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Improvising Music as a Technique in Music Therapy -2

by - Dr. T V Sairam

In all therapy sessions, it has been observed that improvisation elicits gratifying emotional responses from the clients/patients.

The skills of improvisation is known for its importance in all forms of communication and expression across all artistic, scientific, physical, cognitive, academic, and non-academic disciplines- including music.. The study of the skills and techniques of improvisation thus can influence one’s efficiency.

It is interesting to note that the mental and emotional states needed to practice the art of improvisation are identical to those needed for the practice taught in the spiritual and religious texts.

This invention cycle occurs most effectively when the practitioner has a thorough intuitive and/or technical understanding of the necessary skills and concerns within the improvised domain.

Bruscia (1987) and Wigram (2004) have introduced a variety of improvisational techniques and methods for therapeutic sesssions, based on improvisation principles. They are: Imitating: A basic technique of empathy. Here the music therapist copies or repeats a client's response musically. The music therapist may focus on any tone, sound, rhythm, interval or even facial expression of the client.

Reflecting: A technique in which the music therapist expresses the same moods or emotions which have been displayed by the client.

Rhythmic grounding: A technique which is implemented by establishing a steady beat or rhythm, supporting the client's improvisation. The use of a rhythmic ostinato is an example of rhythmic grounding.

Dialoguing: A technique in which the music therapist and the client communicate through their improvisations.

Accompanying: A technique in which the music therapist supports the client's improvisation by giving an accompaniment which may consist of rhythm, melody, and melodic or chordal progression. It is important that improvisation is made using more than just one or two of these methods. It is also critical to maintain flexibility during the improvisation. For example, the music therapist can preserve a flexible session flow by incorporating several methods, such as imitating, accompanying, dialoguing, and rhythmic grounding.

According to Bruscia (1987), improvisation is possible with both musical and non-musical references. ‘Referential improvisations’ are those in which the client improvises to portray a non-musical reference (e.g., an event, feeling, image, relationship, etc.) Non-referential improvisations are those in which the client improvises without reference to anything other than the sounds of music.

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Dr T V Sairam, A serving bureaucrat and a writer, is from F/48B, Hari Nagar New Delhi 110064. For any doubts you can contact him at - tvsairam @ gmail. com