Melodies of the Mind: Connections between Psychoanalysis and Music

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Melodies of the Mind: Connections Between Psychoanalysis and Music, by Julie Jaffee Nagel. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2013.; 142 pp., $37.95.


Melodies of the Mind: Connections Between Psychoanalysis and Music by Julie Jaffee Nagel is an interesting although not easy read, using music "as an aural pathway to emotion and unconscious process." Nagel is a psychoanalyst who also has professional qualifications as a musician (trained at Juilliard), and it is this deep knowledge of both fields that allows her to write persuasively about how musical and psychoanalytic concepts can intersect and/or inform each other. While an understanding of musical terms and musical structures certainly aids a reader in following her arguments, she has attempted to write in a way that does not require prior knowledge of either field. The 26-page preamble is the densest and most challenging for a reader without a background in Freud's classical psychoanalytic theory; however, it presents a helpful overview of Freud's life in fin de siecle Vienna and the work of previous scholars connecting music and psychoanalysis. Twelvetone technique, for example, has been likened to free association, and tonal uncertainty in the "Tristan chord" linked to ambiguity and mental conflict.

The central argument of the book is found in five chapters where musical examples (or "case-ettes") become the point of entry to discuss psychological issues. "Gee, Officer, Krupke" focuses on the triton and the gang fights, mistrust and misunderstandings in West Side Story. …