Listening in the Ambient Mode: Implications for Music Therapy Practice and Theory


  • Michael Viega SUNY, New Paltz



ambient music, music-centered music therapy, music therapy theory, environmental music therapy, ecological music therapy, soundscape


This theoretical paper explores the function, structures, and experience of listening to and creating ambient music, and encountering the ambient mode of being (Jaaniste, 2007). In the ambient mode of being, a listener becomes immersed in the raw materials of sonic environments (soundscapes) and nomadically shifts awareness across the terrains of these environments- simultaneously experiencing being in a liminal space and grounded in the here-and-now. For music therapists this might mean navigating and attuning to the lo-fidelity soundscapes in various levels of health and helping people achieve hi-fidelity and clarity on individual, community, cultural, and spiritual levels of existence. The ambient mode of being suggests that music therapists can access these levels simultaneously by entering into a creative state of listening in which pervasive ambience becomes salient within the musical relationships built in music therapy. Implications of the ambient mode of being for music therapy practice and theory will b be explored. Clinical outcomes related to encountering the ambient mode of being are discussed including capturing distant or forgotten parts of one’s self and making them salient again.

Author Biography

Michael Viega, SUNY, New Paltz

Dr. Michael Viega is an Assistant Professor of Music Therapy at the State University of New York, New Paltz. He has been a music therapy clinician for over a decade, working primarily with children and adolescents in urban areas who have faced extreme adversity and trauma in their lives. In addition, he is a Fellow in the Association of Music and Imagery. Dr. Viega has researched and presented extensively on the implications and applications of Hip Hop culture in music therapy. His dissertation, entitled “Loving my Butterfly Wings and me: A Study of Hip-Hop Songs Written by Adolescents in Music Therapy,” explored and analyzed songs written by adolescents who have had adverse childhood experiences and who identify with Hip Hop culture. He was also a keynote speaker at the 2013 “One Mic, One Movement: Advances in Hip Hop Therapy and Hip Hop Psychology.” He contributed two chapters on Hip Hop culture and music therapy for Susan Hadley and George Yancy’s (2011) seminal text, “The Therapeutic Uses of Rap and Hip Hop.” Dr. Viega strives to make Hip Hop accessible to people who might not readily identify with its culture, while also providing practical applications of its creative forces within a music therapy setting.




How to Cite

Viega, M. (2014). Listening in the Ambient Mode: Implications for Music Therapy Practice and Theory. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 14(2).



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