Belief in the Power of Music and Resilient Identities

Navigating Shared Fictions


  • Craig Robertson Nordoff Robbins


When group identities are collectively believed in, groups tend to behave collectively (Scheitle, Corcoran and Halligan, 2018). This means that group identity can lead to group cohesion and vice versa. Music is one social activity that has the potential to strengthen this process, creating a more resilient identity for practitioners. Ultimately, however, resilience is based on what the group believes, rather than what is empirically evident and thus, it could be considered a type of fiction. According to Harari (2015), collective belief in fictions is necessary for collective cooperation beyond small, personal social groups. This article attempts to illustrate how music can afford increased resilience of group identity through the shared belief in its own agency and how music therapy might provide an even more specifically useful approach in this context.

Author Biography

Craig Robertson, Nordoff Robbins

I am dedicated to developing the role of musical activity in health and wellbeing, community cohesion, development, peacebuilding and post-conflict and post-disaster reconstruction. I am currently focused on empirical social research of music in healthcare provision. 

I have conducted qualitative ethnographic research on the influence of musical activities on social behavioural change in post-conflict environments. My research thus far has included an ethnographic study of an inter-religious choir in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and an investigation into the role of music in predicting, influencing, sustaining and communicating social change in upheavals in North Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco) in 2011-2012. As a research consultant for the Min-On Concert Association (Tokyo) I helped to found their first research-based organisation, the Min-On Music Research Institute. Myself and the other researchers at the institute are currently compiling a comprehensive theoretical framework and database of all music and peacebuilding activities at a global level. This will form a solid basis on which to build effective knowledge sharing and networking platform for the emerging field of music and peacebuilding.