Virtual Book Club: Part IV General Music-Centered Theory

Virtual Book Club

I’ve finally finished this edition of the Virtual Book Club.

Need to catch up? Here are the links to the rest of the book:

Music-Centered Music Therapy Radio Show


Chapter 1 The Nature of Theory

Chapter 2 Theory in Music Therapy


Chapter 3 Origins and Foundations of Music-Centered Music Therapy

Chapter 4 Values Central to Musicing in Music-Centered Music Therapy

Chapter 5 Rationales, Practices, and Implications of Music-Centered Music Therapy

Chapter 6 Music-Centered Thinking in Music Therapy Models

Chapter 7 Music-Centered Thinking in Contemporary Music Therapy Frameworks


Part IV: GENERAL MUSIC-CENTERED THEORY also had it’s own introduction. Here, Aigen explains that “a broad music-centered theory should be able to accommodate different ways of concptualizing and implementing music therapy” (p. 239).

Chapter 11: Clinical Applications of Musical Force and Motion: Quickening and the Creation of a Self – This chapter explains how music drives movement, or expresses movement, or sounds like it’s going somewhere and reaching a destination. If I understand it correctly, quickening happens when music causes us to move or take action. Musical force and motion helps us to understand that we are individuals in relationship with others.

Chapter 12: Music and Emotion in Music-Centered Thought: Music is not a cathartic experience in music-centered thinking, because the goal is musicing, not expression of emotions through music. However, emotions can often be best expressed through a non-verbal form, such as music. But in music-centered thinking, music is not just self-expression. The client may be expressing an emotion, the music might be expressive of an emotion, the musical experience can produce an emotion for the client, and also evoke an emotion in the therapist.

Chapter 13: Musical Form, Development, and Transformation: This chapter related musical form (for example A-B-A-B), to human development (such as when my toddler explores his environment on his own, then comes back to me for some interaction, then goes off on his own again, then returns to me), and transformation (such as when we “die” to one experience, like pre-cancer life, and are “reborn” to a new way of thinking and being post-cancer).

Chapter 14: Melody, Container, Transition: Aigen describes blues improvisation as an illustration of how a melody can hold the client in one state and through a transition to a new state.

Afterword: Implications for the Societal Role of Music Therapy: Finally, I feel like Aigen is writing in a more conversational, understandable style. He explains that music-centered music therapy may not be understood by payors or administrators or colleagues, but that one can still communicate with them in the language they need while working from a music-centered position. Which is what I feel most of the music therapists I know do. It’s what I believe I do. I don’t agree that approaches like NMT or biomedical perspectives are incompatible with a music-centered music therapy approach. I do agree that it is important for music therapists to develop what it means to be music-centered and to promote music as the center of what we do.

Reading this book has been a struggle, but I do feel it’s an important book to read for music therapists as we participate in the continued development of our profession. I think some of how I practice and how I think about my clients has shifted from reading this book. I do wish that I had others to discuss the book with because I find more value in hearing other people’s perspectives than just sharing my own. So let me know when you’ve read this book and invite me over for coffee and a discussion!