Rachel Verney, An Ode of Thanks

Rachel, Gary and Tia at the end of a long meeting looking at video data

We’ve been meeting with our Project Consultant, Rachel Verney, on and off throughout the analysis stage of Care for Music. Rachel was trained by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins and has had vast experience working as a music therapist, and training many, now quite senior and well-known, music therapists. When we meet, we look at data together and test ideas, interpretations, hunches…. 

Rachel was Gary’s teacher and now she’s Tia’s teacher too. She has an uncanny eye – and ear. Today we looked, repeatedly, at video footage using the stop-and-discuss technique. We were interested in whether, without any prompting or background, Rachel might see and hear what we thought we’d noticed. Or whether she would not! (Which makes it a bit of an adventure, and therefore all-the-more interesting.) 

Some people might call this cross-validation, which of course it is, but it is also much more. We have learned and are learning from Rachel how to develop our micro-observation skills, she offers fresh thinking of what might be happening and – equally vital – she has a congenital aversion to jargon which we have found more than once has stopped us in our tracks. Today we spent a lot of time ‘unpacking’ the term, ‘to musicalize care’. We decided it involved a number of different things – an attitude toward possibilities, practices that draw activities into music’s parameters, careful listening (including embodied listening, such as ‘listening with your fingers’) and careful response, and openness to being changed. We also got deep into micro-matters such as ‘was that a fermata or did it simply sound like a held-note because it was being sounded over an inverted chord?’. In the example we were listening to this isn’t just a ‘musicological’ matter as these micro-musical details potentially influence the responses and actions of the people in the scene we’re looking at (or not! This was the nub of our conversation). We also learned more about the benefits of, as Rachel puts it, ‘optimistic listening’, that is listening for the best possible outcomes so that we know, perhaps, how better to produce them musically-socially in real time practice. Thank You Rachel.

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