Music Therapy will have a hard time shedding a reputation for being the new kid on the block. As our literature develops we have more access to ideas about our discipline. Much of this literature is focused, of course, on the clinical experience. And much of the discourse about this clinical experience must be a highly specialized, closed discourse among a specific community of professionals with a shared knowledge base, as described by Thomas Kuhn (1962/1970).
Yet there are others who prefer an interdisciplinary engagement, one that would keep our discipline open, our discourse complex with outside influences and multiple applications to multiple contexts in addition to the clinical setting. For example, a group of qualitative researchers shared their ideas about "Qualitative Research in Music Therapy and Social Change" at the World Congress for Music Therapy in Washington, D.C. (1999). Presentations and discussions amongst this group of presenters and participants had the interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approach drawing from anthropology, theories of health, theories of social change, psychology, education and other disciplines.
Some music therapists, of course, like to do a little bit of both.
Nonetheless, one can often hear a rather spicy moral indignation expressed toward one group or the other depending on epistemological tendencies, social/professional groupings and cultural loyalties.
The standard dilemma, quoted so often in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, reads something like this. "Either we know more and more about less and less or less and less about more and more." The translation of this statement might read, "What we gain in breadth, we sacrifice in depth. And what we gain in depth, we sacrifice in breadth." From these statements we can understand the necessity of working in teams to access the best of both of these worlds - closed, specialized worlds and broader, open worlds.
The vision for Voices is to create a dialogue between the discourse in Western countries and the discourse in developing countries. As we enter this relationship we can be mindful of the rich traditions of music and healing in some of these developing countries. These traditions have long been established and have been functioning in societies many years before music therapy appeared on the scene. Often these disciplines speak directly in oral traditions, not through the mediated textual descriptions of anthropologists. We will be fortunate to receive interviews and stories grounded in such oral traditions. The dialogue here will sometimes be between disciplines of ancient traditional healing practices, disciplines of professional clinical practice, disciplines of academic theory and others. Such diverse disciplines may not always have a discourse that is free of conflict. But in such discourses we will find our creativity and our maturity.
There can be a bit of a problem in having an equal and respectful discourse across such disciplines or fields. We must consider hegemony, for example. My definition of hegemony claims that any system is embedded with the values and beliefs of the people who created the system. How do we reveal these embedded and often invisible values and beliefs? How do we share without judgment? And of course, when discussing hegemony, we must also discuss privilege. Is it possible to surrender privilege for the sake of honest, insightful discourse in the service of knowledge that might help us to grow and change in unexpected and creative ways? It's very difficult to surrender privilege.
An elegant discourse is not built on grand stands or castles in the sky. Those days are over. In the contemporary society, even in times of conflict, such a discourse must be quiet, precise, respectful, reflective, stepping slowly, gracefully into collaborated thought. Complexity demands it. If we are to have nuance, subtlety, clarity, authenticity, inclusiveness and the many other qualities in an elegant discourse we must also face our hegemonies and relinquish some privilege. I suppose a humble scholar is always the best, in the longer term.
If music therapy can respond to this dilemma maturely, we just could relinquish our reputation as the new kid on the block.
Kuhn, Thomas (1962/1970). The structure of scientific revolutions (2nd edition). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kenny, Carolyn (2001) The Dilemma of More or Less. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 21, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2001-dilemma-more-or-less