Tuesday, May 17, 2005

music, illness and identity

Okay, so they weren't exactly the best band in the world, but I liked some of their stuff and took an interest in Craig Nicholls, who it was revealed last year suffers from asperger's syndrome, but I'm disappointed to note that, after promising to retreat and regroup as a studio band when their singer was diagnosed, The Vines seem to be pretty much at the end of the road - according to this report, Hamish Rosser, the band's drummer, has had to advertise his services as a musician-for-hire, such is his financial situation. A shame that the spoils of success don't last longer than they do, and a shame that it sounds like the band have been unable to negotiate their way through this sad situation.

Elsewhere, I'm interested in this 'piano man' who has turned up alone on a windswept cliff on the Isle of Sheppey, and who is only able to communicate through drawing and music - specifically he drew a picture of a piano and, when introduced to one, played splendidly and with a calm at odds with his otherwise panicked persona. He has not spoken, nor been identified, and a nationwide search is on to uncover who exactly he is, and what trauma brought him to his current state of affairs.


What interests me more than anything else, though, is the extent to which such a story catches the public imagination - in pure romantic terms, the story is almost cinematic, so it's not surprise that people have reacted. As an establishing shot, a camera panning accross a cliff to reveal a mute, stricken man dressed in a smart performance outfit walking alone against the elements, it's pretty hard to beat.

But it also says something about how people in this country continue to see music as fabulously romantic; were he not an accomplished pianist (and interestingly the tone of articles I've read has ratcheted up the description of his talents from 'adept' to 'extraordinary') but instead a poet, I wonder if he would have had the same attention. Nonetheless, it's clearly fascinating on a number of levels, and I think we're all a bit compelled by the idea of disappearing, of losing one's identity, which has happened here, too.

I wonder how Craig Nicholls, over in Australia and adjusting to life as an autist (rather than a megastar), is adjusting to his changed circumstances and the anonymity it brings.

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