Lifemusic is a highly accessible form of community music-making, devised by composer, music therapist and author Dr Rod Paton. Watch Rod explaining how Lifemusic works in this video.
As a qualified practitioner and member of the Guild of Lifemusic Practitioners, I offer Lifemusic sessions, usually conducted in groups.
This is not psychotherapy – however its effects are often described as healing or therapeutic. Lifemusic aims to promote creativity, inter-connectedness, enjoyment and well-being. Our sessions explore making sounds together using simple ‘instant-access’ instruments (including tuned and untuned percussion) that anyone can play without prior experience or skill. Freestyle vocalising also plays a part in a Lifemusic approach.
Video: vocal warm-up from training session in Poland, September 2017
Video by Anna Ziomek
“Improvised music has this integrating function: it takes the raw material of sound as it emerges from people’s bodies and voices, and from the magical objects we call musical instruments, and fashions it, quite spontaneously and often with surprising ease, into structured forms.” Rod Paton
Lifemusic holds to the following notions:
- everyone (really!) is musical
- there is no such thing as a ‘wrong ‘note
- every sound carries meaning
- music-making involves mutual trust
Many participants describe its effects as empowering, restorative and life-affirming. Lifemusic workshops have been brought into residential care homes as well as a variety of health and education projects in Great Britain, mainland Europe, America and the Republic of Ireland. Lifemusic can also be used for team-building in corporate settings. It can be used in staff training to help professionals develop their own capacity for nurture, flexibility and self-care.
“When music flourishes, people flourish too. People love music, and they love musicking together. It is not difficult to understand why. This is how music helps.” Gary Ansdell
“Group improvisation is rather like having an abstract conversation in which everyone is permitted to speak at the same time.” Rod Paton
The Lifemusic approach is based on improvisation. This involves playing music spontaneously, with little time to worry about one’s perceived level of skill. No previous musical training or experience is required.
In UK until fairly recently Western classical music was more commonly taught. Latterly this has been augmented by a new focus on what is often referred to as ‘World Music’. Consequently music approaches taught today include Indonesian Gamelan, West African drumming, Brazilian Samba, ukulele bands, jazz and blues combos, choirs and other forms, many of which incorporate extempore elements in their playing styles.
Lifemusic recognises everyone’s capacity to make music collaboratively as part of our birthright, without depending on hierarchies of expertise or experience. This approach also welcomes those who may not usually join in for social, physical or technical reasons.
The music we make together is sometimes described as ‘music from the heart’, or ‘soulful music’. In Lifemusic there are no right or wrong notes, only interesting, rich tonal mixtures. When we allow all sounds to be valid in this way we can explore and experiment, like painters, mixing different ‘colours’ on our sound palette.
Lifemusic helps people find vitality, fellowship and connection through self-expression. As people get to know each other through this medium many report feeling more relaxed, able to connect with their creativity and flow. It may also soothe, bringing comfort and restoring balance.
Through actively participating together in this enjoyable way we enhance our ability to live vibrantly, responding flexibly in the present moment.
“We can say then that music is designed to entertain, maintaining us in a particular affective state. But when we actually participate in the creation of music, improvised music, something much more complex is taking place: we move… in a number of different directions as the music is brought into consciousness, emerging from an unconscious (archetypal) source.” Rod Paton
What happens in a Lifemusic workshop?
“Lifemusic is less about the sound of the music, and more about the sound of people making connections.” Laura Cousins
The workshop usually concludes with a winding down activity after which we may reflect on what we have just created and briefly prepare for next session.
I can’t read music. Would this be a barrier for me?
What if I had a bad experience of music making at school?
Isn’t music making very technical and noisy? I prefer more natural sounds...
What if I don’t want to sing or play an instrument?
“Jon has a wide musical register to draw on and responds spontaneously and sensitively to people’s moods. Recommended!” JS, psychotherapist, London.
“Your insightful observations about how we were relating in the group has helped with restructuring my music sessions with mothers and toddlers – thanks again!” EH, early years music teacher, London.
“I was really captivated by the impact of the sound community we created. I can see its applications in many spheres.” DW, Lifemusic participant.
Find out more about Lifemusic
Find out more about the Lifemusic method in this video with Dr Rod Paton.