It is Spring, on this early Sunday morning, and the women's gaol on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg is silent, despite the hum and buzz of the World Summit sustaining itself some miles down the hill. The gaol is empty and my steps echo on the tired grey floor. I hear the whispers of women whose spirits now invade these cells triumphantly: the gaol is now a Healing Centre.
Eventually ten of us are in the "birthing room", sharing our "Stories from Home". Kirsten, the drama therapist, facilitates the group, and as her co-facilitator, I listen to the sounds as women talk, draw their stories, and enact them in fluid body sculptures. Then one woman narrates the story of The Ugly Duckling. She speaks and moves only on her out-breath. When her breath ends, she too sits on a chair. There is silence and stillness in the room. Then another woman stands up, and as she moves around the room on her out-breath, she links this part of The Ugly Duckling with her own life. When her out-breath ends, she returns to her chair, and silence grows again. The narrator then rises, and on her out-breath, offers another bit of The Ugly Duckling, and this cycle continues to move between the narration, and different women sharing parts of their lives. The various stories are woven into the collective silence of breathing and listening, with each voice etching the next silence with each person's life.
We end the two-hour session in a circle, facing outwards with our eyes closed, standing shoulder to shoulder. Someone begins a song from home. We know neither words nor melody, but we hum, following her dips and swoops, her swaying body and full-blooded sounds.
Then we leave, back into the city, having touched each others lives briefly, cocooned by the space that has become the prison of yesterday. http://www.womensnet.org.za
Of course it is not music therapy! Most of it is not even music! So what is this piece doing here, in this journal? As music therapists, we know another listening: beyond the neon lights of words, movements and prison cells, even beyond music. We know the tempo of silence, the colour of excitement, and the width of noise.
Which brings me to thinking about work outside. In the previous column, Thomas Wosch spoke of different winds blowing through the Music Therapy World Congress at Oxford, which alerted his listening to other currents of work and thought. These currents are moving through(and alongside) current music therapy debate, which implies that they come from somewhere else - and will move on, like the wind, and like the women in the "birthing" room.
But in these moments, after our World Congress, we seem to be straddling what is inside music therapy while also listening to sounds and invitations that call us to venture elsewhere. Here is a precious pivot of assessing the moment whilst also listening beyond it. As a more confident, established and solid practice, we can listen to exciting, newer and younger thinking and critique that urges us out of the nest, and become generous: to share our listenings and receive the music of other sounds; to venture outside and weave our own narratives with that of others. Towards a more sustainable practice that is convincingly engaged with issues of ugliness and beauty; prisons and poverty, renewal and development.
Johannesburg 6 September 2002
Pavlicevic. Mércèdes (2002) Other Music: Community Sounds. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2002-other-music-community-sounds