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Mooney, W.E. (1968). Gustav Mahler a Note on Life and Death in Music. Psychoanal Q., 37:80-102.

(1968). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 37:80-102

Gustav Mahler a Note on Life and Death in Music

William E. Mooney, M.D.

Gustav Mahler, whose creative activity extended from the time of Wagner's death to the appearance of major works by Schoenberg and Stravinsky, was a true innovator in music. Like Beethoven, he links the past with the future. His bond with the past is apparent in his melodic material which, like Schubert's, is based on the Lied. Mahler replaces the vertical way of composition with a horizontal one, thus laying the foundation of later atonal and twelve-tone music.

His music is the subject of considerable critical controversy. Some say that it represents the culmination of all Western symphonic music, while others claim that his works are not music at all. During Mahler's lifetime, his music met with prevailingly hostile criticism and public indifference. After his death, his work was almost totally neglected and he became virtually a forgotten composer until the current upsurge of interest beginning in the late 1940's. Nevertheless some leading musical figures of the twentieth century have been profoundly influenced by Mahler—Webern, Berg, Schoenberg, Britten, and Shostakovitch, among others (13). The composer himself appeared to possess an unfailing confidence in the greatness of his music. 'My time will come', he said over and over. It is of interest to consider the possible sources of such assurance, certainly an important condition for the continuing creative process in this man.

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From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Read at the meeting of the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Society, September 26, 1966.

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