Author ORCID Identifier



Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

David Taddie, Ph.D.

Committee Co-Chair

Matthew Heap, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott Tobias, D.M.A.

Committee Member

Beth Royall, M.M., M.LIS.


This research document explores the connections between the war experiences of four composers and whether the possibility existed that any of the composers had posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), moral injury, mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Scholars have not thoroughly examined the music of composers written before, during, and after war experiences and any potential changes to musical styles or compositional techniques. In my research I look at the effects that war can have on composers through autobiographical and biographical accounts of Ivor Gurney (WWI), Olivier Messiaen (WWII), Maurice Ravel (WWI), and Ralph Vaughan Williams (WWI) to discover if there are any behavioral patterns associated with PTSD or moral injury depending on the individual composer. There are many issues with historical research into psychiatric disorders of composers, especially for World War I and II, because PTSD was referred to as shell shock and was viewed as a form of cowardice at this time. It is highly unlikely that any composer who lived through a war would readily state that they had/have shell shock because it was (and still is) synonymous with cowardice. This research shows how war changed (or didn’t) the music of Gurney, Vaughan Williams, Messiaen, and Ravel. I have examined if war had an effect on their compositional processes, or on the aesthetics of their music (the beautiful, sublime, grotesque, etc.). Gurney’s and Ravel’s compositional careers ended early because of their war time service. Vaughan Williams’s compositional approach changed significantly in a short period of time. Messiaen and Ravel used programmatic elements that could be viewed as coping mechanisms in their music from the trauma they endured.