There are actually two “Mozart Syndromes.”  This first one is rather precious and new and deals with washing the sounds of Mozart’s melodies over the ears of babies and young children to help them think more clearly.  The second “Mozart Syndrome” is more ancient, more insidious and much more dangerous by many magnitudes.

To understand the deadly “Mozart Syndrome” we must first know the original Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in 1791 at the tender age of 35.  He was at the peak of his musical brilliance.  The world shook with his unexpected and untimely death and music hasn’t been the same since:  We are still fascinated by his music and enchanted by his cheated genius.

The next matter you need to understand is the True Artist is born and not created.

The final moment you must accept is this:  Every True Artist has a Death Wish.  Few expect to live beyond the Mozart cutoff age of 35 for confirmation of their supreme SuperGenius.

The True Artists expects suffering and seeks out pain. The history of creating an aesthetic in the world is one of pain, misunderstanding beyond the middling mind, and an everlasting fight against the majority power.

Genius is the domain of the young, untempered, mind — when the True Artist sneaks beyond 35, the chances for creating Mozart-like art that crosses the Ages and bridges the tides is tremendously diminished.

The True Artist is falsely born to fail and many fully expect to be dead by the age of 35 and that’s why so many with a strong, inborn, aesthetic appear to the ordinary, mediocre, eye as irresponsible, flaky and unchallenged.  They are forced to live in the now and of the moment because they were born to know they have no need to think about tomorrow — except to have their genius place reserved in a future they will never see.

The tragedy in the other Mozart Syndrome is many of these Artists cruelly live beyond 35 — even if they find some early success — and must face the rest of their lives knowing they never lived up to the Mozart mandate.  Depression follows.  Malaise reigns.  Total failure permeates the being because Mozart is the sole societal measuring stick for success.

To successfully move beyond the Mozart Syndrome and into a real life of expectation, responsibility. and commitment, the True Artist — now re-born into more failure and extended suffering — must re-evaluate not only the meaning of life, but how that life will conform and conflate against rest of their days on earth. 

That recognition can be smothering — and sometimes the only way out of the failure is to cease the living by confessing the role of the Artist in society is to merely to convey death by direct comprehension and then becoming part of the dark history of condemnation against inflated expectation.


  1. Is retirement an option for such an artist? Just to spend the rest of ones days having a cuppa in the morning and leisurely reading?

  2. I don’t think it’s a viable option, Gordon, because they are always haunted by what was, what could have been, and what never was. There’s no satisfying them. Orson Welles is perhaps the brightest example in a dark life. He never recovered, or lived up to, the expectation of his early SuperGenius as the director and star of — “Citizen Kane” — at age 25. If he had died young, he’d be our modern-day Mozart.

  3. Retirement when one is driven is not an option – I agree – once you have shone like the sun in your area of expertise you always want to stay there.
    I wonder if this is why so many of our comic geniuses start to have addiction problems and clinical depression after a certain age.
    Turning to film – how would James Dean have coped – and music – Jimi Hendrix comes to mind.

  4. That’s it, Nicola. Addiction covers the defeat and the hurt. They turn to the junk early on to help them “achieve” their genius and later in their lives they hide in drugs and alcohol to protect them from their present failures.
    James Dean and Marilyn Monroe would have never been able to sustain their early genius. They are embedded in our fabric because of their unfortunate, but necessary, early deaths.
    Same thing for Hendrix and Morrison.
    Truman Capote was in the same trap as Orson Welles. He could never recreate the blazing success of “In Cold Blood” that changed the published crime drama forever. He lived off his name and reputation only from then on and never published another book.

  5. How could I have forgotten Jim Morrison from those examples. Shakes head in disgust.

  6. Another important point, Nicola, is the realization that this is a “syndrome” — so it is meant to be broken and expanded and codified and rejected. Too often, though, the True Artist just mistakenly succumbs to the confinement without breaking out and into another container.

  7. I would guess that fear and insecurity are the main blocks to breaking the pattern.

  8. Absolutely right, Nicola. It’s a protectant against the inevitable.

  9. Hi David,
    Wonderful post about a brutal truth.
    A genius unfortunately gets trapped in his own effort to outshine himself, sometimes it creates another masterpiece, sometimes the effort produces no such luck.

  10. Absolutely prescient, Katha! I think it is easier to trap an artist at birth with expectation than one can a business person. The parameters for the confinement are much more personal and punishing for the artist.

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