While the quotes used by Anthony Storr in his book Music and the Mind first drew me in, it was the way he developed the story that continued to keep me engaged. Music and the Mind was published in 1992 (outside of my two year rule, bust in my defense, I read the book before writing my last blog), and the author takes his reader through the origin of music through how music has become such an integral part of our lives. As with other books, I focused on specific chapters rather than reading from beginning to end. From my understanding of the introductions to the chapters I omitted, they were focused on music theory more than the philosophy or psychology of music. This is the second of a two-part series on Anthony Storr’s Music and the Mind.
The Solitary Listener
Storr tells us that listening to music by oneself is a modern occurrence. That is something that I had never considered. While Storr doesn’t give us a timeline, being a solitary listener has always been a part of my life – watching music videos alone in my bedroom, listening to tapes recorded from the radio, bringing my walkman to school, and now adding almost 1000 mp3s to my phone.
Storr explains, some composers, songwriters, and performers intended their music to be heard live for an audience, implying that a recorded performance lost its value. In my experience, the recorded version of a song is never the same as a live performance: artists have freedom to rearrange the music on the stage and make each performance unique. That liberty is not allowed in the recording studio where the artist records his voice in a small box. I like both the recorded and live versions of a song. I like to compare the differences, and I like how my experience with the music changes between live and recorded versions of a song.
Speaking of experiences, Storr concludes his chapter on the solitary listener by talking about those moments when a song you heard recently or some time ago pops into your head. He says when that happens to him, he tries to figure out why. Sometimes, he’ll be trying to remember the tune or lyrics to one song, and another song will come to mind: I experienced both occurrences in the past week!
- In one instance, I had attended a conference, and one statement immediately brought to mind a song I learned 16 years ago! I have since contacted the artist and will be receiving the album with this song in about a week.
- In another instance, I was trying to remember a song I had heard in the late 80s. The artist only recorded one album. I started looking for it in the late nineties but never had any success. Whenever I find a new music forum, I post my request, and I’ve done that every few years. Last week, I found a new music forum and left my comment. Then, I tried to remember the song. I knew it was about a little girl, but I couldn’t remember the tune or the lyrics. Instead, another song came to mind: an up-tempo acapella song that also talked about a little girl. No matter how hard I tried, the song I wanted to remember was a song I never could.
Storr concludes by sharing what philosophers and psychologists had to say about music. Without going into too much detail, I will say I was surprised to hear such names as Freud, Jung, and Nietzsche.