Musicking Together: Affective, Cognitive and Physical Aspects of a Music Therapy Group Work

For many individuals, music is a strong part of their environment. Music can be an individual’s go-to on tough days, pump-up for working out, a hobby, a career, and even an identifier. Within every culture, music has more than likely played a role in one way or another. In an article by Cunha written in October of 2016 titled Musicking Together: Affective, Cognitive and Physical Aspects of a Music Therapy Group Work, music showed its true colors as an identifier within a Community Music Therapy (CoMT) group that consisted of five women, six students, and a teacher.

Collective music making within a group consists of interpersonal relationships and collaborative practice, creating a different set of events rather than focusing on improvement of musical abilities (Cunha & Lorenzino, 2012 as cited by Cunha, 2017). The goal of the study conducted by Cunha and their six students was to discuss the affective, cognitive, and physical events that occur when groups gather to make music within a music therapy context. For this study, CoMT differed from traditional music therapy practice because it focused on social changes and community development rather than needs of specific individuals.  

Participants of the group worked together on a cleaning staff at a university in Brazil. The participants spent large amounts of time together cleaning the university and worked in a close environment. Each individual had no formal music education and an average education level of primary school. The individuals who participated met together with the students and teacher for one and a half hours, once a week, for eight weeks of CoMT.

The students and teacher developed a two-step observation process of deconstruction and reconstruction to accurately analyze the data collected. First, all information that was obtained was deconstructed into its details, elements, and singularities. Then, students reconstructed the information, allowing them to rebuild the phenomenon one step at a time in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the reality. Data was collected and placed within three domains: cognitive, affective, and physical.

Affect plays a large role in how our body language is received and understood. Within the group, affect created divides and resolutions. In the early stages of the study, the group members exchanged tambres, pitches, rhythms, melodies, and intensities as a form of communication. Using these elements, the group members created a ritual where group members could express themselves in diverse affective aspects of participation, specifically when singing.

Cognitive aspects of the study were seen within communication, concentration, and listening to one another inside of the group dynamics. In the beginning, music making encounters were led through creation of sounds, followed by production of random sounds through exploration with percussive instruments. Over time, participatory performance became social. Group members shared about their experiences with songs and instruments in the early stages of the group. For some members, music was social and for others it was a way of life. On days where there was a disagreement in the workplace prior to CoMT, the dynamics of the disagreement showed in the music making.

Body language is essential to daily interactions between individuals. In the beginning, group members’ body language was contradictory to the last three meetings. Their body language presented as small, shy gestures to confidence and tense facial expression to relaxed smiles. However, in the final three meetings, the group was cohesively more spontaneous, creating less distance between group members’ participation, thoughts, and feelings. Group members expressed themselves with their bodies through exploration of the environment with body movement interventions.

At the conclusion of the study, reconstruction gave great insight to how music affected the affective, cognitive, and physical aspects of individuals who participated. CoMT allowed individuals interested in creating collaborative spaces where group members can share interpretations of the world a space to safely do so.

The impacts of the study represent a social turning point for the individuals involved. In this space, individuals who participated in the study showed music’s ability to shape personal resources and experiences. For the individuals of the group, CoMT altered their daily routine and gave them a safe place to express themselves through creation of and recreation of songs, improvised melodies, dances, and singing of favorite songs. The CoMT environment encouraged the individuals of the group to express themselves, relieve stress, problem solve, and explore new ways of moving and dancing. For more information please continue to or

By Sara May, MT-BC

Cunha,R. (2017). Musicking Together: Affective, cognitive and physical aspects of a music

therapy group work. Voices: A World Forum For Music Therapy, 17(2). Retrieved from