Adam Blum et al., "Here I'm Alive: The Spirit of Music in Psychoanalysis" (Columbia UP, 2023)


Today we have a  group session (read: an hour and a half) with the authors Adam Blum, Peter Goldberg, and Michal Levin discussing their new book Here I’m Alive: The Spirit of Music in Psychoanalysis (Columbia University Press, 2023). Acknowledging that “We’re not the first to think about music in the clinical situation” the authors focused on the analytic project “as a kind of music in its own right.” With an interest in sensory, non-representational experiences. “We settled on music as a primordial operating system that all human beings are brought into.”

We begin the interview with each author sharing their ideas on a key tenet of the book which is that “Before we can become fully functioning emotional, rational, linguistic, cultural, social, or political animals, human beings first become musical animals.” From here we explore the questions posed in the book. “What does the frame, frame?” What is meant by “Music is never the creation of an individual in isolation… there is no such thing as private music”, “What is the process of human musicalization”, “What happens to us when the rhythm changes?”

This was a rich discussion and each author sharpened my thinking. One of the more meaningful exchanges came around my reaction to this line in the book, "the analytic frame may be usable as rhythm from the get-go; the analyst drops the beat, and the dance begins."  In my reading I disagreed sharply. It is the patient who comes in an drops the beat!  Peter's clarifying response to me may be the highlight of many highlights in this enchanting jam session of an interview. 

Near the end of our discussion in which the vicissitudes of induction as enchantment have made repeated appearances, I quote a passage that synthesizes much of the previous 90 minutes and speaks to the emotional resonance of the book.

“There is a good reason why psychoanalysis has been ambivalent about, if not terrified, of enchantment, which is that it’s overwhelmingly powerful and potentially extremely hazardous. Why? Because at bottom the human being seeks and needs induction. We are thus radically suggestible and susceptible to influence and in-form-ation (and possibly ex-form-ation) by the environment, a “dethroning of the ego” that Freud could never accept. Our need for enchantment renders us essentially and permanently vulnerable to being taken over, and the crucial distinction between whether we are malevolently exploited or benevolently induced into culture is harrowingly historical, a matter of what world into which one is born.” (p.70)

Christopher Russell, LP is a psychoanalyst in Chelsea, Manhattan.

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Christopher Russell

Christopher Russell, LP is a psychoanalyst in Chelsea, Manhattan.

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