Stitches in Time

Weaving together music, stories, and identities

Painting by Mercedes Pavlicevic, “What Really Matters in this most precious life”

In Philip Larkin’s Love Songs in Age the poet describes how each chord of music brought back, ‘the unfailing sense of being young’ …

Many of us know that listening to music can evoke memories, and that sharing favourite music with others is simultaneously an opportunity for sharing those memories – of who we are and what we’ve done. Our music-linked memories are part of the pleasure we take in re-listening to the music we know and love. 

Sharing music, therefore, can be vitally important. It offers a way of mutually caring for music and through that – caring for each other. The stories we tell, that music prompts, can highlight individually and collectively ‘who we are’, who we are linked to, and what we value. Music, in other words, keeps us in touch with what is important, and has been important, in our lives.

In scenes of care (care homes, hospices), musical reminiscence may involve one-to-one listening. (Gary has done this with residents on many occasions.) It may occur in a group, like a musical appreciation session or ‘show and tell’. (Fraser is experimenting with these on zoom.) It may also occur during a group music session in between numbers. (we see this a lot in Hill House.) And it may occur in conversations where one person tells another about a cherished piece of music (Wolfgang has encountered this in his work with hospice residents who are very near to the end of their lives.)

In all cases, the discussion of people’s special musical reminiscences allows for the music in question to be positioned between all participants as a common object of interest and care and so strengthens the social fabric between participants. And serves as a person’s legacy after they die.

We are currently exploring these issues and building on earlier work in the area of music listening, reminiscence and wellbeing. It is helping us to hold open our understanding of what music therapy ‘is’ and can be, and what music ‘is’ and can be – especially in our current, socially distanced time.

Further Reading 

Ansdell, G. 2014. How Music Helps: In Music Therapy and Everyday Life. London: Routledge.

Batt-Rawden, K, T. DeNora and E. Ruud. 2005. Music Listening and Empowerment in Health Promotion: A Study of the Role and Significance of Music in Everyday Life of the Long-term Ill, Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 14:2, 120-136 

Davidson, J and S Garrido. 2014. My Life as a Playlist. Perth, AU: UWA Publishing

DeNora, T. 2000. Music in Everyday Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

DeNora, T. 2012. Resounding the Great Divide: music in everyday life at the end of life. Mortality 17:2, 92-105.

DeNora, T. 2017. Public and Narrative Selves in Desert Island Discs. Pp. 215-39 in J. Brown,  N. Cook & S. Cottrell (Eds), Defining the Discographic Self: Desert Islads Discs in Context.. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

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