ZAMEK Culture Centre

Jackie Robarts – “Exploring the Between in Musical Free Improvisation: Attuning, Imagining, Story-telling in Music, Movement & Visual Arts”


Workshop in English with a possibility of Polish translation

“Music is not always just music. It is often intermingled with other art forms. Songs combine music and poetry. Operas integrate music, drama, dance, and the visual arts. Symphonies can be based on stories and artworks. Singers mime and act whilst they sing. Conductors use gestures and movements to shape and direct the music. Listeners can move, dance, mime, dramatise, tell stories, paint, draw, or sculpt as a means of reacting to music. Many of these ‘interrelated’ art forms and experiences are used in music therapy”. (Bruscia, K.E., 1989.  Defining Music Therapy. First Edition. Barcelona Publishers, s. 13-14)

This workshop takes the form of a series of explorations: improvising freely, musically attuning in large and small ensembles. Musicians & non-musicians are invited to participate in spontaneously, freely improvised music-making & sound-making. Attendees are invited to bring any portable instrument – and their own performing instrument(s) if they wish. Drums, piano, accordion, shruti box, metallophone, didgeridoo, steel drums, guitars, ukuleles and small percussive instruments are available at venue.

To help our musical-improvisational explorations, movie extracts & stills will be projected onto a screen to stimulate imagination and inspire our music-making. While this approach is not typical of Nordoff Robbins music therapy practice, it has been found useful in exploring ‘the between’ of improvisational music-making, playing and more in-depth relating in music – as well as how do we ‘know’ or sense what, how, why, and when to play?

We shall explore aspects of Nordoff-Robbins Creative Music Therapy: meeting and attuning in music & movement, allowing a ‘narrative’ to evolve in the flow of music-making as a kind of ‘story-telling’ with or without words. We shall consider music-making as ‘meaning-making’ arising from intuitive, pre-cognitive, non-verbal, implicit levels of relating which Nordoff & Robbins (1977/2007) called the ‘Creative Now’. We shall explore and think about expressive-creative phenomena of what arises between, and what is ‘carried across’ to and fro between us – consciously/unconsciously, sounded/ unsounded.

Theoretical perspectives will be considered: The multi-layered phenomena of ‘the between’ that correlate with developmental psychology concepts of intersubjectivity ((Stern, D.N., 2000. The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York: Basic Books; Trevarthen, C., 1999. Musicality and the intrinsic motive pulse: Evidence from human psychobiology and infant communication.  Musicae Scientiae, August Special issue: Rhythm, Musical Narrative and Origins of Human Communication, s. 157-213) and with communicative musicality that is innate in us from before birth and continues throughout the lifespan (Malloch & Trevarhen, 2009. Communicative Musicality.  Exploring the basis of human companionship.  Oxford University Press). Time permitting, and only if there is sufficient interest, comparisons may be drawn with psychoanalytic concepts such as ‘transference’ and ‘countertransference’.

Jackie Robarts is a music therapist, teacher, and supervisor, with over 40 years’ experience in NHS Child Development and Child & Adolescent Mental Health. Former Lead Tutor, Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy & Lecturer Guildhall School of Music & Drama London Master of Music Therapy training courses, and a former City University Research Fellow exploring the ‘creation of meaning’ in music therapy, Jackie links psychodynamic & developmental concepts with music and music therapy processes, including Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy. Jackie has published on her work with children with autism, attachment problems, eating disorders, and early trauma. She is editor of “Symbolic Play & Creative Arts in Music Therapy with Children and Families” (in press, Jessica Kingsley). She has an international online music therapy supervision & teaching practice, currently teaching in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and UK (


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