In the context of a music therapy process, the developing child begins to exhibit the ability to self-regulate, and displays signs of musical awareness. This may lead the child to be interested in playing an instrument while the therapist attempts to faciliate music engagement and interaction through improvisation. The moment this happens, the child’s sensory motor system comes into play. This may be followed by the child’s ability to motor-plan as he/she executes an idea to play an instrument. In addition, there is an intent to do something (play instrument) based on his/her own wish or desire, which is then carried out by the “doing” of an idea to play. So, the next step is to try to determine the child’s motive to play an instrument. Is it based on his/her intent to engage and relate to therapist’s music, or is it based on the child’s desire to fulfill a sensory need which may have nothing at all to do with relating to another person. That being said, if we are working within a relationship-based framework, the motive or wish behind the intent of the child is what we want to understand- the general goal may be for the child to engage in music making for the purpose of relating and communicating, musically and interpersonally, while actively engaging with the therapist in the context of musical play.
If there is the intent to play in a related manner to the therapist’s music, emotionality may now be entering into the picture- a combination of sensory-motor-affect is being displayed, as well as the integration of various sensory stimuli necessary for co-active music making (auditory, visual, tactile, etc.). In short, once the activity becomes interactive, or related in some fashion, there is a connection between sensory-motor, affect (emotion), and intentionality.
Furthermore, in addition to processing the auditory stimuli (music), the child is also filtering auditory stimuli that may not be important to the in-the-moment musical ingteractin (musical play). Once the musical information is processed (receptive language skills), the child responds (expressive language skills) in a tempo driven manner (cerebral cortex) with intentionality. The “input” and “output” processes are all occurring simultaneously at an incredible rate of speed. This processing of music-making, which involves listening, thinking, and acting is so deeply involved biologically, neurologically and emotionally, and yet, many of us may take this ability for granted.
The musical play that I’m referring to is based on clinical improvisation, in which the therapist is improvising music based on the child’s musical or non-musical responses and/or reactions. The clinical improvisations may be based on the emotional environment set by the child, and/or musical responses played by the child, and/or the child’s movement (to name a few). In short, clinical improvisations are built around what the child is playing or doing, whereby the therapist is attempting to facilitate spontaneous musical communication and relatedness to assist in the back-and-forth continuous flow of across a wide range of affects within the context of musical play. Because of the nature of improvisation, the child is not familiar with the music being presented, and therefore can not rely solely on memory skills- he/she is put into musical scenarios that require here-and-now “musical thinking” and responses.
So, I pose a question: can the above musical, social-emotional and sensory processes be activated in a similar fashion through the use of familiar pre-composed songs in which the child may be relying on his memory skills?
This excerpt is taken from Orchestrating Affective Relationships Training Module: Music Therapy and Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Relating & Commincating. Copyright © 2009 John Carpente, PhD. All rights reserved