Abstract for Rethinking Music Therapy Practice for the Elderly in Japan

Rethinking Music Therapy Practice for the Elderly in Japan through the ethnographic perspective

In music therapy practice for the elderly, choice of music is one of the important concerns for therapists.  In Japan, elderly people’s music preferences are often not considered as a topic of research in its own right.

The aim of the paper is to examine the situation behind their musical preference, and its relation with current music therapy practice for the Elderly in Japan.

In-depth interviews were conducted with a focus on musical behavior of the elderly. These interviews drew upon the grounded theory approach used by sociologist Tia DeNora in ‘Music in Everyday Life’.

Two pairs of key concepts were identified; first, ‘the Old Favorites’ which were much loved  versus ‘the Nowadays Songs’ about which respondents were more detached and, second, ‘the Serious Songs’, recognized as socially correct, versus ‘the Not-Serious Songs’, which respondents considered to be socially incorrect. These concepts were discussed from DeNora’s perspective regarding music’s power as ‘technology of self’ and ‘device of social ordering’. ‘The Old Favorites’ emerged most significantly for respondents as music for self regulation and constitution, while ‘the Serious Songs’ were considered to be most ‘appropriate’ given respondents’ socio-cultural situation.

The study helped to highlight how the elderly regulate themselves and adjust their socio-cultural situation even in the music therapy setting. The music therapy session is, in other words, also a site for the normative regulation of the elderly person role. The paper concludes by making links to recent developments in community music therapy that highlight the importance of clients’ own resources and raises some questions about cross-cultural comparison between music therapy for the elderly in Japan and the UK. It suggests that music therapy’s musical choices be considered as a medium of both social empowerment and social control.

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