From the Renaissance Era to our Digital Age, music has remained the method that expresses the language that we cannot. And contrary to what one might think, research has shown music can help heal the heart. Its sounds release dopamine and endorphins that “can induce happy moods and relieve pain” — specifically for the mind.
And contemporarily, one could argue that rapper Kid Cudi has become an ambassador for mental health awareness. The 38-year-old employed his lyrics and iconic hums to destigmatize being not okay is okay. But what if I were to say music has always carried this tune and has always been a vessel to discuss personal pains?
Before we dive into the 21st century, we need to revisit the Romantic and Classical periods with another musical icon, Ludwig van Beethoven. The German classical pianist is considered one of the greatest and admired composers in the Western world. Not only did Beethoven create 722 works, including nine symphonies, 35 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets, but his body of work is still important today and has been sampled by notable artists like Nas (“I Can”), Billy Joel (“The Night”) and The Beatles (“Because”).
Beethoven may have been the 18th century GOAT, but his talent didn’t immune him from mental struggles that nearly took his life. Around his 28th birthday, Beethoven began to undergo severe depression after experiencing deafening hearing loss. He even wrote a confession to his friend Carl Friedrich Amenda about his internal pains stating, “Your Beethoven is leading a very unhappy life. And is at variance with Nature and his Creator.” However, it was when he turned 31 years old, nearing complete deafness, that he began to struggle with suicidal thoughts.
In a letter meant for his brothers, Beethoven confessed feeling humiliated that “anyone besides me heard a flute in the far distance, while I heard nothing, or when others heard a shepherd singing, and I still heard nothing! Such things brought me to the verge of desperation, and well-nigh caused me to put an end to my life.” But then he expressed it was, “Art! art alone, deterred me.” In fact, his famous ballet, “Ode to Joy,” was about his triumphing over harmful thoughts, where he pleaded God, “Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!”