Classic Albums: Adolf Wölfli – The Heavenly Ladder | Analysis Of The Musical Cryptograms

The granddaddy of outsider art, Adolf Wölfli (1864 – 1930), lived out his adult life inside Waldau Clinic in Bern after a series of failed child molestation attempts (Wölfli was abused as a child, orphaned at age 10, and suffered from psychosis and hallucinations).  He started drawing while in Waldau and never stopped.

The drawings, he reportedly produced over 25,000 pages, are wildly complex, some containing musical notation—all containing massive crazy beauty—which led to this recording / analysis of the musical cryptograms for solo violin by Belgian composer Baudouin de Jaer.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Dubuffet championed Wölfli, devoting issue 2 of Art Brut to his work.

The music is simple, spare, and mysterious, telling stories with a calmness not found in Wölfli’s visual art or in his life. This music was never performed by Wölfli although he did play a paper trumpet.