Projective Identification, Musical Interpretation and the Self

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This article proposes that the psychoanalytic concept of projective identification may be useful for articulating, and hence better understanding and defining, the relationship that some listeners and players may develop between themselves and the musical works of the classical repertoires they are interpreting. It is proposed that through interpreting, we essentially create objects of fantasy through our engagement with musical texts to which we bring a deep sense of self. Eero Tarasti calls this "actoriality", and considers it to represent "all that by which listeners project themselves into". Anthony Storr called it projective identification – where a person "imagines himself to be inside some object external to himself" – because "over and above a passive enjoyment of sounds, music makes us participate actively in the working of a creative mind". Projective identification usually describes aspects of the relationship between two people (that is, it describes the dynamics of their relatedness), but it could offer other ways of understanding relationships between musical interpreters and works: in terms of 1) the evacuation of feelings; 2) the music beingabout those feelings; and 3) the music being a container for feelings. Given the deep sense of self brought to the interpretative process, we could perhaps posit4) that the developing processes of music cause aspects of the self to change as well. This awareness of projective identification could contribute to the musical learning process in terms of more active and focused musical- and self-awareness and hence to psychological well-being through self-knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
JournalMusic Performance Research
Issue numbern/a
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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