Saturday, 31 December 2016
Freud Museum memories on Radio 3
Coming up on New Year's Day at 18.45, Breaking Free: Freud versus Music, Stephen Johnson's examination of the great man's singular relationship to music. The programme is available here, I assume for more than the usual 28 days as that proviso isn't given. Delightful producer Elizabeth Arno, pictured with Stephen above by me in the famous Maresfield Gardens study (yes, in case you didn't know, that's yer actual couch behind - Berggasse 19 has a copy), asked the folk at the Freud Museum who might represent their side of the argument, and Ivan Ward, who arrived as part of the new batch of 'Museum Educators' towards the end of my group's stint, recommended me.
It was a trip down memory lane in more ways than one. I first met Stephen, now my best pal in the music fraternity, during my year at the Freud, which means both the work and the friendship date back 30 years (ouch). Though the blurb says it was my first job, that's not right; I'd spent a year as Assistant Editor on the beleaguered, shoestring-run Music and Musicians and had just gone freelance, with a book on Richard Strauss to finish. The three days a week at the Freud, sponsored by the Manpower Services Commission - I found the job at Golders Green Job Centre - was just right (pictured below: bin in Maresfield Gardens covered with Freud Anniversary stickers).
Not only that, but it will always be my most meaningful time in some kind of 'office'.I even got to put on a concert of Freud-related works, a sandwich of analogous works - Mahler's Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen in the Schoenberg arrangement, with J as soloist, and Schoenberg's First Chamber Symphony - flanked by the only music Freud seemed to care for, Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, in excerpts arranged for wind. My friend Andrew Constantine brought his Bardi Ensemble from Leicester and I reckon it was a pretty good concert in Belsize Park Town Hall.
I'd completely forgotten that I'd even given a talk on Freud and Music in the museum, and only when Ivan printed out select quotations was my memory jogged this time to realise that Freud actually references Walter's Morgentraumdeutungweise via Sachs. Now that there's a catalogue of the 3000 plus books in the library we were also able to find two short psychoanalytic studies of Wagner operas, both of them gifts so hard to tell if Freud read them or not.
More of the issues you can hear in the complete programme, where I'm proud to stand alongside some fine figures in the psychoanalytic world as the more gossipy lifestyle commenter. We'll see what's there, but the main point is that we spent a very jolly couple of hours in the Museum and as always I sensed that extraordinary centredness and serenity that comes from standing in the downstairs rooms, left as they were at Freud's death by keeper of the flame his daughter Anna.
Stephen and Elizabeth needed to get down to editing business afterwards, so I took myself to Louis up in Hampstead, the Austro-Hungarian cafe, which never changes, for a coffee and cake and then wandered down ever-idyllic Flask Walk in peak Autumntime (as pictured above, looking up towards the local school) to Burgh House for a bowl of appropriately autumnal pumpkin soup
via an affectionate cat, appropriate since Stephen and his wife Kate were recently bereaved of the most characterful feline in the world, Agatha (I always called her A-GAA-the a la Freischütz) and we'd been talking about their new pair. Freud's favourite animals were chows, and he recalled that while stroking one of them, Jo-Fi, he found himself humming, 'unmusical as I am,' 'Dalla sua pace' from Don Giovanni - 'on her peace of mind mine also depends'. The words of the melody unconsciously summoned, he would argue in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, usually had a significance.
Anyway, it's nice, after a rather thin year for me on Radio 3, to be featured in something on New Year's Day. May 2017 be a good one for all, as 2016 has been for me on the personal and work levels albeit a horror on the world front - Brexit, Trump and Aleppo offset in tiny ways by victories for Sadiq Khan as London Mayor and LibDem Sarah Olney overturning the wretched Zac Goldsmith's 23,000 majority in Richmond Park. The fight against Fascism is going to be a hard one, but we've got to get tougher.