From a personally assembled database of 13,859 classical musicians, What Killed the Great and not so Great Composers delves into the medical histories of a wide variety of composers from both a musical and medical standpoint. Biographies of musicians from Johann Sebastian Bach of the Baroque period to Benjamin Britten of the Modern era explore in depth their illnesses and the impact their diseases had on musical productivity. Other chapters referenced to specific composers are devoted to such diverse ailments as deafness, mental disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, surgery and war injuries, to name a few. A unique section of statistics and demographics analyzes various aspects of composers' lives such as their longevity related to contemporaneous nonmusical populations, the incidence of various illnesses they experienced over the centuries and the type of medical problems suffered by the so-called top 100 classical musicians. Although a precise and complete accounting of the great composers' ailments may never be possible, a general understanding of the medical problems experienced by these unique individuals, nevertheless, can heighten one's appreciation of their creative processes despite the hardships imposed by their physical and mental illnesses. Although some individuals surrendered to their disabilities for a variety of reasons, others were able to rise above their infirmities and produce the wonderful music mankind has enjoyed through the centuries.
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April 22, 2010
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