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Parsons, M. (1995). Hans Keller: Essays on Music. : Edited by Christopher Wintle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994. Pp. 269.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:629-630.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:629-630

Hans Keller: Essays on Music. : Edited by Christopher Wintle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994. Pp. 269.

Review by:
Michael Parsons

‘As soon as I detest something I ask myself why I like it’: the words of someone with a thoroughly psychoanalytic curiosity about, and suspicion of, his own mental processes. J.C. Flugel wrote to him ‘Incidentally, if you are not a member of the British Psychoanalytic Society, I should be happy to propose you’. Psychoanalytic, then, but evidently not a psychoanalyst. And what was it that he so ambivalently detested? Answer: the Harry Lime theme.

Hans Keller is a name to conjure with in the world of music. He will be less known to psychoanalysts, although some may have come across his acerbic comments on the 1975 London IPA Congress in Music, Closed Societies and Football (Keller, 1986; London: Toccata). He was born in Vienna in 1919. He centred his life around music but he was always interested in psychoanalysis and convinced of its importance. He came to London as a refugee in 1938 and between then and his death in 1985 he became one of the leading figures in musical life in Britain. He was a writer and broad-caster and held various posts of importance at the BBC. He was a fine violinist and an expert on the string quartet (his book on the Haydn quartets is a classic). He coached professional string players and taught at the Menuhin School.

Keller's musical thinking was deeply informed by psychoanalysis, as this collection of his papers shows. The book, incidentally, is beautifully produced and a pleasure to handle. Christopher Wintle, another psychoanalytically minded musicologist, has selected some forty essays written between 1951 and 1984 and edited them with comprehensive notes and a biographical introduction. Early in his career Keller did write directly on psychological topics, publishing in the British Journal of Medical Psychology, but all the papers in this collection are about music. Keller's psychoanalytic interest is evident nonetheless, particularly in the first section on music criticism.


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