Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

The Artist as Tortured Genius

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What really pisses me off is this idea that I am this tortured artist. That is something based on flimsy evidence which is endlessly being projected back onto us. It is just reductive and dull. In order to be creative there has to be a distance from you and the thing itself. It is only when the distance gets confused that things go wrong. If you actually start to believe that you are what you write, then you have f***ing had it. You have had it and you ain't coming back. To assume that everything is about somebody's life is to assume that that person is inherently stupid and isn't capable of absorbing anything else. The whole point of creativity is that you spend your whole life absorbing things almost to where it is unbearable. The way you deal with it is (to) get out.

-Thom Yorke of Radiohead, in an interview with Pulse, quoted in Kid A by Marvin Lin.

The media has created an image of Thom Yorke as tortured artist and genius. They have done this with a wide range of people, from Phil Collins to Mozart, and are moving beyond Beethoven to others like Schubert, and including performers (Glenn Gould comes to mind, as does the craze around David Helfgott when Shine came out about 10 years ago).By Goldberg ((Goldberg)), via Wikimedia Commons

Do we need to have this mystique of the artist/performer as a tortured soul to help explain their music, to give it some authenticity? Why are we continuously attracted to this story, even though historians have shown that Mozart and Beethoven, for example, weren't as tormented as we believe?

Lady Gaga has said that "Music is a lie. It is a lie. Art is a lie." Is that any different than what Thom Yorke said? Should we, as artists and performers, believe that art is a lie?

Share your thoughts below!

Related post: Is Lady Gaga Wrong? (Is art a lie?)

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