УДК 78.03

Is this the real life? Parallels between creative concepts of Scriabin and Queen

Кузнецов Алексей Денисович – студент Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета.

Abstract: The article examines the similarities between the creative concepts of the composer Alexander Scriabin and the musical band Queen. It is shown that both Scriabin and the Queen’s late leader Freddie Mercury projected a similar romanticized self-image of a heroic, messianic creator, which is reflected in their works, which also share a theme of omnipotence and unrestricted sexuality. The two famous and particularly important works of Scriabin and Queen are analyzed (Preparatory Action and Bohemian Rhapsody, respectively) and the multiple similarities are pointed out and examined, such as the fusion of different arts, styles, philosophy and religion, the importance of light effects and the mysterious meaning of these works, known only to its authors. While the reason for the abundance of these parallels remains unknown, further research in this direction is strongly encouraged.

Аннотация: В статье анализируются сходства между концептами творчества композитора А. Н. Скрябина и группы «Queen». Демонстрируется, что как Скрябин, так и покойный лидер «Queen» Фредди Меркьюри создавали образ себя как романтизированного творца-героя, творца-мессии, что отражено в их работах, в которых также прослеживаются темы всемогущества и безудержной сексуальности. Далее изучаются знаменитые и особо важные работы Скрябина и «Queen» («Предварительное Действие» и «Богемская Рапсодия» соответственно). При этом обнаруживаются и анализируются многочисленные сходства, такие как слияние стилей, искусств, философии и религии, важность световых эффектов и таинственное значение этих работ, известное лишь их авторам. Хотя точная причина такого сильного сходства остаётся неизвестной, всячески приветствуются дальнейшие исследования в этой области.

Keywords: Scriabin, Queen, Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody, fusion of arts, light effects.

Ключевые слова: Скрябин, «Queen», «Богемская Рапсодия», слияние искусств, световые эффекты.

Alexander Scriabin was a famous composer of the early 20th century, whose music is hard to classify as belonging to a specific category – it is too different from the other music of his time. In modern musicology, he is often claimed to be a composer of the Russian Symbolist movement – but he was arguably the only composer of that movement, which mostly consisted of poets and painters. Moreover, Scriabin’s music changed throughout his life, first being influenced by Chopin, then becoming closer to Wagner, and finally becoming more and more schematic, structural. Therefore, even when considered a Symbolist, Scriabin remains an unusual, hardly definable figure.

The band named Queen, led by Freddie Mercury appeared in the 1970s and has been admired by millions from that decade until the present day. Placing this band’s music into one category is not possible either: the members of Queen always evolved, experimented, throughout their career working in such genres as album rock, art rock, progressive (symphonic) rock, heavy metal, hard rock, psychedelic rock, arena rock and contemporary pop with the addition of funk, disco and rockabilly during the 80’s.

As it is already possible to suggest, both Scriabin and Queen are alike in being not alike to anything else. That alone, of course, would not be enough to say that their works are actually similar - the differences between the periods and cultural movements of these two names are striking enough that it would not be surprising if their art would turn out to be only barely or not at all alike. Nevertheless, if one has a look at certain aspects of the creations of Scriabin and Queen, a significant number of parallels might be proposed.

As my article shows, these parallels – even though they might look loose, since they are not supported by any documentary evidence – are substantial, ponderous in many different aspects: lyrics, performance and origins. This is the reason that makes them worth exploring or at least having their existence proposed. Therefore, the article will be dedicated to showing and possibly analyzing of the parallels between the art of Scriabin and The Queen. This topic appears to be not explored in detail, and my work might serve in fulfilling this lacuna.

Firstly, I will concentrate on the creative personality of Scriabin and Queen – the image cultivated by them and projected on the texts of Scriabin’s writings and songs by Queen. The themes in these works are strikingly similar or invite the comparison – the exhilarating ecstasy after the struggle, the multiple shapes of the creator, the triumphant cry of individuality, and the surreality of the rest of the world. Secondly, I will focus on two separate pieces – Preparatory Action by Scriabin and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. These works that were incredibly important to their creators (having a meaning that they disclosed to no one else) and are not only similar in terms of lyrics, but are famous for their unique synthesis of arts, styles and religious themes, with both of these works envisioned (and in Mercury’s case, successfully premiered) with multiple roles and complex, hard-to produce light effects.

In my essay, I will use multiple sources. When writing about Scriabin’s texts and ideas, I will refer to The Notebooks of Alexander Scriabin - an impressive compilation of Scriabin's texts edited and translatedby Simon Nicholls, Michael Pushkin, and Vladimir Ashkenazy, as well as Vospominaniya o Rossii and Vospominania o Scriabine (Memoirs about Russia and Memoirs about Scriabin, respectively) by Scriabin’s friend and biographer Leonid Sabaneev. While discussing Scriabin’s project of “light symphony”, I will rely on the article by Anna Gawboy and Justin Townsend, which provides sufficient information on the subject. When discussing Queen, I will rely on the BBC documentary The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody, directed by Carl Johnston and related articles by such art critics as Tom Service and David Chiu, as well as the brief history of the band by Stephen Thomas Erlewine and the results of the poll about British music preferences conducted by the Guardian. I will also provide extracts from the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, and Don’t Stop Me Now – these are the band’s most famous songs, which, in my opinion, have the greatest amount of parallels with Scriabin’s music.

I believe that this work will be useful for those interested in the art of Scriabin or Queen, as the analysis of the parallels between them might help to understand better these cultural phenomena.

Scriabin and Freddie Mercury: the creative personality

In this part of the article, I would like to concentrate on the self-image cultivated by both Freddie Mercury and Alexander Scriabin: a romanticized image of heroic musician, explicitly showing them in a sexually arousing, epically powerful, mystical, even messianic way.

As proof for this statement, these two extracts might be compared: one from Scriabin’s notebooks, related to his Poem of Ecstasy, another from Queen’s song Don’t Stop Me Now.



I am freedom

I am life

I am dream

I am languor

I am infinite burning desire

I am bliss

I am insane passion

I am nothing, I am a trembling

I am play, I am freedom, I am life, I am dream

I am languor, I am feeling

I am the world

I am insane passion

I am insane flight

I am desire

I am light

I am the creative impulse,

Now gently caressing,

Now blinding,

Now burning,


Giving life,

I am a stormy torrent of feelings not yet known...

I'm a shooting star leaping

Through the sky

Like a tiger defying

The laws of gravity

I'm a racing car passing

By like Lady Godiva

I'm gonna go, go, go

There's no stopping me

I'm burning through the sky, yeah

Two hundred degrees, that's why

They call me Mister Fahrenheit

I'm travelling at the speed of light

I wanna make a supersonic

Man outta you


I'm a rocket ship on my way

To Mars on a collision course

I am a satellite, I'm out of control

I'm a sex machine ready to reload

Like an atom bomb about to

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, explode!

Later, in the same notebooks by Scriabin, there is another fragment, this time in prose, also expressing similar ideas:

“The wave of my existence will flood the whole world. I will be born within your consciousness by means of a mad desire for boundless bliss. Intoxicated by my fragrance, stimulated by my caress, which now licks, now flutters, exhausted (pampered) by the delightful tenderness of touches, inflamed by the lightning flashes of my passion, you will feel the luxuriant flourishing of your reveries. I will be the all-consoling (= enlivening) response and the all-creating negation. I will be the desire for universal bliss (flourishing). I will be struggle. And each will feel the infinite tide of divine power, free power. And each will rise up against everything. And that struggle has become love (a wondrous caress). In the Spirit (people) fear will disappear. And the bites of panthers and hyenas will be nothing but (arousal) a new caress, a new torment, and the bite of a snake, nothing but a burning kiss. And the universe will announce with a joyous cry: I am, and this temple of voluptuousness will burn up. And in these embraces, in these kisses, in this fire you will burn up so wondrously — I will burn up”

All these three extracts share similar motifs: the ecstasy of burning, the desire and ability to transform oneself and the people around, the joy of the omnipotence, the multitude of shapes taken at the same time, the unrestrained sexuality and the triumph of the author’s personality, of the “I am”.

Moreover, this theme is further developed in other lyrics by Queen and Scriabin: the libretto of the opera, written around 1901-1903, in case of the former and We are the Champions in case of the latter. Not only the triumph of personality and the blissful ecstasy is present in both of the writings, it shares the same source: hard, yet invigorating labour. The last lines of both texts are the most obvious examples of this statement.

Scriabin, libretto

Queen, We Are the Champions

But only he who has tasted the sweetness of labour

Has come to know bliss.

He who in a fascinating quest

Has pleasantly spent his life,

Who in powerful knowledge

Has found consolation

Has loved with a complete love

Forward in striving and eternally

But it's been no bed of roses

No pleasure cruise

I consider it a challenge

Before the whole human race

And I ain't gonna lose

The logical result of this triumph of personality might be the idea that the rest of the world is unreal, only an idea created by the creator himself. For Scriabin, this idea was the centrepiece of his beliefs: he was sure that he was a divine being that envisioned the world around him, and can change or ignore obstacles at his will. Meanwhile, Freddie Mercury contemplates this idea in Queen’s most famous hit Bohemian Rhapsody, which starts with the question “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” and ends with the lines “anyone can see: nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me”. It should be noted that in Queen’s art this theme is far from being as prominent or definite as in Scriabin’s system of ideals: already during Bohemian Rhapsody the hero of the song comes to a conclusion that there is no “escape from reality”.

However, this theme is not the only aspect of Bohemian Rhapsody that may be found in Scriabin’s art. Indeed, this song of Queen is probably the closest to Scriabin due to a combination of factors, which is a large enough topic to be discussed in a separate chapter.

Bohemian Rhapsody and Scriabin’s Mysterium: the likeness of the details

As Tom Service, the musical critic of the Guardian magazine, writes, Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the marvels of the Bohemian Rhapsody is “its huge variety of styles – from intro, to ballad, to operatic excess, to hard-rock, to reflective coda - are unified into a single statement, a drama that somehow makes sense”. It also contains a fusion of religious motifs – the opera segment mentions Beelzebub, a demon appearing in Jewish and Christian texts, exclamation “Bismillah!, the Arabic word meaning “in the name of God” that is the first word of Quran. The song is sung by three members of the band, who play numerous roles: criminal full of guilt, choirs of angels and demons and other characters, which are hard to identify exactly.

Moreover, Bohemian Rhapsody was one of the early songs that was accompanied by the “pop promo” – a video clip of the song that was not simply a recording of the band playing, but a complex piece of art mixing up theatrical performance, light shows, visual effects of many kinds and, of course, the music itself. This was far from being the first “pop promo”, but it became the first that got incredibly famous and is considered a masterpiece even nowadays. Thus, Bohemian Rhapsody is not only a fusion of styles and religious motives, but also a fusion of arts.

It is possible to draw parallels between all these facts about Bohemian Rhapsody and later period of Scriabin’s art. Indeed, the composer once stated: “‘A fusion of all the arts is essential <…> music must be combined with philosophy and religion into something indivisible and united <…> I have a dream of creating a Mystery of that kind”. This idea later evolved into Scriabin’s concept of Preparatory Action, which he worked on for years, writing the music and the text, which, similarly to Queen, contained various disjointed sections with varying rythms, themes and styles, numerous participants – a divine chorus, a man and a woman, and even landscapes.

Moreover, Preparatory Action was planned to include a “symphony of light” that would play a very important role – it would contrast with the music theme, adding a new layer of composition. The composer compared this concept to his earlier “music of light” planned for his symphony Prometheus. The symphony was eventually released without the light show due to high costs and insufficient technology – even nowadays following the exact plans of Scriabin for that project is incredibly hard and expensive. Meanwhile the promotional video for Bohemian Rhapsody, the light effects were considered similarly essential, and was also hard to produce – the band and the operators had to invent new ways of creating the effects with the tools they had, and the total expenses on the production of this video exceeded four thousand pounds. The technological and financial scale of the work, as well as its nature (the light effects), become additional items in the list of parallels and similarities.

I have already discussed the texts of Bohemian Rhapsody and Preparatory Action, yet I have to return to them again to underline the final parallel between them: the mystery of their meaning. Both texts are hard to comprehend and were not fully explained by their authors, yet were very important for their creators: for Scriabin, that was the main work of his life, while the members of Queen stated that the meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody is too private, especially for Mercury, to be officially explained. Therefore, Preparatory Action and Bohemian Rhapsody are similar not only in their composition and plans of performance, but also in their deep, personal meaning for their authors, hidden from the rest of society.

As one can see, there is definitely a lot of similarities between Scriabin’s Preparatory Action and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody: both works combine different styles, arts and religions, require a large number of roles and technological appliances, and have long, mysterious texts that were of great importance to their creators. Of course, Scriabin’s work was larger in scale, but Queen’s composition was the one that succeeded – while the Preparatory Action was never finished due to the death of Scriabin in 1915, Bohemian Rhapsody quickly gained popularity in the world and, in 2002, was named the most favourite single of Great Britain.


In this essay, I have shown the various parallels between the art of Scriabin and the art of Queen, concentrating on similar themes and principles. As it was discussed, some of the most prominent ideas of Scriabin’s art are the triumph of personality, the ecstatic bliss achieved through hard yet fulfilling labour and shared with others, the questioning of the perceived world’s reality and the defiance of the physical obstacles. All these concepts are also present in three of the most famous songs of Queen: We Are the Champions, Don’t Stop Me Now and Bohemian Rhapsody. In addition, the last of these three songs is close to Scriabin’s drafts of the Preparatory Action: Bohemian Rhapsody is a fusion of styles, arts, religion and philosophy, all performed by a significant number of participants playing an even larger number of roles – all with the help of technology that was hard to obtain or created specifically for the task. Scriabin described his Preparatory Action in a similar way, although grander in scale. Moreover, the meaning of the texts for both pieces is known to be extremely vague, yet very important for those who wrote them.

As I have already said, there is no documentary evidence that Queen were inspired by Scriabin or based their songs on his works. One can say that they both were greatly influenced by classical music – it played a significant role in the conception of Bohemian Rhapsody and other songs by Mercury, while Liszt and Chopin are considered Scriabin’s predecessors. That said, this is yet too vague a connection to explain these striking similarities. Nevertheless, the amount of parallels that may be found is, as I have shown, far from negligible. To explain these parallels, one might suggest that “great minds think alike”, as the old saying goes, or try to explore that subject in detail, looking for the exact reason for the presence of the parallels. While this is not the purpose of this essay, I will be elated if somebody attempts to explain why the Scriabin and Queen had ideas that were so close to each other – and I hope that my essay would be of any help to this person, or to any fans of Scriabin and Queen that desire to add a new level of understanding of these creators.


  1. BBC Documentary, The Story of Bohemian Rhapsody, 2004.
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody named favourite song // The Guardian URL: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/may/08/3 Retrieved 09.01.2021.
  3. Chiu D. Unconventional Queen Hit Still Rocks After 30 Years // New York Times URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/27/arts/music/unconventional-queen-hit-still-rocks-after-30-years.html Retrieved 07.01.2021.
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  5. Gawboy A., Townsend J. Scriabin and the Possible // Society for Music Theory URL: https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.12.18.2/mto.12.18.2.gawboy_townsend.php Retrieved 09.01.2021.
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  7. Sabaneev L. Vospominaniya o Rossii (Memoirs about Russia), M: Classica-XXI, 2005.
  8. Sabaneev L. Vospominanyia o Scriabine (Memoirs about Scriabin), M: Classica-XXI, 2000, pp. 329-330, 340-341.
  9. Service T. Bohemian Rhapsody: Mamma, we've killed a song // The Guardian URL: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/dec/08/bohemian-rhapsody-karaoke-hit Retrieved 07.01.2021.
  10. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody // Genius URL: https://genius.com/Queen-bohemian-rhapsody-lyrics Retrieved 27.12.2020.
  11. Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now // Genius URL: https://genius.com/Queen-dont-stop-me-now-lyrics Retrieved 27.12.2020.
  12. Queen, We Are the Champions // Genius URL: https://genius.com/Queen-we-are-the-champions-lyrics Retrieved 27.12.2020.

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