What is the difference between music therapy and other musical activities?
Is it possible to label all music making as therapy?
These are issues I find myself grappling with, especially as I move between the roles of teaching music therapy, performing and researching. Are there transitional places between activities when music therapy takes place? In performance, happenings occur: an elderly gentleman spontaneously sings to an old jazz song; at a living room gig people respond by crying; in a busy pub, the room suddenly becomes hushed to the sound of a lone voice. All of these incidences happened (and more) during performances I took part in. I am a trained music therapist, does this make these performances music therapy?
A few years ago I would have said, without a doubt, no. I viewed music therapy as taking place in a special clinical setting, within psychoanalytic boundaries. However, these days, I am not so sure. It has been in experiences, like those quoted above, which have re-affirmed for me, the therapeutic nature of music. I am always a music therapist, and I bring this training and experience to performance. When performing, I am unable to stop thinking about the music therapeutically. Personally I think that, performing is at its most effective when the therapeutic results of music are in evidence.
Ansdell (2014) writes that:
‘a music therapist’s specialist skill is to midwife music’s help in situations where people can’t necessarily access it for themselves (Ansdell, 2014, p. 295).
He suggests that Small’s (1998) idea of musicking (music making as a social phenomenon) and music therapy are on a continuum, and music therapists often work with people who can’t access music in other situations. I am not sure where I stand with this, since as a performer, who is also a music therapist, I find my self performing in unusual situations where people can’t usually access music. So is this music therapy? I suppose I shall just have to keep wondering and journeying with the music.
Ansdell, G. (2014) How Music Helps: in Music Therapy and Everyday Life. Surrey and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.
Small, C. (1998) Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press.