Dialogue and Equity

By By Susan Hadley, Katrina Skewes McFerran & Brynjulf Stige

In the Original Voices section of our February edition we included a participatory music tribute to Nelson Mandela. This video had taken a number of months of dialogue and production by some of the members of our newly constituted Editorial Team and represented the shared values that we endeavour to convey in this world forum. Mandela was a great man who epitomised many of the qualities that we aspire to – courage, integrity, determination and faith that the world can become a more equitable place for all peoples.

Although there are no specific tributes in the July Edition of Voices, the same themes continue to inspire the focus behind articles. The Editorial Team has worked in dialogue with all authors to ensure that the articles are located within an inclusive and socio-culturally aware frame of reference. At times, this has required authors to acknowledge that the perspective they are providing is but one of many. We instigate this dialogue because we believe it is necessary for those of us from dominant cultures to explicitly recognise the assumptions that pervade our writing. Issues of assumed authority can be even more strongly embedded when ideas are shared from within other dominant paradigms, such as the medical model. Three of our contributors from the United States have negotiated with our editorial team about how to best represent their ideas in this context and the ideas they share as position papers, columns and reports are stronger as a result. The commentary on McMusic Therapy was developed by Brian Abrams with Sue Hadley; the position paper by Jayne Standley was fostered by Melody Schwantes and Barbara Wheeler’s paper was debated with Mike Viega.

As a team, we sometimes wish that our possibilities for critiquing the assumptions of dominance could be more wide reaching. The international stage is replete with examples of far more terrifying abuses of power after all, such as the treatment of girls and women by members of the Boko Haram in Nigeria. In the face of such explicit horror, we wonder how to harness the affordances of music – to provide an engaging medium for voicing critique through our freely accessible website; by creating conditions for recovery and healing in a traditional music therapy sense; or even establishing a context within which we might collectively grieve for this one group of people who so potently represent the abuses of power that are occurring all around us. What possibilities does music afford, and how can we do something with this potential? Voices is a forum for sharing these ideas through descriptions, research, opinions and music and we have intentionally expanded our agenda in the past year to name equity and social justice as critical to our vision of what Voices can be. Could we do more to leverage this potential?

Some of the articles in the current edition illustrate how music has made a difference during traumatic times in individuals’ lives. In one piece, Marie Skanland and Gro Trondalen share their personal reflections about the ways that music was used to express and absorb grief in Norway following the 2011 massacre. In another, Mark Ettenberger and his team have worked with Juanita Eslava to describe a research project that shows how music humanised the hospital environment for nineteen families in Colombia as they attempted to keep their premature babies alive. In each of these cases, the authors have chosen a form that is most suitable for representing their ideas, which for the Colombian author is a mixed methods research design, whilst personally infused reflection is chosen by the Norwegians.

Although the remit of the Voices forum has been explicitly expanded to embrace a wider territory of music and health practices, the profession of music therapy remains a foundation for the journal. Professional issues for music therapists are also addressed in the current edition, with two sets of authors using research as a vehicle for exploring the issues that they consider important. Agnes Kolar-Borsky and Ulla Holck have worked with Seung-A Kim to examine a particular music therapy technique, the situation song, in trying to understand why a music therapist might choose to sing about the context they find themselves in with young children in paediatric settings. Krystal Demaine’s contribution, developed with Helen Oosthuizen, describes novel ways that supervision informs the developing thinking of music therapists and the degree to which this process can be more collaborative.

The July edition of Voices launches on the eve of the World Congress of Music Therapy in Austria. The congress organisers have also chosen to adopt a culturally-oriented approach to their shared dialogue, highlighting Cultural Diversity in Music Therapy Practice, Research and Education as the conference theme. Representatives of the Voices Editorial and Translation teams will be leading a roundtable discussion at 4:15 on Tuesday the 8th of July in Room 1.20, 1st Floor, Wing G1. We have hosted many of these discussion in the past, in Argentina, Australia, Finland, Italy, Norway, the United States and elsewhere and they always provide an important opportunity to dialogue with our writers and readers and to recruit new members to our team. We hope to have seen some of you there.

The Editorial Team