The other day, Susan Seale posted a TEDtalks video about conscious listening to her blog. If you have a few moments, it’s definitely worth the time to listen to this short talk. While Julian Treasure’s main point was related to connecting with each other (and ourselves) through better self-reflective listening practices, I found myself mulling more over the amount of noise in our lives. Whether consciously chosen or not, we are in a noisy world: the low-voiced meeting happening in the corner office, the on-hold Muzak when we call customer service, the hissing of the espresso machine in the coffee shop. In fact, it’s the quiet moments that draw our attention rather than the loud ones simply because they seem out of place. I may not be aware of what song is playing on the car radio, but I sure notice when the station deejay doesn’t switch the track fast enough and there is an extended pause of white silence. And every parent knows that when the household is too quiet, it’s a sure sign that the kiddos are up to something.
We have instant access to just about every sound and song we could ever want. There is free Internet radio like Pandora, iTunes has customizable playlists and YouTube can play everything from music videos to the sound of babies laughing. So, what is the role of the music therapist when considering the cacophony we’re surrounded by on a daily basis? When we already have a soundtrack to our lives, what does a music therapist have to offer?
Simply put, a lot.
Just because we hear noise constantly does not mean that we are benefiting from it. Music therapists use their extensive instrumental and vocal talents combined with therapy training to make what would otherwise be random sounds into something purposeful and useful. It’s not that music therapists “own” music; it’s that music therapists can control and utilize music to its full potential.
It is easy to see the creative aspect of a music therapist’s role. After all, they are talented musicians who sing and play a variety of instruments. In one sense, they are artists. However, they are also scientists and this is the role that can be harder to detect because they observe, diagnose and heal through their artistic methods. Kimberly Moore did an excellent job illustrating certified music therapists as professionals with an arsenal of knowledge and training at their disposal.
There is no substitution for expert knowledge and experience. In a world full of noise, we need music therapists to help make sense of the din, to bring order to chaos. I like to think of music therapists like the conductors of an orchestra, able to bring forth particular harmonies and make certain sections sing.
What types of noises are you surrounded by?