Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
PhD thesis Helen Loth for ARRO.pdf (4.02 MB)

An investigation into the relevance of gamelan music to the practice of music therapy

Download (4.02 MB)
posted on 2023-08-30, 14:09 authored by Helen Loth
This study investigates the use of Indonesian gamelan with participants who have special needs or with special populations, and considers what the playing of gamelan music has to offer music therapy practice. The gamelan is an ensemble of instruments on which the traditional music of Indonesia is played, consisting of mainly tuned and un-tuned percussion instruments tuned to four, five or seven tone scales. Gamelan are being increasingly used for music activities with participants who have special needs, such as learning disabilities, mental health problems or sensory impairments, and with special populations, such as prisoners. Whilst aims are broadly educational, therapeutic benefits are also being noted. There is little research into the effectiveness of this use of gamelan; the therapeutic benefits have not been researched within the context of music therapy. As an experienced music therapist and gamelan musician, I considered that investigating the potential for using gamelan within music therapy would produce new knowledge that could extend the practice of music therapy. Various qualitative methods within a naturalistic paradigm were used to investigate current and past practice of gamelan playing with special needs groups and to identify the therapeutic benefits. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with gamelan tutors working in this area and a music therapy project using gamelan with a group of children who had learning difficulties was undertaken by the author. Using a thematic approach to the analysis of data, the key features of gamelan playing which have relevance for music therapy practice were identified. Gamelan playing was found to have a range of therapeutic benefits which can be used intentionally by a music therapist to address therapeutic aims. It was found firstly that the playing of traditional gamelan music can be used for specific therapeutic purposes and secondly, that the music and instruments can be adapted and used within various music therapy approaches and for participants with a range of disabilities. A set of guiding principles are also proposed for the use of this new music therapy practice.



Anglia Ruskin University

File version

  • Accepted version


  • eng

Thesis name

  • PhD

Thesis type

  • Doctoral

Legacy posted date


Legacy creation date


Legacy Faculty/School/Department

Theses from Anglia Ruskin University/School of Performance

Usage metrics

    ARU Theses


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager