Graphic Scores and Music Therapy (pt.2)

 

This is the second blog in the series about Graphic Scores and Music Therapy

Understanding how 20th century and contemporary artists have attempted to visualise music can create alternative ways of re-imagining music therapy. It can be useful to incorporate graphics into music therapy reflective notes. This can not only aid memory, but develop thinking and assist analysis.

As an example I would like to use a simple one minute extract of work with a 5 year old boy*.

Clinical Notes: ‘Seated at the piano side by side with John. I played a blues in C major and sang, ‘John and Becky in music now’. He turned round to look, giving direct eye contact. Brief pause of piano music. John seemed to notice the camera and then started sounding the piano using all his fingers at once. I continued playing and singing ‘music now’. He started to use loud vocal sounds such as ‘ra-ra’. I imitated his sounds. There was a real feeling of connection and playing together. After one minute John lost concentration, said ‘oh’ and turned away. He then quickly moved away from the piano.’

This can be illustrated in a box graphic:

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Or on a time graphic:

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Bergstrom Nielson (2010) discusses the idea of the simple ‘line sketch’. Drawing a single line to represent the individual and layering graphics over this to illustrate events and music.

In the extract with John it might look something like this:

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The idea is taken from Klee (Duchting, 2016 ) who, when teaching at the Bauhaus, developed a theory of form and structure in painting related to music. Klee (1953) sought to visualise music, particularly it’s temporal and rhythmic elements. Single flowing lines for Klee represented the temporal in music, and showed movement from one moment to the next. In layering graphics over these lines, he was able to illustrate the polyphonic nature of music.

Drawing  a ‘polyphonic’ graphic related to John’s session, allows me to immediately see the shape, time and structure of the session. The drawing shows there were two main points of interaction, the eye contact after I had initially played the blues introduction and the joint vocalising at the end. The relationships between the two flowing graphic lines illustrates the times of coming together and being apart. The blue background represents the holding and containing nature of the blues structure.

To think about this extract in a wider context, it was highly unusual for John to vocalise and give so much eye contact at this point in the therapy. The graphic score highlighted the closeness of the interaction. This demonstrates that its possible to use a combination of reflective notes with graphic scores which can inform thinking about the work.

I would like to invite you to try out simple drawings to accompany your sessions, and think about if you find the process useful. Please let me know your results.

*The extract is loosely based on actual clinical work, all names and identifying information have been changed and consent given.

 

References:

Bergstrom-Nielson, C. (2010) Graphic Notation – the Simple Sketch and Beyond. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 19 (2), pp. 162 – 177.

Ducting, H. (2016) Paul Klee: Painting Music. Munich: Prestel

Klee, P. (1953) Pedagogical Sketchbook. Translated from the German by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy. New York.

Further Reading:

Guy, F., Shaw-Miller, S., and Tucker, M. (2007) Eye-Music: Kandinsky, Klee and all that Jazz. Chichester: Pallant House Gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are Graphic Scores Useful for Music Therapists?

Do graphic scores have a place in the practice of music therapy?

How might they be useful as tools of transcription, communication and analysis?

As music therapists we are often time poor. It can be difficult to find space to keep detailed reflective records and notes. However, making visual transcriptions of clinical work can enrich our practice.

There are many different ways of keeping records of music therapy, audio and video files, reflective and process notes. It can be useful to transcribe aspects of sessions and make brief visual jottings. Bergstrom-Nielson (2010) describes using drawing as an aid to recording musical events in sessions. He suggests making extremely simple sketches, such as single lines or graphics boxes, to aid memory and convey events in a session. These can be incorporated into the therapists reflective notes, and potentially communicate in an immediate direct fashion which the written word might lack. For example:

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A Line Sketch

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A Box Sketch

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A Mind Map

To take the idea deeper, graphic realisations of sessions can be useful for analysis. If as a therapist you are listening back to a session, and want to think in more detail, the process of making a graphic score can reveal ‘hidden aspects’ of the therapy (Bergstrom-Nielson, 2009). With a sketch intended for analysis you may take time to add in more aspects, to create specific symbols for instruments, or to show other aspects of the session, such as a time line or physical gestures.

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Key for Instruments

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A Time Line

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Illustrations of Physical Gestures

Drawing can also be utilised to communicate about the work. When presenting clinical material showing graphic realisations can enhance the understanding for the listener. For example a simple box flow chart:

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Box Flow Chart

Graphics scores can be an extremely useful tool for music therapy practice. We need not limit ourselves to always using the written word to communicate or think about music therapy. I hope I have demonstrated that you don’t need to be an artist to use graphics as part of your music therapy practice, but can make simple sketches, mind maps or more detailed scores for analysis which can potentially enhance working life.

 

References

Bergstrom-Nielson, C. (2009) Graphic Notation in Music Therapy: A Discussion of what to Notate in Graphic Notation, and How. Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education 1(2). Available at: http://approaches.primarymusic.gr [Accessed 23 March 2015].

Bergstrom-Nielson, C. (2010) Graphic Notation  – the Simple Sketch and Beyond. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 19 (2), pp. 162 – 177.

 

 

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‘Drawn Music’ – An Exhibition

Today until the 2nd July there will be an exhibition of my art and cards for sale at the Pewsey Tea Rooms, Wiltshire.

The title is: ‘Drawn Music‘ and consists of two series of pictures:

The first is ‘The Song Catcher’ series, about a mythical character who roams the earth looking for songs:

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The Song Catcher

 

The second series grew organically out of the song catcher. As I drew the musical shapes in the song catcher pictures, I started to think, ‘can I draw music?’ and ‘what does music look like?’ So I started to experiment with drawing lines and colours which seemed to me to represent musical experiences:

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The Musical Flow Moment – Bodies and Notations.

I hope the people of Pewsey enjoy these to accompany their tuna sandwiches and cream teas!

 

 

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Guided Imagery in Music

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A Mandala created as part of the Guided Imagery in Music Course

As part of my PhD course I recently attended Level 1 training in Guided Imagery in Music, with Professor Leslie Bunt at The University of the West of England, further details available at: http://courses.uwe.ac.uk/USPKJE15M/2016

Guided Imagery in Music is a particular branch of music therapy which focuses on receptive responses accompanied by a therapist.

GIM has a lot to offer the music therapy community. Not only do we need live improvised music making, we also need recorded music. Many of us use recordings in our clinical work, but how aware are we really of the techniques required to use them? GIM should be part of all music therapists training, it seems to be such an intuitive step in the development of the profession of music therapy.

The training involves listening to programmes of classical music. Beginning with a gentle start of listening whilst doing other activities such as drawing Mandalas (Fincher, 1991) or writing a narrative, developing into listening in deep states of relaxation whilst being closely attuned to by a therapist.

This is the first time that a Guided Imagery in Music course has been run at The University of the West of England. Receptive therapy in music is like the missing jigsaw piece in the music therapy spectrum, and it feels absolutely right for GIM to have a higher profile and an increasing number of therapists are starting to recognise its value.

GIM was originated by  Bonny (2002) following an epiphany experience in a prayer meeting, playing the violin, Bonny started to research the therapeutic benefits of listening to classical recorded music. Sessions in GIM start with a carefully controlled induction in which the therapist first finds out about the individual’s life, and creates a relaxation activity that facilitates the ‘traveller’ to enter an altered state. This is not strange as it sounds, since ‘altered states’ are a natural part of our everyday lives. The moments between waking and sleeping, or when we day-dream are all ‘altered states’ (Meyer, 2007).

The imagery and amount of direction is carefully considered by the therapist, designed to aid therapeutic process. The traveller is invited to visualise imagery, such as a pathway, a boat or a house.

GIM has two more levels in which the therapists learn to keep the travellers safe, before they can practice. One of the aspects that interests me is the analysis of sessions, looking in close detail at the musical analysis of a piece of classical music and then tracking the journeys it creates. I love this sort of analysis looking at small details in music. Which is part of the reason for doing a PhD.

On a personal note, I had one experience of travelling on the course, I was very surprised at the profundity of the experience, and I am still thinking about it two weeks later…

“Mandala created with sea-glass, pebbles, rocks, shells, toy instruments, lights and drawing”.

 

References:

Bonny, H.L. (2002) Music and Consciouness: The Evolution of Guided Imagery and Music: Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers

Fincher, S.F. (1991) Creating Mandalas for Insight: Healing and Self-Expression. Boston: Shambhala.

Meyer, E. (2007) Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind. London: Bantam Books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Art Work in Progress

Currently working on drawings which reflect Synaesthetic experiences. Listening to music and drawing what I see. Up and coming exhibition at Pewsey Tea Rooms June 4th to Saturday 6th July … Here is a taster …

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Saxophone Timbre

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Bass and Voice

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Body and Notations

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Essay, Art Work or Hypertext?

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Creating essays which are ALSO art works.

Trying to create a beautiful book is a relief in a world where we are so often virtual and on-line. It was a pleasure to create a physical object and to try to use that to communicate a creative heart.

As part of the taught module in ‘psycho-social’ studies, at the University of the West of England, I wrote a 6000 word assignment which included a reflective portfolio and micro research project. My aim was to create something beautiful, which was both aesthetically pleasing, and academically sound. This was instigated by the reflexive aspect of the assignment, being asked to express a personal research journey. I thus fell to using music<>visual aspects of reflection. This was the first ‘physical’ object I had been asked to produce towards a PhD, and it seemed important to express something tangibly creative through the act of making.

I was inspired by the idea of artists books, which are art works in the form of a book, made as small runs or one-off objects. I wanted my essay to give the reader a sensory experience of musical synaesthesia, or coloured hearing. This was done by the traditional practice of incorporating prints, on separate pages:

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Extract: The Magic Picture

In addition, I wanted to give the experience of the simultaneous act of images combined with text. I did this by creating a hypertext, layering graphics underneath the words though out the document. This was inspired by the music therapist Stige (2002) who discusses the idea of different ways of collecting and viewing data such as, music, diaries, poems and drawings. In combining visual and text together I was revealing my own neurological difference, that the first thought is music <> visual and then it becomes words. My thought processes through out the module, involved thinking about highly coloured shapes which were also aspects of experience in improvised music. I wanted to try to convey this through the making of an artists book.

The next stage was to take some of the actual pieces of the art work and tie them onto the  book:

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The art tags on the spine

I used all of the spare pieces on the books, so they  became merged with the art works.

The final aspect was to use the paper craft technique of applying layers of paper on top of the page using masking tape.  I also played with the formatting of the words.

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The dancing shapes

The question remains what will my final PhD look like?

I’ve no idea what so ever!

References

Stige, B. (2002) Cultured-Centered Music Therapy. Gilsum NH: Barcelona Publishers

 

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Magic Synaesthesia and Lost Words

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Extract from ‘The Musical Flow Moment -Saxophone Timbre’

Researching the intersection between art, music, words and modalities of expression.

I recently wrote an assignment on ‘the ineffable’ in musical experience, how we become lost for words when we try to speak about music. Through attempting to write this (with words) I found myself reaching into the visual to try to describe the musical.

Music for me triggers shapes, colours, spatial sensations and touch (Cytowic, 2002; Marks, 1975). Compounded with this I have visual stress syndrome, which means I process colours and light differently, and black and white print moves around on the page.

So in order to explore the PhD study of improvised musical experiences. My first impulse is to draw.

Since January I have spent time researching art focused on shapes; such as the work of textile designer Tibor Reich or linocuts of Angie Lewin. Both of these artists take their inspiration from the natural world, using shapes that are already present around us, but it is the artist job to notice them and bring them to our attention. In the same way, music for me has a particular natural form, and it is this I have been trying to express. The process was:

  • Choosing two colours which related to timbre, then drawing large fluid lines
  • Drawing further shapes to represent different aspects of the music
  • Adding smaller lines in
  • Repeating the process.

Each picture is rather like a continually developing jazz standard, the first one is created, but then the second becomes an improvisation on the first, the third on the second and so on.

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Extract from ‘The Musical Flow Moment – Bass and Voice’

As I drew these pictures particular thoughts dreamt up, the lines felt like drawing bodies together, with music inside. I had words such as ‘ musical archeology, digging-deeper and magic’ bouncing around my mind. It was if, in the act of visually realising the shapes, they came into sharper focus and shifted from my unconscious to conscious mind. This then enabled clearer thought about the musical experiences. For example, on drawing shapes based on traditional notation, this morphed into inner body shapes, clef’s became kidneys, note stems veins. I became aware of drawing the embodiment of music.

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Extract from ‘The Musical Flow Moment – Bodies and Notations’

To return for a moment to the subject of ‘ineffability’. It is almost as if some experiences are without words. That there exists a musical realm, a visual realm which is sensory, embodied and felt. This is music as ‘musical thought’, visual as ‘visual thought’ – only then is it translated into words. It is possible that this ‘other dimension’ is closer to our primitive selves, to our authentic selves, and it is only in the arts, especially in improvised arts, that we connect and reveal this part to each other.

 

References

Cytowic, R.E. (2002) Synaesthesia: A Union of the Senses: Massachuetts: MIT Press.

Marks, L.E. (1975) On Coloured-Hearing Synesthesia: Cross-Modal Translations of Sensory Dimensions. Ppsychological Bulletin. 82(3). pp. 303-331.

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Falling off Roundabouts

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A few weeks ago I had an intense study day preparing for my progression Viva. As some light relief at lunch time, I decided to check out the local children’s playground. To my delight a new roundabout had been installed. Since the playground was empty I decided to try it out. To my puzzlement and frustration, every time I got to the apex, I flew off and rolled onto the ground. This happened even after three or four attempts. On closer inspection I realised that the roundabout was on an angle (why I have no idea) and is actually tricky to stay on, you have to hold on really tight. I have not managed it yet.

Why am I sharing this? The PhD has felt rather like an unbalanced roundabout ride over the past weeks. I cling on, thrilling at the speed and then keep falling off at the top. There have been some very big highs over the last month, I survived the progression Viva, using newly acquired vocal -speech coaching techniques. I managed to try and explain what it is I am doing, including how improvised music might be useful to reveal unconscious processes (a tricky one to explain in words). I completed a very long report, which took hours of working away at writing skills with a dyslexia tutor. I presented a poster at a national conference, and was overwhelmed with the amount of interest in my study, where I definitely suffered from the classic ‘impostor’ syndrome. In between these dizzying heights, I kept rolling off the roundabout and wondering where I was, but thankfully there is a nice, soft grassy landing and time to keep getting back on. I am determined to conquer the puzzle of the ’roundabout’.

It occurs to me doing a PhD is also a little bit like this:

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The Magic Roundabout Swindon –  which I have to negotiate on a regular basis. Apparently the best technique is just to drive forwards whatever is in front of you.

 

Or maybe a PhD is like this?

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The Magic Roundabout …

Only time will tell!

 

 

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How to be a successful musician

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A fact of life for musicians is inherent tension in how meaning in music is interpreted. Music has been understood as an aesthetic object, which can be sold, passed on from person to person and put on a shelf. This is music as a commercial object, music as a book of graphics on a page, music as a round — shiny thing you put in a machine. The problem is, as musicians we understand this perception of music, but in reality it is not our experience, or the experience of our listeners. In actual fact music is us, music is a social process, it is what happens between you and me. Music can not be pinned down to materialism, it floats on the air, it acts in the space between us.

This tension is persistent in contemporary western society, as musicians we are constantly juggling with it. Frequently our highest aim is to create a place of connection with others, that is our success. The Finnish music researcher Hytonen-ng (2013) writes about intense moments of connection in Jazz music. She explains how for Jazz musicians creating and seeking out incredible moments of connections with others through Jazz is the most motivating factor there is to keep on playing. Music therapists are experts in creating these sorts of connections for people on the margins and edges of society. The profession of music therapy highlights the social view of music. That is why music therapists have so much to contribute to the music industry, to music academia and music performance. Music therapists are trained in music as social interaction, music as communication, music as the sounding of souls.

Musicians know the true value of music is to be found in being-us, being together. They frequently come across assumptions, that to be a successful musician is to be famous, to play big venues, to be signed with a record company. If you think of music, as a social phenomenon, then these ideas about success make no sense. I would choose every time the close connection in the music therapy room with a child with autism, or playing to a small group of people in a living room, cafe or local pub.

 

Hytonen-ng, E. (2013) Experiencing ‘Flow’ in Jazz Performance. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

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Hungry Words

Dark chocolate

So far, doing a PhD, has basically been a long writing task, interspersed with meetings, reading and thinking. What the books don’t tell you, however, is how hungry you get.

Since I started my PhD I have been very hungry. The kitchen draw is now filled with ‘PhD’ snacks, which the man is banned from eating. My snacks are nuts, dark chocolate, dried fruit, oat-cakes, peanut butter, bananas, and the list goes on. It’s so important to eat well when you are studying, better food, means better words.

The other issue, is the need to find a rhythm to working, and take breaks. My usual habit of walks in our local nature reserve are now even more essential. Sometimes I take a break by doing house work, running round the house. It doesn’t require any thought and is an opportunity to move. My favourite type of break is a music break. Being a musician, writing about music, I can’t listen to music when I am working. So as a reward I allow myself to listen to a current favourite track, when a task is finished.

Everyone has to find their individual way of working, when a task is so long and intensive. What works one week, might be different the next week. The key is to recognise how you are that day, and think what you need to do to look after yourself for the day. Sometimes I don’t manage this and end up lying under the desk, but on other days, the rhythm is right and the words flow.

Happy snacking!

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