I remember when, as a child, I saw those films and cartoons in which characters were thirsty in a desert, and the heat made them believe that a few hundred meters away there was an oasis where they could stop their agony. Finally, they dove hopefully and just found more sand. Thus, I learned that the mind could create the illusion of a supposed reality, which might not be as thought. It seems to me that it is one of the situations in which we can incur, if we believe in some of the mirages that these hyper-computerized times (and allegedly hyper-connected time) provide us.
We know too well that, fortunately, we live in an era when the possibilities of virtual interaction have approached people around most of the world (the computerized world, of which there are still hundreds of millions excluded). This Journal, Voices, is a clear and wonderful example. So, the fact that colleagues from around the world get the possibility of knowing each other, learning from others and having the chance of exchanging views in a virtual space is fantastic, and it continues to amaze me. In fact, in my classes I urge students to review Voices, and sometimes we discuss some of the published articles. But how many professionals and students actually access and participate in spaces like this one? Are there many academic forums, offering an open participation to members of the community of music therapists?
I'm not saying anything new when I mention that even in this age of virtual exchanges, we only have access to part of the information and, in addition, information is not necessarily synonymous with knowledge. Assuming that we can share all the knowledge about music therapy continues to be a mirage, and as such, is a hoax. Then, if we accept that we only access a part of the produced knowledge, we should infer that the construction of what we call Music Therapy not only should not be equal, but it can be quite different in different parts of the planet. How can we achieve an approach to go on growing as discipline? Recognizing and accepting our differences should be one of the first steps. For this to happen, it is necessary to deepen the knowledge about the different conceptual frameworks, Music Therapy theories and procedures, and to seek new exchanging modes to add up to the already established practices, such as congresses, conferences and symposiums. I have the feeling that they are as indispensable as insufficient.
Research, publishing and exchange constitute the three critical pillars supporting Music Therapy and allowing for its growth. These three instances are closely conditioned by the economic capacity of the institutions that promote them, and here we find a gap that the computer revolution has failed to meet yet. In each country, the promotion of research that universities can provide is subordinated to macroeconomic conditions. Regarding this, Latin American music therapists could tell many stories of well-designed research, which could not be supported financially, or which could not be completed due to lack of money. A situation that now, sadly, could be replicated in some developed countries due to the current macroeconomic crisis. This has generated a great inequality in the conditions in which knowledge is produced in different parts of the world. However, for what we can read in Voices, or listen at international conferences, despite these difficulties worldwide colleagues are creating Music Therapy theory. But the possibility to get to know them, or to study their proposals is very restricted because publication of the texts is scarce, or are made only in their original language. On the other hand, everybody knows that book publishing is also subject to the laws of the market, and these determine an unequal exchange between "linguistic regions". Music Therapy may not have escaped a historic verticality marked by financial power at the macro level, and this results in the fact that, for example, Spanish-speaking music therapists, in addition to reading books written in Spanish (or Portuguese by our Brazilian neighbors), read books published in English, and that these texts are also used to dictate the classes in which new music therapists are formed. But, judging for the comments made by colleagues in USA or some European countries, this is not reciprocal, and it does not seem to be a great insistence for publishing in English those books written in other languages. This is not a criticism, but a description of reality.
Ultimately, these reflections are an invitation to be more imaginative in order to build a knowledge that is shared by the entire community of music therapists. Perhaps this is a utopia, but a necessary utopia. Exchange is essential for this to happen. Lia Rejane Mendes Barcellos has provided a clear example in her column "Thirty years later…" , describing her experiences in 1982 and 2012. Conferences, symposia, workshops and other events in which music therapists gather to listen and learn from our colleagues are indispensable. I have verified this over my 30 years as a music therapist, and that is why I always urge my colleagues and students to participate in as many events as possible. They are always an occasion of growth. Perhaps for the recognition of this "gap" in the conditions of knowledge-building, Latin American music therapists have invited distinguished colleagues from other regions, previously known by their publications, to regional conferences. Thus, Latin American Music Therapy Congresses have benefited from the presence of Clive Robbins, Ken Bruscia, Cheryl Dileo, Even Ruud; and also Mercedes Pavlicevic, Brynjulf Stige, Barbara Wheeler, Thomas Wosch, Paul Nolan, among others, have participated in national events. They all have helped to generate an exchange of knowledge, through the efforts of professional associations and universities that made possible the fulfillment of these events.
We are now on the threshold of a new Latin American Congress, a new European Congress, just over a year of a new World Congress. The challenge is how to be more creative in order to build a real and plural exchange, without falling into the trap created by the mirage of the transmission of information.
Barcellos, Lia Rejane Mendes (2012). “Thirty Years Later ... ”. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved from http://voices.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2012-thirty-years-later
Schapira, Diego (2013). Do not Believe in Mirages Do not Believe in Mirages. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2013-do-not-believe-mirages