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Psyche of an Artist > Ludwig Van Beethoven

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message 1: by Heather (new)

Heather | 8547 comments When the composer died of liver failure in 1827, he had been self-medicating his many health problems with alcohol for decades. Sadly, much of what he may have suffered from probably could have been managed with today's medications, including a serious case of bipolar disorder. Beethoven's fits of mania were well known in his circle of friends, and when he was on a high he could compose numerous works at once. It was during his down periods that many of his most celebrated works were written. Sadly, that was also when he contemplated suicide, as he told his brothers in letters throughout his life. During the early part of 1813 he went through such a depressive period that he stopped caring about his appearance, and would fly into rages during dinner parties. He also stopped composing almost completely during that time.

message 2: by Heather (new)

Heather | 8547 comments BEETHOVEN: IN A MAJOR AND MINOR MOOD
by John McManamy abusive father who tried to exploit him as a child prodigy, an infatuation for women who were totally out of reach, a tragic deafness that defies imagination, the comical frequency in which he shifted residences in Vienna, his disillusionment with Napoleon, his unkempt appearance and lack of personal hygiene, a man with a vision of universal brotherhood increasingly withdrawing into himself.

Beethoven wrote a lot of letters and so did his friends, and in their 1999 book, Manic Depression and Creativity authors D Jablow Hershman and Dr Julian Lieb argue quite convincingly that the great composer lived with bipolar:

"I joyfully hasten to meet death," Beethoven wrote as his deafness made itself apparent, "... for will it not deliver me from endless suffering?"

An 1801 letter to a friend refers to a two-year-long depression. The next year he is begging Providence for "but one more day of pure joy." In 1813, he may have attempted suicide, disappearing and being found three days later. In 1816, he wrote: "During the last six weeks my health has been so shaky, so that I often think of death, but without fear ..."

Ironically, his bipolar may have enabled him to survive deafness and loneliness. According to the book's authors:

"[Bipolars] can be happy without cause, or even in the face of misfortune It may be that Beethoven survived as a creator because he was brave or because his love of music kept him going. What he did have were his manic days of "pure joy" that he prayed for, and manias triggered by the process of working, along with the confidence and optimism mania brings."

His mania seemed to stoke his creativity, as he crashed and banged on his pianoforte, taking the instrument to its limits, scribbling on walls and shutters if paper wasn't available, dousing his head with water that ran through to the rooms below.

A friend describes one Beethoven session:

"He ... tore open the pianoforte ... and began to improvise marvelously ... The hours went by, but Beethoven improvised on. Supper, which he had purported to eat with us, was served, but - he would not permit himself to be disturbed."

His mania also had its flip side, as relationships fell by the wayside in the wake of raging quarrels and psychotic delusions. On one occasion, he flung a gravy-laden platter of food at a waiter's head. His friends called him "half crazy," and when enraged, "he became like a wild animal."

Ultimately, Beethoven medicated himself with the only available drug besides opium - alcohol. He literally drank himself to death. And as deafness closed in around him, he withdrew from the world, into himself. He wrote his Eighth Symphony in 1812. Then his creative output dried up. In 1824, he would premier his Choral Symphony. It was as if a piece of this magnitude required a tortuous 12-year gestation. He would also compose his transcendent string quartets. But soon his liver would give out on him, and in early 1827 he died at the age of 56, leaving behind sketches of a tenth symphony the world would never hear.

The authors of "Manic Depression and Creativity" note a rough correlation between Beethoven's manic phases and his creative bursts. Apparently, winter depressions stopped him in his tracks while summers brought on periods of intense activity. As a friend noted: "He composes, or was unable to compose, according to the moods of happiness, vexation or sorrow."

But as to whether manic depression actually constituted the creative spark in Beethoven, the authors defer to none other than Beethoven's teacher and fellow composer, Franz Joseph Haydn:

You will accomplish more than has ever been accomplished," wrote Haydn at the beginning of Beethoven's career, "have thoughts that no other has had. You will never sacrifice a beautiful idea to a tyrannical rule, and in that you will be right. But you will sacrifice your rules to your moods, for you seem to me to be a man of many heads and hearts. One will always find something irregular in your compositions, things of beauty, but rather dark and strange.

message 3: by Heather (new)

Heather | 8547 comments Beethoven became deaf in an early age and this is believed to have been caused by bipolar disorder. He was also believed to have suffered from irritability caused by chronic abdominal pain that has been attributed to lead poisoning. His condition got so bad that after a performance, he had to be turned around to see his audience applaud, to which he responded with tears. He contemplated on committing suicide at one point of time, which he documented in his Heiligenstadt Testament. The thought of suicide is one of the warning signs of bipolar disorder. Beethoven's friends, encouraged by his personality strength helped him in diverse ways to cope with life.

Beethoven also had disregard for social ranking and for authority. He was reported to have stopped performances when he did not have the full attention of the audience. He also used to refuse to perform, if he was not informed well ahead of time. This led to many confrontations which led to decree of the Archduke Rudolph that, Beethoven was excluded from normal rules and etiquette in the court.

Beethoven died on 26th March, 1827 after a long illness which left him bedridden. An autopsy at the time of his death revealed a damaged liver attributed to heavy alcohol consumption. Beethoven was buried in a communal grave.

message 4: by Heather (new)

Heather | 8547 comments Creativity and chronic disease Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
by Paul Wolf, Clinical professor of pathology

Beethoven began to lose his hearing at age 28. By age 44, his hearing loss was complete, most likely caused by compression of the eighth cranial nerve associated with Paget's disease of bone. Beethoven's head became large, and he had a prominent forehead, a large jaw, and a protruding chin (see picture)—features that are consistent with Paget's disease. Eventually, his hat and shoes did not fit because of bone enlargement.

In the movie “Immortal Beloved,” based on the life of Beethoven, suggested causes of the musician's hearing loss included neurosyphilis and brain trauma related to frequent falls or other physical abuse by his father. Otosclerosis was also suspected. These three theories were discounted, however, by an autopsy performed in Vienna on March 27, 1827 by Karl Rokitansky, the father of modern morbid anatomy.

Rokitansky identified a uniformly dense skull vault and thick and shriveled auditory nerves, consistent with Paget's disease of bone. Further investigation showed no evidence of syphilitic arteritis in the auditory arteries or of recurrent otitis media. The liver, however, was atrophic, nodular, and cirrhotic. Beethoven died of alcoholic liver disease, the result of alcohol misuse by a musician whose progressive hearing loss led to depression.

Hearing was the sense Beethoven required more than any other. His love of music was a powerful force, preventing him from committing suicide. Much of his great music flowed from the mind of a man who never heard its beauty. He used an ear trumpet that he secured with a headband, leaving his hands free for conducting.

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