«Student: Nazaret Gómez Roca Supervisor: Esperanza Torres Secondary supervisor: Ulla Holck Master thesis at the Master Programme in Music Therapy ...»
4.4. Structure of sessions
- Initial verbal round, once we are sitting in a circle. A common way of making contact are my open ended questions, like: "How are you today?".
- Open opportunity to present the favorite song from one of the members to the rest of the group, to proceed to hear this or continue with another activity. Thus the estructure of the session is flexible and allows them to participate in the form taken by the meeting, taking decisions and responsibility about what they want to do at the present moment.
Songwriting whith adolescents in a Secondary School 29 Exploring emotional expresion, interpersonal relationships and identity formation
- Usually talk about the lyrics of the song and what it means for them. I encourage them with questions like: why do you like this song?, what does it mean to you?, what do you think when you listen to it?, is there anyone in the group who is experiencing what is happening in the song?, to what extend is this happening to you?
- Follow the process that can be variable: the creation of an original song, the performance of a pre-existing song or creating music together. I ask them: do you prefer to start with the song or play instruments?, do you want to hear the song again?, shall we sing?, who wants to mark the rhythm with an instrument?, who wants to sing with others?, who wants to sing a solo?, what instruments would you choose to accompany it?
- Another technique that I offer is musical improvisation, asking them to express their current mood with instruments. This improvisation is usually done as a group.
- At the end, there's a verbal processing of group members about what has happened, how they have felt, if their mood has changed since the start of the session, etc.
- After the meeting, each member reflects on what happened in their diary.
5.1. The recording sessions diary of the music therapist One method of data collection has been the therapist diary, recording what happened after each session. It describes the issues, group dynamics and how the therapist feels after the session (feelings, thoughts or concerns, and anything else you notice at the meeting and any significant thing that happened in the session). This tool is used to reflect on the process and collect the group's needs and perceptions of the therapist. It is a daily evaluation method and a reference for supervision.
5.2. The Adolescents' Diaries
Teenagers answered the following questions in their diaries after each session:
1. How did you feel during the session?
2. What have you learned about yourself in the session?; has there been any change?;
have you noticed any change in yourself?
3. What have you learned on the subject (music)?
4. What did you notice about the group or another person in the group?
5. What was the highlight of the session and why?
The adolescents' diary is a data collection tool that performs two distinct functions. On the one hand it serves as a record of qualitative data, in which adolescents express themselves freely, spontaneously and uniquely. On the other hand, it is a tool that allows adolescents to internalize the process, stopping to realize what happens, process and reflect on what they perceive about themselves and the group. It can also be a means of expressing things they dare not say in the group in front of everyone else.
5.3. Audio and video recordings
Audio and video recording is an essential tool for reflection on the music therapy process.
Most of the musical improvisations are recorded in audio, and some sessions are also recorded on video. Like the diaries, the recording serves several functions: it serves for registration and material support, which allows me to listen between sessions to see what has Songwriting whith adolescents in a Secondary School 31 Exploring emotional expresion, interpersonal relationships and identity formation happened or transcribe the music they have created to keep working on that sound material in the following sessions. It also enables teenagers to make an exercise of reflection, listening to the material they have produced, both individually and in groups. It's like a mirror into which they can look and see themselves reflected.
5.4. The products of the activities: songs (sheet music and lyrics).
The lyrics of favorite songs that adolescents bring are recorded so that we create a group compilation including all of their songs. This allows us to go back and retake some of the songs from their sound history as a group at any time, and they see themselves reflected in their music at the end of the process.
The lyrics of the songs that teenagers have composed have also been collected as meaningful data.
The transcript of the song music that teenagers have created is other data that I've registered in the process.
Elvis Presley symbolizes the birth of a musical culture, rock & roll, which for the first time in history, marks a generation of young people who want to differentiate themselves from their parents. Music starts to be their mode of identity, the lyrics of which deal with the issues and concerns of adolescents.
In the first quarter of the course, content is based on international pop rock and jazz history.
These contents are related to the topic of this study, since the favorite songs they bring in and the songs they compose from songwriting, belong to this style of music.
6.1. Initial exploratory and pre-contact stage: using existing popular songs and introduction to songwriting Before the introduction of songwriting, I think it is essential to create an atmosphere of trust and an environment where teenagers feel safe. They need time to explore the different modes of expression and need to feel free to express themselves. Similarly, this phase serves to create a common group language or group culture (Yalom, 2005).
It is also a stage in which adolescents are faced with embarrassment. Being able to recognize their embarrassment and remain within it during this phase, whilst being supported by the attitude of acceptance of the therapist, means that little by little they start expressing themselves in a more freely and confidently way. They also become aware of this.
1 The names of the adolescents in the transcription have been changed.
Songwriting whith adolescents in a Secondary School 33 Exploring emotional expresion, interpersonal relationships and identity formation
Example of my diary Session 8:
"... they talk about shyness, what makes them embarrassed. Iker says he is embarrassed about opening up to friends... Laura turns red. It has to do with the camera, because it provokes fear in them and a feeling of being observed. Some of them sit so their faces cannot be seen...
Mercedes says that when they are nervous they laugh. Celso says he has realized it is like in the movie “Rhythm is I” they saw last year in music class, in which it is said that when adolescents don't know what to do they laugh…I think they are getting to grips with their embarrassmen".
Celso daily example of the Session 8:
".. with regard to myself I learned what I've already known for a long time, I get very embarrassed. I also realized that I have a deeper voice... ".
My role at this moment is to be available and to listen, in addition to making proposals to encourage free expression and the group relationship.
As music therapist, in this initial attempt I also try to create a structure, a secure frame, to get into shape the self-knowledge objectives I propose.
In the first phase of the process, to which I have devoted about 15 sessions, we use favorite songs. I asked each member to bring in a song that was meaningful to them. I told them that we could work with that song for two or three sessions, depending on what they needed.
Favorite songs are combined with the methods of free musical improvisation. We also carried out songwriting with the simple technique of substitution of lyrics to a pre-existing music, which does not pose too much of a challenge for adolescents.
List of favorite songs of the group and topics covered
- "California Girls" (Kate Perry): frivolity, sexuality, easy life, summer, boy-girl ratio.
- "Himno del Sevilla" (El Arrebato): football, group membership, feelings of loyalty to a community.
- "Hold my hand" (Michael Jackson & Akon): friendship, support, fellowship.
- "Bongo bong" (Manu Chao): migration to the city, feeling of being lost, a situation of being out of place, frustration.
- "A veces" (Los aldeanos y Nena Daconte): longing for a loved one.
- "Cumplir un año menos" (La Oreja de Van Gogh): longing for a lost love, memories.
Songwriting whith adolescents in a Secondary School 34 Exploring emotional expresion, interpersonal relationships and identity formation
- "Cooler than me" (Mike Posner): vanity, frivolity, scale of values, joy.
- "Una luz que se apaga" (Radio Macande): farewell, longing for someone who is absent, death of a loved one.
- "Antes que cuente diez" (Fito y Fitipaldis): resilience to life experiences, attitude to life when faced with challenges, life learning, finiteness of life.
- "La luna me sabe a poco" (Marea): love, sense of strength and exceeding the limits, insecurity.
- "Hit the Road, Jack" (Ray Charles): being angry at a partner, setting limits, ending a relationship.
- "Na na na" (My Chemical Romance): drugs, love, uncertain future, critical to the system, aggressiveness.
- "Caricias en tu espalda" (Despistados): love, affection, sexuality.
- "Hey soul sister" (Train): love, the feeling of brotherhood of souls.
- "Dynamite" (Taio Cruz): love of life, celebration of life, dancing, moving, animated, holiday.
- "The elephant song" (Moulin Rouge OST): true love, boy girl relationship, the relationship between love and sex.
- "All you need is love" (The Beatles): universal love.
- "Venecia" (Hombres G): humor, sense of lightheartedness, joy, going on trips together.
Initial songwriting phase:
- Rap about the institute and what getting up early means, the demands of teachers, examinations (brainstorming technique).
- Use an existing melody of a song brought in by a female member of the group (California girls, Kate Perry). They do it in groups of three. The theme is varied.
Some are humorous and others are superficial and aggressive in content.
- Change the lyrics of a preexisting song brought in by Iker. In the sessions, I've noticed that Iker has a hard time showing his true personality and talking about himself. In fact, he is the latest to bring in a song and at first did not want to do it, until he was the only one left and I said "the next day it's your turn" This is the hymn of a football team (Himno del Sevilla). We created the lyrics as group. They were about a gentleman, with whom he identified, and the relationship with his mother and his father.
Songwriting whith adolescents in a Secondary School 35 Exploring emotional expresion, interpersonal relationships and identity formation After this experience with the group of adolescents, I found that the songwriting technique can be one of the key methods for promoting identity formation of teenagers through music.
I think the use of existing favorite songs and original songwriting can be complementary, and through my experience I have found that the use of existing songs can serve as a preliminary phase for the composition of new songs.
Starting directly with songwriting is a challenge that teenagers can consider impossible and too complex. Thus I think to start with existing songs is a way of exploring different styles, rhythms, harmonies, groups, letters,..., which teenagers like, so they can begin to define themselves and see which things they like and which they do not.
The songs are analyzed and we explore how they are composed. This is at the same time a significant way of learning music that can motivate the teenager to write their own songs in their favorite style of music.
Moving from existing songs to new and original songs is a progressive and secure approach, since we are not starting from scratch or in a vacuum. We can use an existing rhythm, a style, a chord progression or even a given melody to compose our own song.
Early in the process, resistance and distrust of talking about themselves, expressing their emotions was palpable.
Example of my diary Session 5:
"Today we started doing improvisation as a warm-up. The instruction is to pay attention to the body and bodily sensations. First the verbal part and then improvising.
Alicia says she has stomach problems and that at the beginning she was nervous and felt as if her intestines were twisting around. Now she feels better.
Celso also talks of nerves. Then we improvise with the instruction to listen to each other.
When they finish Mercedes says she believes this was the first time she really felt like they were listening to each other. I think they really were listening, and I feel positive that she says this, because many times she has not had much implication or participation in the group, lagging behind. I think perhaps this was the first time Mercedes was listening.
Mercedes says she feels relieved. Both Iker and Sonia wanted the improvisation to finish".
Gradually the group was gaining in confidence and spontaneity, and was beginning to establish an atmosphere of communication on a more emotional level, which was for me more authentic. This is reflected in the lyrics of the songs they compose later.
Songwriting whith adolescents in a Secondary School 36 Exploring emotional expresion, interpersonal relationships and identity formation Sandra says in her diary: "...in this class I have learned that the more we get rid of the fear of being silly and being ourselves, the more we express ourselves, both physically and mentally, and this increases our knowledge... I hope that the class continues like this...".