Ebbs and flows

Sometimes I think of my writing droughts as a period of inhalation. I had a great professor who once talked about the “incubation period” in a process. At the time, I was writing a paper. Really, it was that I wasn’t writing the paper that was worrying me. This professor said I might think of my not-writing not so much as procrastination but as incubation. Perhaps I was compiling ideas or sorting thoughts. This summer, instead of writing, I was surviving; I didn’t have the energy, creative or otherwise, to write. Maybe I was inhaling, sucking in what I could to get on with it all. Maybe I’m starting to let out some. I might be exhaling for a bit.

We’ll wait and see.

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.

Missing voice

I have entirely lost my voice. I woke up this morning with nothing. I tried to make a phone call to cancel one of my sessions, and was embarrassed that it sounded like a prank call; I’m sure the person on the other end was confused by the silence.

I spent the day working on e-mails and organizing my Dropbox folders. I follow Michelle Erfurt‘s Project Professional Update, and had hopes of tackling her newest e-mail inbox challenge, but did not. Alas, I did get a few hours’ worth of administrative tasks accomplished.

I hope I find my voice tomorrow.

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: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/idiot-wind#ixzz2v9QQ4ydF

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: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/idiot-wind#ixzz2v9QXYfU0

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: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/idiot-wind#ixzz2v9Qf7dpV

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?

The week wrapped up

I have continued on through this cold, cold week. My Tuesday was very full with clients, and so was today, but yesterday was not. Yesterday therefore proved to be really rough. I’ve decided that my Fridays are now my office days, and I plan to spend some time tomorrow planning out the hours of the week more carefully. Yesterday I wandered around aimlessly. I had the baby with me for much of the day, so I accept that he pulled my attention, but wow. I think I looked like a zombie, ambling around the house.

I hope next week is warmer. A string of 82-degree days will work out for me. The only trouble with vacations is that you have to come back.

The importance of the music

Today, I was reminded of the triangular relationship that the client, the therapist, and the music have while in a music therapy session. I have a client who tends to enter into the therapy space and sit down, apparently waiting for direction from me. This behavior isn’t unreasonable, but I’ve been encouraging this client to explore some of the instruments I leave available while we sing our hello song. Today, she moved to the ocean drum, and for the first time in several weeks I observed this client transitioning very fully into the sound that she made with the drum. I accompanied on the guitar, and soon found the ocean drum to complement the guitar, and vice versa. At times, we introduced vocalizations, but for more than 10 minutes, we simply used the music. I did hear a little voice in my head saying, Time to move on. Why aren’t you moving on? What if she gets bored with the ocean drum? Why don’t you stop playing before that can happen?, etc. However, I trusted (thank you for putting that word in my head, Lindsay) that the music can hold its own in this context. That is why I’m a music therapist, in fact.

Every so often I need to acknowledge more readily the importance of the music. Do you ever have that problem?