Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Let us now consider the functioning of a jazz band. . . . Jazz, an improvised music, depends for its quality and success on the constructive and creative interplay of different musicians, playing a variety of instruments. A jazz band has its different parts; there is usually at least a "rhythm section" and a "front line." These have distinct functions. The rhythm section lays down the beat of the music. The front line instruments are responsible for the melodic lines and their interplay. The front line may be further divided into different instruments or groups of instruments, for example brass instruments and reed instruments; the players of each must know what they are supposed to be doing, and how what they are doing is distinct from but at the same time fits in with what the other musicians are doing. The collective effort of the band as a whole also needs direction.
As you watch a jazz band playing you will see that the leader is continually giving instructions to the members of the band, setting the tempo for each tune; indicating when the musicians should take solos, and how long each should be; defining "riffs," which are repetitive musical patterns that the other musicians may play behind a soloist or at some other point during the performance of a piece; and of course letting the members of the band know when each tune should come to an end. Such instructions are often given quite unobtrusively, perhaps by a nod of the head, some other non-
verbal cue or the use of a musical phrase or emphasis with which the musicians are familiar.
Sometimes the musicians have played together for so long that instructions are no longer needed. They know how their leader likes a certain tune played, who should take solos when, and so forth. Nevertheless, the leader's decisions and authority are still in operation, even though the band is functioning so well and is so experienced and well-rehearsed that few or no instructions need be given while they are playing. Some bands have dual leadership; this can work well, but it carries with it the risk of friction between the leaders.
Few, if any, therapeutic metaphors perfectly represent the clinical situations for which they are constructed, but there is a considerable resemblance between some aspects of the subsystems of a family and those of a jazz band. The metaphor of the functioning of a symphony orchestra could of course be used, as could many other forms of organization. A symphony orchestra has the same need for the smooth interaction of its different sections, and also the same need for leadership. But it probably provides a less exact metaphor for a family than a jazz band does; for one thing it plays predetermined, composed pieces, rather than creating its own musical structure as it goes along. Few families are as ordered and predictable as a symphony orchestra.
Playing in a jazz band is predictable only up to a point; things are changing all the time, as the individual musicians, operating within the overall framework of the group, define their own melody lines and create their own mini-compositions while they play. Also, when the members of a band stay together over a period of years, they develop new skills, learn new musical tricks and techniques, and extend their repertoire. In the same way the behaviors, as well as the emotional and physical states, of the members of a family are, typically, changing all the time. Thus constant adjustments must be made by each individual in the family, rather as jazz musicians adjust their playing according to what the other members of the group are doing. The families we see are all faced with the task of making progress through developmental stages. .. . In the same way, jazz bands develop over the years; an excellent example is that of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. This was a small group, playing relatively simple pieces when it was formed in the mid-1920s. It developed impressively between that time and 1974, when Ellington died. The changes in Ellington's orchestra and music were sometimes gradual, sometimes quite rapid. The organization had its ups and downs, sometimes losing key musicians, but gaining new recruits too, people who enriched the orchestra with their talents. It also had to cope with the loss to the armed forces of several of its members during the war. This process of development, and the vicissitudes encountered along the way, bear many similarities to a family's long-term development. A well-functioning family may be likened to a well-practiced band, whose musicians have played together for a long time, communicate well with each other, respect each others' roles and professional skills, understand the different functions of the members of the group, and have common objectives. Few, if any, instructions need be given to the musicians while such a band is playing. On the other hand, in a poorly functioning band there may be struggles for power, disagreements about the tempos at which tunes should be played, uncertainty about who has the final decision about what should be done when members disagree, competing desires to share the limelight, and a general lack of order and organization. When such problems exist the collective effort of the band suffers.
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