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Music Therapy Through Active Listening

This book charts the music therapy experiences of a musician with HIV Aids, presenting a complete case study with recorded musical examples from the work.​ It is a profoundly moving account of the music therapy journey undertaken by Francis, the client and his music therapist, Colin Lee.​ Exploring the work in detail, it firmly places music at the centre of the process.​

Music at the Edge​ by Colin Lee

The music therapy experiences of a musician with HIV Aids.

 

Music at the Edge

This book charts the music therapy experiences of a musician with HIV Aids, presenting a complete case study with recorded musical examples from the work.​ It is a profoundly moving account of the music therapy journey undertaken by Francis, the client and his music therapist, Colin Lee.​ Exploring the work in detail, it firmly places music at the centre of the process.​

In his foreword, Clive Robbins described it as ”a landmark book for music therapists, for all who work in healing services, for all musicians and for all who cherish music. Even more, it is a profound testament to the integrity and indomitable potential of the human spirit.”

Therapy of Listening

Colin Lee recounts how Frances wanted to play to him in the sessions, wanted him to listen but did not want him to participate actively in music making. Lee is at first completely thrown by this – a music therapist is someone who makes music with people, how could he be a music therapist just by listening, without actively participating in music making himself? Yet Frances is quite clear what he wants, and Colin Lee doesn’t feel it right or appropriate to refuse him, so he engages with the process, working out his new role as listener as he goes along. In discussion, Frances and Colin Lee developed the term ‘active listening’:

… my role as listener became established. Francis initiated the term ‘active’ because he considered my listening to be communicatively reciprocal to his playing. …
Through discussions with other music therapists I began to understand that while dynamics of listening in therapy were recognized, no one seemed to have knowledge of a therapeutic process in which the therapist was consistently silent. The realigning in my relationship with Francis was simultaneously unsettling and liberating: gradually I learned to understand the importance of the receptive role – not receptive in a passive sense, but as a real and continuing creative part of the music, mute perhaps, but actively resonating.
Subsequent clinical practice, particularly with clients approaching death, has confirmed that it is possible for a therapist to participate fully in music therapy without being musically active.

Music therapy traditionally places emphasis on joint active music making, yet here Colin Lee is arguing persuasively for the possibility of ‘active listening’. Do you think music therapy with the therapist as ‘active listener’ would be a completely different thing from joint active music making? Or would it be the same activity, still music therapy, but with a change of emphasis?

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An Introduction to the Nordoff Robbins approach to Music Therapy

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