City Research Online

Music therapy as discourse and discipline : a study of 'music therapist's dilemma'

Ansdell, G. (1999). Music therapy as discourse and discipline : a study of 'music therapist's dilemma'. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This study takes a qualitative research perspective on the question of how music therapists talk about music therapy and how much a metalanguage relates to music therapy as an evolving discipline and profession. I ask whether there is a discourse of music therapy, and what the implications of this might be. Common to music centered approaches to music therapy is a problem I characterize as music therapists dilemma. This concerns having to use words and verbal logic to represent complex musical processes in music therapy (and the therapeutic processes which are seen to occur within these). I investigate how aspects of the New Musciology are discourse theory might shed light on the nature of music therapists dilemma. The data consists of an analysis of the verbal representations of one approach - Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. Three analyses examine different occasions where Nordoff-Robbins Music therapists are required to verbalise about music therapy: (i) when making a different commentary on a taped excerpt from a music therapy session, (ii) in a discussion group on general aspects of the work, and (ii) writing texts on practice, theory and research. The overall analytic perspective of critical theory (supplemented by discourse analysis and music semiology) is used to examine the complex interaction between representation, theory and ideology within these various meta linguistic forms. I conclude that any metalanguage of music therapy functions are discourse in the sense that it actively constructs (and does not merely describe) the practices and phenomena it concerns itself with. Music therapists dilemma is seen as an inevitable part of a music-centered music therapy (and as an extension of the problems of talking about music itself). Further, the dilemma is seen as having two aspects: the related challenges of verbally representing and theorizing the complex non-verbal phenomena and processes of music therapy. I suggest that my finding are transferable to music centered approaches to music therapy. A consequence of regarding the discipline and profession of music therapy as constructed by discourse is that the discursive practices of music therapists become of equal importance to their clinical practices - and should therefore be given equal attention on matters of training, theory building and research.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
PDF - Accepted Version
Download (21MB) | Preview



Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login