Between Couch and Piano: Psychoanalysis, Music, Art and Neuroscience

By Gilbert J. Rose | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6

In pursuit of slow time

Modern music and a clinical vignette

The creative artist is often fine-tuned to currents of unconscious thought and feeling in inner and outer worlds. This being so, the arts may not only reflect the times but also prefigure them.

Music, the art of time, may mold the perception of the flow of time in such a way as to balance defensive with creative purposes. It may, for example, represent the wishful illusion that the flow of time is controllable-that time is cyclical as well as linear. Perhaps in this way it can serve as an unconscious defense against the fear of death.

The argument of this chapter is that this may be, at least in part, what some music of the modern era is “getting at”-and foretelling. Juxtaposing a clinical vignette to some innovations in the musical approach to time suggests that some of this music, like some traumatized patients, responds to the anticipation of imminent yet unpredictable violence by altering the perception of time itself. Creative and defensive aspects of mastery unite to transform and expand the perception of this temporal dimension of contemporary reality through the means of music.

The art of the novel treats the stuff of personality as a malleable medium. The novelist reaches into himself/herself to discover the raw material of memory and imagination, therein fashioning characters and narrative possibilities. They reflect the potential and the limits of the “multiple personalities” within each of us.

Music, too, treats its material as a malleable aesthetic medium. However, its material being time, and nonverbal, we are confronted with especially formidable problems-problems regarding the nature of time, and the need to use language to discuss a nonverbal art-form.

The Greeks used two different terms, kairos and chronos, to refer to different modes of experiencing time and organizing behavior in

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