Thursday, July 13, 2017

Virtual Book Club: Theory in Music Therapy

Virtual Book Club Click to purchase Music-Centered Music Therapy

Continuing the series for virtual book club to discuss Kenneth Aigen’s Music-Centered Music Therapy. A month ago, I read and shared my thoughts on Chapter 1. I’ve finished reading Chapter 2, Theory in Music Therapy.

I found this chapter difficult to get through, but along with Chapter 1, it forms the foundation for the discussion of Music-Centered Music Therapy that will happen in Part II of the book. If you recall, chapter 1 attempted to justify the scientific validity of music-centered theories vs. other theories/approaches of music therapy. Chapter 2 expands on this material talking about the foundations for the different music therapy theories and approaches and proposes that music-centered theory works as a general theory in music therapy.

The chapter begins by explaining the role of theory in music therapy. It provides a foundation for treatment, serves to inform the scope of practice of its practitioners,  creates a direction for research, and establishes links with other disciplines.

Then there is a discussion of where music therapy theory comes from–other disciplines (psychology, biology, medicine, etc.), or music domains. Aigen proposes an indigenous theory of music therapy and discussed the differences between foundational theory and general theory.

My reaction to this chapter was that it’s nice to know where he’s coming from, but I still think he doesn’t have a good grasp of Biomedical theory (Taylor, 2010) or Neurologic Music Therapy (Thaut, 2014). Aigen is much smarter than me, so perhaps I misunderstood him and perhaps my understanding of these concepts are naive. However, he kept referring to NMT as a theory, when I’ve always understood it to be an approach. He also says that Biomedical theory is a foundational theory, which is how I understand it to be, and that foundational theory is a top-down function, but to me foundational theory is the basis, the ground, from which approaches are developed, explained, and used, by definition (foundation=ground). But again, Aigen probably understands all this way better than I do.

I also didn’t quite understand the explanation of neurological pathways as Aigen explained it. He said, “Yet, the fact that neural mechanisms are the same whether a patellar reflex is elicited, a beautiful sunset enjoyed, a symphony listened to, or the fragrance of a rose scented can just as easily be used as an argument for the irrelevance of neurological considerations in understanding the mechanisms of music therapy.” I don’t grasp what his point is here. It seems like he is saying that because the structures and pathways for neural and sensory input are similar for each of these different experiences that it a makes neurology irrelevant for understanding music therapy. My understanding is that neurology is how we gain information about our surroundings, comprehend the information, and respond to the information, so how would that make neurology irrelevant?

Also, Barbara Crowe wrote a book called Music and Soul-Making about complexity science as a theory of music therapy and Aigen doesn’t discuss that at all.

The chapter concludes by offering Music-Centered Music Therapy as a general theory (general theory he describes as bottom-up, which seems backwards to me). So the next section will explain more about his general theory.

I still plan to keep an open mind, because I actually believe that I agree with much of what Aigen will say, but I don’t get the sense that he understands the biomedical theory very well. I am probably wrong about that, because as I said, he is much smarter than I am and has way more experience.

Have you read chapter 2? What are your thoughts?

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