29 March 2022

Celebrating Mozart this World Autism Acceptance Week

By Lark Music

The 28th March – 3rd April 2022 marks World Autism Acceptance Week – when people come together to raise awareness of people on the autistic spectrum and celebrate their unique potential and achievements.

With autism only recently becoming more widely understood, there are many historical figures whose legacies raise the possibility they were on the autistic spectrum before diagnosis was possible. In the musical world, one of the most notable examples is none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, who is widely thought to have shown signs of autism.

Let’s take a look at some of Mozart’s remarkable achievements to see how he can inspire us today.

A child prodigy

Both Mozart and his older sister, nicknamed Nannerl, showed impressive musical ability from a very young age. Mozart was only four years old when his parents noticed his unique ability not only to learn music, but to memorise it too. Legend has it that by this age he could already learn a new piece in just half an hour. He started composing by the age of six, writing symphonies age eight and was commissioned to write an opera by Emperor Joseph II at just 12 years old.

A huge body of work

Although he died just before his 36th birthday, Mozart managed to compose an incredible number of musical works, from symphonies to concertos to operas to chamber music, choral works and more. He wrote over 600 works in his lifetime, making him arguably one of the most prolific composers of the classical period.

Incredibly quick learner

What’s so interesting about Mozart is how quickly he could learn. He had an innate ability to read music and remember complex pieces he’d heard only a few times. For example, when touring Europe in his early teens, he heard the Sistine Choir perform Miserere by Gregorio Allegri – the music of which belonged only to them. Mozart heard it and copied it out from memory. He was also a multi-instrumentalist, exceeding at the many keyboard instruments of his day as well as stringed instruments such as the violin and viola.

Epic concentration skills

Some of the traits that Mozart displayed can be seen as potential signs of autism. For example, while he was easily distracted and bored by some tasks, he could apply intense concentration where he was interested – composing significant pieces of music in just a matter of hours. The overture to Don Giovanni was said to have been composed the night before the premiere in only three hours – and performed to thunderous applause the next day.

Uncommon social behaviours

Further behaviours of Mozart that suggest he could have been on the spectrum include his highly sensitive hearing – in fact, loud sounds would make him physically ill and as a child he was said to be scared of the trumpet. He was also said to struggle with impulse control, and he was reported to use repetitive body motions and facial expressions, as well as word repetition (a pattern sometimes noticeable in his music too).

An immortal legacy

Today, these types of talents and behaviours could indicate a person is on the autistic spectrum, so it’s reasonable to believe Mozart could have been too – although we’ll never know for sure. But with music providing such an important source of expression for so many people on the spectrum, Mozart is a shining example of inspiration. Let’s celebrate that this week.