A comparison between the use of songs and improvisation in music therapy with adults living with acquired and chronic illness

A comparison between the use of songs and improvisation in music therapy with adults living with acquired and chronic illness

Abstract

Music therapy can effect behavioural, emotional, and functional changes in adults with acquired chronic illness, even in the face of degenerative conditions. However questions remain about the methods which are most suited to meeting the complex physical and emotional needs of individuals living with chronic illness. Rehabilitative models tend to employ methods using pre-composed music with few recommendations for the application of improvisational methods, whilst palliative models apply both song-based and improvisational methods in contrasting ways with similar populations. Drawing from research findings (Magee & Davidson, 2004a), this paper makes recommendations for clinical practice with individuals living with chronic degenerative conditions. Illustrative data extracts from narratives of people living with chronic degenerative conditions reveal how pre-composed familiar music and improvisation have different roles in the therapeutic process. When working with adults with acquired chronic conditions, pre-composed songs of personal meaning carry associative and temporal properties which enhance their emotional meaning. Songs, therefore, are useful tools when working with individuals who have difficulty acknowledging and exploring intolerable feelings in the face of loss and pending death. In contrast to familiar pre-composed music, improvisation provides a physical activity in which individuals may negotiate their environment and test out their changes in physical functioning. Engaging in improvisation can shift an individual's self-constructs towards a more positive identity as they experience a greater sense of control, resulting in feelings of ability, skill and success.

 

Keywords: songs, improvisation, methods, acquired chronic illness, music


Citation

Magee, W. L. (2007). A comparison between the use of songs and improvisation in music therapy with adults living with acquired and chronic illness. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 18, 20-38.


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Date published: July 2007