The Social Value of Music

Over the last 15 years music therapists and community musicians have increasingly used the word ‘wellbeing’ to talk about their work. ‘Wellbeing’ – instead of the seemingly more ‘objective’ term, ‘health’. While the term wellbeing raises many complex issues, it also captures the multiple senses of what it means to be at ease, secure, or – the key (and deliberaely nebulous term) – flourishing. These things can, the thinking goes, stand side-by-side with physical symptoms or medically recognised ‘conditions’ and in ways that can actually affect those conditions – suppressing awareness of pain, perhaps even helping to reverse the mechanisms that contribute to, or cause, pain (and ‘total pain‘). This Nordoff Robbins conference examined how music often makes a crucial difference to how we live with illness or disability – with how we can still be ‘well’ within challenging circumstances, how music in short, can help. 

Gary’s talk (‘When (exactly) is wellbeing? What clues does music therapy give?’), tackled a (research) question near to the heart of the Care for Music project – what level of research ‘focus’ is needed if we’re to move beyond merely general statements about how music helps? How can we begin (finally!) to specify the ecological web of what happens – musically and para-musically – that leads to increased ‘wellbeing’.

Former politician, and now CEO of UK Music, Michael Dugher talked about the macro-economics of the music business in this country and how we channel its power to bring music to everyone who needs it. Community musician and sociologist Prof Norma Daykin’s keynote challenged us to re-think what kind of enterprises music therapy and community music are. Are they professions or social movements? Provocative and useful thoughts … 

Claire Flower and Gary Ansdell


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