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Every Note Counts. The Story of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy

Simpson, Fraser (2008). Every Note Counts. The Story of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. London: James and James Ltd.

First Music Therapy Coffee Table Book

br2006_096Simon Fraser has done an excellent job documenting the story of Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins in Great Britain. From detailed tape-recorded interviews with key figures, and not least from a wealth of photographs, Fraser has put together the story of the Nordoff-Robbins Charity as well as the N-R training program from its early days in the seventies up till the recent fully developed Master and PhD-programs.

First of all there is the detailed account of Paul and Clive’s many appearances and involvement in the British music therapy scene, and not least Sybil Beresford-Peirce impressive music therapeutic entrepreneurship. But to an outsider, the role of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Charity in tapping the rock music industry from a huge amount of money is fascinating reading. The mix of Lady Mary Bradford, Director of Möet & Chardon Champagne Nancy Jarratt, insurance broker Andrew Miller and Willie Robertsen from the rock scene, not least rock band manager Sam Alder, made a unique fund raising group who came up with the genius idea of giving a “Silver Clef Award” every year to an outstanding rock musician. Starting with The Who in 1976, every British rock musician from Sir Elton John to Paul MacCartney has personally received this award in the yearly fundraising lunch. Looking at the list of new rewards invented to tap British sport and entertainment business, now classical music included, one might ask if inflation is taking over and probably eventually damage the whole idea.

This partnership between rock music industry, music therapy and the “aristocratic circles of the Oxford-based Music Therapy Charity” brought money, houses, and positions, training programs and so on to music therapy. In return, rock musicians were probably given social acceptance and a new sort of credibility on the way from a musical subculture to mainstream popular music.

One might easily envy the N-R –music therapists in the UK in this situation. On the other hand, as a Norwegian, I am happy of not being dependent upon charity for providing jobs, training and research funding for music therapists. Or, more important, handicapped people should be provided for by the society, by state funding, not by private charities, be it rock musicians or the wealthy aristocracy.
This is not only a matter of traditions and cultural difference. It is a matter of human dignity.

Fraser’s book is also a coffee table book, or a real music therapy fan book of Paul and Clive’s many tours. It is easy to read, with small narratives from music therapy inserted along with photographs. Some of the shots taken from music therapy sessions are communicating effectively not only the joy and value of music therapy, but also the charisma of Paul and Clive, what made this story possible. Although valuable as historical source material, this is not an academic book giving us theories or critique. Every note counts is fun to read for all the followers of N-R and an effective communication of the ideas of Creative Music Therapy to the larger community.

There is a story circulating, and Clive, forgive me, I don’t know if it is true. At a big New York event, inviting the music business perhaps in an effort to copy the British story, Sting and the rock band The Police is announced. Clive turns around and asks silently: “Why would the police be here?

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