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Feder, S. (1981). Gustav Mahler: The Music of Fratricide. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 8:257-284.

(1981). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 8:257-284

Gustav Mahler: The Music of Fratricide

Stuart Feder


In this musical-psychoanalytic study of Gustav Mahler, certain of the sources of the composer's creativity are considered, namely, those related to fratricidal fantasy. In connexion with this, the relationship of the content of art to the biography of the artist is studied, and therefore the role of conflict in the realization of an art form.

Against the background of childhood, Mahler's relationship to his thirteen living and dead siblings is taken up, in particular that with a pair of surviving brothers one of whom, like himself, was a musician. This study focuses on the period of the composer's early thirties when, following the deaths of both parents and his assumption of a role in loco parentis, there was a resurgence of earlier fratricidal fantasy and impulse.

The relationship of this mental trend to the music is demonstrated in analyses of the Second Symphony of this period, certain related songs of Des Knaben Wunderhorn and the earlier Das Klagende Lied, a cantata based on a tale of fratricide. The role of aggression in music is discussed.

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