Violent Deaths among Composers (Accidents, Drownings and Murders)

By Breitenfeld, Darko; Vodanovic, Marijo et al. | Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Violent Deaths among Composers (Accidents, Drownings and Murders)


Breitenfeld, Darko, Vodanovic, Marijo, Akrap, Ankica, Juran, Dominik, Kranjcec, Darko, Vuksanovic, Marina, Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research


Accidents

Among the examined pathographies of over 1000 composers, we emphasized the importance of accidents as the cause of death of several composers. Some of the accidents occurred in wars, but the majority of them occurred during peacetime. [1,2] Pathographies are listed according to the chronological order of their occurrence, which points partly to the contemporariness of their etiology. The majority of these composers had died early and consequently. their creative work was suddenly interrupted. [3-7]

In the period from 1600-2000 we analyzed pathographies of famous composers/musicians who died in accidents. We emphasize especially pathographies of Alkan, Chausson, Porter, Miller, Kenton. We mentioned pathographies of other composers in table 1. which shows the most important characteristics of composers and types of accidents.

Charles Valentin Alkan (1813 - 1888), a French composer and pianist of Jewish origin. At the height of his fame in the 1830s and 1840s he was, among the leading virtuoso pianists in Paris. At the age of seventy-five, he was killed in an accident. Namely, the full bookcase fell on him, while he was trying to reach the copy of Talmud. Alkan died in Paris on 29th March 1888 at the age of 74. [1-9]

Ernest Chausson (1855 - 1899), a French romantic composer. [1-6] His orchestral output was small, but significant and included his singular Symphony in B Flat Major, completed in 1890. When only 44 years old, Chausson died while staying at one of his country retreats, the Château de Mioussets, in Limay, Yvelines. Riding his bicycle downhill, Chausson hit a brick wall and died instantly. [9] The exact circumstances remain unclear; although apparently a freak accident, there has been the suggestion of suicide, as Chausson had been suffering from depression for some time. We can conclude that he was killed in bicycle-accident, from which he suffered a serious cranio-cerebral injury. He died relatively young and never reached his creative peak. [10,11]

Cole Porter (1891 - 1964) an American composer and songwriter. [1,3,5-7,11] After a serious horseback riding accident in 1937 in Long Island, while he was under the influence of alcohol, Porter was left disabled and felt constant pain, but he continued to work. In this accident he broke both legs. [12] Afterwards he suffered from chronic ulcer and was in chronic pains. Porter's mother died in 1952, and his wife died from emphysema in 1954. By 1958, Porter's injuries caused a series of ulcers on his right leg. After 34 operations, the leg had to be amputated and replaced with an artificial limb. He tried to heal his fears with ethanol and analgesics, which were very damaging to his health. [13,14]

Alton Glenn Miller (1904 -1944) an American big band musician, arranger, composer, and bandleader in the swing era. [1,3,5,6] He died in an airplane accident during the flight from London to Paris. There are many controversies surrounding his death. [15] There are four theories about Miller's death in the airplane accident: crash due to bad weather, bombed by English heavy bombers returning from Germany; other sources state that he died from lung cancer in an American hospital, while others mention that Miller died in a French brothel from a heart attack. A 2014 article in the Chicago Tribune reported that, despite many theories which had been proposed, Miller's plane crashed because it had a faulty carburetor. The plane's engine had a type of carburetor that was known to be defective in cold weather and had a history of causing crashes in other aircraft by icing up. The theory that the plane was hit by a bomb jettisoned by Allied planes returning from an aborted bombing raid on Germany is impugned by the log of a plane-spotter which implies that the plane was heading in a direction which would avoid the zone where such bombs were jettisoned. [16,17]

Stan Kenton (1911 - 1979), a famous American jazz musician. Stanley Newcomb "Stan" Kenton (1911 - 1979) was a pianist, composer and arranger who led an innovative, influential, and often controversial American jazz orchestra. …

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