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Freud's Lost Chord

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'This is a timely and important book on the relationship of psychoanalysis and music. Its strength derives from Sapen's command of both fields. Using psychoanalytic theorists such as Bion, Winnicott, Loewald, Meltzer, and Rycroft, Sapen maps a rich concept of the unconscious as creative process. He then applies that concept to jazz, with special attention to the great work of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Previous psychoanalytic studies of music have focussed on classical music. Sapen makes out a brilliant case for jazz as the musical idiom that offers the richest possibilities for an art capable of exploring the dynamics of the unconscious. The book shimmers with fresh insights, both into psychoanalysis and into music. A seminal work.'-Walter A. Davis, Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at Ohio State University.'A wonderful exploration of the interface and intermingling of music and psychoanalysis. Sapen, a therapist-musician, brings out what music can do for psychoanalysis, not just what psychoanalysis can say about music. Music informs psychoanalysis, plays a role in rhythms of resonance and response, and much more. Jazz lovers will not want to miss what he says about Coltrane and Miles. Relational therapists will appreciate his amplifications of Steven Knoblauch, another psychologist-musician. Sapen spans a rich panoply of psychoanalytic writings, including Winnicott and Bion, to mine valuable threads in which music and psychoanalysis meld. Sapen's sense of beauty and rhythm touch many chords.'- Michael Eigen, Training Analyst with the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (USA); Associate Professor of Psychology, New York University.'I am dazzled by how well Sapen articulates the subtleties of the analytic process and its purposes, and into the nature, technical aspects, and multidimensional dynamics of improvisational music and their relevance to the question of emergent consciousness. Few if any writers in my experience have demonstrated either the insight or quality of prose to deal so lucidly with these matters, let alone simultaneously.'- Lee Underwood, Musician and author; former West Coast USA editor of Downbeat; contributing journalist to Rolling Stone and The Los Angeles Times

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1. Making space for music and myth

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This book asks the reader to reconsider some basic assumptions of psychoanalysis and its history. Not much, relatively speaking, has been written about music and depth psychology, for reasons to be addressed in detail. However, music and its expanding presence within psychoanalytic theory and practice have been indirectly addressed for decades, even by authors who did not realize they were doing so. Next to nothing has been written, though, about jazz and psychoanalysis, with exceptions to be given their due in later pages. This absence, and the value of rectifying it, will become clear to the reader in ways difficult to anticipate at the outset. In order to demonstrate the importance of taking communal improvisation to heart in this field, I will present a detailed account of certain key ideas and thinkers, without which the connection to jazz might seem a stretch. I ask the reader’s indulgence for this very reason. It might help to put “Kind of Blue” on the sound system or iPod. Skip ahead to the chapter on Musical Metapsychology, if you wish, but do come back.

 

2. Beyond repression, into Eros

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Repression was once the cornerstone of psychoanalysis–– the active principle at the “root of the constitution of the unconscious as a domain separate from the rest of the psyche” (Laplanche and Pontalis, 1967, p. 390). Yet, at the end of his career, Freud wrote that “there was never any doubt that repression was not the only procedure which the ego could employ for its purposes” (Freud, 1937c, p. 236).

Laplanche and Pontalis (1967) critique Freud’s aforementioned early conception of repression as “intentional forgetting” (Freud and Breuer, 1893-95). They present it as problematic, leading us to consider the problem of ascribing intentionality or mechanical necessity to unconscious subjects or agencies that draw contents away from the conscious subject. As I have established already, Freud’s models were populated by mechanistic forces and structures, many of which functioned as subjective agents and deities; these fgures of speech were, again, a discursive convenience, without intrinsic truth value, as Freud wrote to Rolland (Freud, E. [ed. ], 1960, pp. 392-393). However, what is unquestionably valuable is the mythic structure and relationships of the entities and forces constituting any model of subjective complexity. This brings to the stage the concept of “complex,” which Freud and Jung relied upon with diferent emphases. “Complex” consistently indicates this organizational principle. Freud’s use of it, (though he eventually dismissed it as an awkward term) is a reduction to a few particular problematic constructions. Jung’s refers to the general psychic matrix, its formative geometry, made up of individual constellations of representation and meaning around particular contents and their afFective values, and their relationship to the particular complex called “ego. “ For Jung, this matrix was central and pivotal, refected in the fact that Jung’s oeuvre was for a time to be called Complex Psychology.

 

3. Resonant space for dreaming

ePub

In Freud’s later thinking on phantasy, he begins to treat illusion in broader terms than wish-fulfllment, and to address its efectiveness as an agent of change and structure. Psychic reality is now an efective agency in itself, a domain which deserves at least a qualifed use of the term “reality”:

The substitute satisfactions, as ofered by art, are illusions in contrast with reality, but they are none the less psychically efec-tive, thanks to the role which phantasy has assumed in mental life. (Freud, 1930, p. 68)

Freud’s phrasing is suggestive; “the role which phantasy has assumed” seems also to refer to the recent developments in the concept of phantasy in the discourse about mental life as much as to the role of phantasy in the psyche.

We can see a parallel process between the diferentiation of a psychic space in which symbolic life emerges, and the theory which expands to acknowledge it. Psychoanalysis grew from a theory of wishful forces and their substitutions to one about illusion as the vessel and workshop of truth. This growth makes it a refexive discipline. It is a meta-mythology which explains the growth of mythology, in which the tension of primal forces expands into a psychosomatic field, and in which the space and time of the psyche can diferentiate, perpetuate, and dream refectively upon its own achievement of subjectivity. The evolution of Freudian and post-Freudian thought demonstrates this parallel trend in theory and the phenomena that it makes perceptible. Trough the work of these representative thinkers, we can see that both theory and the mythic processes it theorizes express aspects of dream-life that operate by means other than repression (Freud, 1937c, p. 236).

 

4. Musical metapsychology

ePub

This chapter presents various points of convergence between music and psychoanalysis. Among the numerous approaches to this topic, I will focus on those related to the fguration and integration of musical forms. These run parallel to the psychoanalytic processes by which affect is given form and rhythm, integrated into complementary voices, and dreamed audibly into coherence and continuity.

I will be focusing on jazz and improvisation, examining pieces generally considered to be artistically superb and paradigmatic of two complementary approaches to jazz theory and practice. This will distinguish my approach from nearly all the extant psychoanalytic literature on music, in which the predominant subject matter is through-composed classical music. This practice implicitly has relegated improvised music to a culturally and aesthetically inferior or at least marginal form, perhaps tainted with the brush of wish-fulfllment, cultural primitivism, self-indulgence. Of course, this practice may simply refect the preference and familiarity among the majority of writers for classical music. Nevertheless, with all questions of aesthetic or intellectual merit to one side, my working hypothesis is simply that music from a written score can sustain little comparison with the spontaneity of dreaming and psychoanalytic conversation in session, for the original musical event, akin to the dream itself, is absent, supplanted by the written composition and all manner of subsequent events and details in performance, discussion and inference. Regardless of the quality of such discourse, inevitably this poor match puts musical examples into the same category which Freud approached apologetically (Freud, 1914a, SE 13), where artist and artwork are treated as patient and symptom. In fact, the inclusion of jazz and improvisation feshes out the soundstage, leaving ample room for discussion of how musical dreaming occurs out loud, in the presence of receptive others, and for the concordance of that experience with the analytic encounter.

 

5. The musical and the clinical

ePub

The effort to develop an ear for subtle and emergent affective states, and their various rhythms, dynamics, and idioms, offers the clinician a broader frame of reference, both practical and aesthetic, by which to experience the analytic encounter. In particular the work of Steven Knoblauch, to be explored later, makes careful use of this clinical potential. But music and analysis are corresponding ways in which psychological life and the natural world present and organize themselves in the intersection of a moment with a history in progress. To reiterate, jazz offers something different from a music consisting of the performance of epochal works of composers of previous generations, even if this classical repertory is artfully, faithfully, and even sublimely interpreted.

This approach to music––not jazz per se, but any evocative, spontaneous aesthetic––evokes the fecundity of image, idea, and affect available when we are attuned to psychic space and time, their structure and elasticity. Such attunement and its imagery have plenty of analogs––the “thought forms of one’s own mind”

 

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