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Music and the Mind

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"Writing with grace and clarity...he touches on everything from the evolution of the Western tonal system, to the Freudian theory of music as infantile escapism, to the differing roles o the right and left brain in perceiving music." WALL STREET JOURNAL Drawing on his own life long passion for music and synthesizing the theories of Plato, Schopenhauer, Stravinsky, Nietzsche "Writing with grace and clarity...he touches on everything from the evolution of the Western tonal system, to the Freudian theory of music as infantile escapism, to the differing roles o the right and left brain in perceiving music." WALL STREET JOURNAL Drawing on his own life long passion for music and synthesizing the theories of Plato, Schopenhauer, Stravinsky, Nietzsche, Bartok, and others, distinguished author and psychologist Anthony Storr illuminates music's deep beauty and timeless truth and why and how music is one of the fundamental activities of mankind.


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"Writing with grace and clarity...he touches on everything from the evolution of the Western tonal system, to the Freudian theory of music as infantile escapism, to the differing roles o the right and left brain in perceiving music." WALL STREET JOURNAL Drawing on his own life long passion for music and synthesizing the theories of Plato, Schopenhauer, Stravinsky, Nietzsche "Writing with grace and clarity...he touches on everything from the evolution of the Western tonal system, to the Freudian theory of music as infantile escapism, to the differing roles o the right and left brain in perceiving music." WALL STREET JOURNAL Drawing on his own life long passion for music and synthesizing the theories of Plato, Schopenhauer, Stravinsky, Nietzsche, Bartok, and others, distinguished author and psychologist Anthony Storr illuminates music's deep beauty and timeless truth and why and how music is one of the fundamental activities of mankind.

30 review for Music and the Mind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mikael Lind

    This is a splendid book on music! It's not often that I read a non-fiction book from start to finish without reading some good fiction in between, but that was the case with this book; maybe because I am myself a musician and so the topic speaks to me directly, but also because the book is very well written. True, one can criticize the book on three accounts. First, the author should have connected the philosophical writings in the latter half of the book more with his knowledge in psychology. The This is a splendid book on music! It's not often that I read a non-fiction book from start to finish without reading some good fiction in between, but that was the case with this book; maybe because I am myself a musician and so the topic speaks to me directly, but also because the book is very well written. True, one can criticize the book on three accounts. First, the author should have connected the philosophical writings in the latter half of the book more with his knowledge in psychology. The book maybe tries to be too broad, but this didn't bother me too much since I found that the book nevertheless made me want to read more on the different topics. Second, the book is largely built around quotes from different other thinkers. I would have liked to read more of Storr's own views, but on the other hand, the quotes are often interesting and they made me want to read some of the books from which Storr found them. Third, although Storr dismisses the claim that Western music is somehow "better" than other kinds of music, the latter part of the book almost solely focuses on Western thinkers and composers. Still, I'm not troubled by this fact. Storr grew up in Europe; it follows that his expertise is best when it comes to Western music. This doesn't mean that you couldn't transfer the theoretical aspects of the book to doing research on music from other parts of the world. So, bottom line, even though this book is by no means a exhaustive work in the field of music psychology and music philosophy (it is, in fact, rather light), what makes it so good is the way in which it explains so much current thought on the topic in a really accessible and readable way. For me, it worked perfect as an introduction to more difficult works. Truly great!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Arjun Ravichandran

    In our logos-dominated society, music (not possessing any discernible relation to the external world) often seems a meaningless indulgence ('auditory cheesecake', as Steven Pinker once scathingly observed) - but this is profoundly untrue, especially for those love music. But this latter group of people are often clueless when it comes to describing why music moves them so profoundly - after all, they are just tones, sounds - arranged in a particular sequence and perceived through the hearing app In our logos-dominated society, music (not possessing any discernible relation to the external world) often seems a meaningless indulgence ('auditory cheesecake', as Steven Pinker once scathingly observed) - but this is profoundly untrue, especially for those love music. But this latter group of people are often clueless when it comes to describing why music moves them so profoundly - after all, they are just tones, sounds - arranged in a particular sequence and perceived through the hearing apparatus of homo sapiens.. But like, that famous haiku goes "but yet, but yet.." The search for this elusive 'more' that music provides to its supplicants is basically at the heart of this fairly dense book. The writing is like quicksilver, dense and light at the same time, as the author (a psychiatrist by profession) wears his erudition lightly, weaving a tapestry of informed speculation drawn from the coils of anthropology, ethnomusicology, psychoanalysis (of course), and philosophy. This exploration is conducted through several pointed chapters, each a dense article in itself, dealing with questions that only a music obsessive would ponder : where exactly does music come from? (possibly from our primate heritage) is it true, as freud suspected, that the fundamental attraction of music is that it represents an escape from depressing reality? (sort of, but not entirely) He even takes a gander at the speculation that solitary listening to music (an evolutionarily novel, and historically very recent phenomenon) can be construed as neurotic phenomenon. The conclusion that the author arrives at (after several detours and pitstops) is that music is meaningful precisely because we are, by necessity, meaning-making creatures - we do not grasp individual phenomena as they are by themselves, but their relations. In this, music's well-known affinity with mathematics is made clear, both are concerned with the implicit ordering of abstract phenomena (the relation between tones in music, and the process of ordering itself in mathematics), but mathematics does not have the bodily component that music does. We are inescapably bodily creatures, and music is inescapably bodily. Music thus manages to be both abstract and concrete, mind and body, at the same time - it moves us so profoundly and at our whole being, because it is a synthesis and a re-unity of aspects of ourselves that are very often divided. It is the ur-phenomenon of the primal human process of meaning-making, the crystalline model of our intuitively-felt flow of life. The author quotes Nietzsche (who has a chapter devoted to him) approvingly, "If not for music, existence would most certainly be considered a mistake." - and the author himself, ends his treatise with the expansive declaration that "music is an unasked-for, and undeserved blessing - transcendent." I feel as though the author, given the opportunity to write about the love of his life, has just thrown the kitchen sink at it - like all love letters, it is passionate, a bit messy, and a tour-de-force of intellectual synthesis (OK, maybe not the last one) - strongly recommended for anyone who has heard a song. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that while the author's specialty and focus is the tradition known as Western classical music, a knowledge of music theory is not really required (except for the chapter "Basic Patterns" which purports to investigate the claim for the supposed objective basis for the Western harmonic system), given that the book is written at a sufficiently general level - an achievement I feel is of real credit to the author.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lin

    I will review this book in the style that Mr. Storr wrote it. First a quote from the goodreads member, Jigsaw, who recently finished reading the book. "This book wasn't what I expected; nevertheless, it was good once I understood what the actual point was. I thought at first that it would address psychological aspects of music primarily. Instead, it focuses briefly on physiological aspects of music, and then becomes more of a review of philosophy of music. Once I got used to this, it was decent. I will review this book in the style that Mr. Storr wrote it. First a quote from the goodreads member, Jigsaw, who recently finished reading the book. "This book wasn't what I expected; nevertheless, it was good once I understood what the actual point was. I thought at first that it would address psychological aspects of music primarily. Instead, it focuses briefly on physiological aspects of music, and then becomes more of a review of philosophy of music. Once I got used to this, it was decent. The author does spend a lot of his time quoting others, though." I, too, felt very much the same way about this book, both in what I initially thought the book was about and what I quickly realized was the real emphasis of the text. Mr. Storr's writing is mostly the binding agent for the copious quotes that fill a good third or more of the book. After a few chapters I looked forward to reading the quotes more than Mr. Storr's writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Billy Coupar

    I would agree with most of the other reviews here in that; if knowledge is power, then you'll certainly be powerful after reading this. Lots of great references and interesting ideas, which lead you to other books and concepts. However it is extremely academic and the other reviewers are right when they tell you that a lot of the book is made from quotations, long and short.

  5. 4 out of 5

    JP

    Some beautiful girls fascinate us Sometimes books also You open this book and fall into the lake of music Author has deep understanding about music it includes origin as well as style of every famous musicians You love to learn the origin of music from birds and ends with human and also the perceptions of great mind about music Signing Freud, Nietzsche, Russell. Schopenhauer, Carl Jung also discussed precisely. A complete entertainment about music.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Kinsey

    A good British general summary of the way things are.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Benitez Bryn2

    this series so good

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gary Gress

    Reading this, I felt like I was on an aimless and wandering journey, with many stops along the way to regard the varied and numerous monuments (quotations).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I've concluded that what Anthony Storr discusses about the psychogenic (psycho-, mental, -genic, coming from - starting from the mind) causes and effects of music has a great deal of merit, even if he may be no better educated about it than I am. (His focus: the human body; mine: making music and understanding language) I think this is worth pondering, even if you aren't a musician or a neurologist. (Maybe it is not the most appropriate for my elementary school colleagues, but maybe they could l I've concluded that what Anthony Storr discusses about the psychogenic (psycho-, mental, -genic, coming from - starting from the mind) causes and effects of music has a great deal of merit, even if he may be no better educated about it than I am. (His focus: the human body; mine: making music and understanding language) I think this is worth pondering, even if you aren't a musician or a neurologist. (Maybe it is not the most appropriate for my elementary school colleagues, but maybe they could look up the great music he mentions! To practise for research they might do later.) After all, health and well-being are not only for the few. So I am glad to have hung in there and made it through migraines and semi-busy lifestyle to appreciate this Oxford psychiatric work. As John Logan's quoted on the title page, "Music's the medicine of the mind." Why does an arrayed set of tones move a listener? I think this is well-addressed with only a minimal background in music or mental health necessary. Everything else can be easily looked up. N.B.: If you're not used to getting information from this kind of book ("academic" I see other reviewers call it), it could be daunting.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    This book was basically all about the author's opinion on how he feels music effects and impacts people on an everyday basis. Storr believes music plays a significant role in everyone's lives. He talks about how music helps people getting through difficult times, how we are surrounded by it. This book was actually pretty interesting for a non-fiction book. Although it is usually more difficult for me to read non-fiction books quickly, this book was interesting enough to be a quick read. I was ab This book was basically all about the author's opinion on how he feels music effects and impacts people on an everyday basis. Storr believes music plays a significant role in everyone's lives. He talks about how music helps people getting through difficult times, how we are surrounded by it. This book was actually pretty interesting for a non-fiction book. Although it is usually more difficult for me to read non-fiction books quickly, this book was interesting enough to be a quick read. I was able to relate to how music impacts daily lives and learn about the way it does effect people. After reading this book, I realized that music is an essential part of everybody's live. Music is in everyone's life because there is one that fits them. There are so many genres and types of music that there has to be one for everyone.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barnaby Thieme

    Made it about half-way through this book -- it doesn't strike me as worth finishing. It's not bad as far as it goes, but Storr is no authority on this topic. He's a psychologist who has written books about a number of eclectic subjects, and has no specialization in musicology or music psychology. This book is essentially a long essay by somebody who is generally smart and who has reflected philosophically about music with the resources of a decently-read layperson, but he doesn't seem any more q Made it about half-way through this book -- it doesn't strike me as worth finishing. It's not bad as far as it goes, but Storr is no authority on this topic. He's a psychologist who has written books about a number of eclectic subjects, and has no specialization in musicology or music psychology. This book is essentially a long essay by somebody who is generally smart and who has reflected philosophically about music with the resources of a decently-read layperson, but he doesn't seem any more qualified in his judgments than I am, and I don't mean I'm an expert. We've done nearly equivalent amounts of reading on the subject, but I'm not running out to write about book about it. (shrug) I know there's a book out there on music psychology that is the one I'm looking for, but this wasn't it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Quinn

    What was good about this book: - Theories on the origin of music - The function of music in preliterate societies - The function of music in ancient civilization - The relationship between music and the mind and body - The impact of music on people with neurological and physiological health conditions What wasn't good about this book: - Disjointed ideas which had no apparent connection with one another, especially in the discussion of "The Solitary Listener" - Lofty philosophical analysis of music in c What was good about this book: - Theories on the origin of music - The function of music in preliterate societies - The function of music in ancient civilization - The relationship between music and the mind and body - The impact of music on people with neurological and physiological health conditions What wasn't good about this book: - Disjointed ideas which had no apparent connection with one another, especially in the discussion of "The Solitary Listener" - Lofty philosophical analysis of music in comparison with other art forms. I found a lot of these ideas to be a bit of a stretch I highly recommend this book for the first half of its content. However, I couldn't give it more than 3 stars because of the second half.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Storr shares his thoughts on music, philosophy, and psychology in this well-written book. He explores various great philosophers' viewpoints on music from the past, including Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Schopenhauer, and Plato as well as various composers and musicians. He finds himself especially sympathetic with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (because he is an atheist) and spends a great deal of time discussing their thoughts on music. Although he is a committed evolutionist, Storr is forced to puzzle Storr shares his thoughts on music, philosophy, and psychology in this well-written book. He explores various great philosophers' viewpoints on music from the past, including Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Schopenhauer, and Plato as well as various composers and musicians. He finds himself especially sympathetic with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche (because he is an atheist) and spends a great deal of time discussing their thoughts on music. Although he is a committed evolutionist, Storr is forced to puzzle over the evolution of music and finds the answer lacking. All in all, I would recommend this book if you are a person who wants to think critically about music and its relationship to philosophy and psychology.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    an incredibly stimulating philosophy of music – why it exists, what purposes it serves – through the words of a psychiatrist who understands music through the words/thoughts of philosophers. quoting from works of nietzsche, schopenhauer, plato, socrates, and jung, he contemplates the origins of music, our fascination with it, and its meaning in our lives. not to mention his focus on thoughts from composers such as wagner, stravinsky, haydn, and tchaikovsky. a fascinating read for those who might an incredibly stimulating philosophy of music – why it exists, what purposes it serves – through the words of a psychiatrist who understands music through the words/thoughts of philosophers. quoting from works of nietzsche, schopenhauer, plato, socrates, and jung, he contemplates the origins of music, our fascination with it, and its meaning in our lives. not to mention his focus on thoughts from composers such as wagner, stravinsky, haydn, and tchaikovsky. a fascinating read for those who might be interested in philosophy and how it relates to western classical music – great for composers and musicologists. this book didn’t relate to my studies as much as i had hoped. on to another!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hodge

    A brief but well-written set of contemplations about the nature of music. Why do we like it so much? Is there something underlying our conscious minds that music helps us connect to? I find that some of theory, that music helps us connect with deep and big things beyond us, makes more sense with something complex like classical music. Perhaps less so with much pop music. And because Storr seems very familiar with the former and almost unfamiliar with the latter, one really wonders to what degree h A brief but well-written set of contemplations about the nature of music. Why do we like it so much? Is there something underlying our conscious minds that music helps us connect to? I find that some of theory, that music helps us connect with deep and big things beyond us, makes more sense with something complex like classical music. Perhaps less so with much pop music. And because Storr seems very familiar with the former and almost unfamiliar with the latter, one really wonders to what degree he would say all the things that he says about music, if he dealt more with more mainstream music.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    There are a lot of books currently around that attempt to explain music from the perspective of neuroscience, but Anthony Storr instead addresses it in terms of classical theories of the mind. He draws on a very limited range of sources - by his own admission in the case of the music, where he sticks very closely to the European classical tradition, but also in the thinkers he draws on - drawn mainly from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Freud and his school are in here; Schopenhauer and There are a lot of books currently around that attempt to explain music from the perspective of neuroscience, but Anthony Storr instead addresses it in terms of classical theories of the mind. He draws on a very limited range of sources - by his own admission in the case of the music, where he sticks very closely to the European classical tradition, but also in the thinkers he draws on - drawn mainly from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Freud and his school are in here; Schopenhauer and Nietzsche too. Within these limited parameters, though, this is a really admirable book - thought-provoking and enlighening.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Renah

    Huh. Not particularly impressed. The whole book seemed to be building up to some point or other, with all the quotations and analyses of philosophers and musicologists. I just wasn't sure what the point was, or what he was trying to say, exactly. Perhaps something like "music is important?" Some interesting quotes and a few helpful ideas, such as his treatment of music as a force/process that helps organize the mind and especially the subconscious (much in the way that dreams do) but on the whol Huh. Not particularly impressed. The whole book seemed to be building up to some point or other, with all the quotations and analyses of philosophers and musicologists. I just wasn't sure what the point was, or what he was trying to say, exactly. Perhaps something like "music is important?" Some interesting quotes and a few helpful ideas, such as his treatment of music as a force/process that helps organize the mind and especially the subconscious (much in the way that dreams do) but on the whole I finished this book no more 'illuminated' than when I started.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jigsaw

    This book wasn't what I expected; nevertheless, it was good once I understood what the actual point was. I thought at first that it would address psychological aspects of music primarily. Instead, it focuses briefly on physiological aspects of music, and then becomes more of a review of philosophy of music. Once I got used to this, it was decent. The author does spend a lot of his time quoting others, though.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    The book is a fascinating exploration of the relation of the human mind to the experience of music. The book takes a broad and long view of music's place in human society, taking into account ancient philosophical opinions on music, anthropological explorations into the origin of music, cultural variations in musical styles, modern psychological experiments on music's effect upon the mind, etc.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    All of the late Anthony Storr's books are worth reading. He was an eminent British psychiatrist who is always fascinating when discussing Freud and Jung. This book concerns his love of music and he finds himself most at home when talking about Nietzsche. But it is the arousal of music that produced this music and he analyses its reality.

  21. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    well-written and engrossing, though more valuable in scope if you have even a rudimentary understanding of philosophy. people usually complain that music is so ambiguous, that it leaves them in such doubt as to what they are supposed to think, whereas words can be understood by everyone. but to me it seems exactly the opposite." ~felix mendelssohn (as quoted in the book)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael D

    Storr is great at communicating complex ideas in a direct fashion and this is a highly engaging collection of pieces linking music with philosophy, religion, psychology mathematics and other intellectual pursuits. Although its focus is on Classical music, there is much to enjoy here for any kind of music devotee.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Clive Buckingham

    OK, but as another reviewer mentions, it's personal reflections and he's no technical authority on music. So I was slightly disappointed on that score. Philip Ball (The Music Instinct) goes straight to the heart of the matter in more methodical style, so to my mind he's the one to read on this topic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Selma

    The most lucid and interesting book about music I've ever read. Storr is concerned with the affect of music on personality, the cultural relativism of music's theoretical underpinnings, and the emotional/intellectual dimensions and impact of listening to and performing music.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kerem

    Too much reference on Nietzsche and Principa Mathematika bertrand russell, if you read Gödel, douglas hofstadter the lack of absolute music& mathematics will make more sense. published in 1990s but sounds like 1930s pre Gödel era. Better to read first this book then Oliver Sacks Musicophilia.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Spoer

    I was given this book to read for my Choir CP class junior in High School by Mr. Zwier. I loved it back then. Forgot about it, then found it in my bookstore. I have yet to reread it, but I think I'll understand more now than I did 15 years ago.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aubrie

    I am in two minds. In places, most notably the beginning, Storr came across as pretentious. But the last two chapters were wonderful. The book is worth reading, just for them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Too theoretical for me to provide any enjoyment.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    This book has a fair amount of interesting information, but I recall being bored by the prose.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dion

    This book manages to take a fascinating and joyous topic and render it boring and pedantic. Disappointing.

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