A Composer's Adventures

Is Music Therapy?

BartokIn my second year at university, I exhausted myself in an effort to catch up in my classical music training. I was overtired and depressed and even had student counseling, but that didn’t help me overcome the feeling that I was failing. I was on the brink of quitting school. Then I got a scholarship to Tanglewood to play in the Berkshire Festival Orchestra, a nearly professional ensemble made up of students from around the world.

The first piece we rehearsed was new to me: Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra.” The sheer beauty of the rich orchestration ringing in the hall was the first thing to hit me, and then — as the piece unfolded in various segments — I was inspired by the story the music seemed to tell. By the end of the week, a new and much brighter vision of my future had developed. Whenever I felt a little down thereafter I would play the recording of the Bartok “Concerto” (Philadelphia version with Eugene Ormandy) and feel uplifted again. That music became a sure-fire medication for me.

Those memories returned this week as I read about the death of Clive Robbins, the founding father of music therapy. He developed methods to treat many ailments, such as autism, psychological problems, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other disabilities with music.

But the term “music therapy” seems almost redundant to me, because I’ve always thought that music affected mind and body one way or the other. It never seems just neutral — even elevator music, which drives me mad! The melodies, harmonies and rhythms of great songs and compositions have both a physical and mental effect on anybody who listens to music. It has an addictive quality, much like my Bartok self-medication.

I have had many other experiences with music renewing and strengthening my spirit. That’s why I think music is more than an entertainment, but may even be necessary to good health. Take a moment and recall a time when music healed your mind or body or helped redirect your path in life. I’d love to hear about it.

Michael Colgrass

No Comments

Leave a reply