So the imaginary critics are asking. ‘Last time you were at all active on here you were saying mental illness, and depression in particular, is an obstacle to artistic creation not a spur to it; and now you’ve come back with a bunch of demo recordings, two original songs and one substantially rewritten, which are clearly born out of depression, and / or what might be called its spiritual side-effects.’
Well, I’m not sure that it is entirely contradictory. Let me tell a story about this.
The other week, the String Project (including me on viola) played through a string quartet by a local composer (who I’m not going to name). As we were talking about it afterwards he said that it had been written out of, and to some extent about, his father’s death. The first two movements – fairly ‘abstract’ music, structured rather than grief-laden, even in places witty or energetic – had been written at the time, he said. The truly harrowing last movement he hadn’t been able to write until months later, and it had been four years before he was able to put the piece before anyone else even to the extent of getting a string quartet to play it.
So there is more to this perhaps than I made out those months back in a previous post. Depression, sadness and general mental turmoil can provide the material for art. But it is, I think, the mark of true difficulty – mine and anyone else’s – that the ability to cast it into artistic form only returns once the distress itself has receded somewhat. The art of the depressed, anxious etc. may sound, look or feel like a suicide note; but it is sheer silence, not expression of misery, that should cause real concern.