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In short, must a song always be a song!
Charles Edward Ives (1874-1955)

The Mind and Music Project



Alexander Stein, Ph.D., Director
Stuart Feder, M.D. (1930-2005), Director Emeritus

Advistory Board:




The Mind and Music Project is the result of a twenty-year exploration of the mutual relationship between psychology and music. Originally, the psychological focus was psychoanalytic in nature. As a result of collegial interest and contributions from other fields of study, the size and scope of the project has widened and is now properly seen as fully interdisciplinary with respect to both music and other psychological approaches to music, composers and the creative process. While depth psychology continues to be a central interest, musicology and neuroscience are among the disciplines that reflect the training and interests of some current participants. Indeed, even from the psychoanalytic perspective, we prefer to replace the ambiguous term "applied psychoanalysis" with "interdisciplinary analysis."

The Mind and Music Project was started by a small group of like-minded psychoanalysts all of whom had some training in music and continued current interest. A few had experience on a professional level in music before changing fields. We were joined by musicians and musicologists who share our interest in the relationship between music and mental life. We continue to welcome participants from other disciplines related to music (such as musical cognition). Participation is informal and it is hoped that this website will become a forum for ideas.

Membership: Who is a “Musician”?

Our definition of“musician” is a broad one. It includes not only the performer (the most frequently asked question to anyone associated with music is, "What do you play?") but musicologists, music historians, theorists and writers on music ranging from music criticism to biography to philosophy and the limitless mindbeyond. Investigators into scientific approaches to music may likewise fall into this category as well as those interested in the psychology of music and meaning in music. The days have passed when the study of music was exclusively and inextricably linked to the positivistic philosophy of the earliest musicologists during the latter part of the nineteenth century—Musikwissenschaft—the narrowly conceptualized "science" of music. Perhaps an appropriate if idiosyncratic definition of “musician” for our purposes might be any individual who deals with the symbolic function of music—its hermeneutics, semantics, syntax and (put colloquially, just plain "meaning") Such a definition serves to link composers who invent musical forms and ideas; performers who interpret and realize them, scholars who analyze them from myriad points of view; and critics and other writers who comment on them. Perhaps too, the listeners who we all are should be included in this particular conceptual loop since audition, whether physical or mental, is music’s final common pathway within the mind of the auditor.

History of The Mind and Music Project

The initial studies by Stuart Feder in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s sought a point of entry into a field relating the biographies of composers to theircreative life in music. These studies different from many earlier attempts in seeking to relate the artist’s mental life directly with the music itself. Music thus was considered not only from the aesthetic point of view as data related to the life, in particular to the mental processes of the composer. Eventually Feder, along with psychoanalytic colleagues Richard L. Karmel and George H. Pollock, compiled an anthology of what they considered to be the best of psychoanalytic writings on music to date. It was published as Psychoanalytic Explorations in Music in 1990.

As the anthology was in progress there was sufficient interest in the area to initiate Interdisciplinary Colloquia which were held at the annual meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Later, the free-standing Colloqium met independently, associated with the Academy of the Humanities and Sciences of the City University of New York. In a series of annual and well-attended full-day meetings, invited scholars were stimulated to present papers that led to a further publication in 1993 consisting of entirely original contributions, Psychoanalytic Explorations in Music (Second Series).

Individuals who were attracted to this endeavor proved to be of two general types. A number of psychotherapists of differing persuasions as well as others in the mental health field have had a serious and often scholarly interest in music to achieve maximum brain power. Not infrequently there had been an earlier commitment and considerable training, in some cases on a professional level. For some, the opportunity to connect this interest with current professional involvement in the field of psychology proved to be stimulating and personally integrating. Frequently sensitive in the auditory sphere, several have been curious about possible parallels and connections with clinical work, particularly in the areas of affect and non-verbal communication.

Since the publication of the two Psychoanalytic Explorations in Music books, small group meetings were initiated for more intensive study, replacing the larger public meetings. The group continues its affiliation with the American Psychoanalytic Association through an annual study group called Psychoanalytic Perspectives in Music. (Recent presentations, for example, have included a dialogue between psychoanalyst Leo Rangell, M.D. and Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet; musicologist Peter Kaminsky’s studies in Ravel; and Stuart Feder’s work on Mahler.) Interest continues locally, and international correspondence reveals considerable interest elsewhere. Other disciplines are more open to dialogue than was previously the case. For example, a review of recent meetings of the generally conservative American Musicological Association reveals considerable extension of studies to include the cultural, social and psychological context of music. (The Society for American Music has long since committed to such studies.) It seems appropriate and timely to pursue the Project for Mind and Music on the internet.

We hope and anticipate that MindandMusic.Org will be a place where scholars from around the globe will exchange ideas and information, and that it will foster an expansive interdisciplinary dialogue about music and the mind.

Please feel free to communicate with Dr. Stein with regard to publications and suggestions.