Bandvista Blog


It's Personal: Creating from Personal Trauma

Personal trauma can take a variety of forms. From mental illness to a history of abuse, trauma changes the very fabric of our brains, transforming the way we think, feel, and respond. In the wake of Chester Bennington's suicide, fans the world over came together to mourn his death – and to discuss how much his work had changed their lives and, in some cases, saved them. Bennington created whole albums rooted in trauma – and although his eventually claimed him, he was able to move millions with what he had created from that pain.

Musicians as a collective are disproportionately affected by mental illness and disorders. And yet, throughout history, they have used their pain and suffering as wood for the creative fire. Hector Berlioz, composer of “Symphony Fantastique,” was posthumously diagnosed with depression with psychotic features. But from the blackness of that mental state, from the hallucinations he experienced during psychotic episodes, he created some of the most brilliant symphonies that the world has ever heard. Tchaikovsky suffered from bipolar disorder, and worked through his episodes of mania by feverishly working to create incredible works of music. Kurt Cobain's signature guitar melodies and cynical lyrics inspired a new generation of rock music and musicians.

Musicians creating from personal trauma has given rise to extensive discussion of using that trauma to heal – and to help others. It has also generated a discussion about whether or not musicians should feel obligated to share their personal experiences with their fans outside of the context of their music, though the general (and entirely appropriate) consensus is that they should by no means feel obligated to share deeply personal issues with virtual strangers.

Music has a great ability to heal wounds and help people – whether they are writing music or listening to it – in coping with moving past truly dark experiences. From depression to schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder to schizotypal personality disorder, one of the greatest gifts of any musician is the ability to create beauty, redemption, and validation from intense pain and suffering. It goes without saying that the romanticization of mental illness and trauma is a thing to be devoutly avoided; however, the vast body of neurodivergent experience has given rise to some of the greatest works of music in history, and, in turn, has helped to save lives and alleviate suffering.

Whether you create from personal trauma or strongly relate to musicians who do, music created from the darkness of trauma gives rise to the triumph that all creation brings – and, very often, goes on to heal another generation.

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