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(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: One Aspect of the Structure of Music: A Study of Regressive Transformations of Musical Themes. Stanley M. Friedman. Pp. 427-449.. Psychoanal Q., 31:126.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: One Aspect of the Structure of Music: A Study of Regressive Transformations of Musical Themes. Stanley M. Friedman. Pp. 427-449.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:126

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: One Aspect of the Structure of Music: A Study of Regressive Transformations of Musical Themes. Stanley M. Friedman. Pp. 427-449.

The author examines musical themes for evidence of regressive phenomena in order to test Kris's thesis that a regression of ego functions is central to artistic creativeness. Auditory configurations, constituting the thematic material as consciously recognized by the listener, are related to secondary process functioning. Alterations of the original theme demonstrate regressive, primary process transformations and meet eight of the ten criteria of primary process distortions listed by Fisher. Condensation or fusion, as seen in contrapuntal combinations, and fragmentation of theme are known to be major techniques of thematic development. Rotational displacement is involved in the crab reversals and mirror reversals (inversions) so prevalent in fugues and sonatas. Change in size, involving augmentation and diminution as well as volume changes, and reduplication and multiplication of notes and thematic fragments occur in every piece of serious music. Loss of figure-ground relationship is prevalent, varying from those instances wherein one set of instruments carrying the theme is unobtrusively supplanted by background instruments, on to modern polyphony wherein several melodies are played concurrently, none being strong enough to fix conscious attention exclusively to itself. Changes in shape, limited here to changes in the rhythm or in the actual notes of a theme, are extremely common. Combinations of these primary modes of perception are the rule in serious music, and defined in other terms by musicologists are considered by them to contribute significantly to the technical and expressional excellence of a musical work. While it was not possible to differentiate 'major' and 'minor' compositions of serious music solely on the basis of relative frequency of primary process transformations, it was shown that so-called 'popular' music contains very few such transformations. It is speculated that a musical theme represents an affect which temporarily activates an unconscious conflict. The listener's participation in the temporary regression is facilitated by the primary process transformations, through which he achieves a temporary mastery over the conflict, experiencing in the mastery an æsthetic pleasure.

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Article Citation

(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960. Psychoanal. Q., 31:126

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