Freud and Mozart in Vienna

This time last week, I was baking in the hot Viennese summer as I went around market places, museums, local eateries and the u-bahn underground transport in Vienna. The city itself is a beautiful and unique blend of old-world Europe and modern, fast-paced city life. Complete with its own bloody history of war and poverty also comes a history of some of the world’s most influential people. I feel quite privileged to have walked on the streets, visited the houses and glimpsed the lives of two particular men. If you’ve read the title, you will probably realise that the two people I am talking about are indeed the psycho-analyst, Sigmund Freud and the musician/composer Wolfgang Mozart.

As a person who spent an entire year dedicated to studying chronic pain and therefore immersing myself in the nitty-gritty of psychology and neurobiology, Sigmund Freud became a big name for me. He is like the A-list celebrity of Psychology or rather modern psychology as we know it. He was the first to coin the term ‘The couch’. In his time The couch was literally the sofa on which Freud’s patients revealed their deepest secrets and maladies. Its now become a metaphor for a ‘safe-haven’. Where patients can discuss any medical issue they have without fear of judgement or ridicule. His theories on depression, sexual development and the role of the upbringing of children are although somewhat unconventional, certainly were the stepping stones for modern thinking. The museum itself, however, did not go into much detail about his academic achievements but was more dedicated to show-casing the kind of person he was. And let me tell you, just like his work, Freud was a very quirky man! He claimed he couldn’t write without smoking a cigar. So when ill-health stopped him from smoking, his writing dwindled too. He worked in his study from morning to evening sitting in only one chair. During his recreational period (the few minutes in which he allowed himself to take a break) he would swing his one leg over the arm rest and lean all the way back. Apparently this was comfortable. In his later years, a friend of Freud’s designed a chair for him to maximise the comfort in the peculiar position that Freud chose to adopt. The fact that during Nazi rule, Freud and his family had to be moved to London didn’t phase him in the slightest. He continued with his work and went on to publish some of the greatest works that psychology has to offer. If you are even the slightest way inclined, I do urge you to read some of his works. If nothing else, it will give you a sense of bewilderment and appreciation for the intricacies and co-dependency of the body, mind and brain. Click here for more about Freud.

Wolfgang Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria. He wasn’t from a rich family growing up but his genius and talent was apparent from an early age. The then monarch of Vienna, Mary Theresa, invited a 4-year old Mozart to preform at the Schonbrunn palace in Vienna; the residential home of her majesty. Incidentally Mary Theresa was the mother of Mary Antoinette, who in turn was the Austrian princess who married the French King. One of the most famous lines in the history of royalty was spoken by Mary Antoinette. She is famous for saying ‘If there is no bread, eat cake!’ Anyway, back to Mozart. He moved as a young boy to live in with a few people in Vienna. His compositions picked up and as his talent grew, so did his fame. If he were alive today, he would be in the same circle as the likes of ‘The Beatles’ or ‘Queen’. Or substitute with your favourite music band/ singer. Mozart only lived in Vienna for 2.5 years but had some of his big successes in that house. During that time, he tutored a young boy, raised a family, made a career and even looked after good ole dad for two months. As most people of his time, Mozart was quite connected to the sciences. Almost as much as he was to his compositions. And he once said to a languages teacher at some lodge:

Patience and tranquility of mind contribute more to cure of our distempers as the whole art of medicine.

And I think Freud would have probably agreed with him. I certainly do. One cannot hope to be well if their mind is at unease or restless.

Mozart died of an illness which to this date medics and fans have not been able to identify. At the time the only cure they could offer was cupping and blood-letting. This didn’t so much as help him but make him weaker due to the blood loss. He continued with his music right until the end. And very much like Freud, he left a legacy behind.

Freud and Mozart, although two distinct people from different eras and completely separate spheres, were actually two sides of the same coin. Whilst one progressed society towards civilisation and betterment of psychological problems, the other progressed society through his music and the realisation that the world is ours. I personally found these museums very intriguing. Because the life I live today, right from the music I listen to on radio to the way I was brought up by my parents has some Freudian and some Mozart influences. And its not just me. Its all of us. Humans have a lot to thank to these two eccentric, flawed but equally inspirational people.




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