Professor Colin Lee

Keynote speaker: Professor Colin Lee

Time: Thursday 11th June, 10:45 – 12:15
Title: Improvisation and Post‐Minimalism: Implications for the Development of Clinical  Musicianship

Art and clinical improvisation share many creative components that are similar. In clinical improvisation the creation and establishment of musical structure is integral to the ongoing aims of the therapeutic process. In artistic improvisation musical forms are freely created reflecting the spontaneity of players and potential listeners. The creative awakenings of both have much in common and if considered from an equal artistic perspective should be thought of as allies.  If music therapy is to develop its artistic potential then post-minimalist stylistic influences could be seen to be crucial in the development of clinical improvisation. By comparing the post-minimalist movement with current theoretical trends in music therapy a new of critical thinking could emerge, one that considers equally the musical and clinical qualities inherent in improvisation. This presentation will highlight the balance between the musical qualities of clinical improvisation and the therapeutic potential of improvisation as art. Through the celebration of musical diversity contained in performance and therapy the artistic qualities of clinical improvisation can become equal to the non-musical formations of therapeutic aims.  Based on the authors developing theory of Aesthetic Music Therapy audio extracts from improvised music therapy sessions will be presented. Through recent research comparing the compositional and improvisational processes of Paul Nordoff further questions will be raised with regard to the interface between artistic and clinical musicianship. This presentation will include two post-minimalist performances of works for tape and piano. Merging audio extracts from improvised music therapy sessions alongside live compositional responses, a new way of artistic/clinical music will be explored.

Prof. Colin Andrew Lee

Prof. Colin Andrew Lee

Colin Andrew Lee, Professor of Music Therapy at Wilfrid Laurier University Canada, received a PhD from City University, London in 1992. Following piano studies at the Nordwestdeutsche Musikakademie, Germany, he earned a Postgraduate Diploma in music therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center, London, England (1984). He has extensive clinical and supervisory experience and has specialized in the areas of HIV/AIDS and palliative care. Colin’s research culminated in his music-centered theory of Aesthetic Music Therapy (AeMT). Colin also gives improvised concerts based on his experiences as a music therapist. In 1996 he helped form the Towersey Foundation, a charity that promotes and creates positions for music therapy in palliative care. Books include: Music at the Edge: The Music Therapy Experiences of a Musician with AIDS (1996), The Architecture of Aesthetic Music Therapy (2003), (Lee, Houde) Improvising in Styles: A Workbook for Music Therapists (2011) and Paul Nordoff: Composer and Music Therapist (2014).

Key questions addressed by the lecture

  • How can the stylistic components of post-minimalism be integrated into the developing resources of clinical improvisation?
  • Is there a fundamental difference between the post-minimalist structures of composition as art and the free flowing character of improvisation as therapy, and how can the two be integrated?
  • How important is it that music therapy acknowledges and is directly influenced by contemporary musical trends?

Recommended reading:
Aigen, K.S. (2014). The Study of Music Therapy. Routledge
Lee & Houde (2011), Improvising in Styles. Barcelona Publishers
Nordoff, P. (2014). Composer and Music Therapist (2014) Barcelona Publishers

Preparation for the session
For candidates who are music therapists I would ask that they consider the bal-ance between artistic and clinical focus in their work. How important are the compositional and aesthetic qualities of their practice? Does music aim to serve their clinical aims or is music itself the focus of their therapy? For music therapists rather than specific readings I would ask that they spend time reflecting on the role of music by practising their clinical musicianship, as outline in Chapter 1 of ‘Improvising in Styles.’ To return to pieces they have learnt as students and con-sider how these pieces may be used as musical building blocks in improvisations with clients.

For candidates who are musicians and not music therapists I would ask that they consider aspects of their musicianship that are therapeutic and why? What are the musical components that facilitate feelings and potential therapeutic ef-fect? Also do they consider the quality of music used by music therapists in im-provisation to be equal to trends in contemporary art improvisation? The text that I think is most useful for musicians to read is ‘The Study of Music Therapy.’