Today, I am happy to say, I show no ill effects from this policy. Indeed, I believe I am entirely free of "neurosis" as I don't even believe such a thing exists. And I'm happy to be rid of that pesky subconscious as well. One happy side-effect is that there is a lot of prose heavily-laden with psychology that I no longer have to read!
Which brings me to my topic for today: psychologically-oriented books on music such as the one on Mozart by Maynard Solomon. Like one of the reviewers on Amazon, I simply stopped reading it part-way through. Under my new policy (which isn't so new, I've been practicing it for twenty or so years now), much of the book is simply meaningless blather. Let me offer an extended quote:
The felicitous states that frame Mozart's excursions into anxiety may represent a variety of Utopian modalities, and the impinging, disturbing materials may be taken to represent a variety of fearful things--the hidden layers of the unconscious, the terrors of the external world, a principle of evil, the pain of loss, or the irrevocability of death. An argument can be made, however, that in the last analysis we bring to the entire continuum of such states derivatives of feelings having their origin in early stages of our lives, and in particular the preverbal state of symbiotic fusion of infant and mother, a matrix that constitutes an infancy-Eden of unsurpassable beauty but also a state completely vulnerable to terrors of separation, loss, and even fears of potential annihilation, a state that inevitably terminates in parting, which even under the most favorable circumstances leaves a residue of grief and melancholy, engendering a desire--wrapped in the likelihood of further disillusionment--to rediscover anew the sensations of undifferentiated fusion with a nurturing caretaker. Not without reason, the British psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott described a baby as "an immature being who is all the time on the brink of unthinkable anxiety." an anxiety that is kept at bay only through a mother's ongoing, mirroring validation of the infant's existence. It may be such a precarious moment where inexpressible ecstasy collides with unthinkable anxiety that we sense in the Andante of Mozart's A-minor Sonata, which reduced to its simplest essence, tells a story about trouble in paradise.
Or not! Whew! Yes, it is quite a shock at the end to find that this passage is about Mozart and, in particular, the Andante of the Sonata, K. 310 that I was talking about yesterday in this post. Actually, it is not the whole Andante he is talking about, just the development section which slips into the somewhat remote key of C minor for dramatic contrast. Yes, Mr. Solomon certainly seems to have gotten his money's worth out of that development section. But somewhere, from some niche of heaven, I seem to hear peals of raucous laughter that I believe are coming from the shade of Mozart himself.
In my little book of rules of intellectual ethics, there is a section on excessive claims that says something about distrusting any account that is constantly throwing up superlatives like "unsurpassable", "unthinkable" and "inexpressible". Not only this passage, but whole chapters and indeed, the fundamental stance of this book, is simply absurd. This kind of thinking clouds your mind. Reading this is like trying to swim in peanut butter. The connection between the words and the reality is so remote that he could be talking about nearly anything. The relation between this and Mozart is so tenuous that it might as well be nonexistent.
I labeled this with the tag "new" musicology, but it isn't even that: this is more like shop-worn New Age dithering.
Now, to clear the palate, let's listen to some actual Mozart, not someone's neurotic (heh) maunderings. Here is Mitsuko Uchida with the first movement of the Piano Sonata in A minor, K. 310 by Mozart.
If the real Mozart's music had anything at all to do with the expression of a being on the brink of unthinkable anxiety, then we would not find it at all worth while to listen to, now would we?