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IAP Revisited

September 25, 2000; Kenneth Bruscia interviewed by Brynjulf Stige:

The Improvisation Assessment Profiles Revisited

Kenneth Bruscia interviewed by Brynjulf Stige


The Improvisation Assessment Profiles (IAP) were developed by Professor Kenneth Bruscia, Temple University, and presented in Unit Nine in his influential book Improvisational Models of Music Therapy (Bruscia, 1987, pp. 401-496).

In IAP Bruscia presents a great number of con
cepts for description and interpretation of music improvised by clients in therapy. The main concepts for description are the 6 profiles (that could be said to focus upon processes in the music) and several scales (focusing on the elements of the music). The 6 profiles are: Integration (how simultaneous aspects of the music are organized), Variability (how sequential aspects of the music are related), Tension (how much tension is created within and through various aspects of the music), Congruence (the extent to which simultaneous feeling states and role relationships are congruent), Salience (how certain musical elements are given more salience than others), and Autonomy (the kind of role relationships formed between the improvisers) (Bruscia, 1987, pp. 404-405). The profiles and the scales are defined in great detail. The first 5 profiles have relevance for individual improvisations as well as dyad and group improvisations while the Autonomy-profile comes into use only in dyad and group improvisations. Possibilities for interpretations of the profiles and scales are offered by Bruscia in a chapter with psychoanalytic and existential perspectives.

Bruscia developed IAP as a model that enables music therapists to analyze music as heard, which should contribute to their relevance for music therapists. As Bruscia (1994, p. 2-3) himself puts it: “…… most methods of musical analysis are carried out on the musical score itself – as it was written and as it is visually perceived. In therapy, the improvisations are rarely transcribed or transcribable, and therefore exist primarily in the auditory modality. Improvisational therapists have to analyze what they hear as they hear it! A central feature of the IAPs is that the method of analysis is aural rather than visual. That is, it requires extemporaneous conceptions of the music as heard rather than prolonged visual inspections of the musical score as written. The analysis unfolds as the music unfolds, and takes place in the same sensory modality. The analyzer must always be experiencing the music aurally to be analyzing it aurally, so that there is no temporal separation between the analyzer and the analyzed.”

In the early 90ies Brynjulf Stige and Bente Østergaard translated the IAPs to Norwegian (Bruscia, 1994). In the process of translation we discussed questions and criticisms we had with Bruscia, and discovered that he had criticisms himself, for instance to the suggestion made in 1987 that the IAPs provide possibilities for objective description of music. After the process of translating Stige (1995, 1996) gave a critical discussion of IAP in two articles in Nordic Journal of Music Therapy. The articles suggest that IAP have relevance for clinical practice and research and that the model should be used and developed. The articles also offer some criticism of IAP; it is suggested that the hermeneutic problems related to listening to and interpreting music were under-communicated by Bruscia in 1987. Such problems are related to the pre-understanding of the interpreter and to the different contexts of the music.

Lately there has been a renewed interest for the IAPs in the Nordic countries, as documented in texts by Tony Wigram (1999), Britta Vinkler Frederiksen (1999), Jaakko Erkkilä (2000) and others. This was the interviewer’s context when Stige in November 1999 visited Ken Bruscia in Philadelphia and asked him some questions on IAP. The conversation is presented below. The sequence was originally part of a larger interview on “The Nature of Meaning in Music Therapy”. This interview will be published in Volume 9(2) of Nordic Journal of Music Therapy and is part of our interview series on meaning in music therapy. Some of the notions made by Bruscia in the sequence below refer to concepts presented in the larger interview. We will mention some of them here, to help the reader to get a better understanding of Bruscia’s recent comments on IAP.

Bruscia (in press) suggests that there are three interrelated sources of meaning: “In my opinion, the primary source of all meaning is the implicate order of the universe itself – that fundamental order which holds the universe together in myriad relationships. This implicate order is the universal template or foundation for all meaningfulness, both individual and collective; it is the ultimate model of meaning that exists a priori, and independent of our constantly varying constructions of it.” And he continues: “The secondary source of meaning is our own personal encounters with the implicate order – those experiences that give us small glimpses into the meaningful nature of what is from our own personal positions. This source of meaning arises from the very nature of being human, and being alive in the universe. As we go through life, we experience existence itself, or one could say, we take experiential samples of the implicate order, and through these experiences, we learn the fundamental nature of our universe, part by part, sample by sample.” And then he suggests a third level: “The third source consists of the various constructions and re-constructions of meaning that we make through thought, language, the arts, or any expressive modality, both alone and with others. These constructed meanings are based on reflections on our experiences of the implicate order as well as anything in our lives or immediate experience that needs further insight. That is, as we reflect upon our own particular experiences of the implicate order, and relate them to our own world and life circumstances, we begin to construct and re-construct the implicate order in terms of our own world – our culture, society, and personal history. Or conversely, we reflect upon aspects of our own personal world, and we use our experiences of the implicate order to find meaning in ourselves, our lives, our relationships, and so forth.”

Bruscia (in press) also suggests that “…… how we human beings find meaning is by continually trying to access a larger piece of reality, to be conscious of a larger part of it, or to place ourselves in perspectives that give us a more elegant conception of the implicate order. These explorations are what I have dubbed “modes of consciousness.” My ideas on this began formulating a few years ago when I examined various modes of consciousness I used as a therapist in GIM (Bruscia, 1995). In that study, I began to realize that if we can move our consciousness, if we can be fluid in our consciousness, then we have the richest potential for conceiving what is.” Bruscia (in press) thus – when discussing meaning in music therapy – focuses upon fluidity, which he relates to the ability to move between modes of consciousness. For an elaborated presentation of these suggestions we refer our readers to the interview with Bruscia (in press) and to our web-discussion on meaning in music therapy.

Below we present a sequence of the dialogue on the IAPs, and we invite our readers to participate in a discussion of this approach to assessment of music therapy improvisations. There should be several themes to develop: problems of description and interpretation, usefulness and clinical relevance, the relationship between text (object) and context, problems of languaging, etc., etc.:

No panacea of musical meaning

B: It was a pleasure for me to translate IAP into Norwegian in 1994, because I learned a lot from that process, and I learned a lot from discussing the translation with you. Now, 5 years later, I again very much would like to discuss the profiles with you…….

K: (laughs) OK. Go ahead. I have a feeling that you are going to try and nail me (laughs).

B: No – not exactly……… but I have questions…..

K: Go ahead.

B: (laughs) I remember that in 1994 you stated that your own way of thinking already had changed a lot since 1987, so my first question is: has it changed since 1994?

K: Yes, but paradoxically, I think I have come full circle. Now that I have done GIM I can come back to improvisation and begin to see where I was on the right track and where I was on the wrong track. I went away from the IAPs for a while and felt that perhaps they did not meet a need in the field, and then I even began to wonder whether they are even valuable. And now I am coming back and saying; “Well, I might have made some errors, but they were not big ones. And basically I was on the right track.”

I am on the right track in the sense that each profile is a listening perspective, it is a consciousness level. And why people get overwhelmed with the IAPs is because they cannot be fluid enough. They cannot move from one profile to another. Those six profiles cover more about the music than anything I have seen in the music therapy literature. There are not very many things about the music that cannot be described or approached through at least one of the profiles.

Where I erred was that I did not emphasize the Salience Profile enough; it’s the one that determines how all the other ones will be used. Salience deals with fluidity! The problem is that I assumed that everyone would want a step-by-step explanation of how to use the IAPs, and in doing that I did not convey the fluidity needed to use them. I always knew that the Salience Profile is the one that leads your consciousness into different musical elements and different profiles, and thereby pointed out what was most important to listen to analytically. When you use the Salience Profile first, it serves as the access point to other IAPs. The IAPs provide a listening perspective, and it is a very deep one. Many individuals who know them have said to me: “When I turn that ear on I hear things that I never noticed before.”

B: Yes, actually that is my experience too. And I remember when I translated IAP together with Bente Østergaard that you suggested that we put the Salience Profile first, and we did.

K: Yes, I am very glad you did. But I think the point of contention with the IAPs is always in the psychoanalytic perspective (Bruscia, 1987, pp. 450-455). I put very specific symbolic representations of what pulse means and what tempo means and what other musical elements mean. And this is a perfect example of taking a perspective and using it for clinical purposes. I still stand by these interpretations, as I do believe in using such perspectives in deciphering and understanding the meanings underlying a client’s improvisations. But the point that perhaps I have not made clear enough is that I do not think that they are always relevant. I think they are modes of consciousness, and clinically if you are working in certain situations they are very valuable. But I do not think they should be used as a permanent perspective with every client in every clinical situation. They give insights of a particular kind, from a very particular perspective. That’s it. No more, no less. They are not a panacea of musical meaning!

I too struggle with the idea of universal meanings, and even with notions of musical archetypes that I have used in relation to the IAPs. Is pulse really the instinctual process of the music? Is that the energy bearer, is that the energy container? And then how do you understand that in relationship to melody? To me, the answers to these questions are culturally bound, you know, to Western music and to a particular orientation to psychotherapy. And so, while my particular psychoanalytical ideas about the IAPs may not be far off, they are not everything, nor can they be used all the time. You cannot limit your practice to them. They are not final answers, as shockingly revealing as they can be when they are relevant.

This is precisely why I added another chapter to the book on the existential perspective (Bruscia, 1987, pp. 456-464). I wanted to simply cancel out the chapter on psychoanalytic as the one answer. It was another change of perspective that I was trying to accomplish. I want to quickly add that the existential chapter is not as good as the psychoanalytic one. It is not as insightful, not as intuitively correct.


B: I remember that in the foreword to the Norwegian translation of the IAPs (Bruscia, 1994), you talked about the profiles and scales as archetypes. Now I must say that when you consider the discourse in music therapy about music and meaning, one of the most confusing things to me is the way the concept of archetypes has been used in both the verbal discussions within the music therapy community and also in the literature. Do you want to comment upon your understanding of archetypes and their relevance for music therapy?

K: That is a very relevant and important question! But rather than address how the term archetype has been used in the music therapy community, I would like to answer it within the theoretical framework I have just presented on meaning [see introduction above].

B: Please do.

K: The most important thing to say from the outset is that an archetype is a construct, and as such, stems from what I have dubbed the third source of meaning. The construct was first used by Jung to describe universally shared human experiences that stem from what he called the “collective unconscious.”

In terms of my three sources of meaning, I think Jung was saying a couple of things: that we can enter the same mode of consciousness, that we can have similar experiences of the implicate order, and that we can construct and describe them in universal terms. In short, Jung was saying that it is possible for all humans to experience, share and describe the same universal meanings.

B: And what do you think about these assertions? Do you agree?

K: Since we are talking about Jung’s “constructions,” I have to say that when I enter his mode of consciousness or identify with his perspective, then I agree; but when I move out of a Jungian orientation, then no, I disagree. I can see what he means if I look from where he is looking, but I don’t always look from that location.

From my own location, I believe that the archetype is a construction. It is not an experience, it is a construction of an experience. It is a reflection based on a meta-perspective taken in relation to a particular experience or sample thereof. It does not exist as reality; it is not part of what is as the implicate order; it is a construct of an experience of the implicate order. It’s like a second cousin to reality, it is twice-removed! And remember, we are talking about Jung’s construction. Already you can see that the problem of understanding archetype is that to do so requires “languaging.” I come to the idea itself within my own orientation and thought system, and then as I begin to talk about it, and put different words on it, different meanings are created based upon the languaging. And soon the idea has a life of its own, quite independent of what Jung ever intended.

Next, and equally important, I also believe that an archetype is both collective and individual, it is both shared and unique to each person. This is important, because then I can say, for example, that the anima (the feminine side of males) is not an experience in itself, but a construct that Jung attached to samples of experiences that he believed that all males share. I myself am not sure whether all males can have exactly the same samples of experience, nor am I sure that all males would describe such experiences in the same ways (as their own feminine side). Moreover, since Jung believed that the parallel experience for females is the animus (their male side) rather than the anima, then we cannot say that either is a universal experience.

So to summarize: in my thinking, an archetype is a construct used to describe shared or collective experiences of the implicate order that each individual particularizes. It’s very similar to a metaphor in that it is understood by a particular community or culture, and has both shared and individual meanings.

B: And so how do you see your ideas about archetype relating to music therapy?

In GIM, we deal with archetypes primarily in reference to the images created by the client while listening to the music and describing the images verbally to the therapist. Thus, when an archetype like the shadow arises in GIM, it brings many questions: Was the shadow embedded in the music, and that’s why the client had shadow images? Or was the shadow archetype indigenous to the image and imager, and thus not intrinsically linked to the music? Or is the shadow a construct used by the client and/or therapist to describe the image and/or music experience?

My position is the latter. It is a Jungian-informed construct; it is co-created by the client and therapist; its purpose is to describe a particular set of experiences, either in the music or the image; the experiences lend themselves to being described metaphorically as “shadow,” based not only on Jung’s descriptions but also on their similarity to other experiences of the client, the therapist, and others known by the two.

B: So with your perspective, what do you then think about Paul Nordoff’s suggestion that the Children’s Tune is an archetype or that the Middle Eastern scale is an archetype (Robbins & Robbins, 1998)? Does that make sense to you?

K: In some ways, yes. But I also think that such an assertion is culture-bound. I think the Children’s Tune and the Middle Eastern Scale are too specific, too particular, too tied to specific identities, to be what I would really call this implicate order within music.

On some criticisms of IAP

B: Getting back to the IAPs, over the years a few criticisms have been made of the approach, and I just want to mention them and invite your comments. One objection has been that these profiles are too concerned about meaning as related to structure, and that meaning as related to context is not valued enough.

K: As I see it, only two profiles deal with structure, Integration and Variability. The other four (Tension, Congruence, Salience and Autonomy) have very little if anything to do with structure.

B: And do you think that the IAPs lend themselves to reflections upon meaning related to context?

K: No, but that was not their purpose. The IAPs are meant to be an analysis of the music as sound object. That is what they are! So I am not saying that it has something to do with the context of the subjects, unless it has to do with the Congruence Profile. Congruence is the only thing that deals with the context, but even there the context is only whether the actual sound object is congruent with the subject. So the IAPs are clearly focused on the sound object, and do not promise to do anything more that explicate its meaning! Many people have already pointed out that they are already complex enough just trying to describe the object. So I hardly think I should add to the analysis the context of the improvisation, and the context in which the improvisers are going to find meaning in it.

We have to be clear: looking only at structure is different from analyzing the music as object; and analysis of the music itself without concern for context is a valid endeavor in its own right.

B: I understand your point. Another criticism has been that IAPs are too concerned about meaning that is universal, given, and immediate, while for instance Even Ruud (1998) suggests that meaning in music is much more related to mediated processes and to social construction.

K: I believe that the IAPs offer shared or collective meanings rather than universal meanings, and they can be shared only when a group of individuals takes the same orientation or perspective. For example, in the psychoanalytic meanings that I offered for interpreting data from the IAPs, these meanings are constructed from a particular mode of consciousness, a particular perspective and location within it. Obviously, when I am in such a mode or perspective, there is a range of meanings available to me, and when I move out of that location, there are other meanings that are equally viable. I think this kind of misunderstanding resulted from me using the term archetype to describe the profiles. And that’s what I was saying earlier about the problems of languaging.

But let me also respond to Even’s ideas about mediated processes and social construction. He and I are looking at meaning from different positions, consequently, neither he nor I can claim that we have a complete picture! We are both limited by the mode of consciousness from which we are operating. We are both describing the elephant from a different position. And so I might also ask whether Even himself is proposing a universal position — that all meanings are mediated and constructed.

With that said, I must say that, from where I am located, I do not believe that all meanings are mediated, nor do I believe that all meanings are socially constructed. Clearly, what I have identified as the first and second sources of meaning are not what Even is talking about. To me, he is trying to explicate the third source, meaning as constructed. So I do agree with Even about meaning being both mediated and co-created, but only at that level! From my perspective, Even is not dealing with other layers of meaning that I am interested in addressing.

To analyze the sound object itself

K: But back to the purpose of the IAPs, I would like to clarify that they were not designed to examine how client and therapist mediate and co-construct the meanings of their own improvisations. Their purpose was to provide a method for helping the therapist to analyze the sound object itself (the musical improvisation). That does not mean that I do not believe that meanings are mediated and co-constructed, it only means that that was not the focus of my attention. By the same token, I would like to point out that Even does not deal with problems in analyzing the sound object as comprehensively as the IAPs do. And I think I can understand why: If one adopts the position that the meaning of an improvisation is always mediated by context and language, and thus constructed or co-constructed by the improvisers, then the actual musical components and qualities of the improvisation offer less significant or very little meaning in themselves, independent of the improvisers’ constructions. This implies to me that improvisations derive their meaning only in reference to the improvisers and their verbal constructions. While I cannot disagree with the need for both of these kinds of meanings within a therapy situation, when relevant (and when clients are verbal enough), I certainly do not believe that they cover all the bases of meaning. Again, this position belongs in my third source of meaning, and does not deal with the first two sources at all.

Another problem with accepting constructed meanings as the whole story is that it fails to account for the unconscious. One need not become completely psychoanalytic to acknowledge that consciousness varies in depth and breadth, and that the human mind has a limited capacity for what it attends and remembers. I cannot imagine how anyone could assert that improvisers are aware of everything that happens in their own improvisation, and everything that has potential meaning. How is that even possible? And so it seems to me that those who adopt the position that meanings are only mediated and constructed are either denying the existence of the unconscious and its influence or simply not taking it into account. Given how committed I am to expanding consciousness, I cannot accept any theory which does away with lower levels of consciousness, whether you call it preconscious, unconscious, or mere unawareness.

I would also like to point out that I do not agree with the notion that musical meanings are best explicated (and verified) through verbal discourse. Whatever people say about an improvisation and its meaning after it is over is not an accurate replication of the musical meaning of the improvisation itself. They are two entirely different constructions. And I say this also about the IAPs. The profiles are merely verbal constructions of the music. And so, technically speaking, the only way to mediate musical meaning is for the same improvisers to continue improvising together.

B: Colin Lee (in press) would say that…….

K: Yes, I am sure he would! But unlike Colin, I still think that we also have to look at mediated, constructed positions when relevant; either my position or Even’s position or Colin’s position are not the whole story. The problem is like trying to sit on opposite ends of a big balloon at the same time, if you sit on one side you cannot sit on the other. And so, sooner or later one has too be fluid (laughs).

True and/or useful?

B: How do you consider the epistemological status of the IAPs? I mean, you stated in the Foreword to the 1994 translation to Norwegian (Bruscia, 1994), that they are not true, ….

K: (laughs)

B: …….but that they are useful.

K: Yes, they are useful, but not true — and that is true! (laughs)

B: (laughs)

K: I will tell you. When I developed the profiles and I searched through the thesaurus for the words, I was clearly searching for verbal constructs. Those are clearly personal constructs of ways of describing what the music sounds like. And I purposely tried to select words that had the most psychological relevance. I mean fusion and differentiation (in the Integration Profile) is directly taken from Witkin’s work on field-dependence and field-independence (Witkin et. al., 1977). I was purposely trying to connect the simultaneous elements of music to that.

So in that way I am saying they are not true, because my own construction system determined how I was describing musical phenomena, and the vocabulary that I was using to take the music into some psychological way of thinking.


Bruscia, Kenneth (1987). Improvisational Models of Music Therapy. Springfield, Il: Charles C. Thomas.

Bruscia, Kenneth (1994). IAP. Improvisation Assessment Profiles. Kartlegging gjennom musikkterapeutisk improvisasjon. (Translation to the Norwegian language: Brynjulf Stige and Bente Østergaard. Includes a new-written Foreword in English by Bruscia) Sandane, Norway: Sogn og Fjordane College.

Bruscia, Kenneth (1995). ‘Modes of Consciousness in Guided Imagery and Music (GIM): A Therapist’s Experience of the Guiding Process.’ In: Kenny, Carolyn (Ed.): Listening, Playing, Creating. Essays on the Power of Sound. Albany, NY: State University of New York

Bruscia, Kenneth (in press). ‘The nature of Meaning in Music Therapy.’ Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9(2).

Erkkilä, Jaakko (2000). ‘A Proposition for the Didactics of Music Therapy Improvisation.’ Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9(1). (The article is based on a paper presented at the 2nd West-Norwegian Conference on Music Therapy, Sandane, October 1998).

Frederiksen, Britta Vinkler (1999). ‘Analysis of musical improvisations to understand and work with elements of resistance in a client with anorexia nervosa.’ In: Wigram, Tony & Jos DeBacker: Clinical Applications of Music Therapy in Psychiatry. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Lee, Colin (in press): Aesthetic Music Therapy. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.

Robbins, Clive & Carol Robbins (Eds.) (1998): Healing Heritage. Paul Nordoff Exploring the Tonal Language of Music. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.

Ruud, Even (1998): Music Therapy: Improvisation, Communication, and Culture. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.

Stige, Brynjulf (1995). ‘Om Improvisational Assessment Profiles (IAP). Del I: Grunnlagsproblemer.’ Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 4 (2).

Stige, Brynjulf (1996). ‘Om Improvisational Assessment Profiles (IAP). Del II: Klinisk og forskningsmessig relevans.’ Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 5 (1).

Wigram, Tony (1999). ‘Assessment Methods in Music Therapy: A Humanistic or Natural Science Framework?’ Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9(1).

Witkin, Herman, Moore, C., Goodenough, D. & P. Cox (1977): ‘Field-dependent and field-independent cognitive styles and their educational implications.’ Review of Educational Research, 47 (1), 1-64.

September 29, 2000 Jaakko Erkkilä, Finland:


It was a great honour to have been asked to write this introduction on the web-discussion forum concerning IAP-profiles (Bruscia, 1987). The publication of my recent article on this topic in the Nordic Journal (Erkkilä, 2000) is probably the reason why I was asked to write this introduction. Here I presented my way to carry out improvisation analysis in didactic situation of music therapy. In this context I also referred to the IAP-profiles as a part of the method. However, in that method it is not possible to utilise all the details of IAP’s. Instead I have adapted them more generally – without the scales, and by defining the meaning of the profiles as briefly as possible yet being comprehensible. For that, and many other reasons as well, I do not want to introduce myself as an expert of IAP, as I am not. However, it is pleasure to say that during the last few years interest towards the IAP’s has been increasing among music therapists in Finland, especially among the most educated ones – however, not without problems.


One of the problems with IAP concerns language. It is easy to understand why Stige and Østergaard (Bruscia, 1994) came to the decision to translate the original text to the norwegian language. Even with quite good skills it is hard for the non-native english speaker to understand everything of the original text – or more precisely, to find the corresponding concepts on ones own mother language. Bruscia himself (in press) refers to the careful and deliberated process through which he came to the final verbal concepts and definitions of the musical meanings in IAP. Bruscia states (in Stige’s interview (in press): “When I developed the profiles and I searched through the thesaurus for the words, I was clearly searching for verbal constructs […] and I purposely tried to select words that had the most psychological relevance.” Thus, it becomes clear that the language Bruscia uses is not simple, and that many of the concepts he uses do require in addition to language skills also being familiar with the psychological (and musical) tradition where the roots of the concepts lie.

In deeper level of analysis, the question might be about “languaging” as well. Always when trying to translate something abstract, like art, to the spoken language, some problems are met. Eventhough the author himself, and most of his colleagues (representing the same culture) would find a common connection between the artistic object and the word describing it, it is possible that in other contexts – like in countries far from the authors – the traditions are somewhat different what comes to conceptualisation. Let me give you an example.

In an ongoing Finnish study (Eila-Sisko Kanerva) a comparison was made between the music therapists in Nordic countries. In that survey, an interesting feature concerning Finnish music therapists was found. Unlike the other Nordic countries, most of the music therapists in Finland until the year 1996 were men (nowadays the sex distribution is gradually “balancing”). In addition, pop and rock music were the most common musical backgrounds of the music therapists in Finland. This suggests that many of the music therapists do not have a lot of formal music education but instead have more practical know-how. Perhaps, the concepts and the procedures arising from the tradition of classic music have not had such a strong role in our music therapy tradition so far. When applying IAP, one encounters plenty of those “should be clear” terms. Basically, everyone knows them but when trying to find out where the phrase (in improvisation) starts or ends, how to define the concept of meter in relation to improvisation, etc. even many of the classic musicians meet some definitional problems (it might be easier for them to analyse those kinds of things from composed pieces of music). Thus, music therapists mostly listen to the entirety instead of paying attention to the musical details. This suggests we need more practice to learn these more (musically) focused listening techniques.

So, I am sure that the profiles of IAP are representing the essential musical archetypes that basically are interchangeable between the cultures. However, I am not sure whether music therapists in different cultures are capable (or willing) to see or to name the elements of the archetypes in music in the same way.


In Finland, the IAP’s seem to be associated most often with the music therapy research. This is probably due to the fact that in everyday clinical practice it might be quite hard to apply in detail. In its full version IAP is indeed quite a heavy entirety – Wigram (1999, p. 12) also points this out. However, music therapists (including me) seem to apply IAP’s in their clinical work, albeit in a reduced version. This arouses a question whether there would be any sense in developing a tight clinical version of the IAP’s side by side with the original one?

Another part of IAP’s is how to interpret the meaning of an improvisation once analysed. I very much agree with Bruscia (in press) in that he prefers the psychoanalytic explanation to the existential one. I have no specific reasons to complain about the existential explanation either, but the psychoanalytic one is the best I have ever met in music therapy literature. Usually the psychoanalytic explanations of the musical meanings do not go to the level of concretism neither to the musical details but Bruscia´s theory is a beautiful exception of that rule where almost every single element of music gets its psychoanalytic counterpart. In the clinical practice I have often found how well his explanations reflect the clinical reality. In this sense, I have experienced the psychoanalytic explanation of the IAP as useful (even) as such, without necessarily to go to the IAP’s at all.


The IAP is an important tool when trying to speak about the meaning of improvisation with non-musicians in order to focus on the therapeutic aspects of improvisation (e.g. in multidisciplinary teams), in supervisory settings, and intrasessionally – e.g. when investigating the development of client(s) during the therapy process. From the Finnish perspective, there are some problems/obstacles with IAP that should be solve before it is possible to utilise it more generally in the field of music therapy.
Education. We are in need of specialised courses on IAP. Many interpretational problems have been met when trying to adapt the IAP’s. This can be seen e.g. in the fact that analysing the same single improvisation may result in two different scorings by different evaluators.
Translation and “linguisting”. We are in need of a finnish translation of the IAP. It should be made in the same way norwegians did their own: by carefully searching for the appropriate national concepts and meanings replacing the original ones and by collaborating with the author. We need this careful process because, on the one hand, the verbal concepts use to have somewhat different meanings for the people, and on the other hand, an (abstract) phenomenon under investigation may have more than one possible counterpart in the world of verbal concepts.
Experience sharing. Music therapists in different countries have developed their own ways to utilise the IAP’s in their clinical work – usually for the reason that they have been in need of a quicker version of it. It would be interesting to get know what kind of adaptations people do have in order to find a most appropriate one in a specific context.

Bruscia, K. (1987). Improvisational Models of Music Therapy: Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Bruscia, K. E. (1994). IAP – Improvisation Assessment Profiles.
Kartlegging gjennom musikkterapeutisk improvisasjon (Brynjulf Stige, Bente Østergaard, Trans.) (2nd ed.). Sandane: HSF Høgskulen i Sogn og Fjordane.

Erkkilä, J. (2000). “A Proposition for the Didactics of Music Therapy Improvisation.” in Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9(2).

Wigram, T. (1999). “Assessment Methods in Music Therapy: A Humanistic or Natural Science Framework.” in Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 8(1), 7-25.

October 10, 2000: Brynjulf Stige, Sandane, Norway:



In his reflection on IAP Jaakko Erkkilä mentions four problems of language:
  1. The complexity of IAP put high demands on the user concerning language skills (which Erkkilä suggests may make translations to other languages necessary).
  2. Some of the concepts of IAP are based on specific psychological theories and to understand them one needs to know these theories.
  3. IAP cannot supersede the problems met when trying to translate music – as “abstract art” – to language.
  4. The concepts developed in IAP may be meaningful for practitioners sharing Bruscia’s culture, but is not necessary meaningful outside of this context.

I want to briefly comment upon these four problems:
Ad1) It is hard to disagree here, although I think this might be considered a strength of IAP just as much as a problem. There is much language to learn from IAP, either one uses the English original or a translated version.

Ad 2) I may add that the relationship to psychological theory is not always made explicit in IAP. The interview with Bruscia – published here in Forum – reveals for instance that some of the concepts are based upon Witkin’s theory on field-dependence and field-independence, a reference that is not included in (Bruscia,1987). This, of course, makes Erkkilä’s comment even more relevant.

Ad 3) The problem of “conceptualizing the non-verbal” – to use a term from Gouk (2000) – is of course shared by all discourses on music therapy practice (or on any of the other arts therapies). As far as I can see, this problem is not possible to solve by attempting to develop universal or general language. I thus agree with Gouk (ibid.) who suggests that such conceptualizing is situated, and this issue is therefore closely related to the next (4).

Ad 4) The problem of culture and context concerning our ability to talk about music, is my main concern when commenting upon Erkkilä’s reflection. As suggested above, I see this as an essential problem (concerning the problem of essentialism). I am not quite satisfied though with the example given by Erkkilä; that many Finnish music therapists encounter cultural problems in trying to understand IAP since they are rock musicians and not trained in classical music. The way Erkkilä uses this example I feel obscures more than clarifies this problem. I will try to elucidate why I think this is so.

It is probably correct when Erkkilä suggests that musicians that have taken a classical training in music more easily will understand some of the concepts used by Bruscia, since some of them are based upon traditional music theory concepts. (But on the other side; when using IAP the therapist is asked to analyze music not from a score, but as it is heard, which is a skill that should be more developed in rock musicians than in musicians trained in classical music). In any case I do not consider this language problem to be very serious, since language can be learned, provided there is enough culture shared. In this case I think there is. Rock musicians work with meters, scales, harmonies and phrase-structures that are not too different from those found in classical music, which is no surprise, since European classical music is one of the musical genres that influenced American popular music. In these respects I therefore feel that IAP should be suited for description of improvisations in a broad spectrum of musical genres, including rock, pop, and jazz.

There is another problem though, not mentioned by Erkkilä, which I think is more serious. The IAPs – as most models for analysis of music – are more apt for descriptions of what we play than how we play what we play. And this problem may be especially unsmiling when it comes to the question of trying to understand improvisations influenced by genres such as rock.

During the last decade there has been a growing concern within ethnomusicology and “New musicology” for the how-aspects of musical performance (performance used in a broad meaning; including improvisation and everyday-use of music). In two thought-provoking essays Charles Keil (1994a, b) challenges some traditional concepts of musical meaning by focussing upon motion and feeling – instead of Meyer’s (1956) classical “emotion and meaning” – and on participatory discrepancies (PD). Keil’s main idea is that rock and other popular music forms signify in different ways than classical music. While construction of complex melodic and harmonic syntax (development of motifs in a symphony etc.), as well as norm-deviation and tendency-inhibition (such as in a disappointing cadence), is essential in our experience of classical music, we find little of this in rock, pop, and jazz. These “what-elements” are simply not very developed in these genres (with the possible exception of advanced harmony in some sub-genres of jazz). This of course has led some to suggest that rock, pop, and jazz is of less value than classical music: “it’s all trite melodies and the same three chords over and over again”. (I am of course neither proposing that Bruscia subscribes to such attitudes nor that Erkkilä suggests that he does, so please read on).

Keil draws our attention to some very important “how-we-play-what-we-play” aspects that I find relevant for our understanding of musical improvisations in therapy. His focus is on the ongoing musical process, engendered feeling, more than on the object or the structures built through this process. When we listen to rock (and some music therapy improvisations) it is not the intervals, scales and chords that usually interest us. More often it is the grain of the voice and the “participatory discrepancies”; the “out-of time-and-out-of-tune” aspects such as playing with the pitch, playing on top, or playing lay back, etc. This music is not about development of motifs; and thus not about variability in melody and harmony, it’s about “getting into the groove”.

One of the more serious language problems I see in the IAPs is therefore that they are not very well suited for descriptions of such participatory discrepancies. Maybe it is too much to ask for this though? It may be that such descriptions will need to be situated in local contexts where language is built on shared codes related to specific genres and (sub)cultural traditions.


Bruscia, Kenneth (1987).

Improvisational Models of Music Therapy

. Springfield, Il: Charles C. Thomas.

Gouk, Penelope (2000). ‘Introduction.’ In: Gouk, Penelope (Ed.): Musical Healing in Cultural Contexts. Aldershot, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Keil, Charles (1994a). ‘Motion and Feeling through Music.’ In: Keil, Charles & Steven Feld: Music Grooves. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Keil, Charles (1994b).‘Participatory Discrepancies and the Power of Music. In: Keil, Charles & Steven Feld: Music Grooves. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Meyer, Leonard B. (1956). Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

January 2, 2001; Tony Wigram, Denmark/England:

The clinical applicability of the IAP’s

Thank you very much to the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy for creating these forums, and particularly to Brynjulf Stige, Kenneth Bruscia and Jaakko Erkkila for opening this important discussion on the Improvisation Assessment Profiles. I have been using this method of analysing musical material in music therapy sessions mainly with children on the autistic spectrum, or with other types of pervasive developmental disorder or communication disorder. This has been already been published (Wigram 1999a, 1999b, 1999c, 2000), and I don’t wish to use this space to go over that material. However there are some important questions arising from the material already presented in this forum that I would like to address.

1. Do we know what we are looking for, and how to find it?

2. Do the results of an “IAP analysis” explain the meaning of the music?

3. How can an IAP analysis underpin and validate therapeutic change ?

4. Are the IAP’s “user friendly” for clinicians and/or researchers?

One of the main difficulties in evaluating the clinical usability of the IAP’s is that there seems to be so few therapists around who have attempted to use them in analysing material from music therapy sessions, and only 4-5 examples of an IAP analysis written up in the literature that I can find. When I began to use them at Harper House I searched for case examples in the literature where someone had described a process for using the IAP’s, and I did not find any articles or chapters in books. So a question I would like to address to anyone interested in this forum is to ask for references of published or unpublished case examples of the application of IAP’s in the analysis of clinical material. As Brynjulf Stige said in 1995 and 1996, the model should be used and developed in clinical practice.

Now I would like to turn to the questions I have raised above.

1. Do we know what we are looking for, and how to find it?

This is an interesting starting point when considering the potential value of the IAP’s – but more specifically the practical usage. Kenneth Bruscia says in his discussion with Brynjulf Stige that the Salience Profile should be the starting point of an IAP investigation, as it concerns not only the most salient musical elements present in an improvisation, but it develops a more fluid approach to accessing the other profiles, and guiding your choice of what you might listen for and explore. Brynjulf Stige goes on to emphasise this. This seems to suggest that one should keep an “open mind” when listening to improvisations that occur in therapy sessions, in order to see what is going on, and what is dominant. This, in turn, will guide the clinician’s subsequent analysis and interpretation of the musical material. This seems to infer that one should not pre-determine what you are looking for, or the route by which an analysis will be conducted.

Let’s work at this from a different direction. In relating the potential value of the IAP’s to clinical practice, I have worked on the basis that they are NOT a test battery, similar to cognitive assessments, where the final Mental Processing Composite (MPC) score relies on the completion of all sub-tests in sequential and simultaneous processing in order for the MPC to fully represent the capacities of the individual. Rather, I have worked on the basis that clients’ needs, therapeutic approach, methods of intervention and goals of therapy will individually and collectively contribute to decision making about the specific focus for analysis using the IAP’s I am assuming that many clinicians define a frame and direction of therapy, such that they become specifically interested in changes that occur within narrower rather than wider parameters.

This is also relevant to the use of the IAP’s in assessment. Music Therapists often attempt to achieve a holistic “overview” of their client, taking into account all aspects of the human condition. In a metaphoric way the danger inherent in attempting to use the IAP’s is to feel that unless you are open to all aspect’s of the improvisation, and the experience that was going on between therapist and client(s), you will miss out something essential. In St. Louis at the American Music Therapy Association’s 50th Anniversary Conference, Ken Bruscia presented a very thought provoking and interesting paper on the issue of assessment in music therapy, focusing particularly on a lack of clarity and boundaries in our range of supposed professional expertise, warning that this put us in the position of attempting to present ourselves with degrees of expertise that we have not achieved through training, leading to consequential ethical issues of competence. This is not a diversion from my point about “do we know what we are looking for, and how to find it” – it is increasingly relevant. I am aware of this particularly when therapists in training reach the 4th and 5th years, and in their clinical practica want more specific and valid tools for evaluating their work than the pioneers of yesteryear We would all wish to have more satisfactory tools to measure the effects of music therapy, and to analyse what is going on (Wigram ,De Backer & Van Camp 1999).

But my main argument is directed to being specific about the focus of analysis. Undertaking an analysis of ALL aspects that could be described may not actually be productive, and may include much irrelevant data. For example, in my clinical work, I am often looking specifically for evidence of flexibility and variability in the musical production of an autistic child. Using the Profiles, I can identify the style of music making, and the most frequently used musical elements (such as tempo and rhythm, or melody and harmony), and then go to the Variability Profile to evaluate from the point of reference of this particular pathological characteristic. If I am interested in the presence of hyper-activity in a child with AD/HD, and how this might change over time, I will again identify the musical style of an improvisation and use the Tension Profile. Which music elements to use for the evaluation will depend on the instruments used, and the style of playing – particularly how consistent it is. In this way, the choice of the profile used to evaluate the musical material is linked to the therapeutic issues present due to the clinical disorder, and the needs of the client. The musical interaction between a child with severe problems with self esteem, or an adult with depression, and a therapist may, in an analysis of the improvisation using the Autonomy Profile, reveal consistent and significant examples of following or dependency. The therapeutic approach may involve helping to develop autonomy, confidence – the capacity for taking the initiative, or taking the lead. This may not take into account the integration or the variability of the musical material. The therapeutic issue here is autonomy, and the analysis can focus on that.

This is, by its nature, a reductionist process. From a qualitative point of view – perhaps more specifically from a phenomenological point of view, there is a mass of rich “data” in the improvisation, much of which may be unnecessary to evaluate and include if one predetermines the direction of the analysis by the selection of musical elements and profiles. Well, this has to be understood on the basis of certain requirements:

  • clinical expediency
  • focus of therapy
  • relevance of analysis to direction of therapy
  • time limitations for comprehensive analysis

The issue about what to select remains, and here the question about using the Salience profile is still relevant, because it may help determine the relevant MUSICAL ELEMENTS to choose for the analysis, rather than the profile. In the procedure I use, I tend towards a type of “open listening” (or, as much of my material is on video it should more properly be described as “open watching/listening”) to identify the focus of my analysis.

2.Do the results of an “IAP analysis” explain the meaning of the music?

I am interested in this in connection with the discussion points Stige, Bruscia and Erkkila all made. The comprehensive descriptors listed under each musical element and included for each gradient of each profile already define the way the music, or musical element should sound to define it within a profile of the IAP’s (Bruscia, 1987). Therefore there is already potential for a correlation between the IAP analysis and the personality or pathology of the individual. Does the IAP analysis support the characteristics of the individual ? Or – is the individual creating and interacting through musical improvisation in a way that is incongruent with their typical presentation?

Again, it is difficult to see how meanings are inferred or drawn from an IAP analysis with such a paucity of actual case examples to consider. If clinicians (or researchers) are waiting until a definitive procedure is established for the process by which one can use the IAP’s to analyse musical material, and then interpret meaning, we will be waiting for a long time. It is a chicken and egg situation, in that there will be no universally agreed procedure until enough “field trials” have been undertaken testing either one, or several procedures to determine the most reliable and consistent. In any event, meaning in the context of what is happening in the improvisations of a number of clients with a similar disorder or illness is still inevitably likely to be individual, and there will be a number of limitations on generalisability.

The criticism regarding context that Stige and Bruscia referred to is not really valid in my opinion, as the IAP’s need to stand apart as an independent analysis of musical material which is then applied to the context in order to facilitate interpretations that are specific to the individual. To date, as far as I am aware there has been no research involving inter-rater reliability (quantitative) or triangulation (qualitative) to determine whether agreement could exist in terms of shared or collective meanings. In order for that to be substantiated, a more precise procedure would need to be in place in order to define the musical elements (frequency,duration,intensity) and the gradients of a particular profile (frequency and duration) that influence or determine the “meaning” arising from the interpretation. This is all possible, in my opinion, but it hasn’t been done yet. The closest I have achieved is in scoring the frequency of perhaps the more concrete musical events such as changes in tempo, phrasing and volume in order to match them against variability and autonomy characteristics typically present in other situations. Apart from the issue of ‘on which philosophical perspective the meaning is based – existential or psychoanalytic’, there need to be some basic rules by which the analysis is undertaken in order for consistency to form part of the process by which meaning is obtained – otherwise the value of the IAP’s will founder and meaning will only ever be accepted as a ‘matter of individual opinion’. This would be a shame, as the real value of the IAP’s is that they truly are a method by which musical events and characteristics can be systematically collected, described and correlated that supports interpretation, meaning, and therefore a testimonial of therapeutic process and change.

How can an IAP analysis underpin and validate therapeutic change?

This is a key question as it goes to the heart of the process by which clinical audit and evidence based practice validates therapeutic intervention. Other professions sit comfortably with their batteries of standardised tests, secure and safe in the knowledge that the outcome of their assessment or evaluation is reliable and valid. Perhaps that is why music therapists continue to have problems in explaining what is happening, develop defences and protect themselves through and with the rhetoric of their approach and philosophy. Frequently, we are offering professional and expert opinion supported by little more than…….personal opinion. In a short book I have just completed on assessment and evaluation in the Arts therapies (Art, Music and Drama therapy) I asked contributors to show precisely how they analyse the raw material of their art medium (Fe. paintings, sketches, musical improvisations, chosen songs, dramatic improvisations, role-play) as the data supporting the interpretations they make in case reports (Wigram 2000). It was often difficult to find detailed analyses of the art medium. Frequent comments in feedback included:

  • I don’t think were taught it in our training courses
  • There is no one method
  • I report on my experience of the clients
  • I have based my assessment method on “prof.XXXX”, but have modified his ideas to my own style of therapy
  • I am describing the clients therapeutic process, not what they actually did in music/art/drama
My argument is that the more specifically you can analyse and describe the art medium, the more clearly you can support your “professional and expert opinion”. Colin Lee argues for the notation of musical material. This has been done, more often in the form of fragments that represent themes in an improvisation. Fully notated sections of improvisation in individual music therapy are made, and often presented at music therapy conferences making it very easy to see what is happening – and is an excellent way for musicians to see the raw data while they correlate this with the interpretation made within the whole context. The IAP’s are perhaps the most comprehensive and sophisticated way of describing musical material and assigning it within certain parameters, without actually notating it. Nevertheless, therapeutic change still needs to be defined within the context of a process – a “before and after” as well as describing the “during”. I have suggested adapting the IAP’s as a quantitative tool – measuring change or characteristics by counting musical occurrences or events and categorising them. Actually the determination of categories usually comes first, to go back to my point at the beginning of “knowing what I am looking for” !! Kenneth Bruscia, responding to the method I described in my article in Music Therapy Perspectives, asked me to describe more clearly how I define an event. When it begins, how long it lasts, etc. This is a point I am giving more attention to, because although I could be fairly clear that I can identify when an event starts ( for example, where a client either changes tempo, or responds to a change in tempo), it was more difficult to find out when it stops – because music ( and interaction) are multi-layered, with several events occurring simultaneously. One tempo change may be followed quite rapidly by an interactional change, the end of a phrase, the introduction of accents, change from pulsed to non-pulsed music. So in this example, it can be difficult to pinpoint when an event stops. In the analyses I have done, I have mainly concentrated on identifying when events occur – the


of an event, as a significant occurrance.

This has been very useful as substantiating evidence supporting statements about interaction (autonomy), creativity (variability), empathy (tension and congruence) and other therapeutic issues. By the way, the attaching of the profiles here to these words is purely as examples !

From a clinical point of view the IAP’s make sense as a way of analysing musical events and activity to underpin and support therapeutic change and progress. I entirely agree with Jaako Erkkila’s comments about the need to pay attention to musical details, and develop focused listening techniques. This suggest to me that Erkkila also could follow the path of “defining what he is looking for” rather than “open listening”. he talks about Finnish music therapists applying the IAP’s in their clinical work in “reduced version” – it would be interesting to hear more about how music therapists do that, and see some case examples.

This leads on to the last of my questions:

Are the IAP’s “user friendly” for the clinician or researcher?

It has been argued and stated by myself, Stige, Erkkila and also Kenneth Bruscia that the IAP’s are a heavy, large, comprehensive, extensive, etc etc – I won’t list all the adjectives, or assign them to individuals. Many music therapists and music therapy students also feel daunted at learning, digesting, applying and interpreting the IAP’s. Well the concepts and ideas are in fact beautifully straightforward, and can be applied to almost any client population, music therapy situation involving improvisation. The complexity involved is related to the method of the analysis and the interpretation of meaning. To make some sort of fair comparison, when one starts to use cognitive psychology tests (Kauffman, WISC, BAS), or personality tests (EPI, MMPI, JAS) there are JUST as many complex aspects to assimilate in making the interpretation of results, and the manuals for some of these tests/tools together with text books supporting them are long and comprehensive. So why is there resistance to something like the IAP’s? Is it purely because the determination of meaning arising out of the analysis is either unclear or unsupported, or could the resistance be to definitive forms of assessment and evaluation in general? I wrote once about the unique image of the music therapist in an early edition of the British Journal of Music Therapy, considering this “pioneer mentality” to be one of our weaknesses, and the need to define our individual uniqueness by owning our own method, techniques, assessment procedure etc as a danger in the further development of the profession. Thankfully, after all these years since 1987, there are a small number of therapists around the world working with the IAP’s in order to use them in clinical work and research. Excuse me if I don’t include everyone, but besides the enthusiasm in Denmark, Norway and Finland due to the personal interest of people who are both practising therapists and teachers of music therapy, there are others who I hope will contribute to this forum. I hope they will give their experiences, because in some cases they have adapted the IAP’s to be used in a certain way, and therefore they have formulated one of the “methods of application” I was referring to earlier.

Gemma Bellido is a music therapist trained on the course in Vitoria, Spain (Musica, Arte y Processo associated with the University of Segovia. She has been attempting to formulate the scales and gradients into a flow-chart model to facilitate a more structured process of decision making in the analysis. So taking each musical element and beginning with an extreme point of the gradient (i.e.undifferentiated) she has followed a ‘yes-no’ decision tree model. The factor that needs to be taken into account here is that movement through the gradients can be bi-directional, and therefore there is not hierarchy of achievement in a one way flow chart. However that is all quite easy to incorporate, and a two-way flow chart for each element in a profile is a way of establishing the point of reference at a moment in time in an improvisation as clearly and systematically as possible.

This method, as does the method I have been using, relies on the practitioner knowing the descriptors Bruscia has given for each element within the different profiles. I hope Gemma will contribute to this forum with her ideas.

Kat Skewes is using the IAP’s as part of her PhD research into the effects of group music therapy on bereaved adolescents, which I am co-supervising. This phenomenological study involves Open Listening, Musical Listening and Dynamic Listening, and it is in the Dynamic Listening section that Kat has employed the IAP’s by selecting consistently dominant musical elements such as tempo, rhythm, phrasing and volume and applying all the profiles for an analysis of the six different aspects. This is one of the very few examples I have found of a clinical example of the use of the IAP’s. I hope that Kat Skewes will contribute in more detail to this forum.

Britta Frederiksen made a fascinating use of the IAP’s in her analysis of improvisations in individual therapy work with a client suffering from Anorexia Nervosa (Frederiksen 1999) . The method she has used is narrative description – after listening to the chosen section of the improvisation – employing variability, tension and autonomy. It is interesting to consider which profiles are chosen when therapists select out, and whether it relates to what is in focus in their therapy work. I know this is true in mine, and wonder if, in the end, some profiles will prove more popular than others – or whether choice will relate more randomly to therapeutic approach and style, and the personality of the therapist. I hope that Britta Frederiksen will contribute in more detail to this forum.

On the specific point of this section, I think that the IAP’s can be “user-friendly” for both clinical evaluation and research – but in my opinion it does help significantly if you know what you are looking for. This returns to my theme at the beginning, which is perhaps appropriate as I try to summarise my thoughts. If one is looking rather generally – to see what is there – I still believe there is a risk that the IAP’s become overwhelming for two clear reasons:

1. There will be a mass of musical and non-musical data, and it can all be “processed” through each profile. Even if a client is playing in a fairly stable monotone on a drum – a very basic form of music making, one would still need to include rhythmic ground, rhythmic figure, phrasing, timbre, and volume as the minimum to cover most aspects of the playing, although an initial analysis through the Salience Profile will have identified elements in focus.

2. The process of interpretation, when using more than one or two of the Profiles in analysing several different musical elements is complex. It can be enlightening, and a good correlation between interpretations from the Autonomy Profile when compared with the Variability profile can be very supportive to clinical argument. However, if there is a lack of focus in the analysis, then this supports the argument that it is then difficult to take the analysis further and relate musical events to therapeutic process – or “meaning to context”.

Many of my discussion points for this forum come from my orientation as a clinician, and it is the clinical application of the IAP’s that I see both the greatest potential and the greatest problems. It is my hope that more therapists will apply the IAP’s and write up both their method of analysis and interpretation, and the process by which they made decisions.

There is a lot more to say, but I want to finish by thanking again the Nordic Journal for this productive and positive opportunity, and to pay great respect to all my colleague who have been employing the IAP’s in their clinical work or research. It is this type of discussion, and the quality of the articles, that has developed the NJMT into perhaps the leading journal of music therapy in Europe.


Bellido, G. (1999) Los perfiles de evaluacion de improvisacion: Organigrama. Unpublished Communication. Vitoria: Music Arte y Processo

Bruscia, K (1987) Improvisational Models of Music Therapy. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas

Frederiksen, Britta Vinkler (1999) ‘Analysis of musical improvisations to understand and work with elements of resistance in a client with Anorexia Nervosa@ In: Wigram, T & De Backer, J. Clinical Applications of Music Therapy in Psychiatry. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wigram, T. ( 1999a)’Contact in Music: The analysis of musical behaviour in children with communication disorder and pervasive developmental disability for differential diagnosis’. In: T. Wigram and J.De Backer (Eds) Clinical Applications of Music Therapy in Developmental Disability, Paediatric and Neurology. London:Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wigram, T. (1999b) Assessment methods in Music Therapy: A Humanistic or Natural Science Framework ? Nordisk Tidsskrift for Musikterapi, 8(1), 6-24.

Wigram, T. (1999c) Variability and Autonomy in Music Therapy Interaction: Evidence fir Diagnosis and Therapeutic Intervention for Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome. In R. Pratt and D. Erdonmez Grocke (Eds) MusicMedicine 3: MusicMedicine and Music Therapy: Expanding Horizons. Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne: Melbourne

Wigram, T (Ed.) (2000) Assessment and Evaluation in the Arts Therapies: Art Therapy, Music Therapy and Dramatherapy. Harper House Publications: Radlett.

Wigram, T., De Backer, J and Van Camp, J ( 1999) ‘Music Therapy Training: a Process to develop the musical and therapeutic identity of the music therapist.’ In: T. Wigram, and J. De Backer(eds) Clinical Applications of Music Therapy in Developmental Disability, Paediatrics and Neurology. Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London.

January 13, 2001; Katrina McFerran-Skewes, PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne, Australia:

The experience of group music therapy for younger, bereaved adolescents

Supervisors: Dr. Tony Wigram & Dr. Denise E. Grocke

Thank you for the invitation to contribute to your Journal’s web page discussion of the IAPs – I am honoured. I find it exciting that this tool is being debated within the music therapy community, particularly when such complex issues as translation into a foreign language are embraced within that dialogue. The IAPs are not without flaws, one of them being the language and constructs that have been used in developing them. Bruscia’s lack of reference to his sources, as noted by Stige (Oct, 2000 above), complicates this situation and leaves a great deal open to inference and guessing – for example was a particular term taken from the thesaurus or psychological theory? The translation of music into any language is one of the greatest challenges facing our profession, as noted by Erkkilä and others, and it is bound to be imperfect. However it is my belief that the IAPs are a comprehensive tool for assisting the music therapist to hear the musical possibilities of a clinical improvisation. It is also my belief that the ability to LISTEN to our clients is our greatest asset, perhaps an opposing position to Lee who seems to contend that our ability to play is our greatest skill. I hope to focus the following discussion on listening in context of the IAPs and explain my own application of them.

Listening with the IAPs

The ability to listen to the music we make in music therapy is a complex skill, but not an unnatural skill for a musician. Composer Aaron Copland (1957) encourages a conscious and focused listening style that is rewarding for the listener and allows a composer’s work to be truly appreciated. He concludes his text by stating “Music can only be really alive when there are listeners who are really alive. To listen intently, to listen consciously, to listen with one’s whole intelligence is the least we can do in the furtherance of an art that is one of the glories of mankind” (p.275). Bruscia’s IAPs assist us in achieving this aim by providing a tool that addresses the objective music, and separates the listening from the stage of interpretation. It would seems that this is a similar position to that taken by Gary Ansdell (interview, 2000) who has suggested that it is both possible and important to describe the music in music therapy improvisations before leaping to interpretation. In fact, although some significant differences do exist, Ansdell’s (1991) model of musical assessment is almost a visual representation of the Bruscia Profiles and Scales. Instead of focusing on the psychological followed by the musical, Ansdell begins with the musical elements and then moves to the psychology, or ‘quality’, of how they are played. Both Ansdell’s Map and the IAPs help us to generate a description of the musical material that can then be articulated or interpreted within the music therapy context.

The IAPs also assist somewhat in capturing the ‘quality’ of the music created in therapy through the use of the term timbre, however Bruscia leaves much of the articulation of this issue to the verbal interpretation in Stage 6. My own interviews of specialists in group improvisation suggest that the ‘quality’ of the musical material is the most significant aspect of the music therapy experience (McFerran-Skewes, uncompleted Doctoral Thesis). Similarly, in Europe many music therapists appear to draw on the work of Daniel Stern, who also emphasises the importance of quality, or tone, in his research into mother-infant interactions. Thus, as Stige notes in the initial interview with Bruscia, the IAPs help describe the processes of the improvisation, however a tool that describes both the quality of the music and the dynamics of a music therapy session may be the next evolutionary step.

Nonetheless it is difficult to develop a prescriptive, or even systematic, approach to ‘quality’. Discerning ‘quality’ requires an open stance, which Bruscia encompasses within the salience profile of the IAPs. However phenomenological strategies also provide a method for generating an open and yet rigorous listening style that allows the ‘quality’ of the music to emerge. Arnason (1997) and Lee (2000) have already been influenced by the phenomenological approaches to musical analysis developed by Ferrara (1984, 1991), seemingly because of the impressive results achieved in capturing not only the objective music, but also the ‘quality’ of the music therapy interaction. Within my own thesis I also attempt to encompass not only the objective music that Bruscia aims to capture, but also the ‘qualities’ or the nature of that musical material through listening from a variety of perspectives that include the IAPs.

Applying the IAPs

I agree with Bruscia that the salience profile is the best place to start listening with the IAPs. I also believe that this is similar to the opening moments of therapy, where one listens to the musical or verbal material of the client in order to get a sense of direction for that session. The Salience profile helps to focus listening beyond instrument choice, and beyond more obvious musical elements such as volume or tempo. It captures what we do naturally – we listen. Having listened for the most obvious quality of the music, we are then guided through the application of the remaining profiles. In my research I often follow the application of the salience profile with the variability profile, in order to gauge if the salient quality remains salient, or if I was overly influenced by my initial perceptions. What changes, what stays the same? Then I follow this up with decisions about the integration and coherence of the piece and the overall levels of tension, and finally I use the autonomy profile if this has information has not already been covered.

This listening process is more difficult to achieve during the experience of being in an improvisation, when it is complicated, if not impossible to discern the overall structure of the piece. However this is where I believe the IAPs stand strong and other musical analysis methods fall – the IAPs do not include the Schenkerian focus on structure as the basis of understanding music. As Bruscia states, the IAPs allow you to hear the music as it is played, not only in retrospect. In the reality of the clinical situation it is possible to note the most salient feature of the improvisation and engage musically with that aspect and whatever players are influenced by it. This allows the participating music therapist to notice the level of integration and make therapeutic decisions about their role. It allows the therapist to experience the level of tension present in the salient properties of the music and address this in whatever way is appropriate to the context of the experience. It allows us to focus our listening and then make appropriate decisions about what clinical technique is most useful in that moment.

Erkkilä notes that the diverse training of ‘Rock’ and ‘Classical’ musicians may have affected his ability to apply the IAPs, however I disagree, as does Stige. I believe the IAPs direct listening not to the musical elements that we are taught in classical music theory, rather they allow the therapist to focus on the inter-relationships of those elements within the therapeutic context. With a little practice, the IAPs become a part of the therapist’s listening style – what stands out, does it change, how intense is it, is everybody a part of this or is their differences between the players, who is dominating and who is following. These questions are relevant to my music therapy improvisation experiences. The use of terms such as congruence, integration and autonomy can be difficult to understand even with English as a first language, however once understood from Bruscia’s personal construct, they are useful and easy to apply.

A Research Example

I would like to finish with an example from my own research. In the final stage of this investigation I am attempting to generate descriptions of the musical material created by six younger bereaved teenagers and myself over ten weekly group sessions. I have consciously separated the stage of listening and description from the stage of interpreting and trying to understand the musical material, as suggested by Ansdell. In my method of analysis I have used Bruscia’s IAPs as one of four stages in a listening model that is heavily influenced by the phenomenological approaches of Ferrara (1991) and Arnason (1997). First I listen to the piece openly (similar to the salience profile, but less directed to musical elements); then I listen to the musical elements and what I hear from my classical theory training; then I use the IAPs to listen to the dynamics of the music; and finally I listen to myself because I know that I am listening as well as playing in the improvisation and that I am responding in the moment to what I experience musically. I then summarise the narrative descriptions written for each stage in order to create a succinct and comprehensive description of the music itself.

Within the group, group improvisation and group music sharing were the two music therapy techniques used exclusively to work through the young people’s issues of loss, grief and development. The group members also used verbal and non-verbal communication – commonly known as ‘mucking about’ – to process the experience (McFerran-Skewes & Grocke, 2000; McFerran-Skewes, 2000; Skewes and Grocke, 2000). Please find below a description of one of the improvisations from the 6th of 10 sessions with this group of bereaved young people. The ability of this description to communicate something relevant to the reader about the group’s musical material should support, or disprove, the ideas I have proposed above. Additionally it may be useful to see the application of the IAPs through identifying sentences that come directly from them – in particular key words such as differentiation (which was significant in this particular stage of the group’s development), variety, integrate, tense and stable.

Session 6, Improvisation Number 2, 2:00

This improvisation begins with an unsuccessful attempt by the group leader to control the music that has already begun, and she is responded to by one of the group member’s commenting sarcastically “yes mum” and another growing confused about whether to begin or not. This refusal to be restricted is evident throughout this highly differentiated improvisation, with the ongoing rhythmic grounds and patterns being played at a variety of speeds, both in comparison to one another, and within their own parts. A diverse range of rhythmic patterns full of dramatic runs and unrestrained shapes can be heard on the drums, and even the group leader spends the middle section of the improvisation differentiating her own playing without necessarily being in time with other players, and intensifying her own rhythmic patterns by thickening their texture and volume. Although at times the seemingly random parts seem to border on tense and overdifferentiated, there is also a shared focus that calms and holds the improvisation together. There are a number of strong rhythmic pulses evident, heard more loudly in the Agogo, at a softer level of loudness on the Two-tone Wood Block Guiro, as well as on the Doumbek, which is held with an open base that offers a deep and strong tone to its rhythmic ground. It is difficult to discern some of the individual lines because most players play constantly and at a steady volume, creating a stable texture that integrates the diverse parts. There is also some interaction between the highly differentiated parts however. There are moments of communion between the speeds and patterns of the various drums, the Agogo and the Doumbek, and a possible sharing of rhythmic patterns by all members of the improvisation. The group leader paces with a range of rhythmic grounds in turn for the first part of the improvisation, offering some shape to the undifferentiated sounds, and imitating rhythmic patterns that can be heard within the group sound. As the improvisation begins to move towards a close, the group leader calms her playing, pacing with the Agogo and Two-tone Wood Block Guiro, who have already started to play together and create a single rhythmic ground that moves into the coda. It is difficult to hear the occasional shakes of the Tambourine being played until these final moments, when the marimba mallet striking it accompanies the Concert Tom to the final beat where they conclude at exactly the same moment accompanied by the verbal teasing of another group member. The verbal reaction that follows is of soft laughter, with the exception of the group leader, whose laugh punctuates the otherwise calm moment.

Audiofile [mp3] SkewesS6N2mpeg


Ansdell, G. (1991). Mapping the territory. British Journal of Music Therapy, 5 (2), 18 – 27.

Arnason, C. (1997). The experience of music therapists in an improvisational music therapy group. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.

Copland, A. (1957). What to listen for in music. USA: McGraw Hill Inc.

Ferrara, L. (1984). Phenomenology as a tool for musical analysis, The Musical Quarterly, 70, p. 355-373.

Ferrara, L. (1991). Philosophy and the analysis of music: Bridges to musical sound, form and reference. USA: Excelsior Music Publishing Company.

Lee, C. (2000). A method of analyzing improvisations in music therapy. Journal of Music Therapy (Special Issue on Assessment), 37 (2), pp. 147 – 167.

McFerran-Skewes, K. (2000) From the mouths of babes: The response of six younger, bereaved teenagers to the experience of psychodynamic group music therapy. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 11.

McFerran-Skewes, K. & Grocke, D.E. (2000) What do grieving young people and music therapy have in common: Exploring the match between creativity and younger adolescents. European Journal of Palliative Care, 7 (6), 227 – 230.

McFerran-Skewes, K. (uncompleted) The experience of group music therapy for younger, bereaved adolescents. Doctoral Thesis, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Skewes, K. & Grocke, D.E. (2000) What does group music therapy offer to bereaved young people: A rounded approach to the grieving adolescent. Grief Matters: The Australian Journal of Loss and Grief, 3 (3), 54 – 61.

January 16, 2001; Jaakko Erkkilä, Finland:


I want to thank both Brynjulf Stige and Tony Wigram for their participation, as well as for their comments on my first contribution to IAP-discussion. Like Wigram stated, it is hard to find IAP-writings in the databases which can be interpreted, so that generally speaking clinicians have not found, or adopted the method. Thus, it was important that those few clinicians (for instance those mentioned by Wigram) with clinical experience on IAP would come forward and share their experiences. Meanwhile, I would like to comment on some topics discussed so far.

First, I want to clarify what I ment in my first contribution when I stated that Finnish music therapists encounter cultural problems in trying to understand IAP since their musical background has so far based more on rock music than on classic music. Stige states that “the way Erkkilä uses this example I feel obscures more than clarifies this problem [the problem of culture and context conserning our ability to talk about music]” Later on Stige writes: “Rock musicians work with meters, scales, harmonies and phrase-structures that are not too different from these found in classical music…”

Still I can not fully agree with him. Popular and classic music are two different musical cultures where not only the way of thinking, but also the meaning and use of many musical concepts differ from each others. When popular music gradually has achieved its academic position too, it of course has (has had to) adopted a lot of concepts from classic camp – which has not always been an easy process. However, just the concepts Stige listed above are those where there is plenty of definitional problems as well as some deviations between, and inside, the two main genres.

Without speaking more about the differences between popular and classic music cultures I would like to take an example of a definitional problem concerning a musical concept inside classic music tradition. After interviewing many experts of classic music I got many nice explanations about the concept of meter in music. It was interesting, however, that all the definitions were somewhat different. Then I took my music lexicon and checked out how the concept is defined there. I found a long text which I am not going to refer to fully here, but let me quote a little excerpt (which is my translation from Finnish text – so excuse the clumsyness): “These two terms, rhythm and meter, as well as their reciprocal relationship, are impossible to define exactly because the meaning of them varies a lot in different cultures, and in different theories of rhythm in different eras…” Later on: “The concept of meter has been applied to music in many ways. Meter can be applied mainly only to music (western) having regular times” (like 2/4, 4/4 etc.).

After all, what should we think about a free improvisation in clinical setting? Is it popular or classic music, or is it music at all (in musical sense)? Is it based on regular times like western music does? Is it a question about harmony as a musical concept, if my client plays cluster chords without having a smallest idea about the principles of music, or could it be for instance an expression of aggression depending on what I know about his/her context? If there is meter out there, what can I say about it, where does it start and where does it end, and what definition for meter should I use? If it is self-evident for me as a music therapist then what a client is playing is not worth explaining by musical terms, however should I do it?

Stige reminds that “when using IAP the therapist is asked to analyze music not from a score, but as it is heard…” In his contribution, Wigram states “…although I could be fairly clear that I can identify when an event starts (for example, where a client either changes tempo, or responds to a change in tempo, it was more difficult to find out when it stops – because music (and interaction) are multi-layered, with several events occuring simultaneously”. So, if we should say something, lets say about the meter or rhytmic subdivisions of an improvisation without making detailed musical analysis, just by trusting in our ear – and at the same time we know that music is (like it is) multi-layered, and that we can not easily capture all the details concerning different musical phenomens – what is the value of our analysis?

If we are concluding from an improvisation: “VARIABILITY: Meter/Subdivisions=contrasting , how do we answer if someone asks:

  • how did you came to your conclusion on meter/subdivisions with that improvisation?
  • What was the definition used on meter?
  • What is the main difference between the meter and subdivisions according to the definiton you are using?
  • Are all the music therapists using the same definition on meter when doing improvisation analysis?
  • If it is well-founded to your mind to make move from contrasting to variable, how do you define, what actually must happen in music, and how can you perceive it without making a detailed musical analysis?
  • When you say that it is contrasting, is it contrasting in relation to this client, to the diagnostic population s/he represents, or to the whole population?
  • You gave very detailed answers, how many times you actually listened to the improvisation?

I think that before we can pay attention to musical details we must carefully define those details. This is especially important when developing tests (I am not considering IAP equal to test, which it is not) like those in cognitive psychology that Wigram refers to. It is comprehensible that those tests are complex with long and detailed manuals if they tend to exceed all the “cultural” and “definitional” obstacles/variations. In addition to that, as far as I know, psychological tests have been meant to be used by psychologists, and many of them are not allowed to be used by “outsiders”.

Because of their complexity, they do not easily fit to everyday clinical use – they are too complex on that. I do not know what the situation is abroad, but in Finland, some clinicians are saying that because psychologists usually do not have experience on process-based working, and the testing situation often is uncomfortable or even freightening for a client, final scorings often tend to give a wrong picture (underestimated?) of a person under evaluation. So, after a few music therapy sessions, a client often seems to show a better level of performance than psychological test has proved before. Is it because music therapy has been so effective, or because in music therapy a client has acted more freely, without tensions, as him/herself, not as a test-person?

My next point is that music therapists are not necessarily lazy when they do not adopt IAP. Maybe the reason is that eventhough there is some literature available on IAP it is not enough. People may be in need of more education in order to be able to apply IAP in their clinical practice. If psychologists need all those big manuals, and long education and exercises with their tests, on what ground should music therapists be able to adopt everyhting from a single literal source (though we can not quite compare IAP with tests) – especially when there obviously is a lot of definitional problems concerning the concepts, cultural differences etc.?

When I wrote about “should-be-clear”-terms in my last contribution I referred to musical concepts. Now I would like to take a step forward. Also psychotherapy is full of “should-be-clear”-terms. We are talking, for instance, about transference as a self-evident clinical phenomen – at least at general level we know what it is, as well as we can utilise it in our clinical work. However, if we try to speak about transference precisely, so that the concept could be suitable even as a part of a psychotherapy test, we will meet plenty of definitional problems. When talking about transference it can be noticed that clinicians have developed their own personal definitions on it. An appreciated Finnish senior psychoanalyst, Martti Siirala states that he does not use the concept of counter-transference at all, any more. For him, transference is enough. In “Dynamic of Music Psychotherapy” we can find a nice as well as covering description on transference (and on counter-transference). There too, the author admits that the concept have been reformed numerous times during its history.

What does this mean? It means, that we have plenty of books on the theory of psychotherapy in different countries, and that we can find plenty of different, sometimes even confusing definitions on the basic concepts, like transference, of psychotherapy. Some are up to date, some are based on the early writings of Freud, some are up to date but do differ from main-stream, etc.

When making improvisation analysis in music therapy one is facing a multi-layered puzzle. It is of course possible to trace to musical events, even with details, on the presumption that an analyser has sufficient time, and enough skills to do that. After the analysis process, the process of interpretation starts. The content of interpretation depends on the analysis method used, and on the pscyhotherapeutic view one has. In many cases it is important to start with improvisation, from music, so to say. This is the case especially if a client has severe communicational disabilities, for some reason or other. Especially in these cases I see IAP as useful. Bruscia (in interview) himself states very clearly that the focus of his attention when developing IAP was the sound object itself (the musical improvisation). In music psychotherapy, however, we often have verbally competent clients who are able to revert to his/her improvisation afterwards. Bruscia states: “If one adopts the position that the meaning of an improvisation is always mediated by context and language, and thus constructed or co-constructed by the improvisers, then the actual musical components and qualities of the improvisation offer less significant or very little meaning in themselves, independent of the improvisers´ constructions.”

What remains a bit unclear to me is – should we sometimes adopt the above mentioned position and forget the sound object as such? In other words, is IAP at its best in the situations where client has verbal and/or communicational problems?

Let me take a short example. I had a work-shop with my students on seven basic emotions (Lowen 1965) after the idea by Priestley . One couple was given the topic “guilty” which they should improvise together. Others did not know what the topic was, but they were asked it after the improvisation – on the base of music. Only one student out of twelve could recognize the original topic from the base of music. When improvisers told about their experience it came out that the improvisation process had been very profound and realistic for them, and especially one of them told about his experience at great length by illustrating the “quilty” theme with many examples picked up from his life-history.

Improvisation as a piece of music was undeniably interesting, but it was very clear that the extra-musical ideas, and the processing of them took a dominant role in discussion. In cases like this I have been wondering what the role of IAP is? Well, of course there could had been many interesting details concerning for instance the interaction of a couple (Autonomy profile…), etc., but, and here I refer to Wigrams contribution, is it more important to focus the analysis process upon the theme under question, and thus limit the analysis already in advance. In this case, the main outcome was the verbal discussion arisen from the music in a given topic. What might/should/could be the role, and the meaning of IAP in this kind of process?

February 12, 2001, Brynjulf Stige, Sogn og Fjordane College, Sandane, Norway:

Defining the problem –

or: Is defining the problem?

(1) In a discussion the participants may either become inconsiderate and start shouting at each other instead of discussing themes of interest, or they may become too polite and careful to actually challenge and stimulate each other’s thinking. Suspicion in the direction of the latter may be created when I start this contribution by expressing how much I have enjoyed reading the contributions written by Wigram, Erkillä, and Skewes. But never mind, I need to say this: In a small discipline you may have interests that are not shared by too many in the radius of your daily life and work. Not because they are bad colleagues, not at all, but the discipline of music therapy is very large in scope compared to the size of the profession. Your nearest friends and colleagues may have very sound and broad interests, but given the scope of possible themes of interest you may still have this lonely feeling that comes when you have strong interest for a topic and not too many to share it with. For me IAP has been such a topic for years. Bruscia’s model touches upon some major problems within our field – such as how to describe, analyze, and interpret the function and meaning of music in therapy – and I am not prepared to write this “lonely situation” off as myself having a too peculiar interest. (I have some, but I don’t think this is one of them). How stimulating then to be able to use this possibility for communication and discussion with colleagues around the world!

(2) In order to produce a text with some focus I will concentrate on Erkkilä’s ideas this time, while the contributions by Wigram and Skewes also caught my interest and some of my comments here connect to their texts too. To be able to discuss something you actually need to agree about quite a few things. And this is certainly the case here. In some ways my arguments will more be attempts of elaborating on some of the issues raised by Erkkilä than of arguing against his arguments. Erkkilä discusses problems of definition, and he suggests that we need to question their value and function. In many respects I agree with him, if not in every detail of his argument. That I welcome a discussion of problems of definition does not per definition mean that I am negative to Bruscia’s original project though; to define profiles and scales for description and interpretation of improvisations in music therapy. I regard as a real contribution to the discipline any serious attempt to devise categories for the study of musicking in music therapy.

(3) This last sentence borrows its structure and form from a sentence written by Gregory Bateson in 1935, in a discussion of categories for description of culture contact (Bateson, 1972/2000, p. 61). Bateson commented upon some categories provided by the Committee of the Social Sciences Research Council at that time and he took the double position of acknowledging the need for categories and warning against the dangers of misleading categorization. His simple and clear example of the latter is the problems the (at that time) young discipline of criminology had given itself by starting off with an attempt of defining a “criminal type”. The search for such a definition hampered the development of the discipline, by supporting a one-sided focus upon the individual as cause of criminal problems. The categorization mislead the scholars by having them look in a wrong direction, or – to say the least – in only one of the possible constructive directions. Bateson – who later would become one of the pioneers of the application of systems theories for the study of man – warned against what he considered a too narrow unit of analysis.

(4) Are similar dangers hidden in the categories of IAP? I do not want to answer at this point. It probably depends on how we use the model. Let us take a look at the problems suggested by Erkkilä. Categories of music are not universal, not necessarily reflecting real subdivisions, but abstractions (constructions might be another word, but it might suggest too much of projection onto the material and too little of interaction with it). I think description of music is very much about “aspect hearing”. Different aspects may be relevant for different listeners, in different contexts. So far, at a general level, I think Erkkilä and I agree pretty much, if I have understood him correctly.

(5) In my first comment – “Rock , Language and PDs” – I wanted to be careful and not go too far though. Local knowledge and local meaning does not mean that local is all there is. How could we at all be able to share or discuss differences if there were nothing but differences? Let us now bypass the discussion of universals in music (a recent book by Wallin, Merker & Brown (2000) has some interesting chapters on this). What I wanted to underline in my last contribution is that in Western countries there is a broader cultural history with elements shared between subcultures, so that many elements of Western classical music (at least from Mozart to Mahler) are also found in Western popular music. An equal tempered scale is usually used, the chords are usually based upon tonal functional harmonies, the music is usually structured by a basic beat and ordered in meters such as 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4, etc. (again let’s bypass some details, such as the fact that some “authenticity-purists” play Bach on well-tempered instead of equal-tempered instruments, etc.). A musicologist who has been writing extensively about both popular music and classical music is Christopher Small. In his last book Musicking (1998) he again touches upon these shared elements. The cultural influence of these traditions has been so strong that traditions that used to be different have been changing in the same direction. Take for instance Norwegian folk music, which used to be performed in non-tempered scales. You don’t hear that too often anymore, and when you do, people tend to think that the performer is out of tune and off the pitch.

(6) Do we find these elements (tonal functional harmonies, beats and meters, etc.) in clinical improvisations? I suggest that very often we do, because improvisation is musicking where the agents use the musics of their (sub)cultures as frames of reference, and in Western countries at least these musics quite often use the very same elements. Most of the instruments we use in music therapy are equal-tempered, and the clients’ listening experience before coming to music therapy is a cultural heritage that influences their playing strongly. If they do not play with a basic beat or do not use tonal functional harmony they are usually aware of that. This suggests to me that a model such as IAP may provide us with a tool for description of some important elements of most clinical improvisations. The IAPs could serve the function Bruscia intended: “Their purpose was to provide a method for helping the therapist to analyze the sound object itself (the musical improvisation)” (Bruscia, in the interview in Forum). As any tool the IAPs are likely to have some limitations though. One problem indicated above is when clients have a very different cultural background. In my contribution of October 10, 2000 I commented upon another limitation; the participatory discrepancies so important to rock and popular music are not easy to describe with the categories of IAP.

(7) Description of syntax is one thing, meaning another, as Erkkilä indicates. The meaning of the musicking is not a reflection of the structure of the object. I would rather suggest that meanings (several are usually possible) are relationships between texts (objects) and contexts. And I cannot agree with Bruscia when he – later in the same interview – states that “If one adopts the position that the meaning of an improvisation is always mediated by context and language, and thus constructed or co-constructed by the improvisers, then the actual musical components and qualities of the improvisation offer less significant or very little meaning in themselves, independent of the improvisers’ constructions.” To suggest that meanings are in the relationships – as I do – is not to suggest that the relata are irrelevant of not significant. But I cannot see how meaning may transcend or escape cultural and contextual mediation. The therapist may of course mean that there are meanings not understood or experienced consciously by the client, but that is not because those meanings belong to the object, it is because the contexts created by the therapists are different from those created by the client.

(8) At times then, the same object – or very similar objects – may create very different meanings, because the contexts change. I take this as a reminder: The meaning does not belong to the level of syntax but to the level of pragmatics. Still – and this is one of the reasons why I find IAP so important – it would be wrong to adopt the position that the level of syntax is unimportant or irrelevant. In the case of Harold, a client I have discussed earlier (Stige, 1999), two almost identical blues improvisations took on different meanings because they were subjected to two different contexts of body experience (relaxation and pain), which again related differently to the client’s life history. This does not mean that syntax was not part of this signification process. Syntax was in fact carefully chosen (consciously and unconsciously I presume) by client and therapist. Harold chose a predictable and stable rhythmical pattern on the congas. The predictability was related to his need for safety and relief from anxiety. The rhythmical pattern he played had a resemblance to the music of the brass band he never had a chance to play in as a child. Etc. As a therapist I chose to play the blues, which I felt could contain both his and my own emotions, as well as our interaction. A blues improvisation could provide Harold with the predictability he needed rhythmically and harmonically (if I left tonal functional harmony I would create too much anxiety at this point).

(9) Other improvisations may have contours of more dramatic development than the blues-improvisations referred to above, and these will then provide very different proto-narratives for construction of meaning. How you may use an object depends on the object, among many other things (your own history, the social situation, etc., etc.). Meaning is use Wittgenstein (1953/1967) said. This sounds like a slogan, and has been used as a slogan. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that meaning is established through use, or something like that? Sometimes maybe, but I think Wittgenstein had some very specific reasons for putting it the way he did. He warned us against thinking of meaning as something given or established in the object (or in the structure of language) and only changed a little bit by context. Meaning is something created between people engaged in what he called language games; agents acting and interacting in specific contexts. In a radical sense the object does not exist independent of the context. With this I do not mean – and I think my argument is supported by that of Wittgenstein – that the object is a blank screen where I can project whatever is in my mind. Rather I would say that there is a reciprocal constitution of mind and object.

(10) If we take this into consideration we can see that no theory could define the meaning of music in music therapy, at best only give some guidelines for the study of it. My argument suggests that we need to go ethnographic, we need to study how music is used in specific cases by specific clients in interaction with their therapists. The objects created through the musicking is still of interest. What aspects of the objects are heard and related to by the agents involved? I propose that IAP may be one of the tools for the investigation of such issues.

(11) The question then is: what kind of a tool is IAP? I think Bruscia states something important when he – in the interview – suggests that the issue concerning the IAPs is not whether they are true or not, but whether they are useful. That is how we evaluate tools. Among IAPs strengths we could count that they make possible general descriptions of what the music sounds like in ways accessible for other scholars within the field (provided they also studied IAP). They for instance make it possible for us to read Skewes’ account of a group improvisation and understand much of what she is saying and of how the music must sound like (still, of course, it was important to be able to listen to the music in conjunction with her narrative.

(12) As a tool the IAPs are not accurate enough for some purposes, seems to be Wigram’s concern. We need more accuracy in order to provide quantitative documentation of change in music therapy. It is probably the case that the profession needs approaches for doing that, but then we do not talk about IAP anymore, do we? Bruscia (1987) is specific in saying that IAP is not designed for quantitative analysis, and I think for good reasons. The scales are not designed that way. Quantitative analysis, at least with the use of parametric statistics which seems to be what Wigram suggests, requires scales at a different level of measurement. Parametric statistic analysis requires data based on interval or ratio scales (for a clear overview of these issues, see Decuir, 1995), while the IAPs are ordinal scales. With the use of the IAPs we are only ranking musical expressions on a scale from 1 to 5. Nothing is said about the distance between the codes, or to be more specific: the difference between a 2 and a 3 is not the same as the difference between a 1 and a 2. To calculate means, variance, etc., then simply does not make sense.

(13) It may be countered that within the tradition of quantitative research such problems are not always “taken so seriously”. Parametric statistics are calculated even though the scales involved do not meet the criteria of being interval or ratio scales. I think this is a problem for this research tradition. Be this as it may. In any case I think Bruscia (1987) had very good reasons for suggesting that the IAPs are not designed for quantitative analysis. IAP is based upon judgement and not measurement, and in the guidelines provided by Bruscia it is explicitly stated that the distances between the codes should not be treated as equal intervals. He suggests that the codes 1 and 5 be used rarely, only in extreme cases. I therefore think that researchers who want to develop quantitative evaluation of music therapy will need a different starting point than the IAPs.

(14) “”But is a blurred concept a concept at all?” – Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all? Is it even always an advantage to replace an indistinct picture by a sharp one? Isn’t the indistinct one often exactly what we need?” (Wittgenstein, 1953/1967, § 71). I think we need to think about those questions.


Bateson, Gregory (1972/2000). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Bruscia, Kenneth (1987): ‘Improvisation Assessment Profiles.’ In: Improvisational Models of Music Therapy. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.

Decuir, Anthony (1995). ‘Statistical Methods of Analysis.’ In: Wheeler, Barbara (Ed.): Music Therapy Research. Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.

Small, Christopher (1998). Musicking. The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press.

Stige, Brynjulf (1999). ‘The meaning of music – From the client’s perspective.’ In: Wigram, Tony & Jos De Backer: Clinical Applications of Music Therapy in Psychiatry. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wallin, Nils L.; Merker, Björn & Steven Brown (2000). The Origins of Music. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953/1967). Philosophical Investigations. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

February 28, 2001, Dr. Tony Wigram:

Quantifiable Data, Statistical Analysis and the IAP’s

Thank you to Brynjulf Stige for the latest thought-provoking contribution to this discussion. I would like to respond specifically to points 12 and 13 from Stige’s discussion. I am not quite sure if I have been misunderstood, misquoted or misrepresented from the suggestions I was making in the contribution I wrote at the beginning of January. However the issue of ‘

Quantitative vv Qualitative’

seems to have reared its ugly head again, and I find myself once again as a beleaguered defender of quantitative analysis and interpretation. However, first of all it is important to state that in extrapolating data through the use of the IAP’s that lends itself to quantitative analysis, this is only

one method

of using this assessment package for analysing and interpreting improvisations.

Now I have something of a motivation to try and use the IAP’s this way, and just as I would not want to reject others attempts to use IAP’s for qualitative analysis, I would prefer that my more quantitative approach was also not rejected, especially as it does not relate to or require the type of parametric statistics that Stige refers to in point 12 of his paper. At the same time, I would not wish to rule out the eventual use of either parametric or non-parametric statistics, providing the numerical data gained from the analysis conforms appropriately to statistical analysis, and achieves both reliability and validity. The important question to address is why might one want to undertake a quantitative analysis of data using the IAP’s, not whether it should be recommended. It is important here to clarify some points relating to what Stige has assumed I was suggesting, and in fact what I have actually written:

  1. The functional, quantitative use I have made of the IAP’s so far has involved scoring (counting) events in musical improvisation and assigning scores to pre-determined categories (Wigram 1999a,1999b). For example, having decided that I want to look specifically at changes in tempo as a musical indicator related to autonomy, I have counted the number of times one or other person in a client-therapist improvisation changed tempo, and what provoked it. Therefore it is relatively easy to make a “judgement” about the initiative that was taken to change tempo – whether it was independent or dependent on another, and to identify the event as standing somewhere on the gradients of the autonomy profile. This event, together with others within the same category (tempo – rhythmic ground) provides data that can be initially used for descriptive statistics.
  2. Descriptive statistics are essentially different from inferential statistics, and set out to summarise the experience. The difference can also be noted in drawing a distinction between samples and populations (Robson 1985; Roundtree 1981; West 1992). This is not so clear at first in Wheeler (1995), where Decuir initially suggests the use of descriptive statistics to identify parameters of a population or a sample. Inferential statistics , as Decuir later states clearly, allow the researcher to “….go beyond description to infer or estimate certain population characteristics based on a sample of the population.” Now the type of descriptive statistics that can be employed to quantify data analysis from the IAP’s are clearly measures of central tendency (mean, mode, median and standard deviation), and to a lesser degree correlation coefficients. Frequency data, such as numbers of events, is ripe for analysis through descriptive statistics, and appropriate conclusions can be drawn from such analysis in single cases. Correlations could be undertaken, although I hasten to add that I have not used this type of comparative analysis for measuring the relationship between two different sets of data. The closest I have come is in correlating musical events in a child’s musical behaviour during a music therapy assessment with what is known and reported about their behaviour in other situations. This is, of course, a very interesting and often fruitful process of correlation, even at a crude level, and frequently raises the profile of music therapy as an environment where one sees a ’very different child’. Therefore correlational studies are to be encouraged.
  3. Stige is correct in clarifying that the gradients of the IAP’s are neither on a ratio or interval scale, and therefore parametric statistics cannot be undertaken on a set of data if one is computing on the basis of equidistant points on a scale. That is pretty obvious, and I don’t recall ever suggesting this. However non-parametric tests could be used. The value of non-parametric statistics is that rather than calculating the exact numerical difference between scores, and basing the statistical computation on this, non-parametric tests only take into account whether certain scores are higher or lower than other scores, effectively rank ordering the scores, as can be see in a Wilcoxon Signed-Ranks Test, Mann-Whitney U ,a Friedman or a Kruskal-Wallis (Parametric equivalents: related t-test, unrelated t-test, 1 way ANOVA related or 1 way ANOVA unrelated respectively). The point here is the availability of less robust, but applicable statistical tests should analysis comparing the number of scored events on an ordinal scale seem appropriate through rank ordering, and where the data is clearly not homogenous (see Greene and D’Olivera).
  4. For a different type of analysis , categories can be developed and statistical tests applied (chi-square). The gradients on the IAP’s could be treated as categories – and the assignment of musical elements defined as a whole series of sub-categories f.e. rhythmic ground follower, rhythmic ground leader, contrasting phrasing, rigid phrasing. The normal use of the chi-square is where the data is nominal and the subjects are assigned to one or more categories. In the case of the IAP’s it would be the musical events that could be assigned to categories, as given above in the example. One is therefore attempting to find out whether there is some significant difference between categories. A chi-square can compute a comparison of the observed frequencies by which a number of events will fall into different categories (cells) with the expected frequencies for each ’category’ if the differences are due to chance, as stated by the null hypothesis. It is important to note that a minimum number of at least twenty events (or subjects) is required to have enough allocated to each category (cell). The gradients on the IAP’s are ordinal data, but can also be described as categories of description, response or interaction and therefore could lend themselves well to this type of statistical analysis. Again I hasten to add that I have not undertaken such an analysis, but as I write this I am becoming increasingly inspired to try it out!
  5. Gradients 1 and 5: Stige points out that Bruscia recommended that the extreme points of the gradients on all six profiles be used rarely “..only in extreme cases”. I am not at all clear about the rational behind this recommendation, and equally why Stige lays stress on it himself. It appears to me that these extreme points of the gradients are most applicable when the musical playing correlates with quite evident pathological characteristics. Bruscia himself refers to the appropriate use of 1 & 5 in identifying these characteristics (p.420). Now if one analyses a ten minute improvisation, it is unlikely that one could categorise the whole piece as all being at one or other extreme – except in the cases of the most rigid and extreme pathologies. Perhaps that is what is being argued here – the inappropriateness of characterising a whole section of improvisation with such an extreme descriptor. However, as I have tried to point out in previous articles (Wigram 1999a, 1999b) a musical event can begin and end in a shorter time period, and there can be many events in one improvisation. Those events can be analysed and characterised anywhere between 1-5 on the gradients of the profile, and in one improvisation one can encounter and experience what could be called “pathological playing” and “healthy playing”. It is the proportion of both, and the frequency with which they occur as well as the timing of these events that helps me determine diagnosis, degree of pathology, potential, strengths and weaknesses – all that is hoped for in describing a client, rather than just labelling.

In conclusion, I am writing a sort of rebuttal to the comments that Stige has made in points 12 & 13 of his latest paper and, without wishing to change the tone of this excellent discussion, to challenge some of the rather legislative statements he has made about the potential use of the IAP’s. Quantitative analysis typically merits strong critique, and my own attempts to score events, and argue diagnosis, strengths and weaknesses on the basis of those scores have already been challenged, particularly in terms of defining what I describe as ‘an event’. Having spent two years studying research design and statistics, I have learnt that it is important to make informed decisions about the type of statistical analysis that is appropriate and applicable. Descriptive statistics can be applied to the IAP’s. Correlational, Categorisation and Non-Parametric Statistics could be applied, as I have attempted to show above, but these methods need to be attempted and tested, rather than dismissed and rejected. So I would be most interested to hear from anyone who also has aspirations to apply quanitative measurement and analysis to this assessment tool.

I would like also to restate my enthusiasm for the IAP’s as a highly sophisticated descriptive tool in qualitative analysis. Bruscia (1987) stated that they were used extensively as a teaching tool (p.410), and I would also like to reinforce this aspect, because they are so useful in getting students to listen to what is happening, and then analyse it at a music level, before jumping to conclusions in psychological, intuitive, but sometimes impetuous interpretation. There is, in my opinion, clearly a place for many different applications, methods or analysis and methods of interpretations using this IAP frame, and it is important to be inclusive and open-minded rather than exclusive and narrow minded if the application of the IAP’s is to be developed as a tool for different models of music therapy.

Bruscia, K. (1987) Improvisational Models of Music Therapy. Charles C. Thomas: Springfield

Greene, J & D’Olivera, M (1989) Learning to Use Statistical Tests in Psychology. Open University Press: Philadelphia.

Robson, C (1985) Experiment, Design and Statistics in Psychology. Pelical Books: London

Rowntree, D. (1991) Statistics without Tears. Penguin Books: London.

West, R. (1992) Computing for Psychologists. Statistical Analysis using SPSS and MINITAB. Harwood Academic Publishers: London, Toronto.

Wigram, T. (1999) Assessment methods in Music Therapy: A Humanistic or Natural Science Framework ? Nordisk Tidsskrift for Musikterapi, 8(1), 6-24.

Wigram, T. (1999) Variability and Autonomy in Music Therapy Interaction: Evidence fir Diagnosis and Therapeutic Intervention for Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome. In R. Pratt and D. Erdonmez Grocke (Eds) MusicMedicine 3: MusicMedicine and Music Therapy: Expanding Horizons. Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne: Melbourne

March 2, 2001, Kenneth E. BrusciaKBruscia@aol.com:



I would like to thank all of the forum participants for their valuable contributions to this discussion of the IAPs. I am very honored by your interest in the IAPs, as well as your experimentation with their usage. Your reflections and comments have been thought-provoking indeed. My first and foremost reaction has been one of regret — that I did not present sufficient clinical material in my original presentation of the IAPs, and that despite the voluminous detail, I apparently did not present them as clearly as I intended. I am sure that this has led to some of the confusion and misunderstandings; yet I also believe that there are fundamental disagreements about some of the central concepts underlying the IAPs. While I regret the confusion and misunderstandings, I welcome the controversy and disagreement. What this forum has continually reminded me is that no theory or theorist provides the ultimate, complete answer to our questions about the meaning of music, and no one clinical method of deriving or discovering such meaning will suffice for such a rich and diverse field such as music therapy. So from the onset of this response to you, please know that I do not see the IAPs as a panacea of meaning-making in improvisational music therapy. It is one step in that direction, focusing on only one aspect of musical meaning, and only one approach to finding that meaning — mine. I promise you no more, and no less. And I hope that you can recognize that your own views have the same limits.

In the responses below, I have directed my comments to the issues rather than to the individuals who raised them. This not only allowed me greater economy in thought and words, but also helped me to focus on the question rather than the questioner. Throughout this piece, all page numbers refer to my 1987 book entitled Improvisatonal Models of Music Therapy.

Definitional Issues

I use two completely different types of terminology in the IAPs musical and nonmusical — and each type poses a completely different problem with regard to translation of the IAPs into different languages, and using the IAPS in different musical styles and cultures. All musical terms are defined very specifically, and in considerable detail; I regard these as technical terms and definitions. In contrast, all nonmusical terms attached to the various gradients are used as descriptive labels; I regard these as my own verbal constructs, not technical psychological terms. With this in mind:

1) Appropriate use of the IAPs depends upon adoption of the specific definitions that I provided for all musical terms. The reason is that, as clearly evident in the Appendix, the five gradients on each profile are differentiated according to very specific musical criteria. These criteria are inextricably linked to the definitions provided for the musical element being analyzed. Thus, I cannot imagine using the IAPs without accepting and understanding the musical definitions — regardless of how my definitions differ from others found in the classical, jazz, and popular traditions. It is because there are so many definitions of these musical terms in the literature, and because I could never find consensus across different musical styles and cultures, that I felt compelled to establish a consistent, coherent set of my own, upon which I could build the entire foundation for the gradients, scales and profiles.

2) In contrast, appropriate use of the IAPs does not depend upon common understandings of, or agreed upon meanings for, the descriptive terms that I attached to each gradient and profile (e.g., fused, stable, calm, integration, variability, etc.). These are words that I wanted to use metaphorically and descriptively to suggest possible psychological understandings of the gradients and profiles. It is not imperative to accept, adopt, or even understand these descriptive terms. You can call each gradient whatever you want, or nothing at all. The label assigned to each gradient is not important; the essence of the analysis is in determining which gradient appropriately fits with the improvisation. To support this notion, I would like to offer an abridged version of the IAPs, using neither the original verbal labels nor numbers! As you can see, the analysis depends upon the musical terms and criteria, not the nonmusical labels.

Theoretical Issues

1) The IAPs contain a total of 30 descriptive nonmusical labels (6 profiles with 5 gradients each). Of these, only three (viz., fused, integrated, differentiated) were borrowed from a specific theory (i.e., Witkin). I did this because I thought they clearly described what the music actually sounds like at each gradient of the profile. The fact that I borrowed these terms after definng the musical criteria does not mean that the IAPs were based on Witkin’s theory. Actually these three terms can also be found in other psychological theories as well (Horney’s interpersonal categories, Gestalt psychology, and Mahler’s developmental theory), and I would say that any or all of these theories could be used as effectively as Witkin’s to interpret this profile. This is clearly evident in pages 426-427 where I presented general guidelines for interpreting the integration profile; note that these guidelines do not stem from any particular theory, but rather suggest many.

2) I did not use any psychological theory, in whole or part, to define the musical gradients or to identify the most important profiles of analysis. First and foremost was always how to musically analyze the improvisation. From the very beginning, I created the IAPs based on purely musical considerations that I had encountered in my work. Then after I had the gradients worked out in terms of specific musical criteria, I began the search for the most appropriate verbal descriptors for what the music sounded like at each gradient. Thus, rather than say that the IAPs are based on psychological theories, I would say that the IAPs are an original method of music analysis which permits psychological interpretation from a variety of theoretical perspectives.

3) I do not link the IAPs to particular psychological theories. My intent was quite the opposite. Notwithstanding my own theoretical limitations and biases, I tried to present guidelines for interpretation that would invite the application of many different psychological theories. In fact, my intent to be transtheoretical is quite evident in Chapter 31, where I gave general guidelines for interpreting each profile. See pages 426-427, 432-433, 436-437, 441, 444, 447-449. Further evidence that I did not want the IAPs to be cast within any one theoretical system can be found in Chapter 32, where I purposely offered two in-depth and drastically different theoretical approaches to clinically interpreting the music analysis.

4) For all these reasons, I do not believe that knowledge of certain psychological theories is a prerequisite to: 1) analyzing the music itself using the scales and profiles, or 2) using the general interpretive guidelines that I have provided in Chapter 31. If however, someone wants to apply the psychoanalytic or existential perspectives outlined in Chapter 32, knowledge of these theories would be helpful, but not essential, as the guidelines there are quite specific.

Participatory Discrepancies between How and What We Play

1) While the main thrust of the IAPs is to provide a method of analyzing the musical product, I too recognize the importance of studying the process as well. I quote page 417: “While conducting the session, however, it is essential for the therapist to observe the process that the client undergoes while improvising. Aspects of the improvisatory process that are often significant are: decisiveness, methods used to organize oneself and the task, motivational factors, energy level, comfort, resistance, comprehension of the task, adherence to guidelines, and the need for musical or personal support.”

2) Participant discrepancies can also be found in the congruence profile. See page 439:

  • The Body Congruence Scale describes the extent to which the client’s posture, body language, movements, and facial expressions are congruent with tension levels and feelings states within the music.
  • The Program Congruence Scale describes the extent to which images, associations, events, characters, and stories attached to the improvisation by the client are congruent with tensions and role relationships in the music, and with prevailing feeling states in the improvisation itself. It also covers whether the lyrics are congruent with the music.
  • The Verbal Reaction Congruence Scale describes the extent to which the client’s verbal comments after the improvisation are congruent with the music.
  • The Interpersonal Congruence Scale describes the extent to which tensions and feelings in the music are congruent with tensions and feelings between the client and other improvisers.

Other Contextual Issues

1) As will be discussed below, I prefer to analyze each improvisation in reference to all the other improvisations that comprise the assessment; furthermore, I always compare the improvisations according to the musical and interpersonal contexts in which the client was improvising. Thus, the IAPs emphasize the actual sessional contexts for each improvisation, both musical and interpersonal, in the analysis of the improvisation itself, in the use of many Congruence scales, and in the admonishment to gather and include observational and verbal data.

2) As stated in the interview at the beginning of this forum, the IAPs were not designed to examine “how client and therapist mediate and co-construct the meanings of their own improvisations,” rather their purpose was to provide a method for helping the therapist analyze and understand the improvisations themselves. While I do admit that “co-constructed” meanings are important, I also believe that all meaning is not co-constructed. Specifically, I believe that a client comes into therapy with his/her own sources of meaning, and methods of finding it, and that these sources and methods, though certainly based on cultural, linguistic, interpersonal, and personal experiences, are a part of the client, belonging to him/her alone. Of course, these sources and methods may overlap with others with similar background (including the therapist), but they can never match entirely. Moreover, and perhaps more important in evaluating the co-constructionist position, all aspects of the client’s meaning system are not automatically and inevitably subject to influence by the therapist (or any other outside factor). I believe that every client has his/her own meaning system, which operates BOTH independently and interdependently. This system is both closed and open to outside influence, based not only upon the salience of the outside influence, but also the strength of the client’s own personality structure. Put another way, I believe that every person has a unique personality that is comprised of intrapersonal structures and processes that play a direct role in the meaning-making process; moreover the role of these intrapersonal factors are just as important and influential in meaning-making as interpersonal structures and processes (both embedded in the past and active in the present). Going even further, intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of meaning making influence one another reciprocally, but remain separate and independent aspects of the personality. Thus, while some of these intrapersonal structures or processes may be modified in an interactive meaning making process, some are not. We therefore cannot assume that all meaning is either co-constructed or individually constructed.

3) The above discussion leads me to two important propositions. First, meaning is created and manifested not only through processes (or use), but also through structure. The process may be either fluid and open, or rigid and closed; similarly, the structure may be either embedded and invariant, or insufficiently organized and variable. Thus, both the process of improvising, and the musical structures that result from that process are of equal significance. The process is both subjective and intersubjective, and these processes become embedded structurally in the music object that results. We have to think carefully about whether these embedded musical structures are equivalent to syntax in language.

Second, meaning is subject to both intrapersonal and interpersonal factors, which not only overlap, interact and change, but also remain separate entities and resist change.

4) These beliefs underpin the IAPs. To my knowledge, the IAPs are the first and only method of analyzing improvisations that focuses so intensely on both “intramusical” and “intermusical” layers within the improvisation, and further proposes that these layers are reflective of “intrapersonal” and “interpersonal” layers of meaning-making. Thus, indigenous to the IAPs is the belief that the client’s music is separate from and yet subject to influence by the therapist, and that the same holds true for the therapist. This means that the entire purpose of an IAP assessment is to determine which aspects of the client’s music belong to the client, which belong to the therapist, and which belong to both. Obviously, if I believe this so passionately about meaning-making in the music itself, I would assert the same values in any verbal attempt to attach meaning to an improvisation. It is just as essential to distinguish between those linguistically derived meanings given to the music that belong to the client, those that belong to the therapist, and those shared by both. Of course, being able to make all these differentiations within a single clinical assessment may not be possible in today’s clinical environment.

5) I agree whole-heartedly with those who admit that mediated, co-constructed meanings are not everything — nor are they sufficient in and of themselves for assessment purposes. To me, the actual musical components and qualities of an improvisation are very meaningful in themselves, quite apart from the verbal constructions attached to them by the client and therapist after the improvisation has ended. I also believe that the therapist has to have his/her own understanding of an improvisation, apart from any co-constructed meanings with the client, and that such understandings are essential to sound clinical work, with therapist in the role of therapist, and client as client. My arguments appear in the interview, where I also conclude that both types of meaning (co-constructed and object-based) are of equal value.

6) It is also important to note that the IAPs certainly do honor and rely upon what the client thinks or says about the improvisation. I realize that such information does not always qualify as “co-constructed” meanings, but it is important nevertheless, especially within the context of a music analysis. As explained on page 417, when appropriate, the therapist may use verbal inquiry to check the “validity” of his/her analysis and interpretations.

7) Perhaps it would be useful to distinguish between three options for meaning-making, and then try to locate our assessment objectives accordingly. The options are:

  • Client-constructed meanings: The client construes his/her own meaning of the music-making process and/or the music object itself, relying upon his/her own previous experiences, situational contexts, and the therapist’s input. No effort is made to explore or arrive at consensual meanings with the therapist. This kind of meaning-making may prevail when the client is nonverbal or disinclined to interact with the therapist, when the meaning of the improvisation is not explored afterward, or when the client is resistant to any meaning that the therapist may offer.
  • Therapist-constructed meanings: The therapist construes his/her own meaning of the music-making process and/or music object itself, relying upon his/her own previous experiences, situational factors, and the client’s input, with no attempt to explore or arrive at consensual meanings with the client. This option may prevail under the same conditions cited above. It is also indigenous to most forms of “clinical” assessment which assume that a) the therapist has more musical expertise than the client b) the client is unable to participate in the meaning-making process, and c) the client is capable of meaning-making but is in therapy because this is the problem area.
  • Client-Therapist co-constructed meanings: The client and therapist develop consensual meanings, or at least determine which meanings are shared and which are not. These meanings are derived from the previous experiences of both parties, perceptions of situational factors by both parties, and the interactional process of meaning-making itself. This option may prevail when the client’s meaning-making capabilities are not in question, and when the client and therapist have a more egalitarian relationship, both with respect to expertise and role. It should be noted that the very possibility of co-constructing the meaning of music depends upon a) verbal discussion of the music), b) a common language, c) the ability of both parties to agree upon the meanings of words used to describe the music, and d) the ability of both parties to agree upon the essential nature of the music itself. Epistemologically, the notion of co-constructing also assumes that it is possible for one person to have direct access to and to know the constructions of another with any degree of accuracy — even when all the differences in languaging and music perception have been overcome.

4) The IAPs are essentially concerned with “therapist-constructed” meanings as defined above. It is not concerned with co-constructed consensual meanings, yet takes into account the client’s input as a primary source for “validity.” I hope that this clarifies the purpose and limits of the IAPs as well as their own place among the viewpoints put forward in this discussion.

5) When I evaluate and compare these three options, I can only conclude that: one option is not better or truer than another; one is not more deterministic than another; one is not any less idiographic than another; one lays no less claim to universalism than another; one does not have any less epistemological problems than another; and one is not more clinically useful than another. At the time I designed the IAPs, I just happened to be more interested in the option that I chose.

Three Uses of IAPs

Some of the misunderstandings of the IAPs may stem from a confusion over how they were designed to be used. Let me distinguish three ways I use them:

1) I can use the IAPs when I am actually improvising with a client. Here I use them merely as an “ear-set,” a very fluid way of listening deeply to what is happening in the music. The profiles and scales provide “transitional templates” which I move in and out of as the improvisation unfolds. I do this based entirely upon what is most “salient” to me in the moment. I then follow up that up with hearing the music according to the most salient profile or scale. When used in this way, I am seeking only a heard-sense of how to be with the client in the music. And believe it or not, the comprehensiveness of the IAPs (which many find overwhelming or overly complex) expands the possibilities for fluidity. I simply allow myself to listen deeply (and even analytically) to one salient thing after another. Aside from guiding my improvising, when I use the salience profile in this way, it also helps me to discover the strengths as well as the needs of the client, as they unfold in various musical and interpersonal situations within the improvisation.

2) I can also use the IAPs to analyze a single, recorded improvisation. Here I use them a bit more technically and systematically. I listen several times to the improvisation, in its entirety and in parts, attempting to be as comprehensive as I can, yet using the salience profile to limit the analysis to only those profiles and scales that are most musically significant. The abridged form for the IAPs (see below) is quite useful here, because it provides a limiting container for all the profiles and scales, while also permitting sectional analysis. Please understand that I do not consider this use of the IAP, as comprehensive as it might be, as a sufficient basis for making musical or clinical inferences about the client — it does not constitute an assessment in and of itself. The insights gained from analyzing a single improvisation are quite different from those gained from comparing an entire set of improvisations. The reliability of the analysis of a single improvisation is established only through repeated occurrences within the same improvisation, but even this provides no evidence that the improvisation is typical of the individual, or that the individual’s tendencies or style when improvising has been revealed.

3) Finally, I can use the IAPs as a clinical assessment. When used in this way, I always engage the client in several improvisations, which I have specifically designed to explore different musical and interpersonal conditions that are of greatest clinical interest (See page 415). Here my purpose is not to guide my extemporaneous music-making, nor is it to understand a single improvisation, rather it is to gain more pervasive insights about the client based upon an entire set of improvisatory data. (See pages 413-414, 421).

In an IAP assessment, I am most interested in observing the client when improvising freely and with various degrees of structure, alone and with others, on given instruments and instruments of choice; and when the client is verbal enough, I always include both referential (titled) and nonreferential (untitled) improvisations. Thus, I see the IAPs as a method of analysis that facilitates comparison of an entire “opus” of client improvisations — an opus that gives a representative sample of the client’s approach to music-making.

When using the IAPs to compare several improvisations, the salience profile is of crucial significance. First, it delimits the assessment to analyzing only those aspects of the client’s music making that are significant. Second, it helps to identify musical commonalities and differences across several improvisations. What is salient in one improvisation provides a context for listening to the next. When approached in this way, I am led to notice which musical elements and processes characterize certain improvisations and not others. When I recognize these improvisatory patterns, I then relate them to the musical and interpersonal conditions under which the client was improvising. For example, I might notice that fused rhythms characterized all of the duet improvisations, but none of the solos; or that the client selected the same instrument to describe anger, as when asked to do a completely, free, untitled solo improvisation. This to me is the essential purpose of clinical assessment using the IAPs as originally conceived, and this remains the case regardless of whether the assessment remains at a purely descriptive level, or whether it forays into more “clinical” interpretation.

Description versus Interpretation

A point that is commonly overlooked is that the IAPs may lead to musical description alone, or they may provide the foundation for various levels of clinical interpretation. On page 421, I tried to be very clear in suggesting the following options: 1) Data may be organized and classified at a purely descriptive, musical level — at face value, and only within their immediate context. Inferences, generalizations, and projective interpretations are avoided. 2) Data may be used as the basis for making inferences regarding the client’s musical characteristics. Generalizations are made from the sample of improvisation to other areas of musical activity. Thus, for example, the improvisations are seem as providing evidence that the client has certain musical abilities, skills, tendencies, preferences, and so forth. Nonmusical inferences and interpretations are avoided. 3) Data may be used as the basis for making inferences regarding the client’s level of musical development. Generalizations are made from the sample of improvisation to schedules for musical development. Nonmusical inferences and interpretations are avoided. 4) Data may be used to make inferences regarding the client’s performance of nonmusical tasks. 5) Data may be used to make inferences regarding nonmusical areas of development. 6) Data may be used as the basis for nonmusical “clinical” interpretations, largely relying upon the projective hypothesis. It seems that too much attention is given to level 6, and not enough attention is given to levels 1 and 2. The IAPs are first and foremost a method of analyzing music; some may find them useful in making clinical inferences, others may not. Either is OK with me, so long as my full intent is accurately understood.

Verbal Translation of the Music?

When the IAPs are used as a means of client assessment, I recommend that the results be presented in narrative form, using any terminology that the therapist finds helpful in conveying what the music sounds like. I myself do not rely upon the labels that I assigned for each gradient of the six profiles, unless I find that label particularly expressive or descriptive of the music — in fact, if the truth be known, I cannot even remember them all. Look in the book. I offer many different approaches to describing what is happening in each profile.

Notwithstanding my recommendation to use narrative to report on an IAP assessment, I do not believe that the purpose of the IAPs is to translate music into words. I also do not believe an IAP narrative provides a complete representation of the improvisation itself (as certain notational approaches purport to do). The 30 labels I attached to each gradient are merely that — labels. They mean nothing in themselves, they do not “stand for” or serve as a substitute for anything musical, they do not comprise a musical lexicon or dictionary of musical symbols, and they certainly do not capture the entire musical process happening within the gradient. I hear each gradient as a musical space where specific kinds of musical events are in process. The label for that gradient is merely a verbal referent for that musical space or process; it allows us to point to, share, and compare our hearing of it. As stated above, I strongly encourage the therapist to use whatever words are most descriptive of the improvisation.

Of course, the problem of reporting any music analysis is that the report is not the music, whether it be verbal, notational, or nonverbal. The map is not the territory, any description of the music is obviously not the music.

The Salience Profile

1) Application of the salience profile includes not only listening to determine which musical elements are most significant, but also determining which profiles and scales are most relevant.

2) As suggested above, I find the salience profile useful in: guiding my musical consciousness while improvising, focusing the analysis of a single improvisation on the most significant elements, and identifying the musical similarities and differences between several improvisations. The salience profile is also crucial in segmenting the improvisation, and determining which musical elements create the “form” of the improvisation. I find it interesting that those who find the IAPs difficult have not mentioned the complex problem of segmentation. To me, this is much more difficult than applying the profiles. And the best solution I have found is the salience profile.

3) I do not believe that the salience profile facilitates a holistic or comprehensive analysis; it does the opposite — it limits the therapist to those aspects of the improvisation that present themselves as most significant. The IAPs strive to be comprehensive eliciting several different improvisations from the client under a wide variety of conditions, and then comparing the data.

4) My emphasis on the salience profile reflects my predilection for a phenomenological approach to improvisational assessment. At the same time, I must admit that the profiles themselves are somewhat inconsistent with pure phenomenology because they impose templates on the listening and analysis. Perhaps this is why I cling even harder to an “open” approach to applying these templates. So one might say that the salience profile is a compensation for any compromises in phenomenology that result from the IAPs themselves.

5) With this said, I certainly cannot fault anyone for taking an even more focused approach with the IAPs by using only certain scales and profiles in their work. In fact, in certain situations, it makes good sense: based on an understanding of clinical issues that arise in the diagnosis and treatment of certain populations, the therapist delimits the assessment to only those aspects of an improvisation that reflect or reveal these issues. So this modification of the IAP is certainly reasonable and often warranted.

6) I do believe that using the salience profile to guide the analysis is more consistent with a qualitative approach, while limiting the analysis to specific scales and profiles is more consistent with a quantitative approach.

Quantitative versus Qualitative

I have searched my writings and I cannot find any statement suggesting that the IAPs are not suitable for quantitative analysis. In fact, in 1987, I myself had not made very clear or elaborate distinctions between the quantitative and qualitative paradigms. I do remember pointing out that the numbers that I used for the gradients were only rating codes not actual numeric values. I had two reasons. First, the scales are not directional in value; 3 is not higher in value than 1, and 1 is not lower in value than 3. Fused is not better than differentiated, and vice versa. Second, I wanted to be clear that I was not in any way suggesting that the gradients formed an interval scale.

When I re-read the book to detect paradigms, I am amused: I sound like a qualitative thinker in quantitative drag. With that confession now in cyberspace, I want to say that the IAPs can be used fruitfully in both quantitative and qualitative paradigms, and I support both approaches.

I also think that the IAPs pose uniquely different problems in the two paradigms. This forum has concentrated on the epistemological and axiological dilemmas indigenous to the IAPs in qualitative thinking, and so I want to make a few comments about problems in the quantitative.

1) A quantitative approach requires focusing on an improvisatory event that can be operationally defined and measured. Tony Wigram has focused his work on two of the profiles, autonomy and variability, and has defined an event as the occurrence of one or more of the gradients on these profiles. One of the problems that inheres in measuring frequency is that the events should not vary drastically in duration. In the case of improvisation, for example, we have to guard against the possibility that one musical event lasting 20 seconds is measured as equal to another lasting only 2 seconds. To solve this problem, either the event has to be redefined for measurement purposes to control for duration, or both frequency and duration have to be incorporated into the same measure. Another way around this might be to divide the improvisation into equal segments, and then rather than measure frequencies or durations, simply count those segments containing (or not containing) the targeted event.

2) Stimulus and organismic variables have to be considered in relation to the musical events being examined. These are roughly equivalent to the “contextual” issues addressed in the qualitative paradigm.

3) Care must be taken in equating the gradients of the IAPs to the various types of scales used for measurement purposes. One big difference is that the gradients are configured in a triangular rather than linear fashion, with the center gradient being the aesthetic balance of the two adjacent sides, and the outer two gradients being the pathological responses from each of the opposite directions.

4) Certainly descriptive, nonparametric statistics more easily fit with the IAPs than inferential parametric approaches.

Pathology and the Extreme Gradients

1) The IAPs assume that creative, healthy music-making moves the improviser continually through the three middle gradients of each scale and profile, and that pathology is evident when the improviser remains outside of these gradients on either end of the scale. An important goal of assessment using the IAPs, then, would be to compare the proportion of time (or music) that a client spends in the normal versus pathological ranges.

2) My hesitancy to use the extreme gradients is not related to the problem of generalizing one instance of pathology to the entire improvisation; that to me reflects the need for segmenting the improvisation, and analyzing each segment separately. My concern is more with recognizing the fine line between normal, very creative music making and pathological intent or habit. It is the difference between fantastically interesting syncopation and attempts to destroy or ignore the rhythmic fabric of the piece, and its value in the meaning-making. On page 420, I say that the extreme gradients should be used only when the element stays completely beyond the realm of normal musical experience or meaningfulness. They are not to be used for unmusical or uncreative efforts unless these efforts seem inextricably linked to or driven by pathology. “The best rule of thumb is to wait for the extreme levels to present themselves rather than to search for them” (p. 420).

Closing Remarks

I don’t want to go on and on, addressing every detail of every person’s comments; instead; I have tried to address what I believe are the most significant and challenging issues presented. This helps me to avoid feeling or appearing defensive about every little criticism that is offered. More importantly, I do not want to discourage anyone from using, testing, criticizing, modifying, or even rejecting the IAPs. I know they are challenging, both practically and theoretically; I know that the issues and challenges that you have presented are coming from a supportive stance toward me and the IAPs; and I know that I will have to provide further guidance and training if I want them to be used more frequently and more effectively. So thank you, and please continue to stimulate my own insights about improvisation, music therapy, and my own work! KB


Improvisation Assessment Profiles – Abridged

© 2001 Kenneth Bruscia











Body Program Lyrics Verbal discussion

Instructions for Using the Rating Scales

Listen to the improvisation (or section) until you have determined which elements are salient enough to be included in the analysis. Then answer the related questions below. If the improvisation is monothematic, or does not require sectional analysis, put a check mark in the appropriate place on the scale; if the improvisation has two or more sections that have to be analyzed separately, give each section a letter or number, and place that code in the appropriate place on the salient scales. Keep in mind that the outer two gradients should be used only when the response is so extreme that the musical element is completely beyond the realm of “normal” musical experience or meaningfulness. In short, the outer two gradients imply pathology.

How related are rhythm and basic beat?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How related are simultaneous rhythmic parts?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How much do tempo, subdivision, meter change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme, frequent changes

How much do rhythm patterns change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme, frequent changes

What role does client take with tempo/beat?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads

What role does client take with rhythm?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads

How closely related are simultaneous timbres?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How much does timbre change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme, frequent changes

What role does client take with timbre?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads


How closely related in volume are simultaneous parts?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How much does volume change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme, frequent changes

What role does client take with volume?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads


How different are simultaneous parts in role?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How different are simultaneous parts in register?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How much does texture change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme, frequent changes

What role does client take with texture?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads


How different are simultaneous phrases in length/shape?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How much does phrasing change?

No changes |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme, frequent changes

What role does client take with phrasing?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads


How well-timed are body movements in relation to one another?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How much does body expression change?

No change|_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme, frequent changes


How well does melody fit into the scale and key?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How closely related are simultaneous melodies?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How closely related is melody and harmony?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How closely related is harmony and scale/key?

No difference |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extremely Different

How much do scale and key change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme frequent changes

How much do melodies change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme frequent changes

How much does harmony change?

No change |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Extreme frequent changes

What role does client take with scale and key?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads

What role does client take with melody?

Mostly follows |_ |_ |_ |_ |_ | Mostly Leads

Any incongruent musical elements?

Any physical incongruence?

Any incongruence between improvisation and verbal materials?

Any incongruence between music and interpersonal relationships?


April 9, 2001, Katrina McFerran-Skewes, k.skewes@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au

Do The IAPs predict meaning?

(1) It is with great pleasure that I once again contribute to this forum. It is a sign of maturity within our profession that we are able to debate ideas without inciting personal offence, and the inclusion of Bruscia’s own contributions takes our dialogue to an even greater level. In this contribution I would like to focus on the two most recent contributions by Stige and Bruscia, but also touch briefly on the ongoing debate of definition, quantitative and qualitative applications, and my own experience with the IAPs.

(2) In my reading of this forum I have experienced some confusion around the discussion of meaning-making. The ‘construction’ of meaning has been debated at some length – the influences of culture, and the perceptions of the therapist and of the client. Whilst this has been a fascinating debate it seems to have now resulted in a high level of agreement about the fact that any meaning is constructed by someone in some context – perhaps even a consensus has been reached that multiple realities exist. However my question is, are the IAPs intended to predict meaning based on musical evidence, or, do they direct the therapist’s ear to the available musical evidence which is then constructed by them for meaning in that context.

(3) My own answer to this question is that the IAPs do not predict meaning based purely on musical evidence. This suggests that I agree with Stige (12) that the IAPs do not lend themselves easily to quantification, because essentially I believe that music does not lend easily to predictable and concrete understandings. Stige’s (8) work with the Blues Progression is one example – although the tempo, harmonic structure and rhythmic patterns may be the same, it does not give any indication of what this means. Whilst we all seem to work from the understanding that music reflects the experience of all the individuals taking part, I believe the meaning remains in the musical material and all attempts to understand it will not capture the essence of what it really is. This is where the therapist uses their insight into the musical experience they have been a part of to construct some meaning that is valuable and significant in understanding it. Nonetheless the power of the creative experience may not be completely captured in words, as is readily admitted by most researchers before we attempt to do so, however the therapist is able to construct an expert opinion.

(4) Within my own research I recently admitted that the written word cannot truly communicate the experience of music making, and then I nonetheless attempted to predict the development of one musical property – rhythm – and suggest a relationship between shared rhythmic playing and group cohesion. Perhaps not surprisingly, this proposal has not held up to further examination, although the concept that the musical material did reflect the group’s level of cohesion has remained steadfast. This finding, combined with my own musical experience, leads me to conclude that the way in which group cohesion is represented musically is unpredictable, but it can be found. The ‘reflection’ of group cohesion emerged from the group’s experience of playing together and the stylistic features that developed to represent their shared music making experience. It was influenced by their musical and cultural histories; their musical interests; their developmental stage; their issues; their personalities; and my own role in what I played and what I facilitated in their learning through our shared playing. When the group moved through an early stage of playing within a shared beat, I predicted that this would be the beginnings of group cohesion and that they would then develop through a stage of more individualized playing before returning to shared, but more meaningful pulse playing. However, in the final stages of the group’s development they discarded the use of a shared pulse in favour of more individualized expression. BUT, their musical material was held within newly emergent and shared musical parameters such as form (the use of extensive ‘question and answer’ phrases, and shared codas); and melody (as it was finally heard as an independent and developing force within the predominantly percussive sound). Therefore the answer to the question – does playing together in time represent group cohesion, was no. However the answer to the question – how do the music therapy group improvisations represent the group dynamics over time, could be answered, but the answer was unique to this group at this time. I believe that the IAPs assist greatly in finding these answers, but they do not predict what their meaning will be.

(5) This leads to a further observation that is simply from my own experience. For me, the limitations I placed on the focus of my analysis of the musical data were simply that – limitations. Therefore, although I wholeheartedly agree with Bruscia that the salience profile is useful for focusing listening, I also emphasise that limiting listening must also limit understanding. That is assuming that we are exploring for meaning – not for more specific purposes such as those noted by Wigram. By restricting my musical listening to pre-determined properties it became similar to examining a score – things were missing and the musical experience felt distant from what I was examining. A more phenomenological approach that allows the musical material to be heard has proven more effective, and ultimately overshadowed the original limitations I had placed on the analysis. For example, my rebellious decision not to explore musical structure because I felt it would lead to the creation of narratives that equate to a musical score, proved pointless. It was impossible not to note the development of structural features, and if more obvious harmonies had been used, what would have been the function of ignoring them, even though I had limited them from my observations??

(6) Moreover, I do not find the abridged version of the IAPs to require limiting. Although a choice can be made to refine the focus, this tool is already succinct and interpretation-free. The confusion inherent in the use of the previously suggested terminology has been removed, and definitions of metaphorical or descriptive terms no longer require debate. The musical terminology has been defined, and although this can still be debated, the increased clarity of the rest of the tool reduces this need in my opinion. Although the psychologically oriented terminology was well explained in Bruscia’s latest contribution to this forum, I believe its use will invariably lead to confusion as individuals begin to explore the use of the IAPs. Whilst I believe these terms are a fascinating construct for focusing listening, too many interpretations and judgements seemed inherent in the terminology. For example, is it possible for me to use the word fused without it being implied that this is inflexible and therefore unhealthy. Or, is it possible to categorise a participant’s rhythmic playing as tense without implying that they should move further towards the calm end of the spectrum. Whilst in the process of having the narrative descriptions from my research validated, independent listeners commented on the high level of interpretation directly related to the use of this terminology. This is not to suggest that Bruscia intended these kinds of interpretations, however less informed readers of these words may naturally move to a seemingly apparent understanding.

(7) Additionally, I believe that the abridged version allows for pure descriptions to be generated, whereas the original versions do not. The abridged version focuses the listener on the musical material and the way it is heard – it implies nothing and truly allows the meaning to be constructed by the therapist, which is the purpose of an assessment tool to my understanding. In my opinion, the 1987 version suggests meanings that may not be appropriate to a given situation and may lead to misinterpretation, although this was not Bruscia’s intention as has been clearly explained.

(8) In conclusion, I continue to commend and appreciate the ongoing development of the IAPs. My own attempt at constructing a theory with which to better understand the music of music therapy taught me how difficult this task is, and helps in understanding why Bruscia is one of the few music therapists who has attempted to do so in a published forum. Personally, I find the abridged version of the IAPs to be an even more useful tool, and I look forward to their publication beyond this page in the future. It is the nature of our profession that we evolve, and a tool that can move with new knowledge and influences (such as the move from more interpretive to more phenomenological understandings), shows the capacity to assist the profession rather than be ‘too narrow a unit of analysis’ (Stige, 3). In response to Stige’s questions (14), I encourage us to allow the indistinct picture to emerge as we learn to view it with more indigenous understanding, such as those facilitated by the IAPs.

September 19, 2001; Gema Bellido
E-mail: gemabellido@eresmas.com

(1)It is a great honour to have an opportunity to participate in this forum. I want to focus my intervention in this forum on the application of the IAPs in my record keeping for my work with people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and Amiotrofic Lateral Sclerosis. I will follow this framework:

  • the design of the evaluation system into the music therapy process
  • how to make decisions about musical parameters that relate to the level of integration, variability, tension etc. in the profiles
  • how can we collect the data

(2)Before of this, I want to allude to the poverty of bibliographic references about the application of IAPs and the resistance of music therapists to use them in their clinical work, as in previous interventions in this forum. But why this resistance?

(3)In a meeting with a patient we can distinguish three listening levels:
a) perceptual: in this level we obtain a global perception of the sound production
b) musical-emotional: we listen to a sound production in which we are participants, that has arisen from an interaction. In this level the musical skills of a music therapist improve the quality of the musical-emotional interaction with the patient.
c) Cognitive: in this one, we can apply the evaluation system

(4)The emotional and cognitive levels deduce the perceptual one. When a music therapist only listens at a cognitive level, that is to say, as an observer, supervisor or watching the session on videotape, is easier for him/her to apply the evaluation system. In this way, there are no problems if in the session the listening is only at the musical-emotional level. The problem arises when it is necessary to do both listening levels simultaneously, because this requires divided attention. For attention processes in parallel, the musical skills and the evaluation system must be assimilated. The analytical process demands a higher priority of attention to purely enjoying the musical production.

(5)In my work, IAPs are the most important part of my evaluation system that I complete with others evaluation instruments. I design it after the assessment sessions where I try define the needs of my patient (objectives of treatment), his/her limitations and potential with the musical material (methodological principles).

(6)The focus of my system is to know if the objectives have been achieved (continuous evaluation) and if the methodology is adequate (formative evaluation). With respect to the IAPs, I decide which profiles I intend to use in the evaluation from the objectives of the therapy.

(7)If we represent this complexity when we analyse an improvisation graphically, we can get a score of an orchestral piece, where there are not only instrumental lines but parameters that happen simultaneously, as well as over time. In music therapy, we must design an evaluation system that allows these two types of analysis: vertical and horizontal. But can we use the same method of analysis of a score and in a clinical improvisation?

(8)When analysing a score, we first notice the global characteristics (orchestration, density, tempo…) and then we choose those instrumental lines that are more important to analyse (it is different if we want to know the musical form, the harmony etc.) The salience profile permits us to do this first part.

(9)When the lines are chosen (parameters in this case), we follow their evolution over time (profiles). When any instrumental line changes, we analyse what happens in the rest of the lines, thus establishing if the change is only in this line or if it is a structural change (we apply the salience profile again). In this way, we know if we must analyse the same lines or other ones (adaptation of the evaluation system).

(10)This explains how I apply IAPs in the music therapy process. In the assessment session I use the salience profile, and I let it describe the characteristic musical parameters of the patient to me and I include them in the evaluation system. So I don´t think that we use a reduced version of IAPs but an adaptation of them to the patient.

(11)There are some parameters (tempo style,) that appear in other profiles but not appear in the Salience Profile. It seems logical that if I choose the parameters with the salience profile, this profile includes all of the parameters. So, I have completed the analysis with all of them, except some that relate from the integration profile.

(12)An extensive description of profiles appears in Improvisational models of music therapy that complicate their application in everyday work. With the Organigrams, I intended to give a comprehensive form to this information without disrupting it but the decisions about the score of the parameter in the profile were easier. Thus I am asking about the “behaviour” of the parameter in the improvisation. These questions are answered with yes or no until a conclusion; e.g. the organigram of rhythmic integration of parts in whole is the next one:

the organigram of rhythmic integration of parts in whole

(13)Up to now, I have analysed different improvisations, on the one hand following Bruscia´s descriptions and on the other hand the organigrams. Thus I´m improving these organigrams. I would now like to find out if different music therapists come to the same conclusion in the analysis of an improvisation using the organigrams.

(14)When the parameters and the profiles are chosen, we must decide how to collect data. There are diverse ways to collect data too, from a descriptive narration about the different levels of the profile where the parameter is defined (Frederiksen, 1999) to a pattern where the therapist noted how many times a parameter occurs as an events during a section of an improvisation (Wigram, 1999, 2000b)

(15)I am trying different methods to collect data but none of them convince to me, so I ask myself what do I want to collect? My answer is the parameters that evolve during an improvisation according to a defined profile. Then I state if the variability profile refers to how sequential aspects of the music are related, can the variability profile also refer to how sequential aspects of a profile are related?

(16)E.g. In an improvisation of a patient, I want to analyse the rhythmic ground and volume according to autonomy:

Dependence Follower Partner Leader Resistence
Rhytmic ground Stable X
Volume Rigid

rhythmic ground, stable leadership: the patient assume the leader role according to the rhythmic ground, but sometimes he demonstrates a resistance role
Volume, rigid dependence: the patient demonstrates a dependence role during all the improvisation

(17)In other words, I characterise each level of the profile using the levels of variability profile in this way:
Rigid: the parameter is characterised only with a level during the improvisation
Stable: The level of autonomy changes to consecutives levels, but it always is round one of them (star shape)
Variable: the level of autonomy changes to consecutives levels but no one is predominant (lineal shape)
Contrast: the level of autonomy changes to no consecutives levels but one of them is predominant (star shape)
Random: the levels of autonomy changes continuously without order, and it is not at a predominant level

(18)This method is very recently developed, and I don´t have experience to consolidate it or reject it . In conclusion, I think that we have to learn very much about IAPs and their application in our diary work. They are extensive and very hard but the detailed analysis that they permit make it unnecessary to look for other usable forms. I hope that the interchange of ideas and experiences in this forum contributes to get this objective.

Bruscia, K(1999). “Modelos de improvisación en musicoterapia” Ed. Agruparte. Vitoria

Frederiksen, BV (1999). “Analysis off musical improvisations to understand and work with elements of resistance in a client with anorexia nervosa” in T.Wigram, & J.de Backer,. Clinical applications of music therapy in Psychiatry. London VK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Lee, Colin (2000). “A method of analysing improvisations in music therapy” Journal of music therapy, 37(2)pp 147-167

Wigram, T (1999) “Contact in music: the analysis of musical behaviour in children with communication disorder and pervasive developmental disability for differential diagnosis” in T.Wigram,. & J.de Backer. Clinical applications of music therapy in Psychiatry. London VK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Wigram, T(2000). Assessment and evaluation in arts therapies: art therapy, music therapy and dramatherapy Harper House Publications: Radlett

Wigram, T(2000b). A method of music therapy assessment for diagnosis of autism and communication disorders in children” Music therapy perspectives vol 18

October 17, 2001; Kenneth E. Bruscia.
E-mail: KBruscia@aol.com

Dear Gema Bellido: I would like to thank you for sharing how you have incorporated the IAPs into your clinical work. I am pleased to know that you are finding them useful, and that you are adapting them to your own specific needs.

Your use of the IAPs as an evaluation tool (i.e., to determine whether the client has accomplished therapeutic objectives) raises some very interesting and fundamental questions. If I understand what you are proposing, your initial assessment helps you to decide which profiles and scales are most related to the client’s therapeutic problems and needs; then based on this decision, you monitor the client’s progress based on changes that you observe in those selected profiles and scales at various points in the therapeutic process (which is what I call evaluation). The implications of this are twofold (and quite important): First, you are regarding the IAPs as musical analogues to clinical issues. That is, you hear problems in the music as reflections of problems in the client. Second, you equate changes in the music as indicative of changes in the client. Obviously, I agree with both premises whole-heartedly (even though it has caused considerable controversy). My first question to you is one that has been posed to me since I first presented the IAPs: On what basis do you make these interpretive links? How do you know WHICH profiles and scales reflect WHICH clinical problems? And, how do you know WHICH changes in these profiles and scales reflect clinical progress or lack thereof? I have proposed several guidelines in the book, however, I would be interested in knowing about other approaches that can be used to interpret the IAP findings.

Your contribution also brings up another central issue or question that I would like to add to this forum discussion. Since the IAPs were designed to describe how “well-formed” and “expressive” an improvisation is, and since these descriptions reflect the improviser’s problems and therapeutic progress, are we ready to say that the better formed and more expressive the improvisation is, the greater the health of the improviser? Is better formed, more expressive music indicative of better health; and is poorly formed, less expressive music indicative of poorer health-regardless of whether health is defined as quality of life or lack of disease? Do variations in the structural and expressive integrity of the music reflect individual differences in the musician, and if so, what kinds of differences?

I believe we have an epistemological contradiction in music therapy. We want to claim that we can use music as a diagnostic (or even projective) tool, but when we have to accept the theoretical premises of doing so, we pull back. To me, this feels like we want the practical power, but not the theoretical responsibility.

And so I ask: How many music therapists really believe that the qualities of one’s music reflect the qualities of one’s health? And, how many caveats are necessary to answer this question with a simple yes or no?

January 24, 2005; Kenneth E. Bruscia.
E-mail: KBruscia@aol.com

In the previous discussions of the IAPs, many contributors mentioned the need for actual audio examples of how the IAPs work. I am very pleased to report that audio and text files of actual IAP analyses can now be accessed at www.barcelonapublishers.com. The examples (18 improvisations with analyses) come from a research study by Dr. Susan Gardstrom from the University of Dayton in the USA. The title of the study is “An Investigation of Meaning in Clinical Music Improvisation with Troubled Adolescents.” The study appears in the first monograph series (Volume One: 2004) entitled Qualitative Inquiries in Music Therapy, published by Barcelona. To hear the files and read the analyses, go to the barcelona home page, then click the title page of the monograph, then scroll down, and click “Gardstrom IAP Analysis.” Then you can select any of the examples, and the analysis will be displayed while it plays.

I would like to endorse this application of the IAPs. Susan studied the IAPs in a special workshop with me, and later did these analyses under my direct supervision. I can therefore attest to the integrity of her findings. I would also like to point out that Susan developed her own way of presenting the analyses in textual form, combining common musical language and IAP terminology. I hope this will help those who have not studied the IAPs to understand the approach.

© 2000-2005: Nordic Journal of Music Therapy
(last updated January 24, 2005 by Rune Rolvsjord)