(p. ix ) Preface
At a particular point in the conceptualization of my book on music performance anxiety, I was reminded of a passage from a remarkable early paper, The psychic mechanism of hysterical phenomena (Freud, 1893), in which Freud muses:
… even I myself am struck by the fact that the case histories which I am writing read like novels and, as it were, dispense with the serious features of the scientific character … [but] focal diagnoses and electrical reactions are really not important in the study of hysteria, whereas a detailed discussion of the psychic processes, as one is wont to hear it from the poet … allows one to gain an insight into the course of events of hysteria (p. 50).
At the time of writing in 1893, Freud was in the very early stages of his struggle to understand a pervasive psychological phenomenon of his day—hysteria. Without wishing to draw an immodest parallel between Freud’s struggles to understand hysteria and my own struggle to understand music performance anxiety, I felt almost from the outset of its conceptualization that ‘the serious features of the scientific character’ were not only premature but stifling in my attempts to understand the lived experience, the phenomenology of music performance anxiety, in all its manifestations, in younger and older, amateur and professional, vocal and instrumental, solo and orchestral/choral musicians.
Although most of my early formal training in psychology was based on the principles of learning theory, and most of my clinical practice in the paradigms of the cognitive behavior therapies, with maturity, experience, and exposure to other ways of understanding the ‘Johnian quality of John’ (Allport, 1955) I became aware that while these orientations provided an excellent basis from which to commence the Herculean task of understanding human behavior and assisting people to change, there were vast caverns of conscious and unconscious experience that needed to be understood and worked with in the pursuit of a ‘cure’ or, as newer age psychoanalysts and psychotherapists prefer, an authentic existence. Many psychologists have long understood that ‘Stimulus-response psychology and conditioning theory cannot get along without Freud’s internal mental world …’ (Mahl, 1968, p. x). However, they have not always had the loudest voices, and the field has been impoverished by the imbalance and consequent neglect of the internal mental world.
Accordingly, I have painted a large canvas. I have drawn on my own experiences of severe music performance anxiety as well as all the sources of knowledge currently available. I offer a number of ways to characterize music performance anxiety using psychiatric taxonomies, epidemiology, and different theoretical perspectives. These include learning theory, psychoanalytic theory, attachment and relational theories, emotion, psychophysiological and neurochemical theories of anxiety, performance psychology and the psychology of peak performance. We need all these perspectives in order to enhance our understanding of the hybrid nature of the music performance (p. x ) anxieties and the musicians who inhabit them, the wide range of underlying causes, their varied manifestations and often unpredictable consequences and outcomes. It is simultaneously a work of synthesis and speculation. Many of the hypotheses presented in this book await empirical and clinical confirmation or revision.
The first and final chapters are devoted to the musicians themselves, in which they have shared their stories and struggles, and offer their advice and wisdom. They have raised their voices in praise of their art and provided moving insights into the creative yet often painful act of music making. Above all, they have shared themselves with us. For this profound act of courage, I am deeply grateful.
Allport, G. W. (1955). Becoming: Basic considerations for a psychology of personality. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Freud, S. (1893). The psychic mechanism of hysterical phenomena, In R. M. Hutchins (Ed.). The major works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 54, pp. 25–31. Chicago: University of Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Mahl, G. F. (1968). Gestures and body movements in interviews. In J. M. Shlien (Ed.). Research in Psychotherapy (Vol. 1, pp. 295–346). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Dianna T. Kenny
5th February 2011