Behind any person’s favourite song, there’s a personal story—and behind the project lieblingslied.at [Lieblingslied = favourite song—Trans.], launched in March 2020 by the Department of Music Therapy in light of Austria’s COVID-19 lockdown, there’s likewise a story. It’s a story that we’d like to briefly summarise here.
Against the backdrop of balcony concerts and other neighbourhood initiatives, an early 2020 conversation between Manuel Goditsch (ÖBM – Austrian Association of Music Therapists) and Thomas Stegemann (head of the mdw’s Department of Music Therapy) gave rise to the idea of creating online music therapy offerings in order to reach people in their own homes.
This was virtually no sooner said than done: from 19 March to 19 April 2020, a six-person coordination team (consisting of music therapists from the mdw and the ÖBM) worked to develop the concept of lieblingslied.at, which was to involve music therapy students as well as accompanying research in collaboration with the mdw’s Department of Music Sociology (see illustration 1). This period also included the project’s technical realisation by the Information Technology, discussion of all legal issues relating to data protection, the production of an informational clip, submission of a research funding application to the Andreas Tobias Kind Foundation (Germany), creation of a website, preparation of press releases, and much more. Under normal conditions, all this would probably have required a couple months of planning—for which reason we’d like to extend our special thanks to all participants at the mdw for their successful efforts to realise this initiative at such short notice. This project was also welcomed and supported by all of Austria’s music therapy training programmes and professional organisations.
What is lieblingslied.at?
This pilot project was a free, preventive, and resource-oriented offering aimed especially at individuals who are more burdened than most by the COVID-19 situation. At the centre of this type of receptive intervention is a song or piece of music that a person may request, music that is then played by—or listened to together with—a music therapist or music therapy student via (video-)telephony at an agreed-upon time. On an optional basis, this can be followed by a conversation about the piece of music. lieblingslied.at does not involve a classic music therapy process but rather represents an ad hoc offering aimed primarily at evoking positive emotions in connection with the requested favourite song. Favourite songs, after all, always contain a piece of one’s own personal history that mutual listening allows to be told, conveyed, and shared—thereby satisfying a fundamental human need.
For three months (from 20 April to 20 July of this year), song requests were accepted via the website lieblingslied.at. Altogether 40 song requests were fulfilled—and from folksongs to heavy metal, virtually every musical genre was represented.
The body of data generated by the accompanying research (which was optional for the participants)—data that, alongside the recording of demographic information, included retrospective interviews (conducted by Michael Huber) on changes in music use during the lockdown phase—is currently being prepared for publication in specialist journals.
This project involved a total of 17 music therapy students who participated as part of three ad hoc mdw courses and assumed various roles, either as active music therapy practitioners or as providers of scientific and communication-related background support. One participating student said that she “felt it was very positive how the department, in a period where one could be grateful for even just quasi-functional teaching, went far beyond that and even initiated a new project from which there was a lot to be learned.”
A decision has not yet been reached as to whether lieblingslied.at will be continued, but the infrastructure needed to do so now exists and can be activated and adapted at any time if needed. And speaking of favourite songs, we’re listening to one right now: “Sing Sing Sing” in the version by Benny Goodman. What would be one of your favourite songs?
With friendly support from the Andreas Tobias Kind Foundation.
Ringvorlesung Musiktherapie lieblingslied.at
[an event of the music therapy lecture series] Thursday, 3 December 2020 at 7.30 p.m.