F.I.M. Federazione Italiana Musicoterapeuti

From dialogue to word

Report: Sounds - Melody – Harmonic Sounds - Word

Once we have overcome the common way of meaning the spoken and written language not only as an agreement, it is possible to go and discover the deep value implied in every word. It is then possible to create an interpersonal relationship also with a child who does not speak, sharing with him those experiences that make the voice spontaneously spring out.
The passage from voice to word is the natural event which distinguishes men from any other living being. The passage from voice to word occurs with a subjective gradualness. This is the reason why the professionals (music therapists) take care of their training to be able to appreciate and enhance those verbal and vocal expressions which, through a process of progressive acquisition (Alfred Kallir),become a veritable word. Through the process of personal education, the professional can discover the marvellous feeling of hearing the first vocal expressions and words of a child who does not speak. In them, there are the secrets of the words that will be created from these tonic – emotional and sound dialogues, from the welcoming and the musical enhancement and sharing which occurs through the clinical improvisation at the piano.
The practical experience in music therapy is steeped in sounds. The voice is the expression of the emotions created while trying.
Acting according to the principles of Humanistic Music Therapy, A.P.M.M. model, creates the context of opportunity which helps the experience and the starting of a dialogue that becomes word. The non-verbal communication is the context in which the word, that is the verbal dialogue, has the right to exist. The passage from the spoken word to the written word is for us an obvious event. However, there were historical periods preceding the word, which saw the creation of words and the expression of words in written signs. The passage from the Sound to the Sign has something magical in itself. Far from being only an agreement, it contains the history of the events that we do not know because they belong to long ago (Kallir).
In music therapy, it happens to find these passages when a child with serious or very serious difficulties (handicaps or multi-handicaps, autism, deafness, syndromes, etc.), without his knowing it, run through the passages covered by humanity (phylogeny – ontogeny relationship). At this moment, one discovers that the signs of the letters of the alphabet recall the relationship man-world, the awareness of being in the world and of existing (being aware of one’s own existence in relation with the others, with the world).
It is easy to understand that every sound is represented by an alphabetic sign. At least apparently it is like this. According to this appearance, reading or writing is a mechanical game of correspondence between the sounds of the voice and the written signs. The human being is far from being just appearance. Digging into the experiences in music therapy one discovers that “the sound had an image and the image had a sound (it did not “reproduce” a sound). This primary experience gave a shape and a meaning to the world that is to the human experiences of the shapes, the images and the sounds interconnected one to each other and linked with the primary experiences of life (food, sex, shelter, etc.) [1]. The alphabet starts with the letter “A”. The opening in the world in the human being starts with the open mouth that receives, in the period of weaning, the food offered by the mother. Kallir in its book “Sign and Design” [2], collects historical documents demonstrating that the shape of the letter “A” reproduces the shape of the ox horns pushing the plough to furrow the soil. The head and the horn of the animal, if turned upside down, have the same shape of the plough that cuts a furrow in the ground. Here the relationship is created, the comparison between the value of the letter “A” which opens the alphabet with the value of the soil that, once sown, will give the wheat necessary for men’s life. Then, men’s life is fed by corn and the progress of culture. The mouth itself that opens to receive some food, opens to create words. Sucking introduces milk directly in the mouth. During the weaning the child sees the food and decides if opening or not the mouth. The mouth which receives the food tastes and absorbs the world through the tastes of the world, starting an exploration which will lead the mouth itself not only to “take” the world (feed oneself), but also to walk into the world to talk. The shape of the letter “A” is steeped in Opening, Feeding, Tasting, Love, etc. Sound and shape refer back one to each other. This happens also with the first letter of the alphabet to which all the others will follow.

We advise you to read the texts indicated in the bibliography as to extend your knowledge on the theoretical foundations of humanistic music therapy. The authors we recommend are: Alfred Kallir, Carlo Sini, Giulia Cremaschi Trovesi, Mauro Scardovelli


[1Carlo Sini, Idoli della conoscenza, Raffaello Cortina Editore. Milan, 2000

[2Ed. Spirali/Vel, Milan, 1994

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Translations Chiara Meloni