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A composer talks of mental illness

Jocelyn Pook is one of the foremost British film composers. Her credits include Eyes Wide Shut, Brick Lane and The People v Leo Frank.

jocelyn pook


Her most recent concert work for the BBC is called H7steria. In a frank interview with a student magazine, she describes how three generations of women in her family battled with mental illness. Click here. Then listen to samples below.

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  1. Great post, Norman. People need to know much more about mental illness and the great creative abilities that may reside in one who is so afflicted. It also helps remind us that we are all one community each with our own strengths and weaknesses, and that while ‘self-reliance and personal responsibility’ is a nice paradigm no one is free of the vagaries of nature or what can happen to us at any point in time.

  2. A very interesting article.

    The only point I would question is I do associate mental illness with classical music.

    I admire Jocelyn for speaking up for those afflicted with mental illnesses.

    Following my own decision years ago to come clean about my relationship with depression and how depressive illness has affected my adult life, I am a great advocate for mental health issues.

    I am not mad. I function very well most of the time, but have had some very dark times, and been very sick in the past. My tenacity and determination keep me going, and yes as a musician, a classical musician, it does shape the way I perform and how I relate to my own instrument, the human voice.

    I believe if anything it has made me a better singer not a worse one.

    For Jocelyn to have used her experiences concerning family members in such a positive manner is for the good. Personally, I would not want to wish mental illness on anyone. However more importantly, I would not want to wish a certain perception of mental illness on anyone. It is bad enough living the illness without being stigmatised. Most mentally ill people pose no danger to anyone else. It is a lonely isolating experience without the sufferer becoming a social pariah.

    Thank you Jocelyn for speaking out, and for expressing your experience in your music.

  3. Mark Mortimer says:

    To me the article steps off on the wrong foot- thankfully its get much better later.

    ‘Mental illness is not something you associate with classical music’.

    Completely wrong- most classical musicians are complete nutters surely?!

    On a serious point- I’m very please to hear that the writer of the previous thread is so open about her battle with depression and impact on her music making- good for Joanna.

    Without over doing the ‘tortured artist’ bit, a very high proportion of musicians (backed up by high statistical data in many countries) do suffer from psychiatric disorders. These include a high prevalence of autistic spectrum, Bipolar and depressive conditions.

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