Aldridge, G., & Aldridge, D. (2008). Melody in Music Therapy: A Therapeutic Narrative Analysis

By O'Callaghan, Clare | Australian Journal of Music Therapy, Annual 2009 | Go to article overview

Aldridge, G., & Aldridge, D. (2008). Melody in Music Therapy: A Therapeutic Narrative Analysis


O'Callaghan, Clare, Australian Journal of Music Therapy


Aldridge, G., & Aldridge, D. (2008). Melody in music therapy: A therapeutic narrative analysis. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 342 pages. Cost: AUS $45.95

I was honored to be invited to review the recently published book, "Melody in music therapy: A therapeutic narrative analysis'". I found this text both interesting and informative, especially as my music therapy clinical work is predominantly song based, and my research is based on therapeutic lyrical analyses and cancer patients' and carers' "word" interpretations of their music therapy experiences. This music therapy textbook includes two music therapy research projects with individuals engaged in individual music therapy improvisation sessions with the first author, Gudrun Aldridge. (1) The research focus is to discover melodic development processes during hospital based music therapy improvisation sessions. Two narratives emerged from meticulously detailed musical analyses of two individual patients' selected session episodes, their fleeting verbal responses, and the experienced authors' interpretative reflections.

The opening chapters were literary depictions of the place of melody in human life, and historical accounts of melody from its ancient Greek roots through to contemporary aesthetic considerations. Musicological, theoretical, and psycho-acoustical perspectives of melodic aesthetics and perception were detailed, and provided a frame for the premise underlying the therapeutic power of music improvisation:

If art leads us to a better understanding of negative emotions through an aesthetic understanding of critical, problematic situations, it might teach us a certain detachment from our own negative emotions and difficult situations in our daily lives as well. Problems and obstacles may therefore be seen as a chance to find new inner attitudes and to see adversity as a learning experience. (p. 39)

The interpretive hermeneutic research perspective was acceptable to this context: "Truths ... have the validity of mutual recognition (and) these truths emerge as presented in the performance" (p. 19). Therapeutic contexts, including German hospital wards recognizing the importance of art therapies and the active participation of the sick person in determining their health care, were acknowledged. The therapeutic potential of music improvisation, to possibly enable a more "immediate and spontaneous expression" (p. 47) than spoken messages, was suggested. Creative activity allows one to express pathology and potential possibilities. The therapist supports, confirms, and offers "impulses" for the patient to change. The consequent detailed micro-analysis of two patients' melodic developments in improvisation is both educative and thought provoking, especially for those who, like myself, come from other qualitative research and analytical approach backgrounds.

Chapters four and five outlined the authors' search for the appropriate analytical method and resultant selection and delineation of "Therapeutic Narrative Analysis" (p. 63) as a process. This analytic procedure is one of "locating the study in an ecology of ideas" (p. 65). Melodic episodes are identified which inform categories for analysis. Categories of understanding from the analytical phases are synthesized into the completed narrative. Etymological explanations of emergent categories and their application within the study's context were interesting. For example, "contemplation", derived from the Latin "complari" meaning to view and consider, signifies the patient's self reflection, immersion, inner collection, and refining in musical play. I was also fascinated to discover the similarities in my own grounded theory textual analysis experiences with how one can analyze music experience. Theoretical sampling of musical episodes, their comparative analysis, and the focus on recurrent patterns are described. Readers not familiar with the sophisticated musical and interpretive analytic approaches, including the formation of "focus" and "repertory" grids framed from episode analyses, are invited to read an earlier text by David Aldridge for assistance. …

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