Time, Attention, Socialization

“Animals are locked in a perpetual present. They can learn from recent events, but they are easily distracted by what is in front of their eyes. Slowly, over a great period of time, our ancestors overcame this basic animal weakness. By looking long enough at any object and refusing to be distracted – even for a few seconds – they could momentarily detach themselves from their immediate surroundings. In this way they could notice patterns, make generalizations, and think ahead. They had the mental distance to think and reflect, even on the smallest scale.

“Early humans evolved the ability to detach and think as their primary advantage in the struggle to avoid predators and find food. It’s connected them to a reality other animals could not access. Thinking on this level was the single greatest turning point in all of evolution – the emergence of the conscious, reasoning mind.

The second biological advantage is subtler, but equally powerful in its implications. All primates are essentially social creatures, but because of their vulnerability in open areas, our earliest ancestors had a much greater need for group cohesion. They depended on the group for vigilant observation of predators and the gathering of food. In general, early hominids had many more social interactions than other primates. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, this social intelligence became increasingly sophisticated, allowing these ancestors to cooperate with one another on a high level. And as with our understanding of the natural environment, this intelligence depended on deep attention and focus. Misreading the social signs in a tight-knit group could prove highly dangerous” (Greene, 2013, p. 7)

Greene, R. (2013). Mastery. Penguin Books: New York, NY.



“Ms. Taylor was a big believer in the idea that creativity comes when two disparate fields crash in one mind, like two galaxies merging in space. She was a big believer in the notion that everybody should have two careers, two perspectives for looking at the world, each of which provided insights into the other. In her case, she was a teacher by day and, less successfully but not less important, a singer-songwriter by night.”

Brooks, D. (2011). The social animal: The hidden sources of love, character, and achievement (pp. 84-85). New York, NY: Random House, Inc.


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Music Therapy

Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” was published in his premiere book of poetry, Harmonium. The founder of of Poetry magazine reflected on the collection: “If one seeks sheer beauty of sound, phrase, rhythm, packed with prismatically colored ideas by a mind at once wise and whimsical, one should open one’s eyes and ears, sharpen one’s wits, widen one’s sympathies to include rare and exquisite aspects of life, and then run for this volume of iridescent poems.”

The selected poem’s thirteen different sections give voice to thirteen different perspectives, somehow relating to the blackbird. Here are some of my favorites line:

“I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after” (V).

“I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know” (VIII).

Perhaps MT-BCs can help their clients articulate 13 different perspectives on something important in their lives, behaviors, futures, treatments, etc. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” evokes the style of haiku, but does not conform to its narrow parameters. Writing poems and songs in therapy sessions may take this imitative but playful approach. Critical thinking skills help us to explore every possibility and more accurately examine an issue. (e.g. “What are 13 different ways I could have handled the situation?” “Which 13 people will help me stay sober?” “Which 13 events most positively shaped my life legacy?”)

Take the intervention further and let the client select 13 songs to match their 13 verses. The trained practitioner may carefully select 13 classical songs to guide mental imagery. Thirteen song lyric quotes might inspire original sentiments. Song lyrics will be analyzed.

As the music therapists, what poems will we write? Perhaps we can explore Thirteen Ways of Looking at Music Therapy. Let your curiosity and critical thinking elaborate on 13 clinical populations, 13 non-musical goals, 13 common misconceptions, 13 key research articles, 13 powerful MT techniques, 13 MT moments, 13 reasons we choose this profession, 13 professions we co-treat with, 13 songs every MT-BC can perform, 13 books that influenced your work, 13 approaches/orientations to MT practice, 13 examples of MT accurately portrayed in the media, or 13 things we will help the field accomplish by 2025!

And here it is, the beautiful “Blackbird” performed live by Paul McCartney in the 1970s. This song is great for lyric analysis, practicing fine motor skills, or music listening for relaxation.