Freud Museum

Freud and Schoenberg: Elective Affinities

Of all the artforms, Freud was notoriously suspicious of music. Its powerful affect resisted understanding, and for that reason, Freud claimed, he was incapable of deriving any pleasure from it.…

Panels, Lectures & Ideas

Event Details

Category

Panels, Lectures & Ideas

Event Starts

Apr 21, 2024

Of all the artforms, Freud was notoriously suspicious of music. Its powerful affect resisted understanding, and for that reason, Freud claimed, he was incapable of deriving any pleasure from it. The iconoclastic composer, Arnold Schoenberg, Freud’s contemporary in their Vienna years, said or wrote virtually nothing about psychoanalysis directly, yet fervently believed that great art depended on ‘the elimination of the conscious will’. ‘Art belongs to the unconscious’, Schoenberg declared, and during a period of great tension, he named it the ‘Supreme Commander’ in the ordering of his ‘subconscious self’.

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Schoenberg’s birth, this symposium brings the creator of the 12-tone system of composition into (perhaps reluctant) conversation with the founder of psychoanalysis. Our panel of speakers, drawn from musicology, music criticism, philosophy, cultural and social histories, will explore a series of ‘elective affinities’, potentially powerful connections, consonant and dissonant thoughts and practices which perhaps can only come to light under particular scrutiny. The panels will consider questions around language and structure; liberation and containment; hysteria and feminism; faith, ambivalence and despair; exile and refuge. We are delighted to welcome Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker for many years, and noted for The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2007) and Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (2020), as our keynote speaker. Panels will include musical examples and readings.

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