Winnicott and Music*

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An essay by Nicholas Spice

An essay by Nicholas Spice

This essay by the publisher of the London Review of Books offers several provocative ideas about the way we listen to, talk about, and learn music. Spice refers to the work of child psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott as a basis for framing a bold proposal for changing our musical culture from the ground up. Originally given as a talk in 2001 and then published in 2002, this reprint includes a new afterword in which Spice answers questions about his thesis and offers additional commentary on the work.

*This article was originally given as a paper to the Squiggle series Original Themes in Winnicott in June 2001

This was originally published in The Elusive Child, edited by Lesley Caldwell (published by Karnac Books in 2002), and is reprinted with kind permission of Karnac Books.

Praise for “Winnicott and Music*”

“In his enlightening essay, Nicholas Spice lets us imagine how practice would become play if D.W. Winnicott were our piano teacher. I wish he’d been mine.”

– Lynne Tillman

Lynne Tillman is a novelist, short story writer, and cultural critic. Last spring, her second essay collection, What Would Lynne Tillman Do? was published. Her most recent novel is American Genius, A Comedy. She is currently writing her next novel, Men and Apparitions.


“How do we “play” music? Nicholas Spice’s deeply thoughtful meditation is a bold and bracing vision of revitalizing our lives by bringing back play. On one level, this is about a different way to approach music education; on another level, it is about imagining a limitless new world.”

-Katherine Giuffre

Katherine Giuffre is the Carlton Professor of Social Sciences, Colorado College, and author of Collective Creativity: Art and Society in the South Pacific.