Elizabeth Petcu is a distinguished flute player who held the position of Principal Flute with the Radio Telefís Éireann Concert Orchestra of Ireland for over 25 years. A native of Bray in County Wicklow, Ireland, Elizabeth has a Masters degree in music therapy. Since her early retirement in 2006 due to advancing hearing loss, Elizabeth has been working for a diploma in Fine Art, often exhibits her ceramics, paintings and drawings and performs with the three piece music ensemble Rune and with her husband Mircea who is an accomplished violinist. In 2008 Elizabeth released Just Me, a solo album of flute music, which captures in essence Elizabeth’s true authentic sound through a brilliant interpretation of her favourite repertoire.
We are honoured and grateful to present Elizabeth Petcu’s inspired and insightful article on music.
From What to How – a paradigm shift
By Elizabeth Petcu
What does music mean is a perennial question and one raised by my music professor, Dr. Brian Boydell, at Trinity College Dublin many years ago. We never found a satisfactory answer. We never found an answer to suit everyone.
Changing a small word seemed to me to be the key to the answer and I then realised that the What question could never be solved.
For me, music does not exist on the written page or in the human memory alone but relies on a two-way process for its life: musician and listener. How does music mean includes the player’s intent – the message, that extra bit which is essential to the experience of any live, in the moment, performance.
Music means largely because, confirmed by renowned music therapists, everyone lives in a musical environment from the moment of conception and is, therefore, fundamentally musical. Music is a universal language and can be universally understood.
The founders of the Creative Music Therapy approach speak of the “Music Child” which is part of the inner self in everyone (Nordoff and Robbins, 1997). Orff, the composer of Carmina Burana and great music educator, emphasised the elemental idea embodied in the universal tendency of humans to make music with the natural rhythms of movement and speech. Benenzon, the Argentinean music therapist, believes that common to all human experience of sound is the sound of the mother’s heart beat, the sound of nature and the pentatonic scale. Paradoxically he states also that alongside the universality of the musical experience is the complete individuality of it: everyone having a sound identity as unique as a thumb print.
Bruscia must have the last word as he puts it so beautifully:
“It is not surprising therefore that the musical pulse is the ultimate “holding environment,” the life matrix, and the most noticeable signal of survival and aliveness. Because the heart beat is the ultimate connection to life, the pulse in music is the foundational element by which we experience our physical or substantive selfhood.”
Although I have not yet practiced as a music therapist, my Masters in Limerick University gave me and enriched understanding of music and its meaning and led to the founding of RUNE, my own small music group. We like to present music in innovative ways, blending visual imagery and literature, offering a novel experience which seems to find resonances with all our audiences.
Some people say Heaven is like that too.
Other writings by Elizabeth Petcu
- A Flute Maker/Player Dyad – A Phenomenological Study Into The Experiences Of A Flute Maker/Player Dyad