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Observations placeholder

Music Therapy - Nigel Hartley and the joy of improvisation



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

From Music Therapy – Intimate Notes – case studies compiled by Mercedes Pavlicevic

Based on an interview with Nigel Hartley who works at the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre in London and Sir Michael Sobell House in Oxford.

The biggest impact of the music therapy training was learning to improvise. This was a totally new way of experiencing myself in music.

It wasn't just experiencing improvisation or learning it, or finding that I could do it. It was having a new experience of myself in music. Because even though I'd had this long relationship with music, doing a lot of performing and travelling around, I didn't really relate to it, I felt somehow separate from it. As a performer playing all this music that I learned, it was something there on the outside and I played the notes.

This didn't move me, it didn't really come from within me. Also, this new experience of improvising music was very much linked to being part of the group of music therapy students, and experiencing myself and the group through music improvisation.

In learning to improvise, the music begins from inside me, and I had this feeling of it being lifted out, I was lifted with it, I came out of myself with it, it drew me out of myself, What happened in the improvisation groups was intensely intimate: it was about experiencing myself, as well as being experienced by others, in music.

The source of the experience

Healer other

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Know yourself
Listening to music


Music therapy