Even Ruud on Rhizomes & Resonant Moments

Iris rhizomes, and frog, in Tia’s garden

Tia’s essay on Even Ruud’s Toward A Sociology of Music Therapy: Musicking as a Cultural Immunogen(Barcelona Publishers, 2020) has just been published in Contemporary Sociology, the American Sociological Association’s bi-monthly book review journal. This picture shows you a rhizome (and a frog) because Ruud’s book deals brilliantly with the notion that health and wellbeing are rhizomatic, that is, capable of taking shape in multiple directions and in relation to things and practices in the surrounding environment. Rereading the review essay one year after it was submitted, we find connections between our analyses of the music sessions in Hill House and Ruud’s focus on the importance, and sociological situation, of ‘moments’ of intense connection (resonance) and wellbeing. 

For Ruud, health and well-being are connected to what sociologist Hartmut Rosa speaks of as ‘resonance’ (Rosa 2019:174). Resonant relations allow us to experience moments in which things feel whole, connected, pleasurable, confident, fulfilled, empowered. Ruud sees Rosa as wanting to promote, as Ruud puts it, ‘a vibrant relation to the world. This, he contends, may involve intense moments of subjective happiness understood as forms of resonant experiences in contrast to a feeling of unhappiness that may rise particularly when and where we find the world unexpectedly indifferent or even repulsive’ (p. 59). But, Ruud goes on to explain, a good life, and wellbeing, is not the outcome merely of accumulated, ‘happy’ moments; it involves a fulfilling relation with environment (people, things, practices) that can be sustained, that give rise to such moments. 

In Hill House, we often see participants experiencing resonant moments, and we’ve seen them building sustainable relationships in, out of, and arising from, those moments. In a moment, for example, it is possible to transcend an otherwise challenging set of circumstances. And in a moment, it is possible to have flashes of insight. For example, it is possible to ‘see’ a person ‘with dementia’ as – a person, full-stop. Which means a person with capabilities, for example for dancing, singing, smiling, or sharing musical pleasure. That moment of vision – for residents themselves, for care staff and family members – can carry over into other moments outside music. A moment is, in other words, much more than one moment, passing in time. It is an opportunity for change, for changed relation, identity, and future practice. It is a way of adding to, and potentially altering, the environment in ways that may further sustain resonant relations. And the craft of music therapy includes facilitating those kinds of moments.

Music therapists have long-explored the importance of momentary respite. Their explorations have included the occasionally electrifying, split-second moments of collective effervescence in which two or more people seem to ‘meet’ in musical time and space (Pavlicevic 2010). There are also moments in which a person, or group, may experience recognition, validation and joy through the medium of music—and songwriting can be a tremendous resource for advancing this type of project (Rolvsjord 2005; Lewis 2017; Aasgaard 2004). There are moments of epiphany, profound pleasure and appreciation of beauty (Ansdell 2014). There are moments in which hope can be supported and enhanced (DeNora 2021). And there are moments that, through mutual, creative crafting, and often with terrific uncertainty, can be stretched, one into the next, such that, for all practical purposes, well- being is established (MacDonald and Wilson 2020). These moments can be catalytic and enlivening, even in the face of grave injury and imminent demise (Schmid 2017). Such moments can be multiplied, facilitated, and developed into pathways away from disease and disability toward—in the broadest sense of the term—recovery (Stige et al. 2010; Ansdell and DeNora 2016). As Trygve Aasgaard once put it, in relation to his study of the joy that children in a cancer ward took from song creation, ‘[h]ow long does a pleasurable moment last?’ Taking a leaf – or perhaps a rhizome – from Ruud’s book, we think this is a question to be explored empirically as moments not only last but have lasting effects.


Aasgaard, T. (2002). Song Creations by Children with Cancer: Process and Meaning. AIChE Journal  https://vbn.aau.dk/ws/portalfiles/portal/317450226/trygve_aasgaard_thesis_150909.pdf

Aasgaard, T. 2004. ‘‘A Pied Piper among White Coats and Infusion Pumps: Community Music Therapy in a Paediatric Hospital Setting.’’ Pp. 147–67 in Community Music Therapy, edited by M. Pavlicevic, G. Ansdell, and E. Ruud. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

Ansdell, G. 2014. How Music Helps in Music Therapy and Everyday Life. London: Routledge. 

Ansdell, G., and T. DeNora. 2016. Musical Pathways in Recovery: Community Music Therapy and Mental Wellbeing. London: Routledge. 

DeNora, T. 2021. Hope: The dream we carry. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Elliot T. S. 2001 [1941]. Four Quartets. London: Faber.

Lewis, G. 2017. ‘‘‘Let Your Secrets Sing Out’: An Auto-Ethnographic Analysis on How Music Can Afford Recovery from Child Abuse.’’ Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy 17(2). https://voices.no/index.php/voi ces/article/view/2346. 

MacDonald, R. A. R., and G. Wilson. 2020. The Art of Becoming: How Group Improvisation Works. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Pavlicevic, M. 2010. ‘‘Reflection: Let the Music Work: Optimal Moments of Collabora- tive Musicing.’’ Pp. 99–114 in Where Music Helps: Community Music Therapy in Action and Reflection, by B. Stige, G. Ansdell, C. Elefant, and M. Pavlicevic. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. 

Rolvsjord, R. 2005. ‘‘Collaborations on Song- writing with Clients with Mental Health Prob- lems.’’ Pp. 97–115 in Songwriting: Methods, Techniques and Clinical Applications for Music Therapy Clinicians, Educators and Students, edited by F. Baker and T. Wigram. London: Jessica Kingsley. 

Rosa, H. 2019. Resonance: A Sociology of Our Relationship to the World. Medford, MA: Polity Press. 

Ruud, E. 2020. Toward A Sociology of Music Therapy: Muskcking as a Cultural Immunogen(Barcelona Publishers).

Schmid, W. 2017. ‘‘Being Together: Explor- ing the Modulation of Affect in Improvisation- al Music Therapy with a Man in a Persistent Vegetative State — a Qualitative Single Case Study.’’ Health Psychology Report 2(5):186–92. 

Stige, B., G. Ansdell, C. Elefant, and M. Pavlicevic. 2010. Where Music Helps: Community Music Therapy in Action and Reflection. Farnham, UK: Ashgate. 

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