Music, Witchcraft and the Paranormal by Dr. Melvyn J. Willin © 2005

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    Music, Witchcraft and the Paranormal   by  Dr. Melvyn J. Willin  ©  2005  Melrose Books  ISBN   1-905226-18-7   $28.65 (U.S.)

    This book is composed of six essays presented as part of two doctoral theses.  If that sounds like scholarly work, you are right.  If you think that makes for dry reading, you might want to hold that judgment in abeyance for a bit.  There are, as to be expected, a large number of citations of previous works in the field and it is not, in any way, shape or form compelling reading.

    Various experiments are recounted with, to my surprise, results not significantly varying from what random chance would have predicted (at least in the overview).  Ideas are presented for further experiments which may help to further refine the results.

    The second chapter looks at the phenomenon of individuals who claim to be in contact with deceased composers, singers, musician, and, in one case, a violin maker.  Their claims are examined as closely as possible and judgment rendered by those knowledgeable in the appropriate fields.  There are a couple of surprises in this chapter, to my way of thinking.

    Perhaps the most surprising part of this entire book is the sheer readability of it.  Being composed of essays in support of two academic theses, I was expecting a much drier book.  While it is not a lightweight book, it is also not as technical and heavy as to deter non-experts from reading it, and gaining for the experience.

    The author brings to this study some rather unusual qualifications.  Not only has he studied and taught music, he formed the Essex Guitar Orchestra and performed around the world.  He has written tutor books as well as the current volume.  He holds a Ph.D. (SheffieldUniversity) in parapsychology and music, and then returned to BristolUniversity to obtain a second Ph.D. studying witchcraft and paganism from a musical perspective.

    He has served as the Honorary Archive Officer to the Council of the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) and is a Council Member of the Pagan Federation.  Thus he brings both theoretical knowledge (from his academic background) and practical knowledge (from his involvement with the SPR and Pagan Federation.  While this combination is not unique, it is certainly uncommon.

    The books is composed of two parts, either one of which (in my opinion) is reason enough to buy it.  The first portion deals with the paranormal aspects of the subject (channeled communications, transmission of music by extra sensory means, and “ghostly” music).  The second portion investigates the part music plays in witchcraft, the presence of witchcraft themes in classical music, and finally, the place of music in modern-day paganism.

    The references to published works cover seventeen pages of fairly small print (with an average of 27 citations per page) while the index is equally extensive.  The sources cited range from the works of popular writers (Valiente, Gardner, and Wheatley) to scholarly writers and include publications from the SPR as well as university presses on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Those readers who, like me, are unfamiliar with the study of music may find themselves a bit confused by many of the references in the chapter entitled “References to Witchcraft in Classical Music.”  The basic explanations are clear enough, but the mention of various interpretations by different producers of several operas and staged productions will undoubtedly lose much of their impact.

    The final chapter of the book is undoubtedly the most appealing to the average Pagan/Wiccan reader, sine it deals directly with music used by current practitioners in their private (and group) rituals, as well as for personal listening.  There may be a few surprises among the groups and sources listed, but overall it manages to convey a real feel for the contemporary Pagan music scene.


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