Well, bread

When you make bread, there’s a lot of kneading and proving before you get to bake it, never mind eat it . . . I’ve been practising recently, when you have the right ingredients, and spend enough time, the results are quite tasty:


This week I became eligible to work as a music therapist – with a card and certificate to “prove” it – and I’d begun thinking of parallels between bread-making and my last few years.

You could say the preparation for music therapy training was like assembling ingredients, the training itself involved a lot of kneading and proving, and the loaf is finally baked (with a hollow sound when tapped!?).

I’m yet to savour the loaf (or make a crust) – still in the process of setting up music therapy work. Glad to say I’ve arranged a few meetings with people in organisations who are enthusiastic about music therapy for people they work with.

So, more here soon, and maybe I’ll review some of the kneading and proving and other books I’ve been reading – meantime there’s a list of some ingredients over here :)

And I can highly recommend the BAMT podcast: “Music Therapy Conversations” – every episode I listen to brings a range of new insights and topics to explore (also on iTunes/libsyn).


Onwards and upwards!?

So I’ve finally passed MSc music therapy – after a couple of years study, and a couple of years planning before that. It’s been a lot of work, it’s changed my way of thinking (and making music), and it’s developed me personally too…

The qualification is just the start of the next part of this journey, setting off into the world and working with people for real – helping people through music – what brought me to music therapy in the first place.

So it’s time to face the music – the name I’ll use for musical endeavours going forward – drawn from a community music group a couple of years ago where f.a.c.e. stood for “fun all-age community ensemble” – and it also brings a catchy tune to mind ;)

face the music

Talking and singing 

Here’s a thing: I usually talk quietly, but I often sing loudly…

Maybe it’s because a song has “known” words, they’re (usually) already written, and there’s a melody to go with them. The music helps a lot in this area.

Talking with friends the other day about songs I love, I said it’s usually the feeling I get from it – rather than the lyrics in a song – that attract me to it. Maybe I’ll think about the lyrics afterwards, but typically they’re not the initial pull for me…

Though as soon as I write that, it occurs to me: sometimes the lyrics of a song really do hit home, and the melody doesn’t even matter. When they tell a story, or put across a point that gets me right there, it feels like the music is a delivery mechanism for lyrical poetry.

Isn’t it great that music can include both?! Words and melodies coming together… that’s before we even get to harmony, rhythm, modulation, dynamics or anything else.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about music with words, sometimes music can provide a subtle backdrop to a story, guiding in ways that are intuitive or pre-verbal. With its emotional connection, music can sometimes reach parts that words alone can’t.

So I’ll keep singing :)


Music therapy, what’s that?

(Back to Blog after summer break – none for months, then two posts in a day!)

As I begin second year of university training in music therapy, I often find myself explaining the subject to people I meet – it still seems to be a little-known field… here are snippets from conversations:

it’s like using music as a tool to help people

it helps folk connect in different ways

music can communicate more than talking

I suppose it’s easier to understand the music part of the equation, compared with the therapy part.  The theory behind the practice and the clinical approach have been big things to learn for me – and it’s great to have music as a vehicle for the work.

Reading more around the subject, and re-reading books I’d previously read, I have more questions and deeper thoughts about how music impacts people.

So, this blog will see more posts on #MusicTherapy and related thoughts – meantime here’s a portrait of Amy I spotted in Amsterdam this summer…

Back to Black, Street Portrait of Amy, Amsterdam

Conclusions changed for music therapy – Cochrane Review

Having heard about Cochrane reviews, and knowing how respected they are, I was intrigued to see a Cochrane Review tagged “Conclusions changed” and entitled Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients.

With the growing body of research, it appears music therapy is now recommended for inclusion in cancer care, compared to a few years ago.

From 2016:

We conclude that music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, fatigue and quality of life (QoL) in people with cancer. Furthermore, music may have a small positive effect on heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. Reduction of anxiety, fatigue and pain are important outcomes for people with cancer, as they have an impact on health and overall QoL. Therefore, we recommend considering the inclusion of music therapy and music medicine interventions in psychosocial cancer care.

From 2011:

This systematic review indicates that music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, mood, and QoL in people with cancer. Furthermore, music may have a small effect on heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Most trials were at high risk of bias and, therefore, these results need to be interpreted with caution.

Interestingly, the review also compared “music therapy” with “music medicine”, their term for listening to pre-recorded music, offered by medical staff:

A comparison between music therapy and music medicine interventions suggests a moderate effect of music therapy interventions for patients’ quality of life (QoL), but we found no evidence of an effect for music medicine interventions.

So, plenty to think about here, and plenty to read further online

Music Therapy: Evidence & Proof

Back in 2013 Kim Ross wrote: “Why we shouldn’t try to prove that music therapy works” – this article has rung a few bells for me recently, particularly after digesting a range of music therapy research articles…

There appears to be a difference between seeking proof and gathering evidence. Working in an evidence-based way, one gathers research results, trials, experience and puts them into practice. Shifting focus to clients instead of critics can reframe research, as Kim says:

“The profession exists to help clients, and we must keep our clients’ wellbeing as the central focus and reason for our research”.

“Let’s not be afraid of research, or of people posing questions about music therapy and how it works.”

So, onwards with research, investigating and finding out more… starting with the BAMT UK music therapy conference this weekend organised entitled “Re-Visioning our Voice: Resourcing music therapy for contemporary needs”.

Playin’ in the band…

A few months ago I read this book “Playin’ in the Band” (Kenneth Aigen), with accompanying DVD, it’s a detailed case-study from the 90’s featuring Lloyd and his music with two music therapists at Nordoff-Robbins New York.  In the DVD excerpts from sessions spanning several years you can see relationships develop between Lloyd and the music therapists as they play a range of rock, blues, country and more. It’s highly recommended if you can get access to a copy.

This book came to mind today as I was talking to someone who asked what music genres appear in therapy – in the literature it stands out as a contemporary or ‘pop’ example among the classical and traditional music usually mentioned. For example, in Healing Heritage by Nordoff & Robbins, “During his lectures, Nordoff illustrated points with live musical examples, many from the classical repertoire”.

In the past, music therapists were typically classically trained, and this would influence the music they played in sessions. These days, music therapists come from a wider range of backgrounds, and that is bound to have an impact on the music used. Clearly there’s no limit to what styles or genres may appear in music therapy – particularly in sessions where the client brings their own music – and the therapist works with what they bring.

The BAMT website states “Music therapists work with the natural musicality styles and genres including free improvisation to offer appropriate, sensitive and meaningful musical interaction with their clients”.

This could take many forms, so every little bit of music may have potential – and it’s a reminder to me to open up and absorb as much music as I can :)

Live Music is a Power-up

On Saturday I went to a gig nearby. It was a relatively small show, with a few local bands, and an audience of about 50 people.

Before I headed out, I nearly didn’t go, it was a cold night & there’s always the option of staying warm at home.

But I’m so glad I went: I got a powerful blast of live music, which moved me & gave me a big smile on my face.  

The Sparrowhawk Orkestrel
The Sparrowhawk Orkestrel

I had a similar experience the weekend before: different bands, different venue, same feeling of re-enlivening from the power of the music.

This weekend I’m heading to see an orchestra at the biggest hall in the city, it’s certain to be a powerful performance.

And the Friday after, I’m singing at a tiny local pub, it will be the most personal show of the lot: pouring out my own songs to a listening audience.
It’s a rare thing, four weekends of live music after a month of not going out – but it’s got me thinking that live music really does recharge, it’s a power-up for other parts of my life.

And how delighted I am to learn about using music in everyday work to help people in their everyday life…

Online and on the button

I’ve just read this article about the internet and therapeutic boundaries, written by music therapist Ellie Ruddock. It’s packed full of question, thoughts and insights around this topic and is particularly relevant to someone like me as I blog, tweet, etc. I highly recommend reading it – go ahead now, I’ll wait for you back here :)

It’s always useful to bear in mind that social-media activities are still part of the real world, and I like the way Ellie relates boundaries from working in therapy to working online.

My blog here was anonymous to begin with as I explored how I wanted to write online – but as I realise it’s mainly sharing information (books, blog posts, etc) – I’m happy to lose the mystery… and it may help me write better too.

As a student there’s so much to learn across the range of subjects in music therapy, from the music side and the therapeutic side – and technology is an inescapable part of life these days, sure it is better to use it productively than try to ignore it?



Music therapy in context – book recommendation

Here’s a great book I’ve been reading recently, particularly the last three chapters about Winnicott, psychodynamic meaning and why people choose to become a therapist.

Mercedes Pavlicevic writes with clarity and passion, bringing the subject to life with fresh thinking and real-life examples. Here’s a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite…

In music therapy, it is the ’emotional’ creativity – or the individual’s capacity for autonomy – rather than ‘artistic’ creativity, that is being tapped in improvisation, despite the artistic or aesthetic medium being used. (p153)

This comes during a chapter about playing, art and emotion, and shows that music therapy is beyond simply playing music: it can reach an emotional level, connecting with people in ways that speech or other modes do not.

Perhaps, within this passionate discourse, rather than seeing music therapy as ‘alleviating symptoms’, we need to think in terms of intensifying them: invoking and evoking our passions, our rages and excitement, our madness; we need to think in terms of animating our total being, of quickening our spirit. (p182)

Here’s a hint of the passion behind the pen, the knowledge that music is powerful stuff, coming from experience of work with people who have changed during music therapy – leading the author to state that music therapists “need to feel confident in the legitimacy of music as itself; of music as therapy; in the legitimacy of an intuition that is deliberate…”