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Barale, F. Minazzi, V. (2008). Off the Beaten Track: Freud, Sound and Music. Statement of a Problem and Some Historico-Critical Notes. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(5):937-957.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(5):937-957

Off the Beaten Track: Freud, Sound and Music. Statement of a Problem and Some Historico-Critical Notes

Francesco Barale and Vera Minazzi

(Final version accepted 25 March 2008)

The authors note that the element of sound and music has no place in the model of mental functioning bequeathed to us by Freud, which is dominated by the visual and the representational. They consider the reasons for this exclusion and its consequences, and ask whether the simple biographical explanation offered by Freud himself is acceptable. This contribution reconstructs the historical and cultural background to that exclusion, cites some relevant emblematic passages, and discusses Freud's position on music and on the aesthetic experience in general. Particular attention is devoted to the relationship between Freud and Lipps, which is important both for the originality of Lipps's thinking in the turn-of-the-century debate and for his ideas on the musical aspects of the foundations of psychic life, at which Freud ‘stopped’, as he himself wrote. Moreover, the shade of Lipps accompanied Freud throughout his scientific career from 1898 to 1938. Like all foundations, that of psychoanalysis was shaped by a system of inclusions and exclusions. The exclusion of the element of sound and music is understandable in view of the cultural background to the development of the concepts of the representational unconscious and infantile sexuality. While the consequences have been far reaching, the knowledge accumulated since that exclusion enables us to resume, albeit on a different basis, the composition of the ‘unfinished symphony’ of the relationship between psychoanalysis and music.

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