Carolyn Kenny, one of the editors of Voices, visited Japan this summer, and gave a lecture titled "Beautifying the World" at the Kunitachi College of Music. The content of this lecture will be published soon, I hear, so here I would like to introduce one of her statement given as the answer to a question from the audience. The question was about the difference between music recreation and music therapy, and she answered as follows: "The goal of recreation is often to activate. The goal of music therapy, on the other hand, is to build and hold a relationship."
This sort of questions on recreations and therapy has been repeatedly asked in the rather young field of music therapy in Japan, and there have been many answers. But this statement by Kenny was one of the most impressive answers for me.
In order to identify the field of "therapy," there are several doors to approach. For example, Bruscia cited the various elements such as "change," "process," "health as the goal," "systematic intervention," etc., and discussed them in detail to define music therapy (Bruscia, 1998). But I was inspired by that Kenny immediately and simply referred to the word "relationship" to answer the question. I started to think about "relationship."
Now, underneath this simple statement "relationship between human-beings," a magnificent universe extends. And of course there must be the great and sensitive differences according to cultures. As a music therapist that has lived in the two cultures of Japan and United States, being tossed around by the culture shock and the counter culture shock, I have experienced quite a few diversities both in the quality and the depth of "relationships between human-beings". And after 16 years of these experiences, I recently encountered another inspiring statement. Let me introduce it:
When I was younger, I was constantly exploring how I could realize the life unique to me and was searching for myself. However recently I think more often who I am in the eyes of others around me, and started to be convinced that the true myself exists in their visions of me. "
It was the words by a woman in my class for music therapy practitioners, who became a music therapist after being a music teacher and raising a son of Down's syndrome. She is in her 50's now, and runs the independent music therapy groups for the handicapped struggling with a severe financial condition, negotiating with the regional government with great perseverance.
This statement by her, which prioritizes "relationships between human-beings" over pursuit of self-realization, might sound incomprehensible or even repelling for the readers of Western culture. For us Japanese too, these words could be taken as the stereotyped conservative living attitude distinct to our culture. Especially for the Japanese women who intend to live the progressive lives, this kind of statement can cause allergic reactions associated with the long historic restrict that has hindered their liberal self-realization. In other words, it is a representation of the unspoken rule of our community, such as "Be a useful member of the community before being an unique individual," "In order to achieve the community goal, an individual should not stick to his/her personal wish."
If I had heard her statement in my 20's when I first became independent, I am sure I could not have accepted it. In my late 20's to 30's when I started my self-realization in the States, these words must have sounded almost trite. And it must have been threatening in my mid 30's when I had started to work back in Japan, because these words represent the unspoken pressure from the Japanese society to the Japanese individual who studied abroad and came back to the country to pursue his/her self-realization. And to the present myself too, it could have been the passing "nice words," unless I heard it directly from her mouth. Only because I knew her personally and knew her toughness, her fight in the real society of this culture, and the past she was distressed within the human-relationships, her words lively talked to me.
The form of self-realization that I admired in my youth and was strongly encouraged to pursue in the American culture—to focus on the own life work and to seek it at any cost—is a wonderful living way. However, for the last year or two, I also feel the sense of unknown liveliness at the midst of the miscellaneous duties and expectations publicly and privately put on me from the people around, even though these are not exactly and directly match to my self-realization. In other words, each of these duties is not a right piece to construct my self-realization picture in my consciousness, but I can somehow feel that it is a piece for a different and probably more significant picture, that I hear in the subtle call from my unconsciousness. And each relationship I build, not comprehending the reasons I do so, grows around me like a knitting cloth, in which I can vaguely see a meaning from the different dimension. I scent a faint fragrance of "message from the heaven" about my future, even the allusive suggestion on whom I am, i.e., my own identity. If I express this phenomenon in just one Japanese word, it could be "Ikasareteiru" [=to be made to live by a greater purpose].
From the viewpoint of Western culture as represented by "self-determination and self-decision," this process of identity establishment is extremely passive. To me, it seems to be based on a way of "relationships between human-beings" unique to the Asian societies, which do not necessarily have a clear division between "I and thou" as in Western societies. Here, every thought is processed and directed not through "I and thou," but through the mixture relationships of "I in the eyes of thou, thou in the eyes of I." It is an important facet of our culture in the context of society music therapy takes place, in the context of relationships among music therapists, and of course between music therapists and clients. And it was in that concept that I felt a deep sympathy with the above statement by the Japanese woman. The "Japanese/Asian human relationships" which once was so bothering to my self-realization, finally starts to carry a different color and influence on my way of living and working.
Co-existing in an organic way by equally cherishing the self in the vision of others and the others in the vision of the self, sensing the diverse vectors of natures and wills of the both. In such "relationships between human-beings," I see in one light how Japanese, or Asian therapy can be. And to cultivate/nurture the sense for this kind of "relationship", music can be a great medium.
Let me give a metaphoric image to it: "Before stopping the motion in order to draw the clear cut lines of the relationship, one takes the hands of the another and dances on the steps born from each other's breathing, and they listen to the music accompanying the dance in that small but infinite universe. It is not exactly 'I and thou,' nor 'restricting each other,' but 'the loose relationships' which carries a new meaning... and music therapists exist to be the facilitators for it." From this picture, what kinds of practicing form can be developed in the Japanese cultural context? It is a pleasant theme for my daydreaming.
Bruscia, Kenneth (1998). Defining Music Therapy (Second Edition). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers. (生野里花訳「音楽療法を定義する」.東海大学出版会. 2001.)
Ikuno, Rika (2005). I in the Vision of Thee, Thou in the Vision of Me: The Therapeutic Relationship in a Japanese Context. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2005-i-vision-thee-thou-vision-me-therapeutic-relationship-japanese-context