Tag Archives: music

Tenderness

It was not the dazzling show of virtuosity, or the lightning-speed passages which captivated my physically tired self on a Friday evening.

It was the second movement of Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto which had me feeling most moved, most emotionally engaged, and most present.

It was when I heard and saw the notes from the piano emerge – featherlight tones, their sound ringing out to reach the deepest recesses of the concert hall. They carried with them emotion, multitudes of subtlety within their frequencies. And I felt my inner world move with them, sighing with them, feeling more anchored with them than with the booming bass and dazzling melodies of the opening movement.

And I found myself thinking about how rare it has become for our world to appreciate and embrace such tenderness. Which is probably why we need music (and art) like that to remind us. To remind us of the beauty and necessity of tenderness.

What can we do to cherish more of such tenderness?

What can we do so that being soft-spoken and non-assertive are not seen as negative, weak traits, but part of a larger, beautiful and accepted self?

Perhaps, as with most changes we want to see, it’d have to begin with ourselves.

 

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Article: The Role of Music in Adolescent Development

By: Miranda, D. (2013).

From: International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 18:1, 5-22.

 

This article is a literature review, which highlights how much of adolescent developmental psychology literature and research leaves out the role of music in an adolescent’s life. It concludes by stating that more research into the developmental role of music can present more insights into the psychological, social and cultural needs of the contemporary adolescent.

 

My reflection:

We know that most of the songs we seem close to our hearts are the songs we listen to from our teens to 20s. There is more research and literature about how music can help in reminiscing in elderly patients and clients, helping them make sense of the world around them in their aging years. “Use of familiar repertoire” is a staple music therapy intervention and technique in working with aged care. Most of these “familiar repertoire” are the songs that accompanied them through the tumultuous years of adolescence and young adulthood.

It would make sense, then, to study how the same songs which adolescents are identifying with as they are growing up, are being used (consciously or unconsciously)to help them cope in their psychological and emotional development. With more understanding in this area, teachers, developmental psychologists, counsellors, and therapists might then be able to better understand how to help adolescents cope with the struggles of growing up. These struggles could include: Peer pressure, identity searching and formation, emotional issues, mental health.

Example: I’ve noticed that having the same tastes in music is one of the first things which bond students together into long-lasting friendships. It could be the latest k-pop band, or just the single which became a hit 2 years ago. The moment 2 or more individuals find out they have the same tastes in music, a tentative friendship is formed, which could then be strengthened or dissolved depending on other factors. Music, then, could be used as a bonding agent within the class, especially to aid students who might not be as apt or skillful in social aspects.

During music lessons this week, I asked students what is their “current favorite song”, promising that I would try to incorporate those into our music lessons. My motive, apart from making the lessons relevant to them, is also to improve the social dynamics of the class. Through group musical activities, individuals who might have found it hard to adjust to the social environment would be given an alternative platform to engage with their classmates, and hopefully blend in better into the social fabric of the class. Being well-adjusted is one of the key factors which could prevent later problems from surfacing, such as bullying, truancy or loss of interest in academic studies.

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Am aiming to read and reflect on at least on music therapy article every week and see how I can apply / transfer the content into the music classroom.  Part of self-development and reflective practice, and to not lose touch with the therapeutic side of things!

Live Like A Nocturne

Live like a nocturne.

Simple, not pretentious.

No virtuosity for the sake of virtuosity.

Willing to be supported, not rejecting the complementing forces of harmony.

Flexible, bending and playing with time and space.

Not intrusive, yet profound in depth of emotions.

Does not speak for long, but what little a Nocturne says is able to convey all the subtle naunces of life.

Joy interspersed in sorrow. Calm brewing with drama. That sudden leap. The unexpected harmonic shift. The accidental note.

A Nocturne proclaims the power of silence, the strength of Quiet.

Just when everyone thinks a Nocturne might be easily forgotten, swept under a carpet, walked over like a doormat – the Nocturne replies. Still steady, still stable. Yet with just enough impact to make people think twice about dismissing it again. With subtle force, the Nocturne makes its imprint on the world, quietly yet significantly.

It does not need to be recognized by many, it only wishes to be with those who truly appreciate what it has to give.

Live like a Nocturne.

The Nocturne, although strongly identified with the qualities of night, also has the ability to bring those qualities to the sometimes too-harsh sunlight of day. It can soften the brashness with its gentle lyricism.

As much as the world needs glorious fanfares, magnificent symphonies, stoic marches, catchy waltzes… the world also needs Nocturnes.

Thank you, Nocturnes of the world.

Bye Di

And so we have reached this moment, the moment we knew was going to come but did not know how it would unfold. It was our last session together, and we had geared ourselves up to say Goodbye.

To my surprise, I felt able to regulate my emotions relatively well, and Di too. Though we were slightly teary at first (at least I was), we did all the usual things during the session. When it came to the last segment of improvisation, I asked her what theme she would like to improvise around this week, and her answer wasn’t totally surprising: “Saying farewell… To you.”

We then talked about the emotions that came with saying goodbye. Di reflected that perhaps it was something that came with age, but she felt that she had become better at saying goodbye in recent years, whereas a few years back she would have been devastated at the thought of parting with people she cared about. I added that it was true, we do gain maturity with age, and that goodbyes need not signify endings, but could even herald new beginnings and navigations which can only be experienced with a physical parting. We exchanged cards which contained heartfelt words we probably felt more comfortable writing than saying, and admired the CD we had put together, containing recordings of our musical explorations.

We agreed that our parting need not be sad and teary. Instead, it could be a celebratory event, a parting filled with happy gratitude that we had the chance to meet, get to know, explore emotions and music together. We can feel gratitude that from this client-therapist relationship, we can now move to friendship, which is not a bad thing at all, from the therapeutic point of view.

And so with these frames in mind, we embarked on our final improvisation on the keyboard together. And it felt like what we had discussed: Celebratory. With Gratitude. Communicative and connected. My only regret was that we didn’t have it recorded, though the presence of recording equipment might very well have hindered the authenticity of the improvisation.

“That’s all right,” Di said, when we spoke about what it pity it was that we didn’t record the improvisation. “We have it inside us.”

And she went on to say the line which would surprise me most: “I feel a lot more confident expressing myself through the keyboard now.”

I was surprised because:
– Increasing sense of empowerment and resources for expression had always been the main goals of her sessions.
– I have never told her that these were the goals planned for her, or that we had goals to begin with.
– Di has NEVER described herself as being confident in anything.

The fact that she said that on her own accord, the fact that she has been able to recognize the change that has taken place on a personal level – it is truly a testimony to the power of music to facilitate non-verbal communication, the mystery and magic of improvisation, and the wonders that can emerge when 2 people connect.

To have been able to experience this journey and transformation, learn, and gain a precious friendship, I am immensely thankful.

In Memory Of…

Dear Keyboard,

Thank you for spending the past 2 years or so with me. Thank you for being by my side (literally) when I needed to practice for placements, arrange music, prepare for my skills tests, or when I simply felt that I had to play to release that something from the depths of my soul.

Some people might laugh at me for being attached to an inanimate object which could be easily replaced, but I truly am thankful that you were with my in this part of my life’s journey. It wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thank you. May you continue to find musical joy and meaning in your new home, which I found for you through Gumtree.

Love,

L.

3 Weeks

After that beautiful weekend in Byron, came Monday. And the onslaught experience known as Placement.

This 3-week placement was really intense because of the frequency (5-day week, as opposed to once-a-week), the population group (mental health), and the nature of short-term interventions.

In my first week, I found myself thinking that I could never work in hospital environments. Too hectic, too fast paced, too many changes. Too many people coming and going. No established relationships.

But, by my second week, I began to think that maybe I could after all.

Even though patient turnover is high, we still had the chance to establish several poignant relationships with individuals. It certainly helps to be there everyday. For a person who’s staying in a locked ward for even a few days, the presence of familiar faces, coming to provide stimulation and relief from the boredom they all complain about, can be very comforting.

The interventions we used were mainly singing of familiar repertoire. For a few individuals, an ensemble-like context was created with the addition of a drum. I observed how individuals came alive when they engaged. For that moment, or duration of time, they were no longer defined by their illness, but they were a person, making music with another – being human. Song lyric discussion enabled some of them to talk about issues close to their hearts. Some spoke about the instruments and music they learnt at school. The music became a medium through which they engaged. To a certain extent, it created diversion from over-focus on their clinical condition and provided an alternate means of engagement. Other interventions carried out during our group sessions (which we were constantly stressed about!), such as drum circles, provided an outlet for social interaction and normality, something lacking in many of the patients’ lives as well.

Joining in some of the recreational activity sessions also helped us in establishing relationships with the patients outside the musical setting. These crafts will always remind me of the experience. Of the individuals who are really just human, struggling to find their way as we all are.

 

We must have appeared as strangers to the nurses and staff at first – suddenly turning up with guitars and walking the hallways with instruments. But gradually, we began to receive referrals.

“Could you drop by XX? He’s not very happy about being here.”

“I would like to refer MM, some diversion or distraction might help her…”

“I was going to look for you to refer __, but it looks like you found him already!” (wide grin)

The feeling was very validating and encouraging, knowing that the staff value allied health professionals and were willing to engage with us to provide the best care for the patients.

It’s true that we may only see an individual for a few sessions, but I’ve realised that we should not underestimate what those few sessions can do for an individual. Seeds may be planted, and grow into different things in future. One client said that he was inspired to learn guitar when he got out. Another said he felt that music was something meaningful he could do with his time (as opposed to chain smoking).  And a few others asked for lyrics, chord sheets of songs which meant something to them.

For a few days after I finished placement, I kept thinking of some of the individuals I saw in ward. In short-term interventions, each session is usually treated as our last. Closure is of utmost importance. But… I can’t help but feel that a part of my heart has been left with them.

I can only wish them well.

Wherever life takes them, may they be well and happy.