The Psychodynamics of Chronic Depression in Music: An Agentially-Enriched Narrative Reading of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, Op. 47, Movement I

Thomas Benjamin Yee


Analyzing Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata using the lenses of virtual agency and musical narrativity reveals a failure of the tragic-to-transcendent expressive genre. Adopting a psychodynamic perspective yields an agentially-enriched narrative reading, highlighting a tragic flaw that serves as an expressive premise for the musical discourse. The musical subjectivity cannot complete a positive or transcendent thought, but slips inexorably into the tragic. From a psychopathological perspective, this characteristic suggests chronic depression, a connection solidified by musical suggestions of rumination and alexithymia. The burgeoning practice of musical semiotics offers fresh insight into the “aboutness” problem from the philosophy of aesthetics. Specifically, interpretation combined with Julian Dodd’s concept of music’s displaying properties to attain referentiality[1] enables music to be profound, pace Peter Kivy.[2] Even the Kreutzer Sonata,a tragic narrative displaying characteristics of chronic depression, offers crucial insight into aspects of life and may thus more than adequately warrant the description of profound.

[1]. Julian Dodd, “The Possibility of Profound Music,” British Journal of Aesthetics 54, No. 3 (July 2014): 304, 309.

[2]. Peter Kivy, Music Alone: Philosophical Reflections on the Purely Musical Experience (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990): 8, 204, 217.


Narrativity; Expressive Genre; Psychodynamics; Chronic Depression; Musical Topics; Aboutness Problem; Aesthetics; Semiotic Analysis

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