Unconscious bursts of creativity that engender significant artistic endeavors are not necessarily inspired by passionate romantic love alone. Greek mythology believed that this kind of stimulus came from nine muses, the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. Muses were long considered the source of knowledge embodied in poetry, lyric songs and ancient myths. Throughout the history of Western art, artists, writers and musicians have prayed to the muses, or alternately, drawn inspiration from personified muses that conceptually reside beyond the borders of earthly love. True to life, however, composer inspiration has emerged from the entire spectrums of existence and being. Nature has always played a decidedly important role in the inspiration of various classical composers, as did exotic cities, landscapes or rituals. Composer inspiration is also found in poetry, the visual arts, and mythological stories and tales. Artistic, historical or cultural expressions of the past are just as inspirational as is the everyday: the third Punic War or the contrapuntal mastery of Bach is inspirationally just as relevant as are the virulent bat and camel. Composer inspiration is delightfully drawn from heroes and villains, scientific advances, a pet, or something as mundane as a hangover. Discover what fires the imagination of people who never stop asking questions.
With a title that sounds rather like a children’s story, The Happy Forest by Arnold Bax (1883-1953) sprang from a prose poem by the British theatrical writer Herbert Farjeon. This appeared in the quarterly magazine Orpheus, which was edited by
Chopin did not gain an international reputation as a composer until 1833. And while his reception was generally positive, he certainly had his detractors. The influential editor and critic Ludwig Rellstab writes, “In his dances the author satisfies the passion
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) is best known to us as the consummate virtuoso violinist. He was the most famous violinist of his day and his name still resonates when speaking of intricately difficult music. In addition to the violin, he was
The Russian composer Sergey Vasilenko (1872-1956) might not be a household name today, but he was considered a master orchestrator during his days as professor at the Moscow Conservatory. He originally studied music theory with Grechaninov, and while studying law
No single instrument served the cult of self-expression more comprehensively than the piano. It could emulate the rising and falling inflections of human speech and the outlines of non-verbal expressions from a sigh to a scream. Frédéric Chopin (1810-49), more
Benjamin Britten was working on the full-length ballet The Prince of the Pagodas when he wrote to Edith Sitwell that he was “on the threshold of a new musical world.” This project, slated for Covent Garden, was set aside for
When the writer, critic, poet, translator, and composer Peter Cornelius (1824-1874) approached his close friend and patron Franz Liszt with the idea of writing an opera based on a story from “The Arabian Nights,” Liszt strongly disapproved. Cornelius had written