Author: Dr. Melvyn J. Willin
Hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: Melrose Books
Publication date: August 2005
Price & More Info: Click Here
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
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. (Sheffield University) in parapsychology
and music, and then returned to Bristol University 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
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.
Reviewed by Mike Gleason