- Schumann, Robert
- (1810-1856)Also known as Robert Alexander Schumann, Benjamin Gottlieb Schumann, and Gottlob Schumann. A German composer, music journalist, and critic who from adolescence onwards suffered from severe depressions with recurrent suicidal ideations and who during adulthood may well have suffered from "syphilitic hallucinosis. From childhood onwards Schumann had frequently experienced sleep disturbances, " nightmares, " hypnagogia, " lucid dreams, and "musical hallucinations. After his first nervous breakdown at age 23, he claimed to have written some ofhis best works "at the urging ofinner voices". However, especially during the night time he also experienced distressing "eternal sounds", which he further designated as "buzzing and poetry in my ears". It has been speculated that the latter hallucinations may have been induced by alcohol, which he was then accustomed to consuming in great quantities at taverns and at parties. During the first days of February, 1854, Schumann began to experience " nonverbal auditory hallucinations consisting of a single note (A), identified by some authors as "tinnitus. But within a few days the single note developed into elaborate musical and "verbal auditory hallucinations. As noted by his wife Clara, Schumann heard "music that is so glorious, and with instruments sounding more wonderful than one ever hears on earth." He also claimed that the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) had appeared before him and given him a magnificent melody. Nevertheless, the musical hallucinations were so unnerving that Schumann underwent a rapid mental disintegration. At first he attributed the music to angels hovering around him, calling out to welcome him. But soon the angels' voices transformed into demons' voices, who, accompanied by horrible music, told him that he was a sinner and that he would be thrown into hell. Allegedly Schumann also saw tigers and hyenas rushing forward to attack him. After a few days the music disappeared, only to be replaced by spoken words. On 27 February 27 1854, Schumann was so desperate that he threw himselfinto the Rhine. His suicide attempt failed. He was subsequently admitted to an asylum, where he died 2 years later, possibly as a result of neurosyphilis. Whether this diagnosis is correct has been heavily debated in the biomedical literature. Other suggested diagnoses include progressive paralysis, " schizophrenia, manic-depressive illness, major affective disorder, and tuberculosis.ReferencesHayden, D. (2003). Pox. Genius, madness, and the mysteries ofsyphilis.NewYork,NY: Basic Books.Ostwald, P.F. (1985). Schumann. The inner voices ofa musical genius. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.