Autobiography and Psychomusicology: Introduction to the Special Issue "A History of Music Psychology in Autobiography"

By Cohen, Annabel J. | Psychomusicology, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Autobiography and Psychomusicology: Introduction to the Special Issue "A History of Music Psychology in Autobiography"


Cohen, Annabel J., Psychomusicology


ABSTRACT-This special issue of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain presents the scholarly autobiographies of 12 pioneers in the psychology of music. Each has witnessed over four decades of academic life and has contributed to the foundation of the field of music psychology that now flourishes. Authors were asked to recount the influences on their careers and to share lessons learned. Each of these inspirational histories exemplifies originality, tenacity, insight, and intellect. Common themes and connections among the biographies also provide a context for better understanding the present discipline of the psychology of music. Representing the United States, the most prolific country in an absolute sense, are papers by Jay Dowling, Mari Riess Jones, Roger Shepard, and a co-authored paper by James Carlsen, Jack Taylor, and David Brian Williams. The extensive international activity in the field is represented by Lola Cuddy (Canada), Andrew Gregory (UK), Alf Gabrielsson (Sweden), Helga de la Motte (Germany), Kengo Ohgushi (Japan) and Andrzej Rakowski (Poland). Together the authors reflect the scope of the psychology of music and highlight its importance to interdisciplinary scholarship. As pointed out by guest co-editor Amy Graziano in a final review, the collection is testament to the development of a research community. The special issue also contributes to the history of psychology in general and to the field of biography.

At a recent biennial meeting of the Society of Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC, 2007), outgoing President Mari Riess Jones commented to the plenary group of several hundred in attendance that such a large gathering was not to be taken lightly. Her observation resonated with those of us in the authence who had watched the field escalate over the last decades. In view of the growth of the field, I had suggested to the Associate Editors of Psychomusicology, Lauren Stewart, Bruno Repp, and W. Jay Dowling, the possibility of an autobiographical issue to capture and celebrate the progress so unimaginable years ago. As we were all attending the SMPC meeting, we decided then and there to proceed with the idea, particularly encouraged by the agreement of Jay Dowling to contribute his own history. Later at the conference we invited autobiographies from two eminent pioneers of the field, Lola Cuddy and Mari Jones herself, both of whom were longstanding members of the Consulting Board of Psychomusicology. In the weeks ahead, others were invited, and the idea of the autobiographical issue became the reality you see before you.

Gathering autobiographical writings in psychology is by no means new. Approximately two dozen autobiographies of psychologists are published in the series begun by Carl Murchison (Volumes I - III, 1930-1936) with the project taken on by Gardner Lindzey, Edwin Boring and their collaborators in later years (to Volume IX, 2007). Among the autobiographies in the Murchison series are those of Carl Seashore (1930/1961) and Carl Stumpf (1930/1961), who devoted much of their careers to music psychology. It is important for the field to see the recognition of their work within the early history of psychology. More recently, a four-volume History of Neuroscience in Autobiography (Squire, 1996, 1998) has been compiled. James Birren and Johannes Schroots (2000) also published 24 autobiographies associated with the field of geropsychology. Countering the disproportionate male representation in these volumes is a three-volume series edited by Agnes O'Connell (1983, 2001; O'Connell & Russo, 1988) of 53 autobiographical reflections of women in psychology. Robert Sternberg (2002) edited a volume of autobiographical chapters written by psychologists who "defied the crowd". Sadly, none of the recent pioneers in music psychology were among any of these collections. For their impact and often their defiance of the crowd, their stories have every reason to be told.

Autobiography satisfies a natural curiosity that people have about other people.

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