The Marriage of Music and Narrative: Explorations in Art, Therapy, and Research

Lillian Eyre


Music and narrative share similar goals – the expression of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and meanings. While narrative may be employed as an oral or literary form, as a research tool, or as a therapeutic technique, music, as an art form, is most often perceived as a performance art or compositional act. Elements of both music and narrative have common ontological roots in human communication and expression. Over the past 50 years, both music and narrative have gained stature as therapeutic practices. The first two parts of this paper will focus on how music may be used to narrate events and to express personal meaning in both art and therapy. The third part will reveal the results of a pilot research study that explored the relationship between verbal narrative and music improvisation in the creation of an autobiography. The subjects (4 music therapists) narrated their autobiography, then improvised on each period (Narrative Improvisation Method – NIM), or performed the tasks in reverse order (Improvisation Narrative Method – INM). Musical and verbal data were analyzed to compare what was evoked in the music and in the narrative. Subjects were interviewed about their experiences in both methods and the interview data were analyzed to gain a deeper understanding of the process. Implications for the development of clinical and research techniques that integrate both verbal and music narration are discussed.

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Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy (ISSN 1504-1611)