Flute, accordion or clarinet? Using the characteristics of our instruments in music therapy

Flute, accordion or clarinet? Using the characteristics of our instruments in music therapy This book is a fascinating exploration of music therapists’ use of their personal instruments, and describes in some detail specific characteristics of 14 instruments or instrument groups, including possibilities for their application in music therapy practice. Each chapter offers contributions from several music therapists, with an incredible total of 57 authors providing perspectives from a broad spectrum of music therapy practices and client groups. While the majority of contributors completed training and practice in the UK, there are also several from the United States, as well as other European countries, bringing a variety of perspectives to bear. Each chapter follows the same format, beginning with an overview of the instrument under consideration, which encompasses historical, technical, and cultural details. Between two and six music therapists then share something of their personal relationship with their instrument, before discussing their use of or, interestingly in some cases, their choice not to use their instrument in music therapy practice. Each discussion is illustrated by one or more clinical vignettes. The chapter closes with a summary of characteristics of the instrument in music therapy practice, including its particular tonal and expressive qualities and advantages and limitations for its use with clients. While readers may choose to go straight to the chapters on their own instruments, I would strongly recommend delving into the rest of the book as well. Not only do the many beautifully written vignettes offer rich pickings for anyone in need of fresh inspiration as to the benefits of music therapy, they also offer pithy insights into the use of many and varied music therapy techniques, which often extend beyond the qualities of the specific instruments under consideration. There are also some lovely personal accounts of authors’ first encounters and subsequent musical journeys with their instruments. Additionally, for those involved in music therapy education or practicing as clinical supervisors, this book will serve as a resource to deepen our knowledge of our supervisees’ or trainees’ instruments and help us more fully extend and develop with them their versatility as musicians and clinicians. The territory explored encompasses practical points for consideration when bringing an instrument into the clinical space, such as portability, accessibility, and vulnerability of the instrument, and then ranges through many of the therapeutic possibilities arising from particular qualities of each instrument. These include specifically musical attributes such as timbre and range (e.g., the cello and bassoon encompassing much of the pitch range of the human voice, or the wide dynamic capacity of the accordion), means of playing (e.g., the immediacy of connection with breath and body in playing the flute or the trumpet), and cultural associations with an instrument, such as the accordion’s prevalence in much Eastern European traditional music (pp. 63–64), or the playing of traditional Scottish music on the violin (p. 149). The instruments under consideration are referred to as “single-line,” “first-study,” and “orchestral,” though none of these apply in all cases. I would have liked the choice of terminology and its limitations to have been made more explicit in Oldfield’s introduction, though the editors’ rationale for deciding which instruments to include and exclude is clearly explained. The instruments included in the book are all the orchestral single-line instruments (though in place of French horn and tuba are flugelhorn and euphonium), plus saxophone, harp, guitar, and accordion. Piano and percussion instruments are not included, since these have already been widely written about in the music therapy literature; neither are “non-Western” single-line instruments, due to the limitations of space within the book. Many examples are given where a client is particularly drawn to an instrument, or where an instrument has acquired a strong and immediate significance within the therapeutic relationship, such as 19-year-old Jason, who was drawn to music therapy by the sounds of the violin (pp. 155–56), or three-year-old Tim, who looks to the clarinet in anticipation of a familiar response and breaks into a broad smile as the therapist begins to play (p. 34). Other authors highlight the contribution of their instrument within the subtle intricacies of an evolving therapeutic process, and while in many cases these personal instruments remain solely in the hands of the therapist, many of the contributors describe ways in which clients have also held and/or sounded them, a step that may be a sign of considerable mutual trust. Potential reasons not to use one’s instrument are also widely discussed. The fragility of certain instruments means they are not always suitable for music therapy work in many settings, and several of the contributors consider this. Many of the authors also emphasize other important considerations to do with the therapeutic implications of bringing one’s personal instruments into the room with a client. For example, the client may feel de-skilled, or feel the instrument is not relevant to them. Additionally, the instrument may, as Watson (p. 97) discusses in relation to the cello, become an object between client and therapist, “which prevents therapeutic contact from being established or from developing,” and which may become a focus of envy or competition. Large instruments can create physical barriers and/or be experienced by clients as overwhelming objects (e.g., bassoon, harp), and the practical demands of particular instruments, such as the need to prepare reeds or tighten bows, can inhibit spontaneity in response to clients. Throughout the book, authors also remind us of the fundamental necessity to maintain our focus on the client’s needs, which may of course diverge from our own sensibilities as musicians (a tension perhaps encountered most acutely when working with the instruments on which we have the greatest skill and musical capability). Alongside this caveat, an almost universal theme that emerges is the fundamental significance of the music therapist’s personal relationship with their instrument. Beyond the wonderfully specific ways in which qualities of particular instruments have articulated and met the needs of individual clients, many of the therapists suggest it is the musical intimacy and expressive potential they themselves have acquired with their instrument that is the most significant therapeutic factor that working with these instruments brings to their clients (e.g., Haire, p. 155; Jones, p. 168). This resonates for me with current research and debate within the broader psychotherapy field that argues that, over and above the specific techniques applied in a particular form of therapy, it is the common therapeutic factors, perhaps especially those pertaining to the quality of the therapeutic relationship, which carry the greatest weight in bringing about therapeutic change (e.g., Schneider, 2015). Veronica Austin comments on the value of the music therapist’s “artistry,” born of his or her ongoing commitment to the mastery of their instrument, which she suggests may bring both a wider expressive scope and a greater degree of personal authenticity into the therapeutic relationship. However, she also refers to Sobey and Woodcock (1999), who caution against the therapist bringing too much of his or her own musical personality into the session (pp. 74–75). Though perhaps beyond the scope of this book, some links might be made here to the debate within the music therapy profession around the relevance, or otherwise, of musical aesthetics in music therapy practice (e.g., Aigen, 2007, and subsequent responses, 2008). Notably, Schlomi Hasson also discusses the value of using one’s instrument skillfully to create “mistakes,” as well as conventional musical sounds, describing how he deliberately “fluffed” notes on the trumpet to engage with qualities of a client’s frustration, swearing at her own limitations and inability to play a melody without making mistakes (p. 129). Considerations of when in the therapeutic process to introduce a personal instrument, as well as working with resistance to the instrument, are also explored. Different perspectives are offered, linked variously to particular instrumental qualities, variations in therapeutic approach, and the particular needs of individual clients and client groups. The instrument is often present from the early stages; for example, Burley described needing to use her bassoon to establish her own voice with which she was able to play alongside a client whose music presented a “constant barrage of sound” (p. 140). Alternatively, Hasson discusses how in the early stages of therapy the therapist’s personal instrument and skill (in his case, the trumpet) may be experienced as a threat to a client with low self-esteem, and it may be only as the client begins to develop their own sense of a separate identity that it then becomes of value for the therapist to assert his or her own voice more clearly with the use of his or her own instrument. Austin reflects on how an instrument can also facilitate this process of separation, becoming a “transitional object” “that simultaneously separates and brings together therapist and client” (p. 76), and a number of other authors also mention how their instrument may provide a point of physical connection and act as a “bridge” between client and therapist. Some of this material might have usefully been incorporated into a separate chapter (or chapters) exploring more generally applicable considerations when using “our own” instruments in our therapeutic practice, though the concluding chapter, by Amelia Oldfield, entitled “Reflections,” does draw out some predominant themes from throughout the book. The two most notable of these are the fact that, interestingly, almost every instrument is likened in some way to qualities of the human voice and that, as discussed already, above all it seems to be the quality of relationship that therapists have with their own instrument that enables them to use it as an effective means of making contact with their clients (p. 310). The therapist musician’s relationship with his or her instrument is also considered beyond questions of how it is used, or not, within the music therapy room. Parallels are made between the experiences of learning and performing on an instrument and therapeutic practice. Angela Harrison, in particular, identifies links she has made between her experiences of performance as a professional viola player and her experiences as a music therapist. These include noticing the ways in which an instrument can act as an extension of the player/client, and identifying the enriching, harmonizing qualities of the viola within a string quartet or orchestra as qualities she brings to her work with clients whether using the viola or not. Undoubtedly, every music therapist will have their own unique experiences with their personal instruments, and their own particular stories to tell from their music therapy practice. One of the strengths of this book is the diversity of experience and practice represented, and the depth of personal authenticity with which each of the authors speaks of their relationship with their instrument and ways in which this has translated into their relationships with their clients. Practitioners reading the chapters on their own instruments will undoubtedly find points of resonance, and may yet feel there is more that might be usefully said or described. For example, in the chapter on the harp (my primary instrument), much attention is, inevitably, given to the gentle and soothing properties of this instrument. While the more visceral, often deeply felt qualities of sound are mentioned, as are some of the rhythmic and percussive possibilities, I would have liked to have read something more about the power of the harp to engage with stronger emotional expression. I myself have found a powerful “gutsy” quality in plucked strings to be of value, particularly in unlocking the physically embodied tension of severe trauma, where the intensity of strong, dissonant plucking of taut strings combined with the warm and rounded tones of the instrument were able to both meet and modulate an intensity of affect that enabled a client to inhabit her embodied affective experience more fully and to allow it to be acknowledged and musically contained (De Backer, 1993). Of course, this book cannot and does not attempt to provide any kind of comprehensive “manual” for the use of particular instruments in clinical practice, but rather offers something of a map of territories explored, while attempting some initial categorizing of specific therapeutic qualities identified in each instrument. It is full of rich, resonant descriptions of music therapy practice and provides a great sourcebook of ideas and inspiration for music therapy students and practitioners to develop further, and which the editors also hope will encourage further investigation, exploration, and publication. References Aigen K . ( 2007 ). In defense of beauty: A role for the aesthetic in music therapy theory: Part I: The development of aesthetic theory in music therapy . Nordic Journal of Music Therapy , 16 ( 2 ), 112 – 128 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS De Backer J . ( 1993 ). Containment in music therapy . In Heal M. Wigram T. (Eds.), Music Therapy in Health and Education . London : Jessica Kingsley Publishers . Schneider K . ( 2015 ). Presence: The core contextual factor of effective psychotherapy . Existential Analysis , 26 ( 2 ), 304 – 312 . Sobey K. , & Woodcock J . ( 1999 ) Psychodynamic Music Therapy: Considerations in Training . In Cattanach A. (Ed.), Process in the arts therapies . London : Jessica Kingsley . © the American Music Therapy Association 2016. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Music Therapy Perspectives Oxford University Press

Flute, accordion or clarinet? Using the characteristics of our instruments in music therapy

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Oxford University Press
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© the American Music Therapy Association 2016. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
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Abstract

This book is a fascinating exploration of music therapists’ use of their personal instruments, and describes in some detail specific characteristics of 14 instruments or instrument groups, including possibilities for their application in music therapy practice. Each chapter offers contributions from several music therapists, with an incredible total of 57 authors providing perspectives from a broad spectrum of music therapy practices and client groups. While the majority of contributors completed training and practice in the UK, there are also several from the United States, as well as other European countries, bringing a variety of perspectives to bear. Each chapter follows the same format, beginning with an overview of the instrument under consideration, which encompasses historical, technical, and cultural details. Between two and six music therapists then share something of their personal relationship with their instrument, before discussing their use of or, interestingly in some cases, their choice not to use their instrument in music therapy practice. Each discussion is illustrated by one or more clinical vignettes. The chapter closes with a summary of characteristics of the instrument in music therapy practice, including its particular tonal and expressive qualities and advantages and limitations for its use with clients. While readers may choose to go straight to the chapters on their own instruments, I would strongly recommend delving into the rest of the book as well. Not only do the many beautifully written vignettes offer rich pickings for anyone in need of fresh inspiration as to the benefits of music therapy, they also offer pithy insights into the use of many and varied music therapy techniques, which often extend beyond the qualities of the specific instruments under consideration. There are also some lovely personal accounts of authors’ first encounters and subsequent musical journeys with their instruments. Additionally, for those involved in music therapy education or practicing as clinical supervisors, this book will serve as a resource to deepen our knowledge of our supervisees’ or trainees’ instruments and help us more fully extend and develop with them their versatility as musicians and clinicians. The territory explored encompasses practical points for consideration when bringing an instrument into the clinical space, such as portability, accessibility, and vulnerability of the instrument, and then ranges through many of the therapeutic possibilities arising from particular qualities of each instrument. These include specifically musical attributes such as timbre and range (e.g., the cello and bassoon encompassing much of the pitch range of the human voice, or the wide dynamic capacity of the accordion), means of playing (e.g., the immediacy of connection with breath and body in playing the flute or the trumpet), and cultural associations with an instrument, such as the accordion’s prevalence in much Eastern European traditional music (pp. 63–64), or the playing of traditional Scottish music on the violin (p. 149). The instruments under consideration are referred to as “single-line,” “first-study,” and “orchestral,” though none of these apply in all cases. I would have liked the choice of terminology and its limitations to have been made more explicit in Oldfield’s introduction, though the editors’ rationale for deciding which instruments to include and exclude is clearly explained. The instruments included in the book are all the orchestral single-line instruments (though in place of French horn and tuba are flugelhorn and euphonium), plus saxophone, harp, guitar, and accordion. Piano and percussion instruments are not included, since these have already been widely written about in the music therapy literature; neither are “non-Western” single-line instruments, due to the limitations of space within the book. Many examples are given where a client is particularly drawn to an instrument, or where an instrument has acquired a strong and immediate significance within the therapeutic relationship, such as 19-year-old Jason, who was drawn to music therapy by the sounds of the violin (pp. 155–56), or three-year-old Tim, who looks to the clarinet in anticipation of a familiar response and breaks into a broad smile as the therapist begins to play (p. 34). Other authors highlight the contribution of their instrument within the subtle intricacies of an evolving therapeutic process, and while in many cases these personal instruments remain solely in the hands of the therapist, many of the contributors describe ways in which clients have also held and/or sounded them, a step that may be a sign of considerable mutual trust. Potential reasons not to use one’s instrument are also widely discussed. The fragility of certain instruments means they are not always suitable for music therapy work in many settings, and several of the contributors consider this. Many of the authors also emphasize other important considerations to do with the therapeutic implications of bringing one’s personal instruments into the room with a client. For example, the client may feel de-skilled, or feel the instrument is not relevant to them. Additionally, the instrument may, as Watson (p. 97) discusses in relation to the cello, become an object between client and therapist, “which prevents therapeutic contact from being established or from developing,” and which may become a focus of envy or competition. Large instruments can create physical barriers and/or be experienced by clients as overwhelming objects (e.g., bassoon, harp), and the practical demands of particular instruments, such as the need to prepare reeds or tighten bows, can inhibit spontaneity in response to clients. Throughout the book, authors also remind us of the fundamental necessity to maintain our focus on the client’s needs, which may of course diverge from our own sensibilities as musicians (a tension perhaps encountered most acutely when working with the instruments on which we have the greatest skill and musical capability). Alongside this caveat, an almost universal theme that emerges is the fundamental significance of the music therapist’s personal relationship with their instrument. Beyond the wonderfully specific ways in which qualities of particular instruments have articulated and met the needs of individual clients, many of the therapists suggest it is the musical intimacy and expressive potential they themselves have acquired with their instrument that is the most significant therapeutic factor that working with these instruments brings to their clients (e.g., Haire, p. 155; Jones, p. 168). This resonates for me with current research and debate within the broader psychotherapy field that argues that, over and above the specific techniques applied in a particular form of therapy, it is the common therapeutic factors, perhaps especially those pertaining to the quality of the therapeutic relationship, which carry the greatest weight in bringing about therapeutic change (e.g., Schneider, 2015). Veronica Austin comments on the value of the music therapist’s “artistry,” born of his or her ongoing commitment to the mastery of their instrument, which she suggests may bring both a wider expressive scope and a greater degree of personal authenticity into the therapeutic relationship. However, she also refers to Sobey and Woodcock (1999), who caution against the therapist bringing too much of his or her own musical personality into the session (pp. 74–75). Though perhaps beyond the scope of this book, some links might be made here to the debate within the music therapy profession around the relevance, or otherwise, of musical aesthetics in music therapy practice (e.g., Aigen, 2007, and subsequent responses, 2008). Notably, Schlomi Hasson also discusses the value of using one’s instrument skillfully to create “mistakes,” as well as conventional musical sounds, describing how he deliberately “fluffed” notes on the trumpet to engage with qualities of a client’s frustration, swearing at her own limitations and inability to play a melody without making mistakes (p. 129). Considerations of when in the therapeutic process to introduce a personal instrument, as well as working with resistance to the instrument, are also explored. Different perspectives are offered, linked variously to particular instrumental qualities, variations in therapeutic approach, and the particular needs of individual clients and client groups. The instrument is often present from the early stages; for example, Burley described needing to use her bassoon to establish her own voice with which she was able to play alongside a client whose music presented a “constant barrage of sound” (p. 140). Alternatively, Hasson discusses how in the early stages of therapy the therapist’s personal instrument and skill (in his case, the trumpet) may be experienced as a threat to a client with low self-esteem, and it may be only as the client begins to develop their own sense of a separate identity that it then becomes of value for the therapist to assert his or her own voice more clearly with the use of his or her own instrument. Austin reflects on how an instrument can also facilitate this process of separation, becoming a “transitional object” “that simultaneously separates and brings together therapist and client” (p. 76), and a number of other authors also mention how their instrument may provide a point of physical connection and act as a “bridge” between client and therapist. Some of this material might have usefully been incorporated into a separate chapter (or chapters) exploring more generally applicable considerations when using “our own” instruments in our therapeutic practice, though the concluding chapter, by Amelia Oldfield, entitled “Reflections,” does draw out some predominant themes from throughout the book. The two most notable of these are the fact that, interestingly, almost every instrument is likened in some way to qualities of the human voice and that, as discussed already, above all it seems to be the quality of relationship that therapists have with their own instrument that enables them to use it as an effective means of making contact with their clients (p. 310). The therapist musician’s relationship with his or her instrument is also considered beyond questions of how it is used, or not, within the music therapy room. Parallels are made between the experiences of learning and performing on an instrument and therapeutic practice. Angela Harrison, in particular, identifies links she has made between her experiences of performance as a professional viola player and her experiences as a music therapist. These include noticing the ways in which an instrument can act as an extension of the player/client, and identifying the enriching, harmonizing qualities of the viola within a string quartet or orchestra as qualities she brings to her work with clients whether using the viola or not. Undoubtedly, every music therapist will have their own unique experiences with their personal instruments, and their own particular stories to tell from their music therapy practice. One of the strengths of this book is the diversity of experience and practice represented, and the depth of personal authenticity with which each of the authors speaks of their relationship with their instrument and ways in which this has translated into their relationships with their clients. Practitioners reading the chapters on their own instruments will undoubtedly find points of resonance, and may yet feel there is more that might be usefully said or described. For example, in the chapter on the harp (my primary instrument), much attention is, inevitably, given to the gentle and soothing properties of this instrument. While the more visceral, often deeply felt qualities of sound are mentioned, as are some of the rhythmic and percussive possibilities, I would have liked to have read something more about the power of the harp to engage with stronger emotional expression. I myself have found a powerful “gutsy” quality in plucked strings to be of value, particularly in unlocking the physically embodied tension of severe trauma, where the intensity of strong, dissonant plucking of taut strings combined with the warm and rounded tones of the instrument were able to both meet and modulate an intensity of affect that enabled a client to inhabit her embodied affective experience more fully and to allow it to be acknowledged and musically contained (De Backer, 1993). Of course, this book cannot and does not attempt to provide any kind of comprehensive “manual” for the use of particular instruments in clinical practice, but rather offers something of a map of territories explored, while attempting some initial categorizing of specific therapeutic qualities identified in each instrument. It is full of rich, resonant descriptions of music therapy practice and provides a great sourcebook of ideas and inspiration for music therapy students and practitioners to develop further, and which the editors also hope will encourage further investigation, exploration, and publication. References Aigen K . ( 2007 ). In defense of beauty: A role for the aesthetic in music therapy theory: Part I: The development of aesthetic theory in music therapy . Nordic Journal of Music Therapy , 16 ( 2 ), 112 – 128 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS De Backer J . ( 1993 ). Containment in music therapy . In Heal M. Wigram T. (Eds.), Music Therapy in Health and Education . London : Jessica Kingsley Publishers . Schneider K . ( 2015 ). Presence: The core contextual factor of effective psychotherapy . Existential Analysis , 26 ( 2 ), 304 – 312 . Sobey K. , & Woodcock J . ( 1999 ) Psychodynamic Music Therapy: Considerations in Training . In Cattanach A. (Ed.), Process in the arts therapies . London : Jessica Kingsley . © the American Music Therapy Association 2016. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

Music Therapy PerspectivesOxford University Press

Published: Jan 14, 2016

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