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Coriat, I.H. (1945). Some Aspects of a Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Music. Psychoanal. Rev., 32(4):408-418.

(1945). Psychoanalytic Review, 32(4):408-418

Some Aspects of a Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Music

Isador H. Coriat, M.D.

While the aesthetic appreciation of music has produced considerable psychological descriptive literature, the psychoanalytic approach to this problem has been rather limited. The principal contributions limited to this subject are in several papers by Pfeifer (1) and Chijs (2).

According to Pfeifer, music is a recapitulation of libidinal expression; it is a means of escape from reality through rhythm which, through the process of psychic economy, provides pleasure through compulsive repetition, thereby releasing unconscious fantasies. The content of music is pure libido symbolism; it lacks objective content because the libidinal aspect of music has not reached the object level of development; consequently music is the only mental creation in which these libidinal processes can be found in pure culture.

The aesthetic effect of music is the result of three factors: compulsive repetition, pleasure in economy and the force of attraction exerted by the unconscious. The peculiar effect of music consists in the induction of narcissistic and erotogenic pleasures; therefore music expresses feelings and their relations; its absence of objective content corresponds with its narcissistic nature. Music is distinguished from all other arts by its inability to represent objects of the libido outside the ego, thus inducing activities dominated exclusively by the pleasure principle. Music has arisen in the same way as the development of the libido from narcissistic to object sexuality. It never obtains object-investment, for if it did so, it would turn into a kind of language and cease to be an art.

According to Chijs, music often symbolizes the identification of the listener with the composer, at times depicting in sound both ejaculation and orgasm. All music represents the deeper sources of unconscious thinking because it is untrammelled by the limitations of language, as in poetry, or by visual imagery, as in painting.

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