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Jaffe, D.S. (1983). On Words and Music: A Personal Commentary. Psychoanal Q., 52:590-593.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:590-593

On Words and Music: A Personal Commentary

Daniel S. Jaffe, M.D.

Music has always been very important in my inner life, as it no doubt has been for many people in one way or another. I had always asumed that for me it has been part of an individual heritage, transmitted through my father, who was an avid listener to programs of classical music in the days when radio broadcasts were the chief means of public dissemination. This was augmented for me by music lessons, first on the violin, then the piano, but never seriously pursued; also by some attendance at concerts and opera during my early student years.

It was not until well along into middle age, and long after my personal psychoanalysis, that a particular experience threw unexpected light on a special factor that was undoubtedly of central importance among the many determinants contributing to my particular sensitivity to and mode of utilization of music. This last point requires further elaboration.

In moments of reverie or introspection, my random flow of thoughts would often be accompanied by some musical theme. I had never paid much attention to potential meanings until analytic training revealed the many possibilities for insight that could become available through the associative process. Clearly, one's own affective experience can resonate with what the composer must have been feeling when he conceived of and executed the musical theme, with or without the accompanying lyrics. The latter may serve to program the mood, from the sadness of "None But the Lonely Heart" to the exuberance of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!" It is only natural, and probably universal, to find one's own mood being expressed or reinforced by a musical accompaniment.


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