The Connection Between Music and Emotion as it Applies to Music Therapy
On June 17th, the ITA staff had the pleasure of meeting and working with Chicago-based blues musician Corky Siegel. Corky is regarded internationally as one of the greatest blues harmonica players—along with a slew of other musical talents—so we were extremely lucky to have him with us to discuss his views on the connection between music and emotion and its application to music therapy.
Corky began by asking for volunteers to sing a portion of one of their favorite songs. ITA staff member Keith Whipple was the first to sing while the rest of the staff was instructed to observe his focus and strength. In response to Keith’s first sing through, Corky discussed his innovative approach to music performance which focuses on dynamic range. He instructed Keith to sing the song again as forcefully as possible—explaining that forceful does not necessarily mean “loud” but “powerful.” Along the same lines, Corky then had Keith sing as delicately as possible. These two extremes, he shared, are the limits of a person’s dynamic range.
Corky also worked with ITA interns Paige and Maddy and ITA staff member Jeff Wolfe to demonstrate the flowing nature of dynamic range. Each volunteer sang, played piano, or in Jeff’s case, drummed through their snippet at least three times—one extremely forcefully, one extremely delicately, and one flowing between the ranges of forceful to delicate. Often, Corky conducted the volunteers to visually demonstrate the dynamic flow.
After each participant finished, the group discussed the differences among the performances. We collectively agreed that the performances that exhibited a range of power were more interesting, fun, and expressive than those that were constantly at one extreme. The participants, though, noted that it was more difficult when they focused on their dynamics, because they were concerned with hitting the extremes and could not perform freely without thought. Even so, each demonstration was beautiful and enjoyable, and left us with something to think about when making music with our clients in creative arts therapy!