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

By Gilbert J. Rose | Go to book overview

Preface

Why do music and abstract art pack universal emotional appeal? And, sometimes, “therapeutic” efficacy?

The main thesis of this book is that they tap into a biological need to grow and develop by newly reintegrating thought and feeling.

This is key to a creative expansion of awareness. Thus, the inquiry itself sheds light on the creative process.

My focus on this theme stems from long-standing interest in the arts and from clinical experience as a psychoanalyst. In the latter capacity, I continue to be struck by the shortcomings of words alone to touch emotions in order to effect change and growth. In contrast, abstract art, especially music, can have a direct emotional appeal. Without having to be representational, and irrespective of words or eventual verbalization, they both generate feelings and help to process them.

Closely related to this is their mysterious “therapeutic” efficacy. Like truly satisfying work or the magical mutuality of love, music and art appear to rank among the “natural” means for expanding the apprehension of the riches of reality.

My psychoanalytic understanding suggests that this draws upon the earliest wordless-largely vocal and kinesthetic-emotional rapport between infants and their parents. The infant's survival actually depends on the quality of this nonverbal relationship. So, too, do emotional growth and development. Later on, one's attachment to art encourages ongoing elaboration and refinement of emotions, thus deepening the quality of life.

This volume is based on my trilogy on nonverbal aesthetic form and psychoanalysis (G.J. Rose, 1980, 1987, 1996). It incorporates an overview of that work but also advances the project of building

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