Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 7 - The Nature of Music

I admit that there are times when I don't want to listen to music after a day of work (is that heretical?). It is not that I don't enjoy music, but sometimes I just need precious SILENCE! Apparently I am not alone - Bill Drummond has created "No Music Day", an event held annually on November 21st in Great Britain. And yet, just a few hours in the woods can reinvigorate my brain and make me seek out music with enthusiasm. So what is it, exactly, that is different? And as a music therapist, how exactly do I define music?

Music has been defined as "organized sound" (Edgard Varesé).

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
(Aldous Huxley)

And my favorite quote of all -
"Without music, life would be a mistake."
(Friedreich Nietzsche).

(You can find some other quotes about music via Wikiquote, an offshoot of Wikipedia.)

In answer to the question of "What is different about being in nature?" I can respond that perhaps it is the "disorganized" nature of the sounds that appeal to my "primitive" brain? You can't, after all, plan or conduct a chorus of birds! Perhaps it is the fact that I simply cannot, by any means, replicate some of the sounds that I hear? Any sound that is produced by a musical instrument, a machine, or by human effort, CAN be reproduced, whether by the same individual or someone else in an almost identical form. But can any instrument or individual truly replicate the sound of a waterfall?, or the rustle of wind through the leaves?

And why does this even matter? Because - I am a music therapist!. I accept what the client brings forward, through the therapeutic process. I want, and hope, that they will use "music" to communicate their thoughts and feelings, conscious and unconscious, good and bad. Moreover, I want, and hope, that I will be able to use "music" to reflect those thoughts and feelings back to them in an appropriate way that honors what they have chosen to share with me. One the greatest gifts that I was ever given by a client involved just such an interaction.

I had been working with a young lady with Cerebral Palsy for about a year and a half. While she had made some progress towards the goals and objectives that were established, progress was beginning to slow down. As a new "tween", she liked to listen to music and one of the activities she had chosen to do in each session was to "listen to a few favorite songs". On this occassion, she chose a song that she had not suggested before entitled, The Rodeo's Over by Corb Lund. The lyrics are as follows (courtesy of
the rodeo's over, the folks have gone home
and the cowboys are all down the road
well boys, she was a good un, we kicked a hole in the sky
and even the rank ones got rode
it was as wild as they come and it was almighty western
and none of us thought it would end
but finish it did, with a bang and a whisper
and now i must leave you my friend

we may do it again in some future season
but somehow it won't be the same
cuz our draws will be different and our injuries healed
and it's likely the weather will change
so take from the lessons and be glad for the memories
of the days that we rode in the sun
for after today, there’ll be no man can claim
that we didn't have us a good run

so burn all the blankets and dry all the tears
we can always go further out west
and i'll meet you out there in the vastness somewhere
i swear it but first i must rest

To me, this epitomized her desire to terminate the therapy sessions, although she was unable to verbalize her feelings. The music, verbalized these thoughts for her. Indeed, the entire mood and tonality of the song reinforced the feelings told through the lyrics.

So what do you consider to be the nature of music? Do you ever have days where you can't stand to listen to a single piece of music? And what is it that brings you back?

I look forward to reading your responses and comments!