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Stein, A. (2007). Gustav Mahler: A Life in Crisis. by Stuart Feder M.D. New Haven Conn.: Yale University Press. 2004. Introductory volume: 368. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(3):493-498.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(3):493-498

Gustav Mahler: A Life in Crisis. by Stuart Feder M.D. New Haven Conn.: Yale University Press. 2004. Introductory volume: 368

Review by:
Alexander Stein

Stuart Feder published his first article on Gustav Mahler in 1978. Over the next two and half decades, Feder's initial psychoanalytic exploration of Mahler's life and music were followed by five additional papers. These were interspersed with two books and nearly a dozen articles on Charles Ives; a two—volume series, “Psychoanalytic Explorations in Music,” to which Feder contributed and which he also co—edited; along with many other original articles. With these scholarly contributions, Feder established himself as the dean and preeminent proponent of what has, through his stewardship, become its own interdisciplinary field, the study of psychoanalysis and music.

Feder was uniquely suited to this dual pursuit. As an undergraduate, he studied theory with Henry Cowell at The Peabody Conservatory of Music, and obtained a graduate degree in music from Harvard, studying composition with Walter Piston. He subsequently received medical and psychiatric training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and later graduated from the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.

From the outset, Feder established an original perspective in relating the biographical data of composers’ lives to their creative life in music. He sought to illuminate the overdetermined and multifunctional relationship between the artist's mental life and the music itself by way of a sophisticated, synthesized understanding of both areas. In this mode of analysis, Feder departed significantly both from earlier psychobiographies of composers and psychoanalytic writings on music. He advanced the premise that, in considering the relationship between music and affect, writings on the aesthetics, history, or philosophy of music have always grappled with the manner in which music reflects, symbolizes, and communicates aspects of inner life.

For Feder, the study of the relationship between affect and music has far—reaching and reciprocal merits for psychoanalysts as well as for musicians and those writing about music or musicians.

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