Jonathan Biss featured in short film for the OC87 Recovery Diaries about anxiety
Pianist Jonathan Biss speaks candidly about anxiety in a short film titled Now Unquiet: The Journey of Pianist Jonathan Biss produced for the OC87 Recovery Diaries, an interactive website that features stories of mental health, empowerment, and change. The film, directed by Glenn Holsten, features Mr. Biss talking about his reckoning with, and management of, anxiety, expanding on the subject matter addressed in his best-selling Audible Original memoir, Unquiet: My Life with Beethoven. The 13-minute film also features performances by Mr. Biss of works by Schumann, Janáček, and Beethoven. The film can be viewed on the OC87 Recovery Diaries’ website, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The OC87 Recovery Diaries website was developed by the creative team behind the full-length 2012 documentary OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie. After receiving feedback from audiences, they wanted to create a forum focused on stories of mental health recovery. In the short film, Mr. Biss speaks about the cruel irony of realizing that the thing he loves the most—playing music—was a catalyst for extreme stress. He says:
“I was ashamed of it. For years, admitting that I had this problem felt very, very much like admitting to failure. You can only address a problem you admit you have, and I remember that when I first told someone in my professional life that I have an issue with anxiety, it felt momentous. That began the very, very slow process of reimagining a relationship with myself, where to play a piece of music, I don’t need to be more or less than who I am.”
Since its publication, Unquiet: My Life with Beethoven—the first Audible Original by a classical musician—has been in the top 5% of Audible sales and has received consistently positive customer reviews. Excerpts from Unquiet have recently featured on the Psychology Today website and Mr. Biss has been a guest on Ariana Huffington’s “What I’ve Learned” podcast. He also took part in a virtual conversation with English actor, comedian, and writer Stephen Fry about mental health issues in the performing arts that was presented by 92Y.
“Watching superstar athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles speak openly about their mental health in the past few weeks has been incredibly heartening, says Mr. Biss. “One of my motivations in writing Unquiet and in participating in this film project was to help chip away at the very real stigma that exists around anxiety—a stigma that for years had a hugely damaging effect on my own life. The number of musicians who have written to me about their own histories with anxiety—in some cases, for the very first time—is at once distressing and encouraging. I’m sensing a real shift in how we think about these issues, and given how dramatically my life has changed for the better since addressing my own anxiety, it’s a very exciting thing to witness.”
Mr. Biss recently returned to live performances at the Marlboro Music Festival where he serves as co-Artistic Director with Mitsuko Uchida. He will perform with The Cleveland Orchestra on Saturday, August 28 at the Blossom Music Festival, embark on a recital tour with the Doric Quartet in October, perform with the San Diego Symphony in November, and give a solo recital for San Francisco Performances in December. In the short film, Mr. Biss says:
“I do feel there’s something beautiful about how the world is going to reopen bit by bit, and I’m going to re-enter it fundamentally changed from how or who I was when it was last fully open. I feel this itch to play, and that’s new, because it used to be that the idea of the concert being a week away, a day away, an hour away, was just a source of terror. And now, while I’m not saying it’s gone, it at most coexists with this desire to share the thing I love most in the world.”