STruggling for stability
POETLove is not a conventional story of love and heartbreak. There’s another force at play in the story and in the music intent on derailing Henry, our protagonist: his mental instability. Based on music written by a famously manic depressive Robert Schumann, Henry has all the trappings of a young man dealing with bipolar disorder: manic joy, confusion, and deepest depression.
Several members of the POETLove team have encountered and dealt with bipolar disorder very intimately – in our immediate families and among our close friends. We share an understanding – superficial, to be sure, but nonetheless real – of what this illness can do to people we love and care about, and what a struggle it is for them to be understood. By shining a light on this illness through a young man’s struggle with his mental balance – a young man living in today’s world, recognizable to us all – POETLove wants to draw attention to the plight of mental health patients more broadly, and victims of bipolar disorder more specifically, and to try and raise understanding and empathy for those afflicted by these powerful and terrifying illnesses.
ART SONG - THE CONNECTION
While the connection between bipolar disorder and artists is well established, there is an astoundingly large number of composers who wrote classical art songs that suffered from manic depression and expressed their demons through this format. The unique power of art song – its ability to communicate emotion directly and immediately through the most expressive of instruments, the human voice – clearly attracted these artists, and gave them an avenue through which to process their mental and emotional strife.
We found this connection between bipolar disorder and art song extremely interesting from the outset, and Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” cycle provides a particularly successful example of this symbiosis. The music alternates between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; the character painted by the text and the music is flawed and troubled, but deeply sympathetic and relatable. These songs seemed, to us, the perfect means by which to approach this subject and successfully bring it to a wider audience.