hear in Tchaikovsky’s music is his silenced voice. This is what suppressing the truth sounds like –this is what restraint produces. Perhaps Tchaikovsky’s music is the language of unrequited love, or the language of joy that stems from an imagined love.

    Heavy drinking and chronic insomnia –remind me of escape and no-escape. Tchaikovsky seemed to be caught between exposure and intense guilt. His composing brought him relief, national/international success and material gain –his homosexual anxiety brought him isolation and loss.

    Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
    Music and laughter in Elgar’s first 2 years of life –was it enough to sustain him in his future life? It appears so, at last on the surface. Elgar’s mother seemed to influence him in just the right ways. She was self-educated, well-read, and disciplined, as well as kind, gentle and patient. Elgar’s dad exposed him to music.

    Death changes life. With the death of the oldest male sibling, Elgar had the inclination to surround himself with the natural world; insects, birds, water –sounds that bring forth life. With the death of a younger male sibling, he returned to life on the riverbanks. Elgar was only 9. I wondered if he felt guilt for being alive –for surviving. I wondered if that guilt might have contributed to his future feelings of yearning –yearning for his brothers and, isolation. Was his melancholy in a time of success and fame a ghost of the past?

  7. Lyric says:

    Creative Tension – Conclusion Lyric May 6.2011

    “Mild anxiousness and ambition on the one hand, with poetic searching or at least meaningful unhappiness on the other, characterize creative tension. Inherent in this state of moderate discomfort are quick-moving associations and irritability, coupled with a depth of seriousness that captures, organizes and records ideas. When one of the composers in question was able to endure these opposing tensions – usually by sheer psychic willpower – all the while sustaining a high degree of productivity and then somehow return to a balance point, the endeavour was useful or even exceptional, if taxing. But if the competing tensions overwhelmed the individual and either side – mania or depression – gained control of the creator’s psyche, then the resulting ill health usually led to (eventual) breakdown and devastation.”
    Rapture & Despair, p. 278

    The cited passage strikes me as an interesting take on how certain types of madness & creativity are linked, not only when creativity “fails” to produce but also when it succeeds. I wonder about opposing tensions moving in & out of competing tensions overwhelming – how that can manifest in a creative work even as managing to return to balance can. The passage for me is particularly interesting in relation to poetic work where the degree of consistency re intellectual & emotional discipline would usually, or so I think, call for less time to get work done than composing music would. Poetry is something written on the edge of creative tension, after the fact in the editing process a more evenly conscious mind at issue. Is this last the same in writing music? I think the mind in the throws of composition can speak volumes about emotional reactions of high tension in day to day relationships, the former just more intense & fused than the latter. As far as becoming overwhelmed by mania or depression, I get the impression that this certainly can be intermittent, as I allude earlier hear. For poets when this happens there is time in the editing & revision stages to “clear up” so to speak, ridding a piece of blatant purple patches however beautiful, &/or correcting inconsistencies in imagery. Sometimes, reading a poem, I get the impression that something probably got lost in the revision – that a “better” poem, with more meaningful unhappiness/suggestiveness, might have resulted had the parts governed by sporadic overwhelming, be it manic or depressive, had remained entrenched in the final draft. This is a long subject, I need to think more, though these thoughts are not exactly new to me – rather differently articulated & shaped as a result of reading this book…

  8. Heart-strings says:

    Reading Charles Mingus (1922-1979)
    May 4, 2011 / Heart-Strings

    Left me somewhat exhausted. Read a variety of emotions –fear, anger, sympathy, distress, hope, love and sadness. Charles Mingus’s life read like improvisation itself. I felt that he visited and experienced an excess of emotions; experimenting so intensely to search, and to find himself, his true identity, not only in his music but his personal as well. I thought how improvisation was the opposite of control, an element missing in Mingus’s behavior. Perhaps the anger he owned and entertained was fear in disguise. Yet he was controlling with other musicians and those in the music industry. Was music pulling opposites together?

    Mingus knew what he needed and thus wanted, and launched himself into any territory where he could express and sanction every emotion he felt. When Mingus was not able to compose and be creative he would spiral downward –his ego, albeit inflated at times, seemed almost invisible –his identity, his individuality was once again bent out of shape. He identified with his musical abilities, not with himself as a human being. The racialist times caused him further strife –Mingus had to assert his existence. He was fighting for his life.

    Mingus’s sexual appetite and indiscretions could be viewed today as the behavior of a sex addict. Searching for that ‘high’ or ‘distraction/escape from his self’? Boredom could have been his nemesis.

    I thought of music as medicine. For Mingus, as the performer and composer, music (words, emotions and notes) was the first breath and the last –and his playing music encompassed the spectrum of who he was as a person –inventing techniques, and therefore himself as he went along. Sharing his music was requisite.

    Mingus believed in reincarnation and requested that his ashes be spilled into the Ganges –this could have symbolized his desire to live again.

    • Karen Kaderavek says:

      Heart-Strings, in your musings on control and fear I feel you have keenly identified two of Mingus’ psychological drives and complexities. You might find interesting my discussion of these things in Part Four of my book, the Comparative Analysis, “Mingus’ Triangle (see below).”
      I was fascinated when Dr. Guzder pointed out that sadness rather than rage is the mature response to life’s heartaches and our inner conflicts. She remarked that when a patient of hers arrives at sadness she is impressed; she says “congratulations.” Yet we have a measure of sympathy for Mingus when we consider his early childhood. I was very interested to learn that you had read Miller’s “The Drama of the Gifted Child” and that you also sense the first years of life are not “forgotten” and hold at least some of the keys to our often seemingly inexplicable behaviors as adults. Mingus did have the benefit of some psychotherapy and he knew sadness as well as rage, the former arriving later in life when he was more reflective and self-aware. His fear of abandonment may have led to the pattern of compulsiveness, abandonment, and disappointment that plagued his emotional stability throughout his life.
      But back to the important consideration: how does all of this affect creative work! This is what is so interesting to explore. When we observe how Mingus’ personal life was intertwined with his musical output, especially his compositions, but also the inventive way he put his career together, the rich connections become evident. As you know, I take this up in detail in Part Two of the book and also in Part Four.

      From “Mingus’ Triangle:” (exploring fear and control, specifically)
      • Miller goes on to say that if a child’s access to his or her emotional world is impaired due to painful experiences that must be suppressed, then the adult individual is likely to display a lack of respect toward others and a compulsion to control or manipulate them. He or she may possess an obsessive drive for achievement and pursue “the exhausting struggle to fulfill the old, repressed, and by now often perverted needs with the help of symbols (cults, sexual perversions, alcohol or drugs).” Since the integrity of such a child is damaged when much that is alive and spontaneous in him is cut off, understandably the adult representation will be plagued by feelings of “emptiness and futility, despair and rage, a sense of homelessness, self-alienation and a lurking depression.” By this logic it would appear that by the age of two, the foundation was laid for many of the behaviors Mingus exhibited in adulthood. What seems especially tragic is that he was not easily able to recognize his destructive behaviors, perhaps because his traumas were early and preverbal. Mingus continued emotionally harming himself and others well into adulthood. p 256.
      • And as with Schumann, Mingus also had disorganized attachments in his personal life resulting from a similar “unstable sense of self.” In spite of his underlying fragility, he clearly and always needed to be in control of his relationships. One might consider that the rage he felt toward others – specifically when they let him down or disappointed him – and his ensuing depressions were intricately tied up with his self-image and desperate fear of being abandoned. It has been observed that depression and anger are two sides of the same coin. More explicitly, that depression is rage turned upon oneself instead of another, and that rage is the active manifestation of underlying depression. By his actions, especially in his primary relationships, we can see that Mingus must have harbored a tremendous amount of hurt and pain inside. p 259.

  9. Fleetwood says:

    Rapture and Despair: the Bipolar Affect and Creativity –First 9 pages.
    The triangle gave me nightmares of teaching college and academic papers on education and their pseudoscientific research. Making it a pure science seems impossible as the number of free parameters that could affect someone is impossible to measure.
    There’s a physics joke that comes to mind.
    A farmer was having trouble getting his chickens to lay eggs. He went to all sorts of experts to help him. Finally the physicist comes along and says, “I’ve solved your problem, but only if the chickens are perfectly spherical and in a vacuum”
    The simplification is great, I just will be sceptical from the off.
    Also it struck me that all these people are dead. Also the label of genius perhaps comes, falsely or not, posthumously. It would be nice to look at some living cases. Also the context where these people did their work is going to be very different from today, with crazy social media, Japanese city levels of sensation overload, and much better neuroscience, psychology to understand them.
    Saying that this should prove interesting

    • Karen Kaderavek says:

      Fleetwood, you might enjoy listening to this recent CBC Ideas two-part series on The Idea of Genius, “great thinkers and scientists, writers, artists, and musicians – people who left an indelible mark in a particular field” – as did the composers I explore in my book, “Rapture and Despair.”
      Most of the experts interviewed in The Idea of Genius have written books on particular aspects of genius, intelligence, and creativity. In Part Two they explore what they call “the darker side of genius,” examining the links between creativity and mental illness, also as I have done in my book.

      I, too, am a great fan of neuroscience; in that regard, Part Two looks “at recent findings from the world of neuroscience, using the latest brain imaging techniques.” In the discussion of genius, there is a marvelous quote from neuroscientist Sandra Witelson: “Everybody has a potential, obviously; everybody with the right environment can do better, and improve – but not everybody could have become a Mozart.” I do believe there is something to this notion of genius, and clearly, I am not alone, in spite of the controversial nature of the subject. [A word of warning about this probing series: many of the important figures they discuss, including Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart and Einstein, are dead.]

      As for the triangle in the Introduction to my book, it is in fact a tetrahedron. Be that as it may, it is simply meant to be a visual metaphor for one aspect of the structural approach I take to my biographical explorations. It was intended to be delightful! I make no use of measurement with it nor do I see it or use it as “pure science;” it is simply a metaphor for the four composer I study. And in fact, as I say, by using the idea of secondary subjects – represented by the three-dimensionality of the tetrahedron – I hope to add further depth to the complex exploration. It seems you had some cruel experiences in academia!

      I agree with you about oversimplification. I rather detest it myself when people attempt to make complex things simple. I attest that with a careful reading of my book one can not help but see that this is clearly my perspective. In fact I state at the outset, in the Introduction to which you refer that:
      • …no amount of detail about an artist’s public or private life will ever fully illuminate the creative mystery and passionate engagement their art expresses. This is perhaps especially true for individuals whose complex psychological drives are not always conventional. Behavioral analyses of the creative mind are doomed from the start to oversimplify the subject matter. In fact, to apply any single method of exploration in an attempt to understand the passionate and intuitive inner life of an artist is to reduce that life to a perfunctory clinical analysis of the individual rather than a study of culture and creativity. I propose that the triangulations, or key relationships, between the three themes explored in this book – formative experiences, primary relationships and cultural influences – will allow for a more revealing exploration. p. 4.
      • While the mystery of creativity cannot be explained merely by considering an artist’s environment and activities, a disciplined study of historical fact can help distinguish something elemental about an individual as well the culturally-influenced aspects of creativity. For example, I find it extremely important to identify whether certain behaviors might have been imposed upon an artist’s true temperament by socialization and cultural expectations. Of equal importance is to remain diligent in recognizing authenticity in any finding regarding creativity without projecting contemporary modes of belief upon such a sensitive inquiry. In that vein, my goal is neither to prove nor disprove a connection between emotional extremes – or psychosis – and genius; many have tried this approach and failed. Rather, my intention is to explore how such seemingly opposite conditions – psychosis (or loss of contact with reality) and genius – do in fact coexist at times in periods of heightened creativity. pp. 4-5.

      There are many biographers and scholars doing excellent work on popular music and contemporary artist-musicians. I am sure you would very much enjoy reading the plethora of books about some of your favorite living musicians important in recent decades, as you say in your subsequent entry. This is simply not my field or area of interest, at least at this time.
      Best Wishes,
      Karen K.

  10. Heart-strings says:

    May 1, 2011. Rapture and Despair: the Bipolar Affect and Creativity –First 9 pages.

    I wonder if a listener and fan of Schumann’s compositions, or any of the musical artists Karen studies, would change his/her manner of listening to that composer’s music once they had learned about the composer’s mental conflicts and instability. Does learning about a composer’s inner most thoughts, anguish and personal choices allow the listener to be more attentive to the composer’s music, by imagining his life, the link between what was produced and the source?
    The music itself might sound different, yet remain the same.

    When I read that Karen “spontaneously applied a different tone of voice for each of the four artists” I found that to be intriguing –the more you get to know about a person the more that person speaks through you. I imagine the same transformation occurs when playing the cello.

    It is interesting that Karen was motivated to research the early life experiences of the composers’ (the first ten years) – I have read Miller’s ‘The Drama of the Gifted Child.’ As adults I think we tend to forget about our early years, as if they don’t matter anymore –Some people say that when the child grows up, she or he will forget experiences they had –especially if they were unpleasant ones. Does one ever truly forget? I don’t believe it.

  11. Turbulence says:

    May 2, 2011 – Lyric

    Rapture and Despair: the Bipolar Affect and Creativity –Part One: Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
    Reading Part One, ear-plugged.

    “Ideas would pour out of him with an inexhaustible abundance. From only a single thought, which he allowed to take shape in every possible way, there welled up and gushed forth everything as if all by itself.”(an opinion on the genius of composer Robert Schumann when he was in his early 20s)

    Ah – creativity accelerating form accomplished, music like a water faucet rushing, trickling, tickling, gushing, dripping emotively – also madness: madness like the leper’s fear assigning grief to every bullish taste – madness like creativeness not adaptable to the strictly rational; rather, alive like a temperament translating the hieroglyphic of nerve endings ignited –

    Ah – the fine thin line between discovery & toxic fear – how creating is the fall guy of agitation, & yet potentially so beautiful – nature or nurture or both – time defining the treasure, the obstacle, the coming forth discreetly then flabbergasted – ah the music that succumbs to enchantment as vocation, Germanic Romanticism impaled on the crooked sword of querying belief. Robert Schumann, did you ever know what you wanted in a way that delivered some form of satiating peace? I listen to your music & read your story & find linking the two difficult though ineffably understandable, the art a dream with bite & soothing, the life a whirlwind of trying to land, ostensibly the fraught doppelganger experience intense, men as well as women potentially sources of solution & yet never really, your own demons making sure of that – Robert Schumann was there something never gratified that had you discoursing chronically broken in the endangering night? Everything gushing forth as if all by itself: feel how that implicates an ideation of inspiration, godhead tossing a maze of possibility, the music a largesse of magnificence, madness just a trite pinch off center where you would find surviving gone inflamingly deaf – Robert Schumann your music, the few pieces I’ve heard of it to date – this music is comforting if also melancholic – did you have your best sense of self in what you created – oh how I hope so for if not the alternative is unbearable – that is, if the peace in your music gave you nothing, then your life seemingly must have been desperate even beyond the fits of madness – dear Robert remember blue sky, gentle a minors, important blasphemy…

  12. Heart-strings says:

    May 2nd, 2011.

    Rapture and Despair: the Bipolar Affect and Creativity –Part One: Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
    Reading Part One, ear-plugged.

    I don’t think I have ever heard or listened to Schumann’s music –and if I had the author would have been unknown to me –I say author, an automatic response. Music is a story told through sound –vibrations in space. Even a cry or laugh can be melodic.

    The belief in God seemed important to Robert Schumann –the belief that God might have chosen him to be a messenger of God’s intent to express himself musically, that which is mediated through God. God always has a hand in it. Perhaps Schumann felt an Absolute Responsibility to deliver, holding nothing back, never giving up, for God’s sake. Perhaps it was that divine responsibility that motivated him to continue his work and expression of music in spite of all the obstacles and struggles –inward and outward.

    I thought how memory carries itself from person to person. Schumann’s dad, August was a sensitive and creative individual as was Schumann’s mom, Johanna Christina. Robert’s mom was also depressed at the time of his birth and abandoned him at age 2 ½ for 2 ½ years. The combination of a)‘withdrawal’ (Schumann’s mom), b)‘creative influence’ (both mom for her musical and later emotional influence, and dad for his literary inclination), c)‘sensitivity and depression’ (both mom (conflict between her reality of bringing up a large family and a less strenuous life she might have had if she had married someone else) and dad (his conflict between societal and family expectations)) might have bled into Robert’s own psyche.

    I found myself gravitating to the sentence “As children always carry the burden of their parents’ expectations, perhaps Frau Schumann’s death even fueled Clara’s determination of responsibility to be with Robert.” (p.74 of Karen’s print thesis) Clara’s father also expected much of his daughter –He expected her to live her life not as she chose to but as he chose. I asked myself do expectations keep us from becoming true to ourselves. Do expectations prevent us from knowing the truth? Do expectations become our challenge and help us grow? Can a mental/emotional illness be the result of un-fulfilled expectations?

    Robert Schumann experienced many losses in his short lifetime –abandonment of his mom, first at a young age and then in death, and the death of his siblings and close friends. Perhaps the experience of abandonment inspired him to continue connecting to the other side through his intense impulses to create music –if he could tap into and connect to a higher spiritual level, then perhaps he could hold on to those to left him behind, never having to let go, completely.

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