Stige is the first Coordinator of the music therapy education program at Sogn og Fjord ane University in San dane, Norway, where he is an associate professor. With diverse experiences as a music therapist using a community based approach, Stige has written numerous articles and books on music therapy and music education. He is editor-in-chief of the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, and co-editor (with Carolyn Kenny) of Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. He is one of the most insightful thinkers working within the music therapy profession.
He believes that humans cannot escape culture. Through culture, we are provided the tools we need to deal with challenges of everyday life. Stige believes that culture has not been focused on enough and in his book, Culture-Centered Music Therapy, he brought the culture to the music therapy world. His book is divided into four main parts excluding the introduction, preface, etc.
Part One of the book, outlines premises for the argument, examining basic concepts such as culture, humankind, meaning, 'music king,' and the nature-nurture debate. Part Two highlights how culture-centered music therapy may be practiced. The scope varies from community music therapy (aimed in part on cultural change in the community), to ecological music therapy (focusing on communication at micro- and meso system levels), to individual music psychotherapy (considering the individual in cultural context). In Part Three, implications for describing and understanding music therapy are discussed, including a chapter on how to define music therapy as a practice, discipline, and profession. A culture-inclusive model of the music therapy process is also proposed. Part Four suggests approaches to music therapy research within a culture-centered context.
A call for increased reflexivity, the ability to reflect upon one's social and cultural position, is at the heart of the discussion, along with a continuing theme of this book: the relations and tensions between local and more general perspectives on music therapy. Focusing more on Part I, the first three chapters that make up that section educate the reader on key premises that arise throughout the rest of the text... The first chapter explores an integration of themes from biology, history and culture. It opens with a concise and scholarly history of the concept of culture, discussing etymological roots and noting different uses and misuses throughout history. Reference is made to the disciplines of anthropology and ethnography, the latter playing a significant part throughout the text. The philosopher Wittgenstein is soon introduced, in particular his work on language games.
Stige believes that we cannot discuss any definition of culture without recourse to understanding what it is to be human. He cites scholars integrating biological and psychological processes. The work of Stern and Trevarthen is well known to many as bio-psychological underpinnings to music therapy practice. I was interested to learn more of further links between music therapy and the work of Bruner and Vygotsky, in particular Vygotsky's notion of Zone of Proximal Development. In summa rising some of this cultural background Stige outlines two central themes of his overall thesis: our inborn need to experience a sense of community and the process of reflexivity, 'the ability to think of oneself in relation to others' (p. 33). He differentiates culture defined for music therapy with the various customs and technologies that regulate our existence from culture-centred music therapy (our awareness of music therapy as culture - page 42).
Culture-specific music therapy is also defined as where the cultural identities of both client and therapist meet. A major stress of the book is the need for cultural sensitivity because awareness of how various disorders and diagnostic labels are also relative to the local community and culture of the person. The personal and cultural levels of experience can be heard in a reflexive approach to music therapy.