Books and Book Chapters by University of Dayton Faculty



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Rhythm is an essential and therefore indispensable aspect of all music. Arguably, rhythmic elements are the most accessible of all the musical elements for clients in music therapy to produce and manipulate expressively (Hiller, 2011). Yet, theoretical understanding of rhythm and its use in musical expression is a neglected area of both music therapy (Bunt, 1994; Daveson & Skewes, 2002) and musicological inquiry (Gabrielsson, 1993; Kramer, 1988; Mead, 1999). However, the area of psychological investigation known as “embodied cognition” or “schema theory,” which has been constructively applied to composed tonal music, may prove fruitful in deepening our understanding of potential meanings of rhythm in music therapy, particularly in clinical improvisation.

Aigen (2009) has astutely noted that music therapists must take responsibility for providing theoretical explanations of the therapeutic meanings of all the musical elements used in therapy processes. How do we explain a client’s rhythm? Where do a client’s abilities to use rhythm for self-expression and to relate to others come from? Ansdell (1997) supports the notion that music therapy and musicology can enhance each other’s pursuits of knowledge regarding music. Significantly, Aigen (2005, 2009) has been a leading author in bringing concepts from schema theory to music therapy toward explaining tonal aspects of clinically improvised music. This chapter seeks to shed light on the meaning potentials of rhythm in improvisation from the perspective of schema theory and to briefly highlight implications for improvisational music therapy.



Publication Date


Publication Source

Readings on Music Therapy Theory


Barcelona Publishers


Dallas, TX


Music | Music Therapy | Other Music


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Implications of Embodied Cognition and Schema Theory for Discerning Potential Meanings of Improvised Rhythm