Today, when pandemic have transformed our reality into online adventure experienced from home, people who can’t utilize their creativity to its full potential, sharing their energy through live communication and artistic self expression, can find a consolation in the historical past.
If we trace the history of creating most valuable masterpieces in literature, visual and musical arts, we will notice that they were created in isolation and under some degree of creator’s discomfort. Somehow, art was always invisibly connected to suffering, the pain is almost a requirement for producing great art, and solitude is necessary to get connected with all senses, and gain inner peace.
Aside from multiple personal dramas and unfair fates of many artists the history knows, there were disasters of massive scale, that united, horrified and affected people all over the globe. One of the biggest example of massive suffering in History was The Black Death. It was more than a medieval horror, it became a regular part of human lives for the next 3 centuries, periodically attacking cities and yet, artists, writers and musicians continued to create.
Giacomo Borlone de Burchis created “The Triumph of Death (with The Dance of Death),Pieter Bruegel the Elder introduced the world to his “Triumph of Death” In the early 1400s, an Englishman named John Cooke composed a hymn to the Virgin Mary named Stella celi,referencing the Black Plague which wiped out half of Europe(200million)
Cooke’s hymn is probably not the first musical response to a major pandemic, but it is one of the earliest.
Many more composers, for centuries have been inspired to write music in times of crisis. As pandemics resurfaced and new ones cropped up, people were, in general, keenly aware of the precarious nature of life. Johann Sebastian Bach wasn’t an exception. By the age of 10 he lost both parents, and later on in life hе lost half of his 20 children together with his first wife.
Bach wrote music that could comfort in times of distress,and music that directly confronted plagues in his Cantata No. 25, titled “There is Nothing Healthy in My Body.” He wrote it in 1723, just a year after the great plague of Marseille, France ended, leaving over 100,000 people dead. Bach Described world as a “hospital with children laid low with sickness.”
A sober but lilting aria in the middle of the cantata declares, “My plague cannot be healed by any herb or ointment, other than the balm of Gilead.”
The world continuously facing variety of disasters, but if we focus on other side of the disaster, and make isolation an opportunity to create something, that could not be created in our regular comfort zone, new Shakespeare, Pushkin, Bach or Titian will soon enter new, post- pandemic era…