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Rosenbaum, B. (2015). Psychoanalysis and the musicality of listening. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(2):158-159.

(2015). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 38(2):158-159

Psychoanalysis and the musicality of listening

Bent Rosenbaum

Hearing, in a positivistic sense of the concept, is a perception. As perception, it concerns the faculty of the ear and some parts of the brain that constitutes a representation of what is heard. In the tradition of phenomenology, hearing may be described as an ear–world relationship, or as an act that helps the one who hears to orientate him or herself in the relationship to the world. For the phenomenologist, the perceiving subject (“percipiens”) and the mental image of what is perceived (“perceptum”) are intimately linked owing to the fact that the human body is strongly involved in perception. In this sense, hearing has some intersubjective characteristics.

Listening, however, is something more than both a perception and a perceptum–percipiens relation. Naturally, listening, in the psychoanalytic sense, includes the intersubjective perceptum–percipiens relation but differs in some important ways. To some extent Kierkegaard’s concept of the “speculative-erotic ear” (also mentioned by Arnfinn) captures some basic dimensions of a psychoanalytic understanding of listening. The drive- or libido-based investment in the utterance of the analyst’s own thoughts, as these are expressed in words, with their special intonation and attunement to the other in the present moment as well as the investment in the words and expressive sounds and pauses stemming from the analysand, may be seen as the precondition for the listening process of the “erotic” ear.

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