Possession. Say the word and people’s minds often go to the sight of actress Linda Blair’s head turning 360 degrees in the movie “The Exorcist.” Loosely based on a true story, it is doubtful that the campy movie did much to convince people that demonic possession is possible. The two camps of believers and non-believers remains basically unchanged.
I have to admit that I don’t have a firm stance on this subject one way or the other. I believe that demons exist but I find it hard to believe that they can somehow merge with human beings. I’m not denying the possibility, I’m just not certain at this point in my life.
Having said that, I’m not at all sure of my stance on the issue of mediums – – individuals who claim that they can somehow channel the dead. Is that a form of possession? I prefer to think not. I look it at it more as an open line of communication between the living and the dead.
I do not believe that everyone has the kind of open mind necessary to accept communication from the other side. I think it takes a person with a unique understanding and openness. That would certainly explain why only a handful of people could really act in this capacity.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that everyone who claims to be a medium really is one. There are always tricksters out there who simply want to fleece people out of their money. I just don’t believe that we can lump them all into a single category.
With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to explore some of these supposed gifted people with an eye to sharing information about their various claims. Then, you – – the reader – – can decide for yourself whether or not you choose to believe. At the very least, it opens up controversy and get all of us thinking.
Rather than starting with an obvious choice for my first article, I decided to go with someone a bit more obscure. The subject of this article is Rosemary Brown. Brown, who is now deceased, claimed to have produced more than 400 musical compositions in her lifetime. These pieces of music, ranging from piano pieces to full-blown symphonies – – supposedly came to her via long dead music masters.
According to Brown’s autobiography, she was a mere seven years of age when she had her first encounter with dead musicians. According to her account, a spirit appeared to her to tell her he would make her a famous composer. At her tender age, Brown didn’t recognize the spirit. Years later, however, she was able to identify him as Franz Liszt.
No one in her family questioned her claims since many of them were also self-proclaimed psychics. Her parents supported her in her quest to improve her gift but Brown didn’t really explored her true capabilities until Liszt supposedly visited her again in 1964.
By then she was a middle-aged woman who had raised two grown children. By all accounts there seemed to be little remarkable about her. Prior to ’64 she had shown very little interest in music at all and had no real education in the art form.
Although she had apparently taken a year of music lessons, most who heard Brown at the piano proclaimed her untalented. She struggled even with the simplest musical pieces. But Liszt’s continued contact with her seemingly changed everything.
Suddenly she began composing what appeared to be original compositions in the very distinctive forms of musician greats like Brahms, Bach, Schubert, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Liszt himself. They included a 40-page sonata perfectly matching the style and rhythm of Schubert; twelve individual songs that were more than reminiscent of other masters; and the unfinished 10th and 11th symphonies of Ludwig von Beethoven.
According to Brown, each composer had his own method for dictating his work to her. Liszt, for example, took control of her hands. He would play a few bars on the piano and then direct her to write down the notes as described.
Chopin, on the other hand, would whisper the notes to her and then push her hands to the proper keys. However, Bach and Beethoven took a more direct approach; simply dictating the notes to her so that she could put them on the page. Although there is a consensus that Brown’s compositions fit the style of each composer to whom she credited the work, most remained skeptical about her claims.
Those who “pooh-poohed” Brown’s claim said that she must have had advanced musical training that allowed her to produce the compositions in the various formats of the masters. However, no such educational training could be validated. Additionally, many pointed out that Brown wasn’t even capable of playing many of the compositions that she supposedly wrote.
A few tried to prove that Brown was telepathic and that she was merely picking up information from musicians around her and transferring it into her compositions. This theory didn’t last long considering the fact that Brown didn’t hang out with musicians, much less those capable of composing in the manner of the masters.
In 1969, the BBC put Brown to a test, sitting her at a piano to wait for a message from one of her composers. Brown composed a piece that she claimed was dictated to her by Liszt himself. However, it was so complicated that she could not play it. Another musician was brought in to play the new piece of music which Liszt experts subsequently pronounced in the distinct style of the master.
Brown submitted to tests by experts in the musical field as well as psychologists. No one could identify how she might be cheating to produce the compositions. Many gave up trying to disprove her claims, stating it was impossible for someone with so little musical training to compose the way she did. Plus, many pointed out that the woman herself seemed so sincere and genuine that they doubted she could perpetrate such a hoax.
Unfortunately, no definitive answers were ever established concerning Brown’s work. Until her dying day, the camps of the believers and the naysayers remained steadfast in their beliefs.
Whether she was herself a gifted musician or simply a medium through which great composers finished their work, may be a question of faith. Those who believe that all things are possible, have no problem believing Brown’s story. Those who believe only in what they can touch, feel, or see will forever claim the lady was a liar.
What do you believe?