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Depression and the musician


I have heard and read short and long about the possible artistic and creative benefits of clinical depression (and other mental illnesses) may have for musicians. I have not heard or read of a musician celebrating his depression for those reasons, though!

So what does depression “do” for an artist? Does it have any artistic significance in and of itself? I’d hazard a guess that it does nothing more for an artist than it does for anybody else in the community. If there is a net benefit to the experience for anybody then it’s possibly about an increased “depth awareness” or “3D perspective” on some aspects of life and experience. In a way, it’s like any other meaningful experience insofar as it provides a another way of viewing or thinking: about oneself, other people and one’s relationship to them, and the world in general. Perhaps – just perhaps – a deeper and wider perspective. But other life experiences can do this.

And it still doesn’t answer the question: what, if anything, does a bout of clinical depression do for a musician? Well, given that creating and performing a piece of music is tied up with communicating and in light of the different perceptions and perspectives that the experience of depression might
provide, I propose that a wider, deeper and more articulate means of expression may be available in some cases and under some circumstances. That’s all. And still I may be wrong. How can an musician know how different his music would have been had he/she not suffered in this way?

But I will say this: during the times when depression strikes, these are the last considerations in the mind of a sufferer. No art at all is possible under these conditions. Music becomes a flat, expressionless and meaningless succession of tones. The sun is turned black and day is become night.

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