Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stress management and Mozart

Alright, so anyone who knows me knows stress - I'm stressed often. It overwhelms me. It crashes on their beaches like an angry wave of bees sometimes. It's not something I'm proud of, and the stress of knowing that I stress out my friends stresses me out more, etc... You can see how this isn't a good cycle.
At any rate, I'm trying techniques to deal with stress. Fortunately, I'm also involved with choir right now (all that singing and oxygen intake is a great stress reliever) and we're doing Mozart's Requiem. Hence the lead in to the second part of this post: Holy crap was Mozart a troubled man! I don't have a good idea of his life; I've read the play Amadeus once and it struck me as weird. And that's about all I remember of it...don't know details of his life, haven't looked them up, but just listening to his music (and I'm not just talking about Dies Irae, either) it's so....complex and twisted. I believe art comes directly from the person producing it, especially when it's not tainted by marketing. His music shows a lot of strife - the way he transitions chords and structures his phrases; this man had a lot going on in his head. I'm not just saying this coming from someone who's used to Bach and his nice structured transitions. We sang Beethoven's 9th Symphony in choir about 3 years ago and there's just such a difference. Where Beethoven was powerful, Mozart muddles. Where Beethoven used emotional, stirring phrases, Mozart interrupts and throws phrases behind other ones. It's so strange; wasn't Mozart supposed to be the all-time musical genius? Perhaps we like him because he doesn't have a clear point.
It's certainly intriguing. It's also pretty compelling. Mozart was a genius, but as I'm coming to understand, that just means that he had more complex choices and more moral quandaries in life than most people can handle. Intelligence is definitely a gift and a burden - in what parts I don't know.


Anonymous said...

I don't think that the Requiem is the best example of why most people really like Mozart. It's a hodge podge that wasn't even finished when Mozart died so there is still dispute as to which parts are authentic and really represent what Mozart wanted to have happen and whether or not the guys who took it over after his death (one of whom, if memory serves, was definitely trying to finish it to get what was owed of the commission money). So, it's no mystery that there has got to be some musical schizophrenia in there somewhere.

I find it instructive to add one other of the great personalities to your consideration here. It all starts with Haydn, who invented the Sonata Allegro form and who was the more prolific. Haydn was the scientist of the group who wrote with huge proliferation some 104 symphonies of ever increasing complexity and was always experimenting and perfecting the form.

Mozart comes along, and I think they knew each other, and he is one that I have always seen as the entrepreneur. He is composing works for specific purposes related to his relationships with people and expanding the form but this is really all about him and his genius. He does it because he's good at it in the way that some baseball players end up being really good at playing baseball. He isn't as prolific as Haydn because of this and writes only 40 or so symphonies (though he wrote a hell of a lot of other stuff, I'm choosing symphonies as a linear comparison). There is a me-me-me character to his works, a thread of this, which is the sort of selfishness that follows genius. Of course, in the case of his violin concertos this would revolutionize the concerto form because the piano (of which he was usually the player) was no longer in a support role to the violin, but rather in an equal dialogue with it.

Beethoven, I think, was the real artist of the group. He was a student of Haydn, so he learned from the inventor but he only wrote 9 symphonies. And, man, are they a whirlwind. I say he's the artist because it is almost as if, rather than the symphonies being something he did for their sake (Haydn) or something he did for his sake (Mozart), they were made because they were meant to be made. As if this man were put here for these nine events and nine only. Maybe that's a little mystical, but that, along with his expression in the works themselves I think qualifies them for being almost mythological. His later symphonies were absolutely crucial to what would become the Romantic period (compare his ninth to early Wagner) notions of the transcendency of the work.

I think with the Eroica, he even started the process of making the symphony itself bigger than it ever had been (bigger at least as an idea than even the composer and performers) a notion that would become a central theme of the Romantic period, and quite possibly taken to absurdity. Of the group, whom we could call essentially peers of a sort, I think Beethoven is the one of greatest note.

Not to put Mozart aside. Don Giovanni, Fidelio, and his violin concertos are fabulous even if they are the musical equivalent of wrestling matches. With regard to genius, in all circumstances, genius creates complexity and is a success only if it resolves the complexity satisfactorily. It is genius itself that is its own burden and challenge, and then savior or destroyer.

Fenixmagic said...

Hah, I knew you would know more about the musical history than I would. I agree that Beethoven has a mystical quality to his symphonies - as if they sprung like Athena, perfect, out of his head instead of being built a phrase at a time like everyone else composes.
I did end up looking up Mozart and the source I read didn't touch much on his personality or mental state, but I still feel there's enough there to qualify him for autism or some other mental illness that usually results in poorly adjusted genius. More later...

Anonymous said...

Ha, I didn't mean it to sound like I was absolving him of mental deficiency. That's definitely still a possibility. Even from your own description, and from what I remember about him, I think he's actually narcissistic (like many entrepreneurs) and that was partly why I classed him as such.

I don't know about autism, though, and that's something that would be difficult to prove from a creative work. Artistic Autistics (heh) usually have a framework to what they create and are known for their creations of organization and complexity, rather than the sort of running around the playground issue that you notice in Mozart. I'd put in an estimation of narcissism with a healthy dose of something like mania.