In the year 1804, Friedrich Rochlitz was editor of the influential Leipzig review, «Allgemeine Musikahsche Zeitung». There he issued his short story, Der Besuch im Irrenhause ("A Visit to an Asylum"), which can be regarded as a pivotal work in the field of writings on the Romantic musician myth, as well among those relating art to madness. In fact, its most original aspect is its tight music - madness link - a novelty in those rimes - functioning as a Leitmotiv. Der Besuch im Irrenhause, sub-tided "An Essay in Psychology", depicts a scientifìc experiment. The narrator is an amateur psychologist. While touring an insane asylum, he is struck by a young inmate who withdrew from the real world to live in a personal one, mostly made of sounds and musical visions. Music, the language of heart and soul, gradually rises up to the role of ideal mean for inner expression. The act of listening implies transport and ecstasy, a journey in a fantasy world conjured up by sounds, and the vehicle to rise up to God. Music is seen as the «language of angels and blessed spirits», the sacred art par excellence, and the route to grasp the deep unity of the universe. Yet music will also drive the main character to madness, with mystic visions, imaginary dialogues, and raving. For sure, this work is interesting as a forerunner of several topics subsequently seized up by a whole generation of writers, musicians, and thinkers - the upcoming Romantic movement. Rochlitz's short story stands tall in its times, on a par with the best work by Wackenroder, Hoffmann, and Grillparzer. It is all the more interesting for its creator was no Romantic writer, but rather an 18th-century thinker, rooted in the Enlightenment, its views, and its values. Today, Rochlitz is an unduly neglected figure, whereas in his days he exerted vast influence in the German-speaking area.
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