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Nass, M.L. (1984). The Development of Creative Imagination in Composers. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:481-491.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:481-491

The Development of Creative Imagination in Composers

Martin L. Nass

During the past twelve years I have been studying various aspects of music from a psychoanalytic vantage point and more recently have attempted to understand the experience of the composer in the process of inspiration. Recent work of mine has reported on the writings and anecdotal reports of composers from the historical past (Nass, 1975). Currently, I have been speaking with contemporary composers about their work and their experiences during the inspirational phase of their work. To date, I have interviewed some twenty prominent American composers. While they varied in their capacity to articulate this complex, non-verbal experience, the material I obtained has afforded an invaluable glimpse into the creative process, a process which has received a great deal of attention in the psychoanalytic literature in recent years. The present paper should be viewed as part of a work which is ongoing and from which additional findings will emerge.

In her outstanding work on the development of the gifted, Phyllis Greenacre (1957) talks about their hyperacuity to sensory stimulation, their intense empathic ability, and their retention of sensorimotor styles which enable them to build up projective motor discharges for expressive function. I feel that this ability to retain an earlier developmental mode of understanding the world (Piaget, 1954) enables them to continue a freshness of experience, a capacity to maintain a closeness to body processes and body rhythms and to use these developmentally earlier modes to reorganize experience and present it to others via their particular gifts.

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