Melody in Music Therapy: A Therapeutic Narrative Analysis

Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Melody in Music Therapy: A Therapeutic Narrative Analysis


Melody in music therapy: A therapeutic narrative analysis Gudrun Aldridge and David Aldridge Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008 ISBN 978-1-85302-755-0

Melody is at the core of many music experiences, and can often be the most memorable aspect of a piece. Hearing a familiar melody can bring a flood of memories relating to a different time and place. The aesthetic of melody can unleash a wealth of emotions in the listener, from inspiration and joy, to sadness and sorrow. Why is it that certain melodies affect some listeners so profoundly, yet not others? What is it about familiar melodies that can bring back specific memories, while similar melodies do not evoke the same response? In Melody in Music Therapy, Gudrun and David Aldridge suggest that, "Melody... involve s internal experience and memory and serves as an intimate accompaniment to many stages and situations in life" (p. 10). Throughout the book the authors look at the history and significance of melody in music, and how the development of melody can be used as a therapeutic tool within the context of the therapist -patient relationship.

During the first section of Melody in Music Therapy the authors take us through the development of melody in both a historical and aesthetic context. It is suggested that throughout history there have been no clear cut rules guiding the development of melody (as opposed to harmony or counterpoint). Melody is viewed as gestalt- the melody as a whole is more than its individual parts (tone, pitch, rhythm, and meter). Melody is also viewed as aesthetic-cultural and contextual backgrounds determine how individuals relate to and experience melody. In order to set the research in context the reader is taken through an "aesthetic background" which states that aesthetics must be sensuously perfect, that an aesthetic experience is not limited to high fine art, and that an "aesthetic experience emerges by doing; engaging those feelings, energies, and physiological responses necessary to appreciate art" (p. 16). This overview sets the scene for the original research presented in Melody in Music Therapy.

After the initial discussion of the historical and aesthetic context of melody, the authors focus on the use of melody and melody development in a music therapy context. Before a patient's melody can emerge, groundwork must be laid in the therapist -patient relationship. Gudrun and David suggest that this can be most effectively achieved through improvisation. Improvisation allows the patient to develop their own voice within the therapist-patient relationship, as well as practice spontaneous communication and non-verbal expression. The research presented in Melody in Music Therapy is about the moment during improvisation that a patient's melody develops within the context of the therapist-patient relationship.

As a reader I found that the first section of the book set the context for the research that was presented in the following sections. The material was clear and focused, yet had a depth that allowed this reader to question the use of melodic improvisation in a new way. I was eager to read the research presented in the subsequent sections of Melody in Music Therapy, and had a number of questions about the research. How do patients develop their own melody and their own voice within the therapist -patient relationship? What is the therapeutic relevance of this process? Can the potential gains of this process be externalized to the patient's everyday life? These questions were all addressed by the authors as Mehdy in Music Therapy presented an original analysis methodology and case studies. …

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