Monday matters: Own the music

I’ve just returned from my regional music therapy conference, held in Rosemont, Illinois. We got home earlier today, and I went to see clients this afternoon. Surprisingly, I’m tired.

I attended a number of fascinating presentations, but the most immediately applicable in terms of functional knowledge that I employed even today was the CMTE (continuing education) course on clinical improvisation. Of course we spent time developing our technical knowledge of modes and how to easily access them on piano (among myriad other techniques), but what I found the most useful, confusing, and encouraging was the time we spent translating our goals into music-centered goals. In other words, how, in the music, would we clinicians know a goal has been met? How would the music achieve the goal? How would the accomplishment sound? Music therapy cannot be compared to any other therapy, because the music in music therapy is an entity and a language all in itself.

One of the conversations had in this course was surrounding music therapists’ definitions of our work, especially when we’re describing our work to someone who assumes we are music teachers. “Music therapy uses music to achieve non-musical goals” is a succinct and often-used way to speak about our therapy, but is it really accurate? Why do the goals we address have to be “non-musical?” How can we own the music in music therapy?

What are your thoughts? I would love to continue this conversation.

This work I get to do

I love this work I get to do.

I love that one of my clients came up and hugged me today, when he’s never done that before.

I love that I always feel full of life when I go to a particular day center.

I love that sometimes my face hurts at the end of the day from smiling so much, sometimes out of joy or happiness, but mostly out of fulfillment.

I love this work I get to do.

What about you?

Back to coursework: Go to the book

I’ve been looking at Kenneth Bruscia’s Defining Music Therapy (second edition) over the past few days in order to research a little for a project a colleague of mine and I are doing. I am, again, struck by how lovely vision (and clarity of said vision) can be. For more than a year, I’ve been transitioning into and therefore learning about another way of practicing music therapy. Should you happen to own this particular Bruscia book, I’m specifically interested in pages 116 and 117. Page 116 lists some of the clinical goals of improvisation:

  • Establish a nonverbal channel of communication, and a bridge to verbal communication
  • Provide a fulfilling means of self-expression and identity formation
  • Explore various aspects of self in relation to others
  • Develop the capacity for interpersonal intimacy
  • Develop group skills
  • Develop creativity, expressive freedom, spontaneity, and playfulness with various degrees of structure
  • Stimulate and develop the senses
  • Develop perceptual and cognitive skills

I am especially drawn to his first, second, third, and sixth bullet points. Nearly all of my clients do not use speech, and, in music, I am hoping to facilitate a “channel of communication” (page 116).

To you readers who are not music therapists: Do any of these goals surprise you? How so? 

To you readers who are music therapists: How do you remember this text? I’m back in love with it.

Song, “Idiot Wind”

I’ve been a-reading (that is, “audio reading,” as in audiobooks; not a-reading like “I’m a-fixin’ to read me some books”) Bob Dylan in America written and read by Sean Wilentz. I haven’t a-read too many books, but I usually like when the author reads. This book is no exception. Wilentz is a fantastic writer, and his passion for his subject is clear in this reading.

One of the songs Wilentz discusses at length is Dylan’s “Idiot Wind.” I’d never heard the song, and admittedly I wasn’t paying too much attention to the book when Wilentz talked about it (which I now regret). I need to know more about Dylan; just look at these lyrics:

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the backroads headin’ south
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe

Read more:

It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart
You tamed the lion in my cage but it just wasn’t enough to change my heart
Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom

Read more:

Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats
Blowing through the letters that we wrote
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves
We’re idiots, babe
It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves

Read more:

Find the lyrics to the whole song here.

Man oh man.

Though this song is from 1974, the best recording of it I could find is from a performance in 1992. Here it is.

Songwriting is such a talent. I might play around with the question-and-answer form of folk. Perhaps one day I might finish a song I start.

How do you approach songwriting? What is your experience with this Dylan song?

What are your words? February writing prompt

Today is already January 15. I will be putting up a submission next week for January’s writing prompt, “word of intention.” In February, I’ll be considering self-care.

February seems to be right in the middle of winter for us here in Minneapolis. I know the calendar says otherwise, but last year we had snow as late as May. I abhor the cold weather and snow generally sucks, in my opinion, so clearly I live in the wrong place. But, I’m here, and one major part of enduring the winter here has to be those pieces of the day that are attributed to self-care.

As professionals in a helping field, music therapists often talk about self-care. Do we really do it, though? What does “self-care” mean?

I’m curious about what “self-care” does not mean, too. I know much of the time, self-care is expressed in terms of daily activities. What are the things that we don’t do? What about self-talk? Do you combine that with self-care?

I want to hear from music therapists, art therapists, counselors, therapists, teachers, administrators, and anyone who uses self-care intentionally. Please write up a few words to describe what you do and don’t do for self-care, in relationship to your professional life. Send me your words here, and be sure to include your contact information and links, by February 15.