Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology



In her paper "The Concentration of the Body," Marion Milner (1960) describes an "inner rhythm in which the conscious common-sense reality ego is recurrently submerged in a changed state of consciousness." She identifies this "recurrent," back-and-forth motion between states of consciousness as intrinsic to confronting an art object. The impetus for this motion, to my mind, is the polarity of each position; the endeavor to experience art destabilizes one's occupation of the "reality" position and sends the viewer toward the "changed state" but also pulls him back from that state. One witnesses this in the clinical situation as therapist and patient struggle to achieve contact without each participant's anxieties, defenses, and "intrusions" (i.e., the end of hour) pulling them out of it, which they inevitably do.

Reading this paper, I found myself contemplating a seemingly unrelated phenomenon: my fascination with the pop song "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac. While there are many things to like about the song -- its wandering melody, the cool, desperate wisdom of the lyrics ("Thunder only happens when it's rainin'/Players only love you when they're playin'") -- what struck me presently was the chord progression, comprised of simply an F major chord, then a G major chord, then back to F, back to G, and so on for the rest of the song, creating a lilting, perpetual motion in the harmonic structure, what is known as ?harmonic rhythm.?

The rules of Western harmony -- which pivot on the dynamics between the tonal center, the "I" or "home" chord, and the dominant "V" chord -- do not readily apply, because it is never clear whether the first or second (or some other) chord is "home." Consequently, there is no sense that one is leaving or returning to the song's home key. Like Winnicott's "going-on-being," the harmony is a verb without a subject (Ogden, 2004), pure motion.

The lyric of the dejected narrator of "Dreams" is herself playing with this dynamic: "What you had/And what you lost/And what you had/And what you lost." In turn, the lyrics and chords catalyze one another to exponentially resonant effects (the song was Fleetwood Mac's only number one hit in the U.S.). I believe that what is so captivating about this paradoxically simple yet elusive chord progression is that it is reminiscent of a "rhythmic" encounter with inner worlds, of which works of art can afford a uniquely spontaneous, sublimated simulation.

Adam Blum, MA
Impulse Potential Space Editor