In essence, this is a thread examining the two things that interest me most: music and mental health.
Whilst slowly decreasing stigma sees us increasingly able to name mainstream musicians who have themselves suffered mental illness, music has also long been regarded by various cultures to be of benefit to those suffering from mental health problems.
Music Feedback www.musicfeedback.com.au/welcome/ This Australian-based campaign targetting young people (14-25y.o.s) was initiated last year by the WA Music Industry Association and WA Government. Various artists have taken part in interviews about the connection between music and mental health.
Australian Music Therapy Association www.austmta.org.au/ This is the best place to go if you want to find out about Music Therapy, where you can study accredited courses to become a registered music therapist (RMT) and where you can find a registered music therapist in your area. Areas of expertise for RMTs include aged psychiatry, special education, mental health, rehabilitation, music therapy for refugees and trauma, dimentia, community music programmes and so forth.
i'm pretty interested in music therapy, would love to know more. i always say that music is like some kind of (free, often effective) drug whenever i'm feeling a little down. especially the band The National
Yes, the thought of studying music therapy at Melbourne has definitely crossed my mind!
Long before I knew about music therapy, I'd often use music (as many others have done) to calm myself down. Familiar bands like Crowded House and My Friend the Chocolate Cake that I grew up listening to and love often help as does (much to the confusion of many) and brisk walk whilst listening to melodic or symphonic metal bands such as Apocalyptica, Epica and Nightwish - my guess is that much of their music is very driven and decisive, and as someone who can sometimes have her thoughts speeding in many directions at once, I think that the constant, sometimes insistent pace helps me to slow my thoughts to a regular rhythm, and the physical movement is not only healthy but helps me to focus on the present, physical reality, in a way that is practical and non-judgmental, rather than giving in to the 'what ifs' and 'maybes'. I like to pace myself in such a way that when I walk in the door, the last track I play is 'Peace' or 'Faraway' by Apocalyptic.
Maybe you have some musical de-stress strategies you'd like to share?
Okay, having just finished a unit in Gamelan Gong Kebyar (and with it a Bachelor of Arts - huzzah!) today, I thought the best possible way for me to de-stress post exam would be for me to jump onto this forum and write a brief piece combining my interest in mental health with my love of (ethno)music(ology).
To set the scene, the kebyar genre comes from Bali, Indonesia, and it of great interest as it is a modern, 20th century genre which has resisted many of the musical influences of Western culture - popular music (spread via radio), religious music (brought by missionaries), military music (an influence post-conflict) and classical music (introduced through colonizastion).
It is played on Gamelan. Gamelan ensembled consist of metallophones with bronze keys resonating in bamboo housed in highly-decorated boxes often made from jackfruit wood (according to Canadian ethnomusicologist Michael Tenzer). These are tuned with five notes from the 7 note pelog scale - roughly equivalent to Western notes C#, D, E, G# and A, if you believe Tenzer on this matter. Metallophones are tuned in pairs, with each note slightly 'off tune' (from a Western perspective) to its 'twin' resulting in a shimmering vibrato when the two players strike these same notes at once - this is referred to as ombak. Gangsa katilan, gangsa pemade and the large ugal each have 10-11 keys spanning two octaves, whilst the calung and the larger jegogan have five bronze keys spanning one octave. Most of these metallophones are beaten with timber mallets resembling hammers, whilst the jegogan, which is much lower in register, is struck with a circular-shaped, rubber-ended mallet covered in cotton. There are three main means of playing the metallophone: to strike with the mallet and let the note ring, to strike and then 'dampen' by holding the vibrating key between the thumb and index of the other hand, and to do both the striking and the dampening simultaneously, producing a different timbre.
Time is kept by a 'kettle drum' held in the lap. The 'teacher' traditionally plays ornamentational rhythms on the kendang, using their hands to beat either end of this, usually the only membranophone in the Gamelan orchestra. The melodic rhythm tend to be emphasized by the cengceng - five cymbals mounted on a small box-type construction struck by a further two cymbals, each held in the hand.
Lastly, the impressive gongs. One playing will strike each of the three main gongs - the comparatively tiny klentong infront, suspended in its wood frame, the larger kampur to the player's right and to their left, the awesome gong agang or simply, 'gong'. These gongs tend to break up the composition into meter, denoting gongan or repeating melodic cycles played by the metallophones.
Basic instrumentation explained, something of Balinese culture need next be investigated.
Colonized by the Dutch, Bali's image of 'island paradise' has been manufactured over 150 years externally - the Dutch trying to glaze over the puputan or massacre (a mass-suicide meant to rob the enemy of a sense of victory) of at the start of last century - and also 'internally', by first President Sukarno (whose mother was Balinese) and made an international tourist destination on the hippy tourist trail of the 1960s by President Suharto, whose five point plan saw airports and hotels being built. Indonesia has also been the site of slave trade and an important part of the Netherlands' colonial history. It is worth noting that whilst most of Indonesia is Muslim, the Balinese tend to be Hindu, their spirituality a combination of the religion that originated in India and their earlier beliefs, closely connect self, spiritualiy and nature together. This later was developed into the era of god kings (I could expand, but I'm aware I'm starting to go off topic!) and then of the caste system (originates from the Portuguese term 'casta'). This caste system saw class divisions of brahman or religious cheif cate, warrier or nobility class, merchant caste and comoners or 'sudra'. The system was enforced through social codes of levels of formality and speech as well as strict etiquette - for example, warriers would not eat with the sudra, and would be seated higher. This social hierachy followed through into music practise, with the commoners as musicians whilst members of the nobility would perform as dancers. the kebyar genre contributed to the break-down in this social hierachy.
Kebyar means literally 'to flare up', to burst into bloom (this being the translation favoured by the Rough Guide to World Music) or to ignite. As the 20th century progressed, the caste system began to loose its rigidity, with nobility taking up the role of musician, and commoners able to participate in performance as dancers. Thus, people of different castes would dance and play side by side - and increasingly, on the same level. With this development, Bali saw social interaction between the old castes.
Seka (also referred to by other terms, including sekahasa) are common-interest groups where membership is voluntary and members have a great sense of duty to the group - a member who fails to make an appearance at a rehearsal may also incur a small fine. A seka might be a computer club or a Gamelan wanita (women's Gamelan orchestra). These groups are very much egalitarian, with a very strong emphasis on group collectivity - this can be seen in the music of Gamelan gong kebyar, with no solo parts, improvisation and interlocking melodic parts - for example, sangsih (off beat parts) may interlock with polos (played on the beat) creating interlocking melodic parts or kotekan where no player or section is more important than the other. A quick word on rehearsal. Gamelan seka play from memory, and groups are cross-generational, with very young members and members with decades of experience side-by-side.
My apologies if that seemed like a self-indulgent tangent, I do have a propensity to get carried away!Perhaps you may be wondering what this has with mental health - or with women? Well, I wanted to share with you something I read by Emiko Saraswati Susilo in "Gamelan Wanita: A Study of Women's Gamelan in Bali" (published by the University of Hawaii: Manoa, 2003). The topic was brought up towards the end of the paper, one and a half pages under the unfortunately dull title "Appendix A Issues of Health". For all its brevity (brevity being a quality my writing always lacks!!), I found the contents to be quite remarkable. One student of the Gamelan group studied by Emiko Saraswati Susilo had to spend some time in hospital. Throughout her stay, she focussed on Gamelan - on her ensemble and their music - and she "recovered remarkably quickly", members of her group accounting for this by the fact that the woman "looked forward to playing gamelan after getting out of hospital", and although she wasn't specifically anticipating any particular performance or hoping to become a great artist (remember what I wrote earlier about the focus being on the group, with no soloists, in the Western sense of the word?) "the profound pleasure she took from playing gamelan even in rehearsal, was a powerful healing force". The second story is of a married women in the group who played big ugal metallophone that I mentioned before. Anyway... so, in forming this women's ensemble, doing something real and good for women's mental health and self-esteem were driving forces. Emiko Saraswati Susilo explains that once Balinese women are married, they "rarely 'dress up' or place close attention to their physical appearance. To do so might raise suspicions of infedelity or at least be [sic] would be considered frivolous". Okay, here comes my favourite part of 'Appendix A', and I'm going to give you the whole quote directly: "Women are ideally humble and a married village woman will seldom wear fancy clothes or make-up. Performing allows women the opportunity to appear in public, knowing that they look (and sound) their best. Dew Putu Berata points out that it allows women to feel that they are important and suggests the importance of feeling that 'People will see us. We have worth and are useful'... Gamelan, the community it provides, the sense of musical and personal satisfaction, the pure joy of playing, and learning, being challenged physically and mentally are powerful forces that Balinese women are beginning to recognize". Yeah. Wow. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did!
Having read that, if I could have my time again as a Women's Officer, I'd've tried to create a small women's ensemble of some sort, rather than keeping Women's Music Group as a topic-by-topic discussion group.
If you're interested in learning more about Balinese - or Indonesian - music, I recommend the writings of Monash staff Dr Margaret Kartomi (she's amazing!!) and Dr Made Hood, who was my teacher this semester. Also, check out YouTube - you'll find some amazing performances!
Myself, I'm hoping to go to Bali (probably Seminyak) in April to celebrate graduating - even despite being diagnosed with anxiety disorder and disthymia. Huzzah!