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Music and the Mind Paperback – October 19, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rejecting the Freudian notion that music is a form of infantile escapism, British psychologist Storr ( Solitude ) argues that music originates from the human brain, promotes order within the mind, exalts life and gives it meaning. In an engaging inquiry, Storr speculates on music's origins in preliterate societies and examines its therapeutic powers, even in people with neurological diseases that cause movement disorders. Focusing on Western classical music from Bach to Stravinsky, he rejects the view, expounded by Leonard Bernstein and others, that the Western tonal system is a universal scheme rooted in the natural order. Citing studies of physiological arousal, Storr updates Arthur Schopenhauer's thesis that music portrays the inner flow of life more directly than the other arts. He turns to Friedrich Nietzsche, a philosopher, pianist and composer, for an understanding of music as an affirmative medium that helps us transcend life's essential tragedy.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

The editor, Anthony Storr, is a doctor, psychiatrist and analyst (trained in the school of C.G.) and author of 'Jung' (a Fontana Modern Master,1973) amongst many others. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (October 19, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345383184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345383181
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 67 people found the following review helpful By J. Duncan on February 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Storr begins with the ambitious task of answering the following question: why does a minor scale sound sad and why does a major scale sound happy? He takes the reader on an informative and thought provoking history of that examines the elements of music common to all societies and ultimately reaches his final and most important conclusion on the ultimate benefit we derive from music: peace, resolution and piece of mind. Storr's ultimate claim is that counterpoint in music and resolution does musically what people so often cannot do in real life: resolve opposing and competing forces.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on October 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
The author is an acclaimed psychiatrist whose personal life was very sad and lonely; he attributed his passion for music as the element which preserved his sanity and emotional equilibrium. Out of the many books he wrote, this was his favorite. He attempts to discover what it is about music that so profoundly affects us, and why it is such an important part of our culture. In doing so, he quotes a vast array of opinions; actually he draws more from what other peole have had to say about music than his own personal opinion.
Storr sees music as subjective, emotional need for communication with other human beings; it structures time and brings order out of chaos, and it has a positive effect upon patients with neurological diseases. Physiologically, the emotional response is centered in the right hemisphere whilst the ability to appreciate structure and make critical judgments is located on the left side of the brain. He is of the opinion that music originates from the human brain rather than from the natural world and its universality depends on the urge to impose order upon our experience. He criticizes the dispute between formalists and expressionists since for him it is obvious that appreciation of both form and emotional significance enter into the experience of every listener and cannot be separated. Contrary to Freud's opinion, Storr holds that music is not an escape from reality but a means to structure our auditory perceptions and can also serve as a precursor to creative discovery.
The last few chapters are dedicated to a philosophical analysis of the views held mainly by Schopenhauer, Jung, Nietszche with respect to music.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By x-plorer on March 10, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anthony Storr does a very good job describing the various facets of the complex interplay between music and mind. He points to the biological bases of it, explores the philosophical debates around it and gives acounts of basic music theory. He is a good writer and manages to engage the reader's interest through most of the book. That is very admirable considering the nature of the subject matter and the poor job often done by other writes venturing into similar subjects.
There are however some minor flaws. The connection between the biological foundations of music and western philosophy is a difficult and dubious one and Storr does not really manage to fuse them in a smooth and comprehensive way. They stand aloof and strange to each other. Another flaw is the fact that the book heavily, though not exclusively, draws on classical western music: an admitedly very peculiar and eurocentric kind of music. This leaves out much of the richness of other kinds of music e.x. jazz, folk music, religious music. It also makes his principal endeauvour, to connect music to the mind/body, more difficult. Classical music after all epitomizes the cerebral, distanced and controlled sort of musical apprehension in contrast to folk and popular music which is more expressive and ecstatic. Had he made the opposite methodological choice, folk before classical, he might have had more succes in making the connection between music to the mind/body.
Still the book is an excellent introduction to the topic.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Darren on January 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Storr synthesizes his knowledge of biology, psychology, history and evolution and fuses it into a mindful musical journey. This is a thought provoking and comprehensive integration of music and the human psyche, and like many of Storr's books, it enhances your self awareness with each chapter.
Whether, stimulating & arousing or relaxing & calming, music has enormous emotional power. Storr has written an eloquent treatise on how music serves as one of the bridges connecting mind and body.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anti-Climaticus on October 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Coming from a social and psychological perspective, for me Storr's opening insight in this book begins with a discussion of the social origins of music and the place music had in specific cultures. Citing, as an example, Australian Aboriginals, he notes that music was used to store and pass on knowledge that was critical to survival. He notes that early music also served a collective function where music expressed 'the structure of their knowledge and social relations' (19). As well music served as a form of shared identification - they're playing our song - themes, anthems, war crys and so on. From the outset Storr draws on a diversity of material to make his point and the illustrations used in this opening chapter evidence the work that has gone into writing this book. It is also this detail that is such a delight for the reader to take in and it is really difficult to rely the pleasantness of this red without recounting each and all of the stories he recounts. And as such why for me this is a difficult review to write in a manner that captures what Storr offers here.

In Ch 2 Storr begins to unpack his central theme - we can all have physical and emotional responses to music and while we may share similar responses, one person may not necessarily respond to a piece of music exactly the same as another or indeed respond to the same piece in the same way at different times in life. Our methods of perception (left/right brain alone) may mean that we take from music something that another does not. He also notes the capacity for some to empathise with a piece music while others focus on its structure and form. Similarly, a capacity to appreciate music doesn't necessarily translate into a talent for performing music.
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