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Litowitz, B.E. (2008). Academic Exchange: Time, Music, and Reverie. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 56(4):1189-1190.

(2008). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 56(4):1189-1190

Acadimic Exchange

Academic Exchange: Time, Music, and Reverie

Bonnie E. Litowitz

Music has always been of interest to psychoanalysts, who recognize that it affords a powerful form for affective expression. We listen for the music in our patients' speech, the prosody that indicates the significance, and often the true meaning, of their spoken words. In this way we listen like the baby listens to its mother's voice, as she listens to the baby, before words have meanings.

In this academic exchange, Riccardo Lombardi calls our attention to another dimension of listening to music: music evoked in an analyst's reverie as he listens to his patients struggle to express and contain their unformed and overwhelming emotions. Lombardi describes patients who failed to receive needed, early dyadic support for affect regulation and how music, intruding in the analyst's reverie enabled a reparative attunement to be reengaged in the analytic couple. In trying to understand what feature of music might be critical for the expression and containment of affects, Lombardi focuses on the importance of time.

To deepen our understanding of the interrelations of time, music, and emotion, we asked John Austin, a composer, to provide his thoughts on the themes in Lombardi's paper. He could not, of course, comment on the analyst's reverie, but he has graciously provided us a rare glimpse into the perspective of an analysand for whom music is equally evocative.

John Austin studied composition while a Harvard undergraduate and later in Vienna and Chicago, receiving his doctorate in music from the University of Chicago in 1981. From 1981 to 1999 he supported his composing by practicing law (having graduated from Harvard Law School in 1960); he now devotes his time fully to music. His works have been performed in Chicago and Cambridge (Massachusetts), and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, and Door County Music Festivals. He is currently collaborating on an opera with his wife, Christine Froula, a Northwestern University professor of English.


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