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We asked respected Australian music therapist/ pianist, Enid Rowe to answer the following question..

Enid Rowe

September 2007

The Question:
What is music therapy?

Response by Enid Rowe share this - email, favourites, social bookmarks and more

Two questions are implied here.
What is music?
What is therapy?

To answer the second question we must first answer another question, i.e. "What is the therapeutic mode?" My answer, based on the premise that the therapist cannot heal, is "to release the healing agent in others".

As to the first question it seems obvious words cannot be found to define the essence of music.

In his autobiography Igor Stravinsky (1936) said "music is, by its very nature, powerless to express anything at all...if...music appears to express something, this is only an illusion, and not a reality."

Susan K. Langer wrote "Not communication but insight is the gift of music."
(Philosophy in a New Key p. 244). Langer also maintained that music is true to the life of the feelings in a way that language cannot be. Verbal statements are largely useless for conveying the precise character of a feeling.

Victor Zuckerandl in Sound and Symbol said "The essence of music cannot be thought, but must be felt and this is as it should be. For music is a miracle and we approach a miracle with reverent wonder, we do not pry into it with thought."

If music is to be used as therapy it is necessary to explore and become familiar with the elements which make music a miracle.

It is possible in music therapy to improvise music creatively, with sensitivity and integrity to engage a client in music making and support his/her activity.

My music therapy training was at the Nordoff Robbins Centre in London in 1977/78. This approach is an improvisational model where clinical goals are contained within musical goals. Personal freedom is realised through musical freedom. Self confidence is realised through independent creativity in music.

Music exists moment to moment. As it moves in time it comes to life. It can lead or accompany us through the whole range of human emotions, the heights and depths of human experience.

In my work with children it is obvious that the young child is searching for a response. The child has a "self" somewhere which has intent. Motivation is a notion of intention, a mental action pattern. Without this there is no motivation. If the child's ego can be strengthened it may be possible for him/her to go back to where the ego became distorted. Regression allows the possibility of developing along a different line.

Music is organised. (Good musicians are obsessive) The child is an area scattered, incoherent, undisciplined, chaotic. The musical dialogue between therapist and child contains reciprocal affect. It is not the therapist and music acting on the child, but the therapist and child acting on each other in mutual dialogue. In this wordless musical discourse feelings are transformed. Order is created out of inner personal chaos.

Music therapy is not communication in the Nordoff Robbins model but inter-response. One improvises, i.e. extends ones experience, as the context changes. The reflection of experience is music.

Musical improvisation does not refer to anything outside itself for meaning. There is no need to interpret it. There is a whole world of musical idioms and styles, a palette of musical colours - Western diatonic, Eastern Pentatonic, Middle Eastern, Sanish, Ancient modes (all seven of them), atonal, bitonal, whole tone, blues - Is it any wonder that music has the ability to penetrate barriers resulting from diabling emotional, intellectual, social and physical conditions which restrict lives?

I am vitally concerned with reducing the burden of pathology by developing changes in responsiveness, self awareness and attitude to others. The creative act of music making has power to release healing agents in all of us.

more...(How the music therapist works)

2007 Enid Rowe
Enid Rowe LTCL.Dip MTNR, RMT, SRAsT(M)
founder of Nordoff-Robbins in Australia in 1984

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