Dissertation Index

Author: Lett, Stephen

Title: The Psychedelic Listener: Theorizing Music in Therapeutic Practice

Institution: University of Michigan

Begun: September 2014

Completed: May 2019


This dissertation traces a form of music psychotherapy called Guided Imagery and Music from its roots in 1950s psychedelic psychiatry through to its present-day use in a therapist’s private practice. In chapter one, I elaborate two images of the listener: the modern and the psychedelic. In chapter two, I explore how the modern listener regulates what counts as music-theoretical work, while also demonstrating that music theorists have always appeared unfulfilled by this image of listening as evidenced in their investment in musical experience. Chapter three recasts experience by tracing the co-emergence of the concept of the psychedelic and what came to be called psychedelic psychotherapy. In order to foster the kind of experience they found therapeutically efficacious, researchers began playing music during the sessions. Chapter four follows up on this practice by studying two approaches to selecting music for psychedelic psychotherapy—one premised on psychological behaviorism, the other, Bonny’s, on humanistic and transpersonal psychology. In Chapter five, I study Bonny’s theory of music in GIM. Through a close reading of her primary music-theoretical text, I work to tease her voice out the cacophony of sources she cites. In chapter six, I explore how a therapist uses GIM in private practice today. Drawing on fieldwork with a practitioner, I present a detailed vignette of a single session before elaborating on the therapist’s thinking about the psyche and music. Chapter seven concludes by drawing the various strands of this dissertation together—integrating them so that we might reorient our music-theoretical practices moving forward.

Keywords: history of music theory, psychedelic psychotherapy, Guided Imagery and Music, music therapy, musical experience, transpersonal, consciousness, secular, spiritual, modern


Chapter 1 Listeners
Chapter 2 Investments
Chapter 3 Experiences
Chapter 4 Typologies
Chapter 5 Theories
Chapter 6 A Practice
Chapter 7 Integrating



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