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Music and the Mind Paperback – 7 Apr 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (7 April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006861865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006861867
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Inside Flap

"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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Why does music have such a powerful effect on our minds and bodies? It is the most mysterious and most intangible of all forms of art. Yet, Anthony Storr believes, music today is a deeply significant experience for a greater number of people than ever before. In this challenging book, he explores why this should be so. Drawing on a wide variety of opinions, Storr argues that the patterns of music make sense of our inner experience, giving both structure and coherence to our feelings and emotions. It is because music possesses this capacity to restore our sense of personal wholeness in a culture which requires us to separate rational thought from feelings, that many people find it so life-enhancing.

“Anyone who feels like reflecting about the origins, the impact and the significance of music will find Dr Storr’s book helpful and stimulating.”
ALFRED BRENDEL

“This beautifully written book, humane, intelligent and thoughtful, is a significant contribution to our understanding of those mysterious movements of the mind.”
ADAM LIVELY, 'Times Educational Supplement'

“It is stimulating inquiry aimed at discovering what it is about music that so profoundly moves so many people, in the course of which he describes the physical effects of mescaline, considers the relation of bird-song, the burbling of babies and the language of literature to music, and touches on many other fascinating topics, concluding that its most significant aspect for us is its power to create order out of chaos.”
FRANCES PARTRIDGE, 'Spectator'

“Reading Storr’s work is always like being taken on a journey through a foreign country by a great enthusiast. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the language because he teaches you what you need to know along the way. His knowledge is vast and his enthusiasm infectious…Storr is an extraordinarily gifted communicator.”
MARY LOUDON, 'New Statesman & Society'

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
Considering how ubiquitous music is as a cultural phenomenon (as Storr points out, there are practically no known cultures in world history which lack music of some kind), it is remarkable how little is understood about its true nature: what is its purpose, how does it function, where does its power and meaning (if it has meaning) come from? This book attempts to shed some light on these questions from a philosophical and psychological perspective (with more of an emphasis on the former, contrary to what the book's title might seem to suggest).

Most of the book is dedicated to outlining various existing theories concerning the psychological nature of music. This is done in an accessible, clear style, with each viewpoint being described in turn before the author's criticisms and reservations are given. The basic views of Plato, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer on music, as well as theories of several musicologists and psychologists, are examined, with just enough philosophical and scientific background to make everything intelligible while still being accessible. In fact, the chapters on Nietzsche and Schopenhauer (the author is broadly sympathatic to their views on music) could easily serve on their own as introductions for those who want to know these thinkers' views on music without going into too much unnecessary philosophical background.

One of the book's weaknesses is that some chapters read a little too much like standalone essays - there is not always a clear line of argument running from one chapter to the next. This is largely because Storr is more interested in discussing existing ideas rather than expounding his own: there is no consistent overarching thesis running through the book.
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Format: Paperback
If you are intrigued by the impact that music has on our lives, and want to know more about the why and how, this is the book for you. Anthony Storr has definitely done his research, and describes the importance of music to people since the beginning of time. Even though you'd think the book would be very academic, Storr's style of writing and his obvious passion for the subject make the book a pleasure to read.
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Format: Paperback
Psychologist Anthony Storr's exploration of the power of music on the mind is more a collection of essays than a comprehensive teleological argument. It is no less thought-provoking for that. As he writes in his introduction, "This book is an explanatory search; an attempt to discover what it is about music that so profoundly affects us, and why it is such an important part of our culture." He emphasises that his words are concerned only with the canon of western `classical' music, noting that, "It is only since the 1950s that the gap between classical and popular music has widened into a canyon which is nearly unbridgeable."

There are nine chapters, and I will attempt to give a brief summary of their contents, using Storr's own words as much as possible. At the time of writing this review, the book is already twenty years old, so subsequent research may have slightly altered or radically changed some of the conclusions proposed in Storr's book.

The first chapter - `Origins & Collective Functions' - addresses various theories proposed to explain the origins of and reasons for music: from babies to birdsong, Plato to Darwin. Storr deals with objections to each theory but avers that, "We can perceive that language and music were originally more closely joined, and that it makes sense to think of music as deriving from a subjective, emotional need for communication with other human beings which is prior to the need for conveying objective information or exchanging ideas."

`Music, Brain, and Body' is the title of the second chapter. Here, Storr analyses the priority of hearing over the other senses (which occurs even in the womb). He looks at the physiological effects of music on the brain. This is followed by `Basic Patterns'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Music and the Mind" by Anthony Storr was published in 1992 and is a short book, with a main text comprising less than 200 pages.
The psychology of playing and listening to music is a subject I find interesting and this book seemed like something I would enjoy, but I found it disappointing. It's desultory and rambling and, I suspect, focussed on subjects that the author already knew about, and so could write easily. There's an entire chapter on Schopenhauer and another on Nietzsche (there's only nine chapters in the book, so that's a sizable portion), and lots of references to Freud and Jung, even though neither of these had any interest in music, which Storr mentions, but it doesn't stop him bringing them up a lot. I see in the biographical note that Storr has published volumes on Freud and Jung, and their prominence here I think indicates a less than complete engagement in this book. Lots of references to what various philosophers thought of music, but not much original thought, reasoned argument or anything substantial.
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Format: Hardcover
This is very cleverly written so that simple minds like mine can understand things that are in fact quite complex. I would recommend this book to anyone who is open minded about music and who loves all genres of music as I do.It also awakes us to the dangers of being without music in our lives and how music actually, with poetry, feeds our autonomic nervous system. Even babies in the womb are better off having music played to them.
There may also be bad music which can affect the senses in a negative way. I do not want to get into a Pantomime slanging match with some who are addicted to this sort of music and I am not saying what it is. The Open Minded will understand.
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