The musical nature of human communication

musical-nature-human-communicationRhythm of Relating

by Stuart Daniel

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (it was the nineties in Edinburgh) I enjoyed getting painted red and drumming like wild-fire with a group of people dedicated to festival and having serious amounts of fun. The festival nights we drummed were a culmination of many hours spent in connection through shared rhythm. There’s a collective space we would enter, a space known to any rhythm musician, where time goes strange, the group hums with a new electricity and unity glows.”

 

Sometime last year, as a play therapist, I was working with an eleven year-old boy. We had been hanging out for four sessions. The boy had a lot to be angry about and, up until this point our connection had been defined by me (almost as a by-stander) attempting to help him feel safe and contained as he expressed this angry momentum. I remember feeling disconnected. Not obviously, but somewhere in a quiet place inside where the chance for melancholic sadness has a chance to grow. In this particular session, session five, the boy had given our punch-bag a name and was beating it with hands and then foam swords. I stuck with him, joining in, empathising with body, gesture, a few words. After a while the energy of his angry impetus faded a little and he more casually struck with the swords. I had some insider information here! I knew the boy was learning, and loved, to drum. I started playing an off-beat to his strikes, and then switched things around a little. He matched perfectly and, after a few iterations, developed too. We played in-sync like this for a while until the energy of the room changed colour. The boy became quiet, lay down on the fallen punch-bag, and moved on to a series of mother-baby play scenes of a fresh, gentle, powerful quality completely different from before. I remember being delighted, moved, and consciously thinking, “has he been reading our book?”.  Continue reading