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The Musical Foundation of Being Human: A Psychoanalytic Perspective

September 13, 2023 @ 10:00pm - 11:30pm EDT

Instructor: Duane Dale, MD
Course Description

In these nine monthly seminars, we will be discussing the book, Here I’m Alive: The Spirit of Music in Psychoanalysis, written by Adam Blum, Peter Goldberg, and Michael Levin. In my reading of this book, much of the exciting growth in psychoanalytic perspectives is captured and synthesized. The musical experience, those times that stay with us and continue to have an impact, is used as a powerful metaphor for furthering the understanding of the clinical experience and with an emphasis on the importance of connecting with aliveness in our work.

To give a sense of the book and what we will be discussing, here are excerpts from the preface:
“Our project explores ways that this Enlightenment (i.e., thinking over being) paradigm has permeated the history of psychoanalytic theory and practice as we endeavor to unearth an older substratum of experience that has remained present but obscured.” The authors then go on to list thinkers in the Romantic movement bringing in different perspectives than from Enlightenment, that included “psychoanalytic theorists like Donald Winnicott, Marion Milner, Jean Laplanche, Thomas Ogden, and Adam Phillips. With different emphases, all of these thinkers and artists have worked out accounts of how it is that culture shapes human perception, thought, and comportment on the deepest levels of embodiment. We extend this account by proposing that the interface of psyche and culture is fundamentally musical.”
“The work of psychoanalysis, in this view, is to facilitate fuller and freer vibration…, cultivating and amplifying the idiomatic freedom of each instrument to sing through the chorus of musica humana, to resound the psyche-somatic energies of being human, to surf the waves of the weave.”

And a final quote from the end of the book: “Like the best psychoanalysis, music reminds us, as Freud intimated in his late paper “Finite and Infinite Analysis,” that we have to stop, so that we can go on. It never ends, Winnicott added, because we’re never gonna get it, as Phillips put it. But, as Bion believed, we feel more because we know less at the end than we did at the beginning. We are able to enter different frames that are not fantasies. Because they are actually here.” Hence the title, Here I’m Alive.

We will be reading from the book and participants will be asked to purchase it.

Debbie Steinke