Monday, October 17, 2011
A Musical Ghost Whisperer
Today's recommended read for October SpookFest is a symphony of delights. Or a delight of symphonies. I get these things backwards sometimes.
Rosemary Brown (1916-2001) purportedly was inspired by deceased, world-famous composers to write classical music in their respective styles. Conventional wisdom offers three possible explanations: (1) she was lying; (2) she was crazy; or (3) she acquired knowledge of rare compositions through ordinary, sensory means but had forgotten having previously seen them (a process called cryptomnesia). We may quickly dispense with the first. Despite rigorous investigation by musical experts, paranormal investigators, journalists, scientists, and other academics, there was no evidence of fraud. The second possibility is out-of-bounds, since Brown had no history of mental illness. The third explanation is equally deficient, given the fact that Brown's compositions had not previously existed. The deceased composers never wrote them while living, so Brown could not have previously seen, and then forgotten seeing, them.
With fraud, insanity, and cryptomnesia out-of-court, we must objectively, but critically, consider other explanations. In her book, Brown proposed a psychic solution: she claimed to be directly communicating with the deceased composers, who were directing her to write new compositions in their respective, distinctive styles. Could it be true? Musical experts who have spent their professional careers studying these famous composers attested to Brown's stylistic authenticity. The experts frankly stated that they themselves could not have created such realistic imitations.
There is a third conventional explanation: Brown, either through prior study or natural aptitude, was a musical genius. If she were, Brown did not acquire the skills through academic rigor. Her overall education was limited, and her musical training was rudimentary. She could read music and play piano reasonably well. Again, the musical experts stated that she was insufficiently trained to compose such masterful works. So, aside from Brown's psychic medium allegation, we have only one alternative: she was a musical prodigy. Generally, prodigies demonstrate their abilities at early ages (Mozart is a prime musical example). Brown was well into adulthood before her compositional talents manifested. Furthermore, she never exhibited any musical talents beyond the ordinary except when she was writing the compositions she claimed to be receiving from the deceased masters. Prodigies usually perform at the highest levels as a matter of routine. Brown's compositional output was intermittent, as if she were relying upon outside communications to produce the work--exactly as she claimed.
Whether you believe Brown's narrative about how she composed this wonderful music is, of course, left to your sound judgment. But Brown's book is, in any event, an intriguing exploration into the uncanny. Take this interesting trip with the author, keep an open-mind, critically evaluate the information presented, and see what you discover.
There is More to Scores Than Just Soccer (Football),
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Paranormal News Beat
P.S. Speaking of musical scores, my Library has the Music Man's entire repertoire (to date) of original musical compositions, as well as digital recordings of all this music, available to check out, if you have an Evergreen Indiana library card. Take a look at our online catalog to see what's available.