I’ve been thinking a lot about functional music lately. Functional music is looking at what purpose music serves. Rarely does music exist simply for music’s sake. It can be a carrier of information, express emotions or support religious or public ceremony. However, music cannot achieve that purpose on its own. Think about attending a dance where the only music is on an ipod set on shuffle. Even if the playlist was carefully preselected, it will not match the mood, preferences and values of the group at that moment. Nor can it adjust to the ebb and flow of the event.
There are important group skills learned in playing in an ensemble. However, the musician is unlikely to interact with anyone other than his or her stand partner or the people in his/her section. Listening programs for people with dementia fill an important niche but they can not help people be more social if there is not someone there to talk with them.
I have number of songs that I use in my practice that fill a number of needs. How I use them and the intervention I follow up with determine whether or not they will meet the client’s goals. Music is not enough. It takes a trained music therapist to create real change.