No one explores personal obsession - both its provocations and manifestations - quite like Warner Herzog. Herzog’s 1995 “documentary” on the life and art of composer Carlo Gesualdo, “Death in Five Voices” has recently been released on DVD.
Herzog’s mixes contemporary assessments of Gesualdo’s impact with documented evidence and dark mythologies that have sprung up around him to paint a vivid portrait of a genius in turmoil.
Given Herzog’s work, it is easy to see why he would be draw to such a character:
In his madrigals, his favorite art form, he expressed his innermost being; his entire spiritual world, steeped in seclusion and madness. He seemed persecuted by Furies and Daemons.
According to the second [version of this death], he maintain a staff of about 20 servants who’s task it was to subject him to continuous whippings. The injuries he suffered from these painful flagellations caused infections that finally led to his death.
The entire film is (currently) available as a playlist on YouTube here.
This recording by one of my favorite vocal groups, The Hilliard Ensemble, captures his intensity better than anything else I’ve heard: