We had a guest lecturer attend a graduate seminar on music and emotions the other week. This guest was Dr. Jim Mobberley, who serves on the composition faculty at the UMKC Conservatory. Dr. Mobberley was there to share his thoughts on music and emotion and how that influences his compositions and compositional process.
He was an engaging person to listen to and his thoughts prompted interesting discussions in seminar. But what also got me thinking was the idea that there are several similarities between the music therapy process and the composition process. Here are some of the thoughts that were generated when I considered the phrase “music therapist as composer:”
- We are continually in a compositional mode. We adapt our interventions and the music stimulus on-the-spot. Even when using pre-composed music, more often than not we changes some aspect of it. We, in a sense, “compose” the music stimulus and experience for our clients.
- We are intentional with the choice of music and how it reflects our client’s skills, preferences, and needs just as a composer is intentional with his or her choice of the music characteristics used in a new work.
- We both develop observation skills in order to adapt the music stimulus, the music therapist in the moment with a client and the composer as he or she is sharing a work-in-progress with others.
Although none of these thoughts are especially earth-shattering, I had never considered a direct comparison between these two professions. Other professions sure, but mostly in comparing music therapy to other therapies (e.g. occupational therapy, art therapy, mental health) or to other music healing professions.
I liked this comparison, though, because it was different for me, a new idea that generated reflection and pondering.
So what do you think? How is a music therapist like a composer? Are there other professions you would use to fill in the phrase “music therapist as…”? If so, I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.