Friday, January 16, 2009

Listening to the difference

Last Saturday, D and I waded slowly through the snow (since we were both fairly well-bundled, it was actually a pleasant and pretty walk), and we managed to get ourselves to the Music Room. 

Lately, he has been a lot more vocal during his sessions, and it's been exciting to hear his voice at long last, mixed in with his chuckling and rocking. 

Before I went on vacation for two weeks, I'd been using a lot of dissonant sounds on the piano with him, and he was quite responsive. So we had been playing back and forth, with D vocalizing, smiling, and tapping at the tubular shaker.  

This past Saturday was the first session after I'd been away.  What I began to notice as we made music together was how different my music sounded from what I usually play with D. Instead of the playful dissonance, I found myself using a ground bass. Very consonant. Very settled and very settling. Also very consistent.  I found myself using a lot of I-IV-V progressions- nothing particularly unexpected. In fact, it was downright predictable.

I usually ask my clients whether they have any feelings with regard to my absence that they want me to know about. Of course, since the majority of the folks I work with can't tell me with words, I am usually left to figure it out. Somehow. Well, "somehow" usually involves paying attention to the music. And how people are interacting with me (or not).  Mostly I try to notice what feels different.

I wondered (to myself first, and then out loud to D) whether he was feeling a need for me to be predictable in the music, because I had been away (which, in spite of my reminders, probably felt somewhat unexpected to him).  Perhaps he needed me to be more trustworthy, or simply present, within the context of the music.

Interestingly, consonant music usually comes back to the tonic chord- the I chord out of the I-IV-V progression. Maybe he simply needed to have me musically express that I had come back.

You see how it's sort of difficult to put the musical experience into words.  This is what makes music therapy so powerful.  It doesn't rely on words. 

Well, I wasn't sure whether I was on the right track or not.  D doesn't usually seem to be too bothered by my being away.  But here I was noticing that my musical interactions with him were different- even though his responses seemed pretty much the same as usual to me.  

So I waited and tried to pay attention.  There we were: D was doing his singing and tapping thing, smiling as I played my consonant chords on the piano, and we were going along just fine until I let him know we had about ten minutes before we had to say "goodbye".  His whole face changed, and the vocalizing sort of stopped. Hmm. 

"Roia, we were going along just fine in music therapy, and suddenly you weren't here."

I wouldn't have thought much of it, because he does do this sometimes, but it was so obviously connected to my saying it was nearing time for us to go.  And I did just get back from a vacation. And there was that whole playing different music thing.

It may not have been a perfect answer- or even a great interpretation, but it seemed pretty clear to me. I reminded him that I planned to be back the following Saturday.  Gradually his good humor (and voice) returned, and we finished the session peacefully. 

Guess we'll see what tomorrow brings... 

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