Dr. Michael Klein, Temple University
What Lacan Teaches Us About Music
Unlike Freud, whose hermeneutic impulses reached beyond psychoanalysis and into interpretations of literature, art, and even civilizations, Lacan spent little ink in his voluminous writings on the interpretation of artworks. This situation changed with the revival of Lacan’s thought in the 1990’s by Žižek, whose Enjoy Your Symptom! (1992) used movies to explain Lacanian concepts and vice versa. Since Žižek’s work, Lacanian readings of literature and cinema have become especially common. As always, music has lagged in this area with notable exceptions by David Schwarz (Listening Subjects, 1997), Sarah Reichardt (Composing the Modern Subject, 2008), Seth Brodsky (From 1989, 2017), and several others. But Lacan’s model of subjectivity can be so complex and cryptic that even when these forays into his work carefully untangle the model, readers may be baffled about how Lacanian concepts can say anything about music. In this talk, I will take Žižek’s strategy, using cinema to explain Lacan’s ideas, and illustrate how Lacan’s post-human subject can reveal our responses to and interpretations of music. The talk uses The Matrix to understand the Mirror Stage, the Symbolic, and the Real; The Painted Veil illustrates the objet petit a; and No Country for Old Men returns to the Real. In turn, the talk looks at excerpts by Ravel, Brahms, and Schoenberg to reveal how these same concepts work in music.