Rock music on the couch

Written by Vassiliki Simoglou on 02/07/2011. Posted in Articles

How does music affect our soul?

Sound, rhythm, music… Apart from being artistic expressions of human creativity, they seem to be related to primitive aspects of the human soul, that’s why their psychological, therefore therapeutical effects have been researched upon since antiquity. Music Therapy, meaning the use of music and elements of music in therapeutical goals, has been applied since the early 40’s. What are the psychological effects of music? And what can one discover while listening to a rock album?

It all started with a… sound. The mother’s heartbeat is the first music we ever listen to. The embryo lives and develops within a very particular sound environment, formed by endogenous sounds (such as the mother’s and his own heartbeats, as well as digestive noise) and exogenous noise (such as human voices and music). The embryo is capable of discriminating its mother’s voice among others and to respond to it by modifying its heartbeat or by producing reflex moves, such as the “kick”, so early as by the age of 16 weeks in utero.

Listening to a sound is, thus, a natural experience, operating even in utero, common to beings of the same species and analogue to the auditive system they feature. Listening to music, however, not to mention rock music, is a psychological process, whose effects are deeply subjective. What would one discover by having rock & roll music lie on the Freudian couch? How could rock music be analyzed?

Seemingly worlds apart, the biggest names in rock music and the founder of psychoanalysis can be related, since they all struggled for free expression of repressed desires and feelings. Who could understand better than Freud the deeper meanings projected when Mick Jagger yells in front of his audience “I can get no satisfaction”, when Garry Moore gets melancholic singing “I’ve still got the blues for you” or even when Jim Morrison sings that he wants to kill his father and possess his mother and when Iggy Pop flirts with perversion in “I wanna be your dog”?…

The term rock & roll itself is an indirect reference to sexual intercourse, interpretation that Freud himself would highly appreciate! Nevertheless, the relationship between rock music and psychoanalysis is much deeper than their common preoccupation with sexuality. Because they both expanded their interest over multiple human experiences, such as sensibility, love, loss, narcissism or even the nature of reality and society. Regarded as such, rock music can be a vehicle for free, creative, introvert expression, while psychoanalysis can offer a background for its understanding and decoding.

Indeed, the setting of a rock album is characterized by various levels making possible the expression of intra-psychic experience. Rock music has the power of installing deeper emotional situations to the listener (pain, sadness, anger, aggressiveness, passivity, joy, dynamism, lust and so many others), relevant to his own life experience and interpretation. Furthermore, rock music itself, in its composition, can make use of several psychic defense mechanisms. For instance, an agreeable melody may conceal a disturbing musical rhythm. Lyrics, on the other hand, can support or contradict the emotional energy fueled in music. An album’s format, its cover and the sequence of songs also offer associative possibilities: they may hint an unformed story or suggest an upsetting situation, which undoubtedly could be the object of psychoanalytic investigation.

So, the next time you listen to your favourite album, turn down the lights, relax and concentrate on the lyrics and the melody coming out of your speakers. You will be surprised by what you’ll discover going on in there… and inside yourself.


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Vassiliki Simoglou

Τα κείμενα που δημοσιεύονται στον παρόντα ιστότοπο εκφράζουν τις απόψεις του συντάκτη τους. Κατά το Ν. 2121/1993 και κατά τη Διεθνή Σύμβαση της Βέρνης (που έχει κυρωθεί με το Ν. 100/1975) απαγορεύεται η αναδημοσίευση και γενικά η αναπαραγωγή των κειμένων, με οποιονδήποτε τρόπο, τμηματικά ή περιληπτικά, στο πρωτότυπο ή σε μετάφραση ή άλλη διασκευή, χωρίς γραπτή άδεια του συντάκτη τους. Παραπομπές στα κείμενα θα πρέπει να γίνονται ως ακολούθως: Σίμογλου, Β. Ν., 2011, [Τίτλος κειμένου], προσβάσιμο στις [Ημερομηνία], από [URL].

The Ego is not master in its own house.

S. Freud


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