The connection between artistry and depression is often termed “the creative fire”. The website Echoes and Dust has launched a brand new series on the topic, including contributions from musicians, counselors and more. We highly recommend it to our readers.
The specific connection is rather unique. Echoes and Dust covers the harder edge of music, including post-rock and metal, but devotes a large percentage of its time to instrumental music. In fact, the first installment of the series (“Let’s just say I wasn’t always a rock star”) comes from Hannah Morgan, the violist of The Rumour Cubes. Her bold entry seems like a regular memoir until we encounter the words, “I tried to kill myself.” First off, directly to Hannah, thank you for saying the words. Part of the problem with depression is the stigma that is attached to any conversation about the subject. Second, how wonderful it is to hear a person writing about the positive side of the artistic temperament – that music can save a person’s life. These words also apply to me, as well as to many artists with whom I have corresponded – so many that it seems almost to be the rule. But this brings us back to the main point: we don’t talk about it, and when we keep these things to ourselves, we feel more alone.
Hannah goes on to talk about symptoms, treatments, and signs of hope, yet paints the illness with a realistic brush. We’re never all better; recovery implies adaptation and perseverance. She also writes about being young and not being in the “cool” group, especially in terms of musical taste: something to which many of our readers can relate. The rest of the series continues in this fashion, alternately heartbreaking and hopeful. Yet every entry – presented unedited – shares a common denominator. Every author was motivated enough to write. This alone is an accomplishment.
Grayson Hale writes about social anxiety, music as catharsis, and the benefits of listening to Sigur Rós and Swans. Hospice/grief counselor Val LittleJohn investigates “The Relationship Between Music and Dying”. Kristen Parnell shares how wordless music helps her to deal with panic attacks, while Magda Wrzeszcz writes about discovering Mogwai and Caspian while anorexic, and how post-rock has helped her to “climb back up”. Amy Murphy’s “Why Music Prevails” will make many readers cry – first in empathy, then in muted joy. “I plunged broken glass through the tendons and arteries in my wrists”, she confesses. “I spent a week in hospital. No one came to visit. This is where my relationship with music begins.” Later she shares the encouraging words, “I haven’t recovered, but I have found my best self.” To Amy, if you’re reading this, you rock. Could a person without the creative fire write so passionately and convincingly about such an emotional subject? The quandary is summarized in this feature. Without the creative fire, we simply have depression. The creative fire, both a blessing and a curse, provides the art that people rely on to make it through.
One may think that spending an hour or so reading about drug abuse, domestic violence, suicide and the like would itself be depressing, but in this series it’s not. Instead, it’s like hearing a new voice in one’s head, one that says, you are not alone. If you’ve read this far, these words are for you.