It's hard to believe that I've only been back in Melbourne for 3 months. During this time, I've moved to a new place, started a new course and began teaching piano again. My life right now is surrounded by music: musician housemates, music therapy coursework and placement, learning guitar, piano practise, composition, teaching. I feel like I'm experiencing music in more ways than I did before I left the country, as if music had missed me in Melbourne, just as much as I have, and that we are doing all we can to catch up the lost time with one another.
As part of what is offered by the Master of Music Therapy course, each student is allocated a place to observe and learn from a practising music therapist. This is considered as our placement. We attend four placements throughout our study. My first placement is at a special development school, and I'm well into half way of my time there. I started off feeling nervous, mainly because I was to be in an unfamiliar environment, despite having had experiences within a similar environment. Perhaps this nervousness also stems from entering the unknown, as a fresh novice, where it is required of me to take in as much as I humanly can during my placement observations, to learn, absorb, regurgitate.
But as is with anything, given time, one will adapt and hopefully, grow within the environment. I've begun to establish good rapport with the people there, and I am grateful for the school's positive behaviour teaching values that aligns with my own teaching methods.
"The power of music constantly amazes me."
Maybe I'd try the Hungarian Rhapsody on the guitar one day?
Having had my June recital temporarily cancelled came both as a disappointment and relief: disappointment being that I was well into preparation for the concert and that I was looking forward to having my first full recital in Melbourne since returning here; and relief, as this will free up more time for me to breath and live. I feel I am no longer rushing about, feeling like I'm constantly losing time; I am now able to practise a healthier balance of teaching (work), music (life/study) and socialisation/alone times (play). The freed up time has also allowed me to spend more time on the guitar as repertoire is required as part of my course, and as required for placement. Can you imagine me, after practising through Horowitz's terribly and beautifully difficult transcription on Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, picking up the guitar and attempting to find a D7 bar chord! Yikes, I did sound so awkward in the first weeks of guitar playing, but now I can confidently say I have noticed a drastic improvement, though I am long way away from playing guitar as confidently as I can on the piano.
A magical moment happened in placement the other day. I was working with a young non-verbal client, who seems to trust me. She allowed me to sit next to her at the keyboard (the piano is out of tune
at the classroom and the keyboard is preferred instead), and we had an amazing session where I was able to do some piano improvisation with her. I started off with some blues, jazz feels, and as I was constantly reading her body language, I then progressed to a drone chord. Occasionally she would sing to me as the drone keeps going, and she'd vocalise in pitch! This was eye-opening to me, and I kept playing. We did this for her entire session, and not once did she indicate that she wanted to leave the keyboard, as what had happened in past sessions. This was our way of communicating with each other - through sound, through music. I was so grateful for her presence and for her to allow mine in hers.
"Music reminds us to be kind to one another, to be human."
The power of music constantly amazes me. As a performer, this has always been felt, as I gage with the audience and receive their feedback. I can also feel it whenever I don't spend time at the piano, feeling as if something's 'missing' and that my energy level decreases. I certainly also was aware of the power of music when I wrote my thesis during my Master in Music, on the use of music as torture in military prisons. As a teacher, I was aware that music can become the reflection for the student for which they can learn about their own self-confidence, and as a tool to express themselves. And now, as a music therapy student, I am learning about music as a tool to help those in need of improving their well-being and quality of life. One aspect of how music can do this is through the overwhelming body of evidence on neurological stimulation evoked by music, and the numerous cases of music bypassing certain pathological areas of the brain to help alleviate symptomatic neurological problems (e.g. reducing muscular tremors in Parkinson's Diseas, increasing fluidity of walking for those who had acquired brain injuries and are learning to walk again). I find this such an important knowledge for me as a practising musician, both as a holistic and professional reason.
Music reminds us to be kind to one another, to be human. It reminds us to be humble, be patient, and be compassionate and forgiving. It reminds us to love, don't you think?
Before I forget!
The other day I had the pleasure of watching a 2009 Swedish film, called Pure. It is the story of a girl from a rough upbringing, who suddenly discovers the power of music. It is beautifully directed, excellent music, genuine performance and I highly recommend it.
SBS On Demand is still airing it, check it out here (unfortunately the link is only available to people in Australia, my apologies to the rest of the world).
- Natasha Lin