A remarkable book which is both moving and informative Scholarly knowledge delivered lucidly and accessible to the non musically educated reader combines with the author s personal story The latter is delivered succinctly and without self indulgence and the whole delivers an intelligent and sensitive insight into both the mind and music of Shostakovich and Stephen Johnson Through his own very personal account of his mental illness, Stephen Johnson records how the music of Shostakovich has given him the strength to survive the very worst periods in his life and now he searches for an answer as to why this should be.This book has two themes The first is the study of how Shostakovich s music survived under Stalin s reign of terror and how it gave hope to an oppressed people in spite of the darkness of the complex and multi layered music The second theme is the paradox of how this sad, angry and often bitter music has given a lifeline to those suffering from mental illness and most particularly to the author He discovered the fourth symphony in his early teens and this helped him survive until he found therapy as well He describes himself very graphically as a pilot of a small vessel, trying to chart his way through a turbulent ocean The music of Shostakovich helped him do this and now he wants to understand why.It is a dense and very detailed book and maybe this for me was the problem There are so many exact references to certain movements in the works, even down to a few bars, that if like me, you may have heard the music only once or twice, all this analysis gets rather lost The parts of the book I enjoyed most were the interviews with surviving members of Soviet orchestras, particularly the harrowing account of the first performance of the 7th Symphony in a starving Leningrad under siege in 1942 How Shostakovich Changed my Mind is a detailed, well written book, full of interesting ideas and quotations It is also a beautifully presented volume by Notting Hill Editions Perhaps the publishers have missed a trick by not giving out a CD as well If they had presented a CD of the musical works most often referred to, the reader would have been able to dip into each work as it occurred and the references wouldn t have been so obscure and therefore wasted.Worth reading if you are a lover of Shostakovich s music and also if you are interested in the beneficial effect music can have on those suffering from mental illness.JaneBreakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review. The combination of personal reflection and detailed analysis makes for a unique and satisfying read The author s love for and empathy with Shostakovich and indeed for the rest of us struggling through life is completely clear Anyone who listens to the author on the radio will know how gifted he is as a musical commentator, thinker and communicator He is a treasure and I hope he has the opportunity to write extensively about other composers soon. Excellent read Lots to think about and ponder on I hope Stephen Johnson continues writing and broadcasting He s certainly needed for his thoughtful incites, stories and enthusiasm. I ran across this book while looking for a biography of Shostakovich I heard about after watching documentary I ve been listening to Shostakovich s music for years and it has often had a profound affect on my state of mind This author takes a stab at explaining why this might be It s not very long but it is engagingly written It includes some biographical details that are interesting, some musicology I liked it. This remarkable remarkably beautifully produced short book weaves together music scholarship, history, science and deeply personal experience of mental health issues to produce something quite unlike any other reading experience It s not just about Shostakovich but you ll see him in am entirely new, richer context. A brief but powerful exposition of the place and power of music in the human psyche For me and my generation, one could easily substitute The Beatles or Dylan for Shostakovich and lose none of the meaning of this excellent analysis. BBC music broadcaster Stephen Johnson explores the power of Shostakovich s music during Stalin s reign of terror, and writes of the extraordinary healing effect of music on sufferers of mental illness Johnson looks at neurological, psychotherapeutic and philosophical findings, and reflects on his own experience, where he believes Shostakovich s music helped him survive the trials and assaults of bipolar disorder There s something about hearing your most painful emotions transformed into something beautiful The old Russian who uttered those words spoke for countless fellow survivors of Stalin s reign of terror And the something beautiful he had in mind was the music of Dmitri ShostakovichYet there is no escapism, no false consolation in Shostakovich s greatest music this is some of the darkest, saddest, at times bitterest music ever composed So why do so many feel grateful to Shostakovich for having created it not just Russians, but westerners like Stephen Johnson, brought up in a very different, far safer kind of society How is it that music that reflects pain, fear and desolation can help sufferers find if not a way out, then a way to bear these feelings and ultimately rediscover pleasure in existence Johnson draws on interviews with the members of the orchestra who performed Shostakovich s Leningrad Symphony during the siege of Leningrad, during which almost a third of the population starved to death In the end, this book is a reaffirmation of a kind of humanist miracle that hope could be reborn in a time when, to quote the writer Nadezhda Mandelstam, there was only Hope against Hope How music can move us to and from emotional states in ways perhaps nothing else can Based on a thorough understanding of music, particularly the compositions of Shostakovich Insight into his music and the effects of trauma and their relationship. The author states that the music helped his mental condition There is no medical or neurophisologic evidence that music can do this Therefore, the authors conclusions raises false hopes.