Mahler and Freud


There was a meeting between Freud and Gustav Mahler in Leyden. We know little of what happened between them, but that it had something to do with a crises in Mahler’s relationship with Alma. And that he was reconciled (for a time), with Alma, and wrote no new music after.

There is the angel-whore thing for women. And the fool or genus thing for artists. Or there used to be. For those of my generation, artists will understand how the two are related—though women had only the option of afflicting themselves with the former—excluded from the latter.

I’m speaking of artists with high aspirations. I don’t know if that exists now, at least not in the same nativity as it once did, as though aspirations of the highest order transcended economics and politics and class… and gender. I come from that generation.

And I am torn asunder by the conflicts between what I’ve inherited, and don’t know how to handle or transform, and what I’ve come to know and understand about the dependency of most, if not all, of what those aspirations and what they meant, on the economic and political forces that largely shaped and almost entirely controlled how they played out in the real world.

One version of the Mahler and Freud and Alma story, is that he gave up, or got over, or whatever… the neurosis that was the cause of his sexual impotency… but also, the source of his musical creativity.

I don’t know that younger artists think this way—or can imagine such a conflict. Though I think it still exists, but in an emergent form I don’t understand. I mean—the drive to make art, and to more than that, to make it MEAN something…even if you have no clue that is, or how to do it…other than following some inappeasable inner guide. That. Will. Not. Let. You. Go!

The angel and the whore. Everyone has the capacity to make art. And in any world I would want to live in, that would happen. No one should be denied the opportunity, the exposure to the art of the past—from all cultures and traditions! So I don’t stand in judgment. There can be no just gatekeepers in this utterly corrupted capitalist, colonialist world.

But is everyone afflicted by this … “aspiration?” Is it no more than market ambition, in the guise of a wish for an impossible posterity? Or momentary “fame?” … better called, notoriety? Or only those of my generation… still infected with something we can’t possibly describe or understand in these new conditions?

All I can say is… I would never give up whatever craziness or neurosis I’m burdened with, no matter what inflictions that might entail—if it meant, no longer being able to make art. Poetry. Literature.

Alma can find someone else to fuck.

5 thoughts on “Mahler and Freud

  1. Mahler never stopped being neurotic or creative, just shifted directions. Creative expression will flow in one form or another. Keep in mind there is a whole layer of gender politics involved that is re-enforced by a society. Both were creative individualists fighting against social restraints, while trying to maintain a social standing that let them express themselves.

    Creative expression comes in many forms and we live in an age of new forms of mass media. As a consequence we do not have a dominant art style because we lack a dominant medium of expression. Perhaps movies and television are still in dominance but that is shifting.

    Keep making art. Create, communicate, explore & share. 🙂


  2. I was responding only to one version of the myths that have grown around that meeting. As for a dominant art form, I don’t know what that means. Dominant where? For whom? That seems to accept a world as defined by capitalism in its late and utterly corrupt form. To make art, or to seek compensation and reward under these terms, is to accept servitude to the masters who work the machinery—and it will be that machine that determine what will be dominant, by what best serves its predatory owners.

    I want to imagine what art might be in a world after capitalism, and to create for that world. That means creating in a state of heightened uncertainty, and of a quite different order than that which still assumes the conditions defined by capitalism are the whole of reality, with nothing outside of it and no place to go.

    No revolution without poetry. No poetry without revolution.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dominant art forms derive from the dominant medium in a culture. In a culture where the dominant medium is oral literacy we see that poetry becomes the dominant art form in story telling and then incorporates music, dance and theatre.

    When there is a shift to mass production of printed text then the dominant art form in story telling shifts from poetry to prose as the novel develops. Note Shakespeare and his cohorts fall in the transition period. Poetry is popular amongst those who read and write and can afford books. Popular story telling still poetic in form is presented through the popular mass medium of theatre.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I understand your points about a dominant art form. My remark wasn’t about how culture determines what that will be, but about that culture itself. If this remains an invisible and ineluctable force—capitalism as nature itself, artists will be little more than slaves, serving up propaganda to foster the illusion that there is no other reality, for no form of art will be recognized or rewarded in this culture that does not serve this purpose, perpetuating racism, endless war, patriarchy, destruction of public education through privatization, and ultimately—suicide of our species.

    I want to create art for the revolution, for what might exist after we have replaced this empire of money and death, art that exposes the illusion and gives us vision to imagine another world, another reality. That means finding the means to untangle ourselves from dependency on the commodification of our art, for the visual arts—the end of the gallery to investment pipeline and it’s critic-gatekeepers. I have several posts on this here on Magic Names.
    See: tag Art & Capitalism


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