How Shostakovich Changed My Mind
In collaboration with Boswell Book Festival
Stephen Johnson in conversation with James Knox.
BBC music broadcaster Stephen Johnson explores the power of Shostakovich’s music during Stalin’s reign of terror, and writes of the extraordinary healing effect of music on sufferers of mental illness. Johnson looks at neurological, psychotherapeutic and philosophical findings, and reflects on his own experience, where he believes Shostakovich’s music helped him survive the trials and assaults of bipolar disorder. ‘There’s something about hearing your most painful emotions transformed into something beautiful…’ The old Russian who uttered those words spoke for countless fellow survivors of Stalin’s reign of terror. And the ‘something beautiful’ he had in mind was the music of Dmitri Shostakovich.
James Knox is the Chairman of our sister festival in East Ayrshire, the Boswell Book Festival. Here he interviews the writer Stephen Johnson on his insights into the Russian composer Shostakovich, his experience of Soviet terrors and the powerful legacy of his music in the writer’s own struggles with bipolar disorder. “How Shostakovich Changed My Mind” is one man’s private journey into the horrors of 20th century tyranny, and the musical healing found at the heart of that abyss.
Sir James MacMillan