The Development of Musical Ability

The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child Vol. 23:332-347 (1968).

The Development of Musical Ability

Pinchas Noy, M.D.

Ernst Kris (1925) wrote: "the study of art is part of the study of communication. There is a sender, there are receivers, and there is a message" (p. 16). As a medium of communication, music, like any language, is spoken and listened to. He who is capable of creating structures, of finding original forms of expression in this language, is a creative artist; he who knows how to speak it, through making its signs audible and intelligible, is a performing artist; while the perceiver, who is sensitive enough to hear and understand it, is the "listener." Yet, all three, the creator, the performer, and the listener, although having command of this language and mastering its secrets, do so without awareness of what this language is, what it is saying, how it is saying what it says, and how the listener comprehends that of which he does not know what it is. And all three are incapable of translating the language of music into any other intelligible language.

To provide answers to these questions, to disclose the intrinsic essence of this language, requires investigations penetrating the secret of the artist's peculiar ability to create and perform, and of the listener's ability to comprehend, enjoy, and respond emotionally. Evidently, such problems cannot be resolved without thorough study of the multiple issues involved. No one branch of science can provide an all-

Lecturer in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical School and Hospital, Jerusalem.

Thanks are due to Mrs. M. Frisch and Dr. M. Kaufman for their help in completing this paper.

Read before the fall conference of the New England Music Therapy Association, Medfield, Mass., September, 1967.

embracing resolution; only a multidisciplinary approach devolving on musicology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and other sciences has a chance of attaining conclusive information.

The purpose of this paper is to examine one aspect out of the multiple facets, in an attempt to find an answer to part of the problems, through utilizing the theoretical, clinical, and experimental knowledge that has been accumulated in psychoanalysis. The paper will deal only with the origin of musical language and the developmental roots of musical ability and talent.

The Musical Language

Most authors who concerned themselves with the origin of musical language traced it to preverbal communication. Racker (1951) writes: "We may also assume that music uses means prior to the spoken word and to object representation" (p. 150). Gutheil (1954) designates music "a communication of which we know that it is non-verbal, or perhaps pre-verbal" (p. 98). In accord with this opinion, Masserman (1955) refers to music as "this nonverbal, nonanalogic form of communication" (p. 616). Margolis (1954), in an attempt to summarize the pertinent psychoanalytic ideas, states, "Most authors feel that music is related to the very earliest periods of psychological organization when the ego cannot as yet distinctly delineate the boundaries between self and reality" (p. 286).

This early source of musicality requires a discussion of what is known about the infantile ways of communication. Various authors have dealt with the specific modes of the central perceptual and organizational processes in infancy. In spite of differences in terminology to explain the peculiarities of the processes, the affinity of ideas is evident. Schachtel (1959) terms the primary mode of perception "autocentric perception," and describes it as follows: "In the autocentric mode there is little or no objectification; the emphasis is on how and what the person feels; there is a close relation, amounting to a fusion, between sensory quality and pleasure or unpleasure feelings, and the perceiver reacts primarily to something impinging on him" (p. 83).

René Spitz (1965) refers to this primary organization as the "coenesthetic organization," of which he writes: "Here, sensing is extensive, primarily visceral, centered in the autonomic nervous system, and manifests itself in the form of emotions" (p. 44).

The reader can easily accede to the fact that these statements also contain a true description of the experience of music, although this was not intended by the authors. That such an association is possible may have to do with the probable origin of musical perception in those primary modes of perception.

Observation of a six-month-old shows that the infant apprehends and "understands" his mother and other members of the family. The infant "understands" and distinguishes whether the mother approaching him is happy and merry or tense, angry, and impatient, and he responds to her love with a smile and to her tension with crying. Every mother feels that her baby "understands" her talk and distinguishes between words of love and manifestation of anger. But the infant not only is sensitive to extreme variations, he is already aware of slight changes in mood as these are expressed in the mother's voice. Since the infant still lacks the capacity of relating to language as a semantic system, to its symbols and concepts, he is indeed responding merely to the various sound components—intensity, pitch, rhythm, and timbre. Hence the remark of Spitz (1965): "Signs and signals that reach and are received by the infant in the first months of life belong to the following categories: equilibrium, tension (muscular or otherwise), posture, temperature, vibration, skin and body contact, rhythm, tempo, duration, pitch, tone, resonance, clang, and probably a number of others of which the adult is hardly aware and which he certainly cannot verbalize" (p. 135; my italics).

But these coincide with what musicologists refer to as the elements of the musical language—tone, p   itch, intensity, timbre, rhythm, and duration. All these are part components of the preverbal, auditory, communicative medium of the infant, gathered by Spitz under the umbrella term of "coenesthetic communication." Dealing with these components of primary communication, Spitz states: "Adults, who have retained the capacity to make use of one or several of these usually atrophied categories of perception and communication, belong to the specially gifted. They are composers, musicians, dancers, acrobats, fliers, painters and poets" (p. 136).

It thus may be concluded that music is a language whose origin goes back to the auditory channel of communication at the preverbal infantile stage, i.e., at the oral and beginning anal phases. This early origin in a period preceding logical thinking may explain why it is so difficult to grasp this language by means of logical thinking and to translate its signs into the secondary terms of speech. It is highly improbable, in fact, that any language preceding the period governed by logic can be comprehended logically. Yet if we could turn back and identify with the infant, hearing the world around us through infantile ears, might not the secrets of music unveil themselves before us, enabling us to understand its paths of expression? Let us try and follow this fancy in an attempt at understanding the meaning of musical structures in analogy to infantile modes of perception.

Three examples will suffice to demonstrate briefly a new principle—to draw conclusions pertinent to the meaning of musical structures from the auditory experience of the infant. For if music as a language has its roots in the "language" of the infant, it seems right to assume that it may arouse and revive experiences originating in those early periods.

1.   A frequently heard musical rhythm—the same tone repeated in short, evenly spaced beats followed by a longer accentuated tone—is regarded as portending "fate," as the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, for instance, or of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, or of the Appassionata, and of many others. Such structures bestow on the listener a dim feeling of anxiety, of apprehension, a sense of "fatefulness" and impending tragedy. If, ignoring the verbal content, we now try to imagine ourselves listening to a mother chiding her baby, we will hear the rhythmical repetition of the same, mostly high tone, followed by a long, intensive, and usually lower one. Does this analogy not suggest that our reaction to music of this kind with a dim feeling of anxiety may be due to a re-enactment of the apprehension with which we responded as infants to mother's rebukes?

2.   In many scores, particularly in those for cembalo and piano, we find movements of fast, bouncing configurations, accentuated by a fast, steadily repetitive rhythm, played by the right hand within the span of soprano. The accompanying left hand, in sonorous and slow basses, proceeds in large, confident, and rhythmical movements (e.g., Couperin's Les Barricades Mystérieuses), which bestow upon us an experience of calmness and repose. Returning once again to infancy, we can imagine the concord of voices—the baby's high, shrill, emotion-ridden shrieks and the mother's comforting, reassuring, and restraining cooing in low, quiet, and slow tones. May we not assume that it is the echo of an emotional experience of this kind that reverberates in the sounds of such music?

3.   For centuries the fugue has been a favorite of musicians, transmitted from one period to the next, surviving and adapted to all styles and fashions. A form so attractive to composers and listeners alike over hundreds of years should express a deep psychological truth and gratify some basic need. Like the canon, the fugue, as its offspring, is founded on a single theme, carried by each voice and each instrument, yet taken up by each one after the other at evenly spaced intervals, so that at one and the same time it accompanies itself and is always behind itself at the same unchanging step. Turning once more to the infant and his development, we now recall the stage of first free mobility, crawling and toddling the first steps. As soon as the toddler achieves some mastery over his movements, he insists on being left on his own; he rejects support and the helping hand and is upset by any attempt to guide him. At the same time, however, he still wants his mother to stand by, ready to protect and pick him up the moment he stumbles. He wants to walk on his own, but be assured that the "big one" follows his steps at an equal and safe distance, lending him the feeling of security that makes him continue to walk "alone." Returning to the fugue, may we not assume that its specific structure of accompanying itself at a constant distance is reminiscent of some of this early experience of security, the re-assurance that there is someone to follow, to look after and protect us?

A similar, not far-off experience lies in the religious belief in the Divine Providence, in the guardian who watches man's steps (which is identical with the Ur-defense suggested by Masserman [1955], "the delusion of the omnipotent servant"). This experience, basic to all religions, may explain the fact that it was especially in the service of the church that the fugue developed and reached its height and prime.

That music is apt to induce regression to experiences dating back to earliest infancy has often been put forth in the psychoanalytic literature. Pfeifer (1923) believes that music achieves its specific effect by inducing regression to narcissistic-erotic pleasure. In his opinion, music can do this by virtue of its property to symbolize the libido of the pregenital phases preceding the stage of object relation. Germain  (1928) maintains that music inspires regression to the weaning period, while Sterba (1939) suggests that music is conducive to regression reaching back to the stage when the ego was not yet differentiated from the outside world. It is due to this particular regression that music bestows on the listener a deep experience of becoming united with the outside world, of being at one with the universe.

Kohut (1955) writes: "Music, however, as an extraverbal mode of mental functioning, permits a specific, subtle regression to preverbal, i.e., to truly primitive forms of mental experience while at the same time remaining socially and aesthetically acceptable" (p. 20).

The preverbal origin of the musical language explains its universality, its ability to cross frontiers, cultures, epochs, and language barriers, its being a language intelligible to everyone. Yet although it originates in a "language spoken" by every human being at one time, there are enormous individual differences in the specific capability to use it. Not everybody hearing it is sensitive enough to enjoy listening to it, to understand it, and to respond to it. Only a few people can reproduce musical sounds, and even fewer are gifted enough to be creative in it. The ability to use this language, be it as the creator, the performer, or the discriminating listener, is by no means a property common to all mankind. Rather, it requires a special talent, of which those endowed with it have each their own measured share. And those gifted with musical talent are not a priori aware of possessing an ability that not everyone has. Discriminative hearing, the capacity to distinguish sounds, to listen to numerous sounds at one and the same time, and to store and reconstruct them in the mind—these are for the gifted natural activities, as hearing and seeing are for ordinary people. But the person who lacks these faculties regards the gifted as exceptional, blessed, and favored with a "gift from the Gods."

The question about the source of such special artistic endowment was rather neglected in classical psychology. It was generally accepted that man was born with such properties, that he had inherited them. This was the belief of psychologists like Seashore (1938) and Schoen (1940), who both devoted their works to the study of music. In fact, this opinion was shared by a number of psychoanalysts, who regarded specific artistic talent as due to constitutional factors. Other authors, however, denied any constitutional basis and maintained that musical ability, like others, is acquired in the course of the learning process. Lundin (1953) collected a considerable amount of literature to prove this point.

From more recent psychoanalytic studies it appears that there is more to the problem and that matters are not so one-sidedly clearcut. Artistic endowment is viewed as an end product that is determined by various factors, some constitutional, some environmental. These two factors, i.e., the constitutional background and the environmental influence, will here be presented separately in order to facilitate the discussion, yet they are always interrelated.

The Constitutional Background

Psychoanalytic research has endeavored to investigate those constitutional factors that are later affected by various environmental influences into promoting artistic talent. At present there is rather general agreement that the most important coefficient, probably the only one, is the presence of "a special sensory endowment which determines the perceptual organization of the individual" (Rosen, 1964, p. 4). This endowment grants the artist "greater sensitivity to sensory stimulation …


unusual capacity for awareness of relations between various stimuli" (Greenacre, 1957, p. 53).

Bergman and Escalona (1949) pointed out that children showed individual constitutional variations in their sensitivities in different sensory modalities. These variations in sensitivity may concern several senses or merely one specific sense, while the individual exaggeration of response is specific for the quantity of a given stimulus, its quality, or for both together. The oversensitivity is independent of a particular acuteness of the sensory perception (as differences in acuteness of vision, for instance); it depends, rather, on a specific reaction to stimuli and the ability to assimilate and withstand stimuli of a particular quality. The authors assume that the variations in response stem from a difference in the thickness of the "protective barrier against stimuli," or, in other words, they assume a barrier that checks the penetration of stimuli and permits no more to penetrate than can be best assimilated and integrated. A person having a lower than normal threshold will be overrun by stimuli that do not threaten to overtax another individual's tolerance. Such a sensitive person is liable to be hurt by an impact of stimuli that for a less sensitive person may still be within the normal range. The authors present a number of cases to demonstrate that extreme oversensitivity in various modalities is apt to impede the normal development of the ego and may result in psychotic development even in childhood. Yet when the deviation is less extreme, the ego succeeds in achieving normal development, although it will have to build up specific defenses to protect itself against its unusual sensitivity in order to reject, neutralize, or master the redundant stimuli.

In a mere footnote the authors put forth a tentative suggestion: "It is attractive to follow the idea of a 'thin' protective barrier against stimuli as a possible constitutional fundament of special gifts. To do so would lead to an assumption of this sort: Only the individual liable to suffer from 'bad' stimuli in a certain modality would be likely to be able to develop sufficient interest in procuring or producing 'good' stimuli. For example, only he who suffers from noise would be likely to become a good musician" (p. 348).

It seems to me, however, that this hypothesis deserves further attention, since it can provide the basis for a theory of the constitutional background of artistic endowment; in my opinion, this assumption fits in with all we know about the development of perceptual modalities, with the observations gathered in other realms of psychology, particularly with those of Gestalt psychology.

Perception is an active process requiring internal regulatory mechanisms to absorb and screen percepts, rejecting them in part and, with the remainder, establishing the Gestalts that enter consciousness. Much effort has been invested in Gestalt psychological investigation of this process. Hartmann (1939), linking such conceptions with psychoanalysis, described perception as an active regulatory function on the part of the ego (p. 58).

The newborn is exposed to a multitude of stimuli, all working on his sense organs. In the developmental process the perceptual field becomes more and more recognizable and intelligible. This comprehension requires, in turn, much activity to organize the perceptual field. The infant must develop the capability for focusing his attention on numerous percepts, preventing the redundant ones from being absorbed and organizing those assimilated into simple Gestalts that he can recognize, remember, and compare.

In the auditory field, in which we are interested here, the infant absorbs tens or perhaps hundreds of stimuli at any given time. His capability for listening to certain stimuli depends, first of all, on the development of the ability not to hear, to shut out, all other stimuli. This is a natural faculty for every adult who, attending a lecture, for instance, listens to its presentation while being deaf to outside noises like the rattling of cars in the street, banging of doors, his neighbor's creaking chair, etc. To put it schematically, one might suppose that a person who, at a given time, is simultaneously exposed to let us say fifty auditory stimuli will succeed in shutting out forty-eight or forty-nine, while his attention is absorbed by only one or two.

To the extent that the protective barrier against stimuli differs from one individual to another, it may be assumed that children differ in the ability not to hear the redundant stimuli. There are, thus, variations in the degree to which the child is capable of ignoring the surfeit stimuli; or such a selection, while easily carried out by one child, may prove to be too much of an effort for another. It may just as well be imagined that a child is simply incapable of shutting out the forty-eight or forty-nine stimuli, that he can do so with no more than thirty at a time. The child thus remains exposed to about twenty simultaneous stimuli. In that case he has only two alternatives—either to submit to "break down" or to develop specific abilities in the ego to overcome and master the threatening results of a constitutional deficiency. The only way out of this dilemma is an effort toward orientation in and mastery of the auditory perceptual field. The infant will have to develop an ability to concentrate his attention to directing and mastering twenty different, simultaneously occurring sound stimuli.

An extreme example of such an accomplishment is presented in the person of the prominent conductor of an orchestra, who has the extraordinary gift of simultaneously listening to the orchestra as one body and to each of the instruments separately, distinguishing each by its playing as if he concentrated on it alone—an achievement that the ordinary person can neither imagine nor grasp how it is being brought off.

The ego, exposed to the impact of auditory stimuli, is compelled to attain considerable abilities in order to protect itself and to build up a second line of defense to replace the primary, the deficient barrier against stimuli. In that case the ego develops a superior capability to organize auditory stimuli, to discern among their various shades, and, in particular, to transform "painful" stimuli so that he can derive gratification and pleasure from them. It may be assumed, therefore, that specific musical abilities are part of coping mechanisms which the ego is forced to develop as a defense for mastering oversensitivity.

This theory is borne out by the common observation that people with a flair for music are, in general, sensitive to sound stimuli and easily "irritated" by exceptional noise. Biographies of musicians brim with anecdotes about such oversensitivity. Macalpine and Hunter (1952) described one example of the composer Rossini, who suffered from phobic fear of the noise of trains, and a severe compulsion expressed in the auditory sphere. 1

Some similarity may be found between the theory suggested here and the formulations put forth by Kohut and Levarie (1950), Kohut (1957), Niederland (1958), and Berezin (1958) with regard to enjoyment. These authors regard listening to music as an activity of the ego in the service of mastering auditory

. 1  It is dangerous to depend on biographies, which are frequently retrograde glorifications of childhood genius, as a scientific source for conveying facts about the predecessors of artistic achievement. But it would be possible and worthwhile to plan an anterograde research in which predictions could be made based on young children's specific sensitivities. These predictions would be related some years later to the possible emergence of musical abilities

stimuli that, in their deeper meaning, are threatening and frightening. These writers, too, are convinced that, owing to constitutional and environmental factors alike, this threatening implication is attributed to various noise stimuli. Still there is an essential difference between their theories and the present one. Whereas they maintain that listening to music is an activity which, like playing, serves the ego's needs for mastery, it is here contended that the musical talent itself stems from the essential need of the ego to achieve mastery. Unlike playing, mastery of this sort is not primarily intended to attain pleasure; it is definitely enacted out of the defensive need, to help the ego cope with the onslaught of a surfeit of auditory stimuli.

The Environmental Background

The environmental factors influencing the development of musical ability have been rather neglected in the psychoanalytic literature. The few authors who have dealt with the subject stressed the influence of the primary mother-child relationship.

Racker (1951) discusses music as a communicative medium antedating the spoken word and object representation. He concludes that "the sharpening, or more exactly, the erotization of hearing may possibly have one of its roots in the attention a small child pays to the arrival of his mother" (p. 150).

Anna Freud (1965), dealing with the lines of development in children, states that such lines of development "are included in their constitution as inherent possibilities" (p. 86). The proportionate strength, however, of the one or the other developmental line depends on environmental factors, most important among which is the mother and her primary relation to her baby: "In the beginning of life, at least, the infant seems to concentrate on the development along those lines which call forth most ostensibly the mother's love and approval… This implies that activities which are acclaimed by the mother are repeated more frequently, become libidinized, and thereby stimulated into further growth" (p. 86).

Among the examples used by Anna Freud to demonstrate these influences, we find the following: "It is not unknown that early contact with the mother through her singing has consequences for the later attitudes to music and may promote special musical aptitudes" (p. 87).

In the light of the opinions quoted above it seems safe to assume that among the environmental factors it is the primary preverbal mode of communication between the infant and his mother that initiates the development of musical talent. Rather little was done in psychoanalysis to investigate these modes of communication until René Spitz (1965) observed that they differ essentially from later ones. The primary modes communicate no more than affects, expressed in patterns of coenesthetic organization through the various sensory channels—hearing, seeing, touching, etc.

From observations of mother-child dyads it appears that there are individual differences in the modes of communication. Each dyad shows a preference for one particular channel of communication, which then becomes dominant in this specific relationship while others are used considerably less. Such individual differences are due to specific factors which vary from mother to mother and from infant to infant. Some mothers like to talk to their babies, to whisper and sing to them, whereas others do not open their lips while handling their babies. Often we hear a mother reply to our question about her contact with her child: "Naturally, I won't talk to him, he doesn't understand anything yet." Similar differences are found with regard to tactile contact. Some mothers enjoy keeping the baby in their arms, cuddling, and fondling him, whereas others handle the baby as little as possible and only when it is really asked for. (Such mothers will not hesitate to find a rational excuse like the danger of infection, etc.) Because of the individual differences in the mother's contact with her baby, every infant "receives" the mother differently. As stated above, there usually is one dominant channel of communication through which the infant affectively "receives" the mother and, through her, the outside world; yet that channel is different for every baby.

Primary communication is mutual, as is communication in general, since the baby expresses his needs through the same channels—sounds, movements, contacts, etc. Even such a primary ability as that of expression is subject to individual variations; Korner (1964), e.g., observed that infants vary in their abilities to demonstrate their inner states, some conveying "their needs more readily to their caretakers" than others (p. 65). It may be assumed, furthermore, that children differ in their capacities for utilizing the various modes of communication, yet every baby eventually succeeds in making himself understood through signs of one or the other sort. Some children convey their needs mainly by vocal means, while others resort more frequently to movement. These variations seem to stem from constitutional factors, on the one hand, and from the experiences the infant has had with regard to the mother's readiness to respond to his various "messages," on the other hand. Hence the specific pattern of communication characteristic of each mother-child dyad is modeled on a combination of two factors, those contributed by the mother and those inherent in the infant.

When the auditory channel is the supreme mode of primary communication, it may be assumed that the child is predisposed to building musical ability. In an infant who related affectively to his surroundings through the auditory channel of communication and who "received" the mother mainly through auditory stimuli, this channel may continue to play a prominent role in his emotional exchange with the outside world. And later, when the adult is stirred up by longings for the lost paradise of oral infancy, for that symbiotic mother love, such longings may take on the shape of craving for those "fondling tones." Music, with its sound patterns set according to primary design, can thus bring him back to that primary period when through the sensory modality of hearing he had felt reassured by his mother's love.

Psychoanalysts who have musical patients in treatment certainly observe a periodical increase in the pressing need of their patients to hear and enjoy music. With several patients I have had the experience that such periods were marked by concurrent diffuse and indistinct longings, such as "I feel like yearning for I don't know what; nothing can please me but music." Some time later all these patients vividly recalled early memories of their long-dead mothers.

Interestingly, it is not through musical ability alone that the preservation of infantile auditory modes of communication is manifested by those persons. They have other characteristics that retain traces of auditory coenesthetic perception. While talking with others, they are unusually sensitive to the various components of speech, such as sound, timbre, intensity, and rhythm. This perception, without necessarily being conscious, is actively engaged in, though it serves a communicative function. Whenever I am told by a patient about impressions such as "I can't complain, he is kind with me, but I feel that he is really mad at me; something in his voice tells me so …," I usually ask the patient whether he is fond of music. And it has always proved to be true that those who are more sensitive and responsive to the sounds of speech rather than to its content have some affinity to music.

Integration of the Factors

The constitutional and environmental factors do not exist independently of each other, and it is obvious that they mutually influence each other. A specific sensory sensitivity that is considered to be determined by a constitutional factor is permanently subjected to environmental influences. Spitz (1965) maintains that the primary barrier against stimuli forms an integral part of the structure of the sensorium. Within a very brief span of time, though, the protective task is taken over by the "ego nuclei," so that the protective barrier is turned into a function of the ego. Since in the course of development the ego is exposed to numerous environmental factors, these will certainly exert an influence on the specific ability of the protective barrier to screen stimuli, to reject or to assimilate them. It may therefore be concluded that the unusual sensory sensitivity that is assumed to be at the root of musical ability is given at birth as an Anlage and is molded into its final shape through the mutual influences of a variety of environmental factors.

On the other hand, it is rather improbable that the specific mode of communication of the mother-child dyad can be singled out as a mere environmental factor. This specific mode is not established solely by the mother's habitual approach to her child; it is no less determined by the infant's modes of expression, and these depend to a considerable degree on constitutional factors. In reality, however, as was indicated briefly, it is impossible to distinguish between constitutional and environmental factors because every single etiological factor bears distinct evidence of the mutual and interwoven influences of constitution and environment.

In spite of this mutuality of influences it seems worthwhile to distinguish between the primary sensory sensitivity and the mother-infant mode of communication, and to view them as two separate factors, each being instrumental in the development of musical ability. The proportionate degree to which each of them exercises its influence varies from one individual to another; accordingly, countless variations of individual patterns of musical ability are observed.

In some people musicality is many-sided; they have a "natural" capacity for absolute pitch, for pitch discrimination, etc., yet they show little interest in music and are not particularly keen on it, whereas others enjoy nothing better than music and even become "addicted" to it. Some persons get tense and irritable if for some reason they are prevented from listening to music for some time, but in musical aptitude tests they show no particular musicality, a factor that may be responsible for their falling short of performing or composing music, although they eagerly endeavor to do so.

Between these extremes multi-shaded variations are observed in the combination of primary ability and the need for attaining gratification through listening to music. Those combinations presumably mirror the varieties of integration of the two factors that determine the development of musical ability. Apparently, the specific musical capability owes its development to the unusual sensory sensitivity, whereas the specific interest in music and the ability to attain gratification from listening to it are based in the primary modes of communication. In reality we scarcely ever see a case in which one of the two factors can be isolated as the single determinant of development. It is not surprising, then, that a person will rarely display considerable musical talent while denying all interest in music, just as it is highly improbable that a person greatly interested in music will be denied all musical talent.

The opinions presented here are merely hypothetical, though they are rooted in the clinical and theoretical knowledge gathered in the field of psychoanalysis; yet they lack experimental confirmation. Certainly, every assumption will be scientifically better founded when it has withstood the test of controlled experiment. In fact, such an experimental investigation of the psychoanalytic conceptions about art and artists has not been undertaken. It seems, however, that the assumptions presented here might serve as the basis for designing a research project to examine and prove the constitutional roots of musical talent and to demonstrate the effects of primary modes of communication on the development of musical ability. I realize that considerable effort would need to be invested in an experimental study of this kind. Yet I think it worthwhile because the results, beyond yielding additional information about music and musical ability, may shed light on the problems of the developmental background of artistic talent per se and of gratification through art in all its forms.


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