We need to move the perception of hearing being the only modality used in our music (therapy) sessions. Fact is we can (or should) consider the involvement of other sessions in experiencing music. We can (and often do) involve multiple senses in our sessions.
So, do you encourage this perception in how you structure your sessions?
As children we learned there are five senses: sound, sight, taste, touch and smell. We create ties of:
- sound -> ears
- see -> eyes
- taste -> mouth/tongue
- touch -> hands (skin)
- smell – > nose
Guess what?! Many if not all these senses work along side other senses. Let’s look at music.
Music is more than hearing
Sound is vibrations. Vibrations can be felt in the body (touch). Vision allows us to see the sounding of an instrument, the forming of a word. This post by Cady MacFee speaks to experiencing music with hearing loss/impairment.
What about taste and smell? People with synesthesia are sensitive to the overlap of senses. While we most often read or hear about people experiencing colors, others may report tasting or smelling. (Google it if you don’t believe me.) It appears many of us have relationships in our senses, but they are not part of our conscious process.
Add the other senses
Making room for other senses can take many forms. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Live music. When possible perform the music live. It can allow people to feel the vibrations. Live music can be more easily adjust for tempo, pitch center and volume. This may be simply allowing someone to touch the instrument. When appropriate you can create opportunities to play instruments. Do be sensitive to the fact some instruments may be poor at transferring vibration. (You’ll find more on this in my interview with Dr. Lindsey Wilhelm. )
2. When appropriate, add textures/touch. An example is fall leaves. There are times I use fake fall leaves so I can clean and reuse them. But, there are also times I’ve brought in real leaves. The texture is very different.
Another approach might be a “what is it bag”. Place an instrument or object in a bag or pillow case. Have them reach in and try to identify it by what they feel (and maybe a little of what they hear).
3. Use scent (with caution). Depending upon facility policies and allergies of participants, scents can be added. (I am not a proponent for artificial scents as I am allergic to most. But, that may be an option for you.) A freshly cut piece of citrus or wood, unscented lotion with an essential oil, freshly baked goods, herbs, … Use what ties in with the topic/memories/emotions.
4. Offer a taste. As in #4, there are barriers to this. That said, I love being able to share baked goods if we’ve been talking about food. Even better is when I can tie into facility or home events. It might just be offering a sip of juice, flavored water, coffee or tea at the end of your time.
5. Visual can take many shapes and forms. If it is a photo, maybe you support the client in creating a story around it. Maybe the photo is a clue to a song in “Name that Tune”. Maybe it a way to bring something to a session too big to carry in like a 1960s car or a large animal. Don’t limit yourself to photos. Paintings, statues, movie clips are just a few more visuals to consider.