Mozart had Tourette's, says new documentary

A Channel 4 documentary will suggest that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music was influenced by Tourette's syndrome, a complex disorder that can leave sufferers with a twitch and a tendency to swear uncontrollably.

A Channel 4 documentary will suggest that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music was influenced by Tourette's syndrome, a complex disorder that can leave sufferers with a twitch and a tendency to swear uncontrollably.

The thesis will be presented this autumn by James McConnel, a British composer, who has Tourette's and who has studied Mozart's letters and musical scores. McConnel, 46, is convinced that Mozart also suffered from the condition and that Tourette's had influenced the direction of his music.

He highlights the Austrian composer's use of extreme bad language in his letters and his impulsive behaviour, such as abandoning his piano when playing for a royal court because he wanted to play with a cat that had walked into the room.

He also suggests that Mozart's reintroduction of complex arrangements when they were unfashionable could have resulted from his desire to control his behaviour.

Channel 4 believes McConnel has made a convincing case in the documentary What Made Mozart Tic?

Tourette's sufferers can exhibit obsessive compulsive behaviour and attention deficit disorder. The condition was not recognised when Mozart was alive. "Tourette's didn't make him a genius," McConnel said. "He would have been a genius regardless. But I think he took some of the musical directions that he followed because he had Tourette's. There is a constant battle between chaos and control in his music."

The British composer travelled to Salzburg and Vienna to test his theory but admitted evidence was "scanty".

"Mozart rediscovered counterpoint and fugue ... That [level of complexity] was a prevalent musical style for Bach and Handel but by the time Mozart came along composers had to write court music for aristocrats to dance to, which had to be far more simple and formalised," McConnel said. "The idea that Mozart had Tourette's was first mooted by a Danish scientist who had been reading the letters, many of which were scatological and filthy."

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