Conference: Music and Psychoanalysis: Composers, Performers, Analysts

What is the emotional impact of musical composotion and performance?

Session 1:

Mark Berry-Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Schoenberg’s Operas

Arnold Schoenberg came to artistic maturity in that celebrated ‘crucible of modernity’ sometimes simply known as ‘Freud’s Vienna’. It was there and then that he resolved, not without regret, to break with tonality, to feel, as the Stefan Georg text to his 1908 Second String Quartet – the work within which he made that break – has it, the ‘air of another planet’. In this lecture, I shall look in particular at two of his operas. Erwartung, his first, was written in 1909, to a text by Marie Pappenheim, a dermatologist with interest in psychoanalysis, and a relative of Josef Breuer’s ‘Anna O’. Its exploration, verbal and musical, of extreme psychological states has much to tell us concerning Schoenberg’s own concerns. Moses und Aron, Schoenberg’s final, unfinished opera was written considerably later, in the final years of Weimar Germany, prior to Schoenberg’s flight from the Third Reich. It will be considered in the light of Freud’s own Moses and Monotheism, and with particular respect to Schoenberg’s fears of idolatry. A relatively recent production, from the Vienna State Opera,  which treats the Orgy around the Golden Calf with images from modern advertising points to important questions concerning our desires and their fulfilment.

Dr Mark Berry is Senior Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. An intellectual and musical historian, he has written widely on subjects from the cultural politics of Louis XIV’s Versailles to the present day. Dr Berry is the author of Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire: Politics and Religion in Wagner’s ‘Ring’, and After Wagner: Histories of Modernist Music Drama from ‘Parsifal’ to Nono (which includes a chapter on Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron), and is now starting work on an intellectual biography of Schoenberg. As a music critic, he blogs as ‘Boulezian’.

Session 2:

Richard Rusbridger-The Internal World of Don Giovanni

The author tries to account for the disturbing impact of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. Some writers idealize Don Giovanni’s power and vitality. The author’s view is that Mozart’s music depicts him as a much emptier character, using phallic narcissism as a way of surviving a psychic catastrophe by projecting his pain into others. The music shows how Giovanni lives in projective identification with many other objects and part objects, masculine and feminine; and how he seduces them into complicity with his defensive system. This situation is contrasted musically with the world of the other characters, particularly the women, who are depicted as more ordinary, more complex and, in fact, more sensual.

Richard Rusbridger is a training analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Society, in full-time private practice in London. He spent a year at the Royal College of Music before reading Music and English at Cambridge. He trained as a child psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic before training as an analyst. He has recently edited the collected papers of Edna O’Shaughnessy: Inquiries in Psychoanalysis, Routledge, 2014. He is an Honorary Reader at UCL, and is the Hon Secretary of the Melanie Klein Trust.

Andrea Sabbadini-Psychoanalysis and Choral Singing

After a brief introduction on the relationship between psychoanalysis and music, and on the importance of sounds in early development, I will describe some aspects of my long experience as an amateur choral singer of classical music. Over the years singing, with its direct involvement of the body alongside the mind, has represented for me an invaluable contrast to my daily analytic work with patients, as well as a complement to it. I believe that my involvement with choral singing and psychoanalysis has much enriched my appreciation of both.

Andrea Sabbadini is a Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society and its former Director of Publications. He works in private practice in London, is a trustee of the Freud Museum, a member of the IPA committee on Psychoanalysis and Culture, and the director of the European Psychoanalytic Film Festival. His most recent books are Boundaries and Bridges: Perspectives on Time and Space in Psychoanalysis (Karnac 2014) and Moving Images: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Film (Routledge 2014). His main hobby is singing bass in choirs, and has taken part over the years in some 300 concerts in England and abroad.

Session 3:

Lesley Chamberlain-Thomas Mann, Music and Civilisation’s Discontents

For Thomas Mann, German Romantic music, especially the music of Wagner, opened up the discontents of civilization, offering a regressive escape from excessive cultural pressures. Using Freudian insights to blend Nietzsche’s response to Wagner with worries about his own unadmitted homosexuality, and his role as a writer/artist in a strictly regulated middle class environment, Mann fictionalized the most catastrophic moments in German history as moments when civilization succumbed to the devil in the guise of music.

Lesley Chamberlain is a writer, novelist and critic whose German interests began many years ago with Thomas Mann and led to such books as Nietzsche in Turin (1996), The Secret Artist: A Close Reading of Sigmund Freud (2000) and A Shoe Story (2014), which delves into Heidegger. She is currently working on a new book about Rilke in Paris.

Session 4:

Stephen Gee-Michael Tippett: From Persecution to Paradise

Michael Tippett’s musical output spans the decades from the early 1930s to the 1990s. It is by turns exuberantly lyrical and vibrantly modernist. He was that rare person in England, an intellectual whose life and work was engaged with the times he lived in. In the 1930s his development as a composer went alongside a passionate commitment to the politics of the Left. His personal life and psychic freedom were also at stake. Like Auden and Britten, Tippett was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal and its social expression unthinkable. He turned to a Jungian analyst, John Layard, and his sessions with him together with his own dream analysis helped him to find enough emotional and psychic freedom to release his creative imagination.

The paper will explore a recurring theme which produced many variations. Tippett asked the question that many artists couldn’t avoid in the 20th century, a question most succinctly put by Theodor Adorno: ‘Can One Live after Auschwitz?’ For Tippett after 1945, music would continue and it would be an engagement with the intimate and the personal in a world that time and again ‘turned on its dark side’ He would re-imagine visions of paradise for listeners in our day to day living as well as those caught up in continual political strife.

Stephen Gee is a member and former Chair of The Site for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He has contributed to Site conferences on Winnicott, Lacan, Homosexuality, and Class. He organised a rehearsed reading of Sarah Kane’s ‘4:48 Psychosis’ followed by a colloquium in which psychoanalysts of different schools talked about the issues raised by the play and the challenges facing people suffering with psychosis. He ran a performance group at the Studio Upstairs where he was also a supervisor. He is a member of the editorial group of the Site’s psychoanalytic journal, and has written on the problematic history of psychoanalysis and homosexuality. He interviewed the director Phyllida Lloyd at The Site and at the English National Opera on her 2005 production of Wagner’s Ring cycle. He has a private practice in South London and teaches regularly at The Site and on other psychoanalytic trainings.

Beats Perrey-Mixing memory and Desire: The Voice of Freud, Schubert and Schumann

Freud didn’t discover the unconscious; rather, his whole way of thinking and style of writing are imbued with the ideals and affective investments of his visionary predecessors, the Early Romantic generation of writers and poets such as Novalis, the Schlegel brothers, Brentano and Eichendorff. Nor was Freud much of a musician, or even known as a music lover. And yet, Freud’s ideas, concepts and metaphors can bring a whole new intensity both to our perception and understanding of that special sound world which is the German Lied. I shall, in a few chosen songs by Schubert and Schumann, explore their idiosyncratic beauty and multilayered meanings.

Beate Perrey BA, MA (Munich and Harvard), MA, PhD (Cambridge) is a German pianist and musicologist. Author of Schumann’s Song Cycle Dichterliebe and Early Romantic Poetics (CUP 2002), she was fellow of Trinity and Christ’s College, Cambridge University where she directed with Malcolm Bowie and Gillian Beer the CRASSH research group Cross Currents and Resistances. She taught cross-disciplinary seminars at UCL’s Psychoanalytic Theory Unit prior to teaching as visiting professor at the Ecole Normale Superieure Paris, Reader at Liverpool, and the EHESS Paris. Current projects explore Beethoven’s last piano sonatas as well as sense experience in the musical performing arts.

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