I have been practising a lot of Schumann’s music lately in preparation for various music festivals over the summer. It’s always a pleasure to play Schumann and when you play a lot of different compositions, you get really into his way of thinking.
His mindset feels unstable, or shall I say ‘stably unstable’. His moods vary unpredictably, and he sometimes seems to get trapped in repetitive patterns, but he also knows how to use them to creative effect. He’s sometimes confiding, sometimes distant. He wants to show that he’s in control, but then he’s suddenly happy to submit to extraneous thoughts of a fantastic kind. Occasionally his music seems to go on a bit too long, but somehow it’s endearing. You sense that he’s trying to work his way out of the ‘dark wood’ as Dante might describe it.
This week I have been reading about Kanye West’s new album, ‘Ye’. It’s been hard to avoid, actually, because the press is intensely interested in it. I haven’t heard the album myself, but was intrigued to see that across its cover image of grey-blue mountains, the artist has written: ‘I hate being Bi-Polar its awesome’.
It struck me that if Robert Schumann were with us today, and was asked to write a sentence across the cover of a record of his music, he might well feel like writing something like that.
The thought has started me fantasising about what modern-day publicity techniques, designs and slogans my favourite composers might have enjoyed using if they were making records today.