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.