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Laura Cousins
Category: Music Therapy

The Tapestry of Music

I'm setting up instruments whilst my client ("G") vocalises enthusiastically and with great flexibility. He uses all the registers of his voice, as well as laughing a great deal. One by one I set out drums, a tambourine, a small squeeze-box, some boomwhackers and a 1/3-sized guitar. I put them with as much space as possible in a sort of crescent moon around G's chair, so that if he looks at a specific instrument, I should be able to identify which one has caught his attention.

The moment he begins to pound on the large adapted djembe by his side (it has rubber feet screwed to its bottom so that you don't need to tip it to get the gorgeous bass sounds from it), I "meet him in the middle", rhythmically speaking, playing a djembe of my own, leg bells and a tambourine with my foot. He stops after a moment but keeps eye contact, so I continue, improvising quietly on the syllables of his name.

He laughs. I laugh too. I keep playing whilst he vocalises. He looks at my recording device and suddenly vocalises in a way that is delicious. I 'cook' with it, turn it into a whole new dish. Singing it back to him, like a song by Moloko.

I pull up the sleeve over G's twisted right hand so that he can clap against the back of it, then start on another rhythm. G vocalises, and laughs. Together we weave sounds into a Persian rug. He scratches the webbing straps on his wheelchair and I scratch the drum skin. As he is so vocal, I offer him an echo-mic, which he throws gleefully over his shoulder.

The tapestry of sound is interrupted frequently by silences.

When G looks crestfallen - as he does quite often, suffering from some malign internal pain - I play quietly, steadily for him. The pain shifts. Almost without warning his head will jerk upwards, he will smile and laugh and rock madly in his chair, eliciting a cacophony of squeaks from chair's components that were surely never designed to be put through such stresses.

I ask him if he'd like his guitar and he smiles. I tune it for him. He strums and sings. I do the same, tapping on a drum. He rocks and crams his hand into his mouth, then makes more sounds before smacking the guitar with his fist and then clapping. My singing invites him to play more. G bangs his drum with the back of the guitar.  I start to strum it more for him, playing a sequence of chords, and he sings short punchy phrases.

I switch to my guitar. It sounds like the beginning to "Brimful of Asha", so I try and remember the words. It is surely one of the most un-inspiring songs of the early 2000s, so I stop pretty quickly. G makes some wild-sounding noises. So do I.

That's what we do. It's all music.

(from a Wednesday morning session in November, 2011)

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