While a research imperative has driven much of the scholarly work that has been published in music therapy, especially in refereed journals, my own experience of research is that the reality of practice-work, the "doing" of music therapy, is sometimes at risk of marginalisation when inquiry about music therapy takes place. I have therefore found the "signature practitioner" concept (Melrose, 2003) an interesting notion to try to translate across to practice in our field. Her suggestion has helped me consider whether we have thresholds between practice, practice-research and writing that could be further developed as a recognised "register" of scholarly work.
In examining some potential "thresholds" within between and around research and practice, I suggest that in our research endeavours we may have collectively avoided the delight of the inexplicable, the creative unknowing, the potentials that exist in the unformed parts of our informed ideas, even while recognising that these are fundamental to good practice. I wonder what would happen if we discarded the rational knowing and certainty of an "outcome" oriented system of research and more creatively and fluidly engaged with what Susan Melrose has termed the "emergent premise" in creative work or what we might recognise as the notion of the "working hypothesis" in relation to the patient, or patient cohort with whom we work?
In the first instance, an example highlights how an internalised "research imperative" can stifle creative developments in music therapy, allowing only those who conform to established registers of knowing to be accepted as "completed scholars" that is, PhD holders. An expert colleague, well published with many years experience writing about his clinical work, as well as various collaborations co-researching in his expert context, enrols for a PhD. Excitedly he searches for a "topic", tries to develop a "question", around which to form the research hypothesis, and works intensely to find a "method" by which he can pursue the research. Gradually he becomes more and more disillusioned, with the feeling of being de-skilled uppermost in his mind. He starts to wonder if he needs to do "more" to get this thesis underway. If only he could avail of an understanding of all the research methods available, he could find the exact right one. If only he understood research philosophy better, he could develop his procedure for the research. After months and months of work he still has only a general topic, with no guide, no path to follow, no obvious structure and a feeling of being completely demoralised, even lost. What has happened that a person so capable of doing new things, so capable of finding his way through uncharted waters can be so "at sea" here? What have we embraced as a profession, either unknowingly, or possibly willingly, that might have limited the capacity for signature practitioners to have authority and expertise that can be recognised within a research frame? In light of this I intend in further writing on this topic to give consideration to the PhD in Music Therapy as it is offered at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance—thinking about what does it mean to be a doctor of philosophy in the field of music therapy. Surely being able to "do" music therapy expertly, disciplinary mastery (Melrose, 2003) is at least one register of achievement for consideration?
Melrose has suggested that when arts performance is practiced, there seems to be little that is like a research experience because the work of writing is so privileged in academic expectations of research. She describes performance research as dominated, and I would suggest even "colonised", by the limitations of writing, so that performance is acceptable as scholarship where it can be described as like writing (or is written about). She has argued that we need to broaden our definitions of conceptions to understand how performance mastery is experienced so that we can include the aspect that
..."experience of an experience" (in expert performing arts) is event-like. As such, in the best of cases, it includes the (multi-dimensional, schematic) traces of the multiple perspectives which 'event' involves. (Melrose, 2003)
In my own work during sabbatical leave, encouraged by Professor Carolyn Kenny, I tried to think about the ways the stories of my work as a music therapist in a children's hospital could elucidate the meanings of this work. I approached the work from the vantage point of autoethnography—writing about myself as music therapist in the experience, retrospective writing about being in the experience, or event. Goodall has described that this writing makes it possible
...to speak and write from a tension between incomplete personal evolution and the desire for complete scholarly arrivalwriting that tension honours the incompleteness, the desire, the learning. It shows the self and the self's construction of knowledge as a jointly produced work in progress. (Goodall, 2002)
My own work using this method has a long way to go to be "eventual" in the sense of publishable or recognisable as a scholarly endeavour however this exercise liberated me, in some new way, from the idea that research inquiry is only legitimately constructed through application of a priori method; that is a procedure accepted as valid before the concepts within the application have been interrogated and examined. This of course has resonances with concerns of those of us who have written about the need for qualitative inquiry to be better accepted as a means of discovery within research in music therapy.
Perhaps one achievement of this type of writing is to try to reflect, in part and certainly not completely, this experience of music therapy; to amplify and honour the existing registers between research and practice. While the retention of the privileging of writing as one way, or the most academic way, to author these experiences remains potentially problematic there is a more promising possibility of managing the drawing out and the drawing into music therapy interactions and experiences.
 These stories have had a few outings—in the first instance at a seminar (Edwards, 2004)
 See the new edition of the research book by Wheeler (2005) for some of the names of those who have developed and pursued the qualitative research agenda in music therapy
Edwards, J. (2004, May). "What to Make of These Sounds"—Balancing Rigour and Uncertainty in Music Therapy Research. Colloquia series, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge, England
Goodall, H. (2002). Narrative Heat. In A. Bochner & C. Ellis(Eds.). Ethnographically Speaking: Autoethnography, literature and aesthetics. Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press.
Melrose, S. (2003). Who Knows—and Who Cares (About Performance Mastery)? Performance Arts International [online] http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/epai/virtuosity/performancemastery/
Wheeler, B. (2005)(Ed.). Music Therapy Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives (2nd Edition). Gilsum: Barcelona
Edwards, Jane (2006). Thresholds Between Practice and Research—Thinking About Susan Melrose's Notion of the "Signature Practitioner". Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 12, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=coledwards300106