Wolfgang, Fraser, Gary and Tia are delighted that our article on ‘late’ learning is now published in a Special Issue of Scuola Democratica, Edited by Anna Lisa Tota and Antonietta De Feo. Other articles in this rich SI address Disability and Arts Education, Prison Theatre, Epistemology, Educational Research Training, Teaching Sociology through social aesthetics, the School as a Temporary Exhibition Space, and two book reviews, one on A. Bayley’s Posthuman Pedagogies in Practice: Arts Based Approaches for Developing Participatory Futures (Palgrave MacMillan 2018)and one on Tia’s book on Hope in the same issue, the latter by Lia Luchetti.)
We were excited to be able to present three detailed, person-centered case studies (one from each of the three research sites – a care home and two hospices), to use some of our Care for Music drawings for the first time in an academic article, and to work with amazingly helpful editors and very helpful critical peer reviewers too. The process was wonderful and we look forward to future dialogue on the topic of who can learn, what is creativity, for whom, when and where, and with what consequences.
The list of references from the article is here:
Ansdell, G. and Pavlicevic, M. (2010), «Practicing ‘Gentle Empiricism’: The Nordoff Rob- bins Research Heritage», Music Therapy Perspectives, 28 (2), 131-9.
Antonovsky, A. (1987), Unraveling the Mystery of Health: How People Manage Stress and Stay Well, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
Becker, H.S. (1982), Art Worlds, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, University of California Press.
Featherstone, K. and Northcote, A. (2020), Wandering the Wards: An Ethnography of Hospi- tal Care and its Consequences for People Living With Dementia. London, Routledge.
Freire, P. (1970), Pedagogy of the Oppressed, London, Continuum Press.
Delamont, S. and Atkinson, P. (2001), «Doctoring Uncertainty: Mastering Craft Knowledge», Social Studies of Science, 31 (1), 87-107.
DeNora, T. (2014), Making Sense of Reality: Culture and Perception in Everyday Life, London, Sage.
Groce, N. (1985), Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, Cambridge, MA, Harvard Univer- sity Press.
Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991), Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
London, M. (2021), The Oxford Handbook of Lifelong Learning (2nd edition), New York, Oxford University Press.
Mehan, H. (1988), «Educational Handicaps as a Cultural Meaning System», Ethos, 16 (1), 73-91.
Tia DeNora, Wolfgang Schmid, Fraser Simpson and Gary Ansdell
Mukerji, C. (2009), Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality in the Canal du Midi, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.
Schmid, W. (2017), «Being Together – Exploring the Modulation of Affect in Improvisa- tional Music Therapy with a Man in a Persistent Vegetative State – A Qualitative Single Case Study», Health Psychology Report, 2 (5), 186-92.
Schmid, W. (2013), «A Penguin on the Moon: Self-Organisational Processes in Improvi- sational Music Therapy in Neurological Rehabilitation», Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 23 (2), 152-72.
Suchman, L. (1987), Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Commu- nication, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Tota, A.L. and Hagen, T. (2016), Routledge International Handbook of Memory Studies, London, Routledge.
Witkin, R. (1998), Adorno on Music, London, Routledge.
Wood, S. (2020), «Beyond Messians Birds: The Post-Verbal World of Dementia», BMJOpen Medical Humanities, 46, 73-83.
We’ve been meeting with our Project Consultant, Rachel Verney, on and off throughout the analysis stage of Care for Music. Rachel was trained by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins and has had vast experience working as a music therapist, and training many, now quite senior and well-known, music therapists. When we meet, we look at data together and test ideas, interpretations, hunches….
Rachel was Gary’s teacher and now she’s Tia’s teacher too. She has an uncanny eye – and ear. Today we looked, repeatedly, at video footage using the stop-and-discuss technique. We were interested in whether, without any prompting or background, Rachel might see and hear what we thought we’d noticed. Or whether she would not! (Which makes it a bit of an adventure, and therefore all-the-more interesting.)
Some people might call this cross-validation, which of course it is, but it is also much more. We have learned and are learning from Rachel how to develop our micro-observation skills, she offers fresh thinking of what might be happening and – equally vital – she has a congenital aversion to jargon which we have found more than once has stopped us in our tracks. Today we spent a lot of time ‘unpacking’ the term, ‘to musicalize care’. We decided it involved a number of different things – an attitude toward possibilities, practices that draw activities into music’s parameters, careful listening (including embodied listening, such as ‘listening with your fingers’) and careful response, and openness to being changed. We also got deep into micro-matters such as ‘was that a fermata or did it simply sound like a held-note because it was being sounded over an inverted chord?’. In the example we were listening to this isn’t just a ‘musicological’ matter as these micro-musical details potentially influence the responses and actions of the people in the scene we’re looking at (or not! This was the nub of our conversation). We also learned more about the benefits of, as Rachel puts it, ‘optimistic listening’, that is listening for the best possible outcomes so that we know, perhaps, how better to produce them musically-socially in real time practice. Thank You Rachel.
The Care for Music Team is very pleased to announce that Care for Music Investigator, Gary Ansdell and his research partner at Nordoff Robbins, Professor Mercedes Pavlicevic have received the European Music Therapy Confederation Award for 2022. The Conference meets every three years.
We are very happy to be able to include Gary’s message of thanks to the conference here:
“My heartfelt thanks to the European Music Therapy Confederation for this honour. Also on behalf of the late Mercedes Pavlicevic and her family, who will be thrilled to hear this news. As most of you know Mercedes died in 2018 – it’s just past the 4th anniversary of her death. We still miss Mercedes the person of course, but her legacy is clear now, and was well celebrated at the World Congress in 2020 in South Africa. Two key qualities came out of us thinking about Mercedes’ professional work: courage and imagination. She was certainly a disrupter of professional holy cows… but she did this with lightness, intelligence, and kindness.
It’s really special that this award is presented here, as Mercedes had important connections with Edinburgh. But of course she also influenced music therapists and other musicians worldwide – in Africa, the Middle East, Europe. She was a real international.
I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Mercedes over more than 20 years. Mercedes as ‘disturber’ had a low tolerance of lazy ideas, practices, and people! A lot of our work together was in the early days of developing the Community Music Therapy as an idea and international movement. I sometimes describe Community Music Therapy as a can-opener rather than a can. Our aim was to open up music therapy again – to help music therapists work best in their local, cultural contexts. Getting beyond ‘one size fits all’ models and practices.
Those qualities that were key to Mercedes and her work – courage and imagination – are also key to Community Music Therapy and its shoogle. I’ll finish with the slogan that we often used: Follow where music and people lead… That usually works!”
Congratulations to Gary and Mercedes, whom we miss dearly. You have inspired us in all we do.
The day I start working at Hill House I ring the bell and to my surprise a priest answers it. She just happens to be near the door, getting ready to do a communion service for a small group of residents in a side room. When I announce myself as the new music therapist, she quickly enlists me to play guitar for the hymns.
The priest comes only monthly, and the residents at this home are a mix of Christian and Jewish, whilst many of the carers are young Muslim women. I wonder how the spiritual needs of people can be cared for here.
Just before Easter Ruth, one of the residents, unexpectedly asks at the end of the music therapy group session “Do you think they sang at the Last Supper?”. This is a woman who lives with dementia, says very little, and looks confused if you speak to her. Her question remains in the air, so she answers it herself: “As we’ve been so happy I think we should go and cook a chicken!”.
Eve comes up to me at the end of the session. She looks into my eyes and struggles to get the words out, but there’s something she needs to say to me: “Thank you for coming here… music… it’s more important than food for us”.
As a visiting music therapist, and working there as a practitioner prior to Care for Music, I wasn’t at Hill House enough to answer my question about how the care home did or didn’t manage the spiritual needs of its residents (our ‘data collection’ has been conducted online because of the pandemic). But over the years there I’ve had glimpses of how music can be part of what could be thought of as spiritual experience for residents, staff, families. The vignettes I’ve included above were a reminder to listen and look carefully at what residents may not be able say or express anymore in conventional ways, but sometimes convey in poetic forms, images, or gestures. Also, to be conscious of what music ‘points towards’ for some people, which we might call the spiritual, soulful, or transcendent – however variously these terms are understood and ‘performed’.
But this remains a key issue of course: how is ‘the spiritual’ understood and talked about today, especially in late and end of life care settings, and in a multi-cultural, multi-faith context? So, I’ve been reading around this area again, and thinking back to the history of how music therapy has slowly began to talk about spirituality again. Some readers of this blog may remember the Oxford World Congress in 2002 where Nigel Hartley and colleagues bravely put both community and spirituality back onto the map for serious professional discussion. Both areas had been taboo in music therapy for too long but, we argued, should be talked about again since they were clearly present in clients’ and therapists’ experience. Since 2002 there’s been a gradual development of both practice and serious thinking and research in this area, especially within later or end-of-life care (to mention just the sources I’ve been reading – Hartley 2012; Goodhead & Hartley 2018; Tsiris 2018; Notarangelo 2021).
In Spirituality in Hospice Care Nigel Hartley is helpfully candid in his chapter about the ‘definition problem’: “…the concept of spirituality, for me, is messy, slippery and confusing, but also intriguing, occasionally inspiring and often totally consuming” (p.24). Nigel probably speaks here for many of us, if we’d admit it! A priest’s chapter in the same book writes wearily about spirituality as a ‘giant conceptual sponge’, soaking up almost anything. Another way we could say this is that words like spirit(ual) or soul(ful) are ‘placeholders’ – they don’t point to anything specific, but are a way of pointing towards the intangible, and possibly unsayable. In contrast to the materialist vocabularies of medicine (‘broken bone’, ‘blood clot’,) they don’t indicate things or even processes. They are “unwords” in Iain McGhilchrist’s (2021) nice term – words that place-hold that which doesn’t have a physical, spatial, or even temporal reality in the usual sense, but still matters, and still has traceable consequences. What a spiritual or religious vocabulary gives is a way of talking and thinking that directs our attention to people and their experiences in a non-ordinary way. Spirit-talk, soul-talk, transcendence-talk affords a particular quality of attention, witness, and care towards whole persons and their relationship with the seen and the unseen, which we might otherwise overlook if we only allow physical, psychological, or social phenomena to be ‘real’. Cicely Saunders, the hospice pioneer famously talked about ‘total pain,’ which included ‘spiritual pain’. But where is this? What vocabulary and practices express and address it?
In my book How Music Helps the sections work through the various areas where music does just this: helps recognise people fully, build identities, relationships, community. The logical end-point to this sequence emerged as how music often helps with experiences of ‘transcendence’ – with how music can sometimes take us beyond the self, the area of spirituality. I realised that throughout the book I’d assembled a certain spiritual vocabulary because this was the only set of words and ideas that could describe this particular aspect of musical experience that people so regularly tell us about as music therapists.
As we now work through the data of the Care for Music project we’ve allowed ourselves to be attracted to those ‘facets’ that most shine out. Spirituality is one of these, and an initial approach to data analysis has been to trace the vocabulary of the field notes that best describe this facet. In a thousand pages of practice log, the following ‘spiritual’ terms occur (in ascending order of prevalence): Epiphany = 2; Religion/Religious = 3; Faith = 3; Transcendence = 5; Consolation = 5; Suffer(ing) = 7; Pray(er) = 7; Existential = 11; Vitality = 13; Beyond = 19; Purpose = 20; Ritual = 22; Presence = 23; Soul = 24; Meaning = 26; Value = 27; Community/communitas = 36/36; Quickening = 37; Witness = 48; Spirit(ual) = 49; Hope = 58; Beauty = 75; Attention = 92; (En)joy-joyful = 199; Love = 305; Life = 324.
It’s worth looking closer at the incidents and experiences that elicited these ‘tags’. This blog isn’t the place for a long discussion on an elusive subject, but here are some inconclusive notes and questions on aspects of music and spirituality that we’re currently thinking about in relation to Hill House and the people who live and work there:
Non-verbal spirituality: Many of the residents of Hill House are ‘post-verbal’ for various reasons. But they often retain lively embodied and symbolic ways of communicating and creatively expressing themselves. How does music help with this alternative articulation of ‘the spiritual’? The vignettes above from Susannah and Eve show how there’s often a symbolic or poetic allusion that communicates aspects perhaps of their past and present religious or spiritual practice or understanding (for example, music as ‘spiritual food’ for Eve). Other times it’s simply the non-verbal sense of ‘something beyond’ within a fleeting moment of musical connection.
Ritual and communitas – The Christian communion service I helped with during my first day was a conventional religious ritual of great value to those who attended. But are the music therapy sessions themselves a ritual? My logs over the years record many sessions where mood, energy, social relationships and more have been transformed: “Conviviality – helped by the tea coming halfway; warmth and mutual contact and appreciation between residents, between staff and residents. And lastly, hope and fun.”Is this what Victor Turner called ‘communitas’? – a dynamic, liminal, performative state of ‘betweenness’ that groups can experience as transformative; “that sense of union with others which is a large part of the aim of ritual and a major concern of religion” (Edith Turner).
Spirit and Soul – A family member once said, “It’s a portal to people’s spirits”, whereas the manager one day said, “Thank you, my soul’s been warmed” after she joined a group. The tendency for spirituality to be a ‘giant conceptual sponge’ indicates there’s room for more phenomenological differentiation. The data depicts manifestations of both ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’; inevitably a subjective and poetic distinction, but interesting. In short: spirit lifts, animates, quickens, whilst soul descends, deepens, colours, connects. How does music work differently with spirit and soul?
Suffering, Beauty, Joy – A spiritual lens can allow seemingly incompatible aspects of experience to relate. Beauty, rather than being sentimental, stands out in relation to that which is fragile, near the end, feeling anything but beautiful. Joy stands out amongst pain, sadness and suffering. In music these opposites and incompatibilities can and do exist. Here’s an excerpt from the current, project, log:
“As ever the music’s a vehicle for ‘something else’ happening there: I know this sounds vague, but I mean it’s to do with the dimension of ‘spirituality’, broadly conceived: joy, quickening, connection, appreciation… Life in a word. Perhaps I think this because it’s Ash Wednesday, and I’m just about to sing in the cathedral service… but also earlier I was thinking about the paradox in a place like Hill House between the spiritual aspect of musicking… and the everyday shit of their lives – for residents and carers (quite literally, the work is endless toileting and feeding).”
“Yes, there are dark times… but also light ones too. We need sadness too… It makes it real” (Elinor)
Hope: The daughter of a resident once said, “I was getting down about coming here, and how mum is… and then this afternoon’s music has given me hope again…”. As Tia has written about in her recent study of this aspect (DeNora 2021), hope is a dream we carry, often amid situations which are difficult and feeling hopeless. Musicking often generates, carries, and lends hope to people and situations at Hill House.
Life – “You bring life to us” Eve says. ‘Life’ comes top of the list of ‘tags’ (324), with the paradox of this being in a situation where people are near the end of their lives. Residents, staff, families point out how music often shows up the life still in people, and the particular quality of life that flares in musical communication, often referred to as ‘quickening’ in the log – which is far more than physical stimulation. That ‘life’ is seen as a spiritual aspect perhaps connects to the growing trend for what the theologian Don Cupitt (1999) calls ‘the new religion of ordinary life’ where “life” itself is celebrated and sacralised. Of all the reports that we witness on how music helps in Hill House it’s perhaps how it ‘brings back the life’ in people that is most notable – and perhaps the most intangible spiritual phenomenon?
Lastly, a confession: I left out ‘love’ when I first searched for key ‘spiritual terms’ in the data. It turned out to have 305 references! Love is such an everyday word that we may forget (like me!) that it’s at the core of almost all spiritual traditions and endeavour. Along with Hope and Faith there is Love as Caritas – or‘charity’ in the traditional biblical translation. It’s also increasingly acknowledged in the literature on dementia care (Gerrard 2019). I then remembered the quote that I put at the very end of How Music Helps, when one of my interviewees, Rachel Verney, talks about Nordoff and Robbins’ ‘music child’ concept:
The idea of the ‘music child’ was an attempt to say how there’s something about people which is whole and healthy and which responds to the call of music. But it’s also hope, and it’s love, and it’s beauty, and it promises the impossible. It’s absolutely a spiritual concept, there’s no question.(p.294)
This kind of love isn’t primarily eros (though that can be there in music too), or philia as close musical companionship and community, or even agape – the unconditional love of the New Testament. Instead it’s perhaps what Mark Vernon (2008) explains as a further form of love characterised by the Greeks – kalos, which he links to wellbeing. Kalos can mean ‘beauty’ but in the sense that it orientates you to what you love, and through this love towards a desire for the good, and to live rightly and happily. Music doesn’t of course make people love, but it helps with this. The anthropologist John Blacking (1973) wrote of his long-term immersion in the musical culture of the Venda of South Africa: “Problems in human societies begin when people learn less about love […] The hard task is to love, and music is a skill that prepares man [sic] for this most difficult task” (p.103).
I’m about to leave Hill House when Susannah takes both my hands begins a speech to me, says how lovely the music is, how sensitive my touch is… and then she tries to say more and her speech muddles. She stops, pauses, looks me straight in the eye and says “Love… Love… Love…”.
Blacking, J. (1973). How Musical is Man? University of Washington Press.
Cupitt, D. (1999). The New Religion of Life in Everyday Speech. SCM Press.
DeNora, T. (2021). Hope: The Dream We Carry. Palgrave Macmillan.
Hartley, N. (2012). Spirituality and the Arts: Discovering What Really Matters’. In: M.Cobb et al. (eds) The Oxford Textboook of Spirituality in Healthcare. Oxford University Press.
Gerrard, N. (2019). What Dementia Teaches Us About Love. Penguin.
Goodhead, A. & Hartley, N. (2018). Spirituality in Hospice Care. London: Jessica Kingsley.
McGilchrist, I. (2021). The Matter with Things. Perspectiva Press.
Notarangelo, A. (2021). ‘Ecological Awareness in Practice: Spirituality, Community Health, and the Possibilities of Music Therapy’. Health & Social Care Chaplaincy Vol.9, no.2 pp298-314. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.41473
Vernon, M. (2008). Wellbeing. Acumen.
Tsiris, G. (2018). Performing spirituality in music therapy: Towards action, context and the everyday. Unpublished PhD thesis: Nordoff-Robbins/Goldsmiths, University of London.
Gary: We’ve both collected so much data from our practical work now, and it’s time for us to start doing something with it. Where I am now is at the stage of reviewing and sorting from my practice in Hill House. How to make sense of it. What to select? Why? How?
Like many aspects of this project, this new stage has seemed more like an artistic idea shaping-up, rather than following a pre-planned sequence of going from ‘data collection’ to ‘data analysis’, and then to ‘findings’. It’s been very much less neat than that! Rather we’ve tried to let the material tell us itself what it needs doing to it (I know that sounds unscientific, but that’s honestly the way it’s felt).
I also realise that finding ways of working with the data have been inspired by chance aspects of my everyday life (again like an artistic process). For example, I was clearing out a cupboard and came across an old leather-bound photograph album of my grandfather’s. In the 1920s he was a professional pilot in the British Royal Air Force, stationed in various places in the Middle East. The album records sights, incidents, people and objects from this time and place. One particular page struck me:
The top row has two photos of a river in Iraq, whilst in the bottom row my grandfather stands next to a bi-plane; then there’s another picture of planes behind sand-bags, and finally a pelican. I asked myself why my grandfather had arranged these pictures in this way on this page. You could think of several answers: rivers and planes are two ways of travelling; planes and pelicans both have wings, and so on. Our minds naturally start comparing, contrasting, and making patterns and explanations out of a variety of ‘things’. If I read the captions below the pelican photo I get a further layer of meaning: “Our mascot”. But of course the mascot has been chosen because of its resemblance to those early flying machines. Patterns emerge as layers of meaning build up and coincide.
I looked up the etymology for ‘album’ and found that it’s Latin for “white”…. So an album is a ‘white space’ for arranging things. I’d never realised that the Beatles’ White Album was perhaps a joke?
I started making my own ‘research albums’ before I came across this family album, but it made me think further about the process and uses of making albums. I was looking for a way of bringing together bits of written text (my research logs of reflective report on sessions and events, and poems about the work), along with video and audio recordings, still photos, and other ephemera that I’d collected. It struck me that the ubiquitous Powerpoint programme is ideal for this. So that’s what I did. Not only for individual cases, but also for some emerging analytic ‘facets’ we were experimenting with. For example, we’ve made the thought experiment of considering everyone in the care home site as a performing musician. To try out this idea I searched through the data for all the examples of care home residents performing within these musician categories: Players, Singers, Dancers, Listeners, Conductors…. and then compiled Powerpoint albums of examples of these categories using text, photos, audio-video clips, poems….
The example in the photo above is the ‘title slide’ of the album of a woman we’ll call Violet. Her album assembles the key material from our music therapy sessions, and through its arrangement shows how her care for music linked with her care for other things and people in her life (china figurines she’d collected with her mother, her cat, plants) – but also musical favourites like the John Wilson orchestra and the singer Jonas Kaufmann.
Making these albums has been a fascinating and moving process of identifying, collecting, arranging, and editing material. I’ve realised just how much every act of selection and arrangement is itself an act of interpretation and proto-analysis. I’ve noticed how this seemingly practical task has simultaneously involved a further layer of the research analytic process: exploring the diachronic narrative of a single case across varying media; juxtaposing and comparing aspects of sameness and difference within a set of similar examples; testing an analytic facet we are experimenting with; thinking-through what variation of aspect means in relation to an element manifested across the data. What, for example, does it mean to find so many residents conducting music when (for most of them) this had been something they’d never done in their lives before? Is there a commonality beneath their different styles of conducting? In this way the gathering and arranging also became simultaneously an analytic process of exploring and reflecting on the richness of data….
I think, Wolfgang, you’ve found yourself doing something quite similar in relation to your own data?
Wolfgang: Yes, I’ve experimented with mosaics, or what I call for ´mosaics in motion´ at the moment, as I use pictures that I take from all sorts of data to flexibly arrange and re-arrange them together with the participants of our project. Initially, this part of the project-work was driven by the question of how I could keep and store data from dying people who will most likely not be with us anymore when we present the research. This is not only a question and concern in the Care for Music Project, but a practical and ethical issue of ´user involvement in research´ that’s discussed in the wider palliative care field. So, I felt a need to experiment with approaches to data collection and arrangement that keep those people this ethnography is about still ´with us´ as participants and researchers and suggests a place for them beyond data collection. I also realize in this project (not the first time, but probably more explicitly) that data collection is a process that is also about me. I am a practitioner-researcher in the project who stores and arranges data material that I am often part of myself. Building a mosaic also documents the selection process of what data I choose to include and when I do this. This work might be initiated and led by me, but is potentially co-constituted by patients, their families, friends, and health care workers. The data does not suddenly ´pop up´ or appear ´at once´ from somewhere out there, but rather accumulates over time – even finds me, as I and the participants engage with each other.Not least, I found that building a mosaic can be a reason for me to contact bereaved relatives of a person who has died, and to look at the mosaic together, re-arrange it, and in this way engage in a process of participatory sense-making. (Which leads to the question of who or what determines when data collection and analysis is completed?).
To give an example for my experiment with ´mosaics in motion´ we can look at Mia´s mosaic, which her parents and I are building together at the moment. Picture 1 shows my first sketch of Mia´s mosaic that I drew on paper on a Friday afternoon as an attempt to get an overview over the various data material I had gathered so far.
Drawing Mia´s mosaic on paper however seemed to be far too static. So, I further developed the mosaic-idea, and eventually took photos of the data, which included people (mostly of their hands to protect their identity), a CD cover, a book, and a newspaper that they talked about or gave me as a gift. I took pictures of a plant in their garden, or their pet or instrument at a home visit. I photographed a page of a person´s favorite sheet music, a song text, an image or signature of an artist. I also took pictures of excerpts from an interview-transcript with a participant, notations of their music, an extract of my research log, a still from a video-recording from a music therapy session. I took pictures of people´s living rooms, the hospice room, a church or concert hall where they had listened to music.
I then printed out these photos and spread them out on my kitchen table to view them. Eventually, I cut out a part of each of the pictures, that for me illustrated a particularity of this piece of data (the head of a pet, a snippet of a piece of sheet music, the keyboard of an instrument), and that could become part of a collage for each of the participants (see pic 2).
In this way, I manufactured the first pieces of a jigsaw. From there, the ´mosaic in motion´ idea evolved, meaning that the composition of the pieces of each mosaic, their specific arrangement and re-arrangement could happen in collaborative, co-creative, participatory processes with the project´s participants (sometimes the patients, but more often their relatives and health care workers). Mia´s mosaic is still under construction and being built by me and her parents. Their involvement does not necessarily stop or become less after she had died. Instead, the involvement of the wider group of participants can continue and prolong into data arrangement and analysis.
While talking about this Gary and hearing about you grandfather, it comes to my mind, that I took a lot of pictures in my parent´s house in southern Germany early this year. Photos that I found there in little frames on the walls or on a bookshelf, or in the many photo albums that my parents had made over the years. As you know, my father died unexpectedly at the hospital in February 2021 during the pandemic. No one of us was present and could be with him due to visiting restrictions. Actually, we got hardly information about what was going on and how my father was doing. At least, I could travel from Norway to Germany and be with my mother and my brothers for the funeral. The special circumstances and restrictions that we had to adapt to gave me the feeling of being distant to all that happened to me and my family. So, before I had to return to Norway, I took pictures from some of the pictures in my parent´s house and the photos in the albums. I was not sure when I could be there again, see my mother and brothers, visit my father´s gravesite. I just took a lot of pictures that I then printed out in Bergen when I was back. They are memoires and representations yes, but most of all served my need to keep things together, to stay in touch with them, and to create some kind of continuation and commonality with my family and the places and summer holidays and Christmas Eves we had together. I think that experience influenced the development of the ‘mosaics in motion’…
Gary: What’s interesting in both of our ‘gentle methods’ is the light is shines on the overlapping layers of the qualitative analysis process – which I think is often obscured by thinking of discrete research stages; the idea that there is a kind of abstract ‘processing’ of data that happens before ‘analysis proper’, which in turn happens before the interpretation of findings.
Secondly, what’s interesting is how much our approach relies on an imaginative process – quite literally working with images – and allowing these images (that may include ‘sound images’ and ‘poetic images’ as well) to speak directly to us, to show us something of the underlying pattern that leads them to connect-up at a higher level, and to show us something more fundamental about the overall phenomenon that we’re researching – the mutual ‘care for music’ that people variously and mutually enact in these settings.
Of course there’s a long tradition in ethnography and other qualitative research approaches of designing and working with ‘facets’ of the core phenomenon through a variety of methods (Mason 2011). In particular I’ve become interested to explore one of the ‘ancestors’ of qualitative research – Goethe’s scientific methodology, which he called ‘gentle empiricism’ and which best illustrates this ‘living’ continuity of working with data material and analytic ideas at the same time (Seamon & Zajonc 1998). There’s a growing literature that shows what a hidden influence Goethe’s perspective has had on philosophers and sociologists in the 20th century (Dodd 2008; Vine 2015), and I’ve been pleased to find a recently-completed doctoral study by a community musician and scholar, Ruby Swift (2020), who uses ‘gentle empiricism’ to guide her study of music with couples at home living with dementia. This also does many of the things we’re describing here, both in terms of treatment of material, and the continuity between data gathering and analysis.
I’m wondering whether the way that we’ve both approached this task has something to do with our own former experiences of ‘delicate empiricism’ in action – those formative experiences we both had in clinical and research epistemology when in the 1990s we both worked as music therapists at the Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus in Herdecke, Germany. There we experienced the Goethean-based method in action when we sat in medical case conferences or talked about research with colleagues. I realise how much I learned from their Goethean phenomenological method of first collecting together examples of the therapeutic work of a patient – their musicking, their art, dancing, sculpture – and then arranging and exploring this diverse material in such a way that it speaks of a larger meaning in relation to their personal style of illness and health. What do you think?
Wolfgang: Yes, I think the time in Herdecke was really defining for me as well, and in particular for the development of a culture of person-centeredness. Just thinking about the time we could spent every week for the interdisciplinary meetings you mention with the idea that every colleague could hear and see what was ´there´, in the music or painting or sculpture of a patient. And always with a focus on the process of formation, on how a person plays, moves, paints. Actually it was also a care for finding words to describe and capture as many details as possible in a dialogue with each other. And with a focus on a person’s resources and how these could become part of their health promotion and coping processes.So, the mosaics probably refer back to this Herdecke-style, collecting and showing parts of a person´s life, so that we than can further engage with within therapy.
I realize that with the mosaics I also experiment with my transition from a music therapy practitioner working in palliative care since 2014, to a practitioner-researcher and ethnographer in the Care for Music project. In this transition process I feel that engaging with mosaics and the process of building them serves several purposes: Firstly, as mentioned earlier, it helps me to gain and keep an overview of the data material that I am myself part of. It confirms how data collection is a process over time and not separate from the events or materials it shows. As a practitioner-researcher I feel I do research from inside the practice. When I meet people, talk and make music together with them I also generate, discover, document and collect research data. To me, the mosaics are a way of ´visual memoing’, as Butler-Kilber (2018) suggested it, that allow me to present and organize data in a kind of visualized case studies, and at the same time show how they are built and change over time.
Secondly, building mosaics is a dialogical and co-creative process, that invites the variety of people involved in a case to engage with each other and with the material. ´Mosaics in motion´ have a low threshold to join in, and a strong performative element that is with people not about them. Like in music therapy improvisation, building mosaics invites people to play around, experiment and try out things. In other words, the qualities and features of the artistic processes generating the material in a music therapy session also informs the arrangement and analysis through the mosaics. The mosaic pieces can easily be moved around by all participants, but probably more important and interesting from a methodological stance, the participants themselves can also physically move them around, and are themselves moved emotionally while engaging with the material and each other. This opens up a discovery of several perspectives on the material, how to re-see and re-model it, providing multiple potential insights. I would say that this haptic, playful, potentially open-ended re-search process invites all people to a participatory sense-making process. It can help bereaved people to find words for what they see and hear in a ´mosaic in motion´, something that might otherwise still be difficult for some to express or talk about.
Back to the ongoing work with Mia´s mosaic. I showed first ideas of her mosaic to her parents when we met at my office, the pieces in front of us on a table. The three of us stood there and looked at them. Eventually Mia´s mother took some pictures of the mosaic with her mobile phone. While looking at the mosaic, we got up from our chairs and moved around the table and changed places from where we look at the mosaic. Mia´s parents started a conversation about single pieces and the stories related to them. They linked some of the pieces together with their own stories and added new information to the existing one. In this building process, more pieces were gradually added to the mosaic. However, this did not just increase the amount of data material, but also initiated dialogue about why and how some of the pieces might belong to each other, revealing the stories ´between them´. While there in my office, the three of us started to re-arrange the pieces, moved them around and grouped them, brought some closer to each other, and some other ones more to the periphery. To me it seemed that we engaged in a process of meaningful arrangement of Mia´s mosaic. This shows a step from data arrangement to analysis with some first assumptions and hypotheses of what and how we made sense of the data (see pic 3).
This collaborative arrangement of data together with Mia´s parents is an example for what Laura Ellingson (2017) calls a ´becoming analysis´ where, from an embodiment perspective, the sensorial, relational and doing of analysis is in the foreground. Mia´s parents and I moved the pieces around, and we also moved ourselves around my office table while doing this. We touched pieces of the mosaic, took some of them up and moved them to explore and show each other meaningful arrangements that sometimes provided us with new insight. We commented, laughed, confirmed, and complemented each other in this ´becoming analysis´ – what I would call a participatory-sense making process. While doing so, Mia´s father told that his daughter had never thought to get to play herself on a Kantele in one of the music therapy sessions at the hospice. Her fingers were damaged by the side effects of the chemotherapy and she was afraid to use them, but had found ways to pluck the strings of the Kantele with the forefinger and thumb of her right hand, and to perform a piece of self-made music. Three weeks before she passed away, Mia became a composer, performer and entertainer, presenting herself with ´multiple bodies´ as Di Paolo, Cuffari and DeJaegher (2018) suggest, yet unfinished and ready to expand and grow, rather than solely the one of a terminal ill patient that needed hospice care.
Gary: I was talking to the music therapist and researcher Cochavit Elefant about this work on albums and she made an interesting comment that as method it sounds like an extension of the Participatory Action Research that she’d worked with in an earlier project. But for us the participatory aspect is also taken explicitly into the analytic stage where we find ways of continuing to participate in the original material and phenomena – not letting this be replaced only by abstract representations that are then analytically ‘processed’. Cochavit’s thought seems true to me. It again links to the Goethean ‘gentle empiricism’ – not ‘letting-go’ of our participation until this is really necessary and prepared – at which point there is indeed often a ‘conceptual leap’ to the level of idea and insight.
Wolfgang: There is one more aspect that the ´mosaics in motion´ provide for me in the transition from a practitioner to practitioner-researcher, in particular with respect to data analysis. Mosaics serve as a kind of ´visual hermeneutics´, meaning that they invite to a back-and-forth movement not within a written text but within visual material, between details and the whole of a mosaic – as a way of conducting analysis and gaining more understanding of the material. A mosaic presents an overview of a person´s music throughout her life, albeit never a complete one. At the same time, it offers possibilities for zooming into a piece to explore what constitutes it. It’s like in Tia’s earlier ´drawing-in´ blog in which she shows how she does this with drawings of details, a hand, a movement, a sight on a nano-level.
Gary: I increasingly find that there’s a rich heritage behind working and thinking in this way; that there’s value in approaching the understanding of a phenomenon in a less linear way; not trying to achieve a full picture, but allowing us to work from fragments, and from various angles in the gradual ‘collating’ of an idea or understanding. Wittgenstein for example wrote of his Philosophical Investigations:
“The philosophical remarks in this book are, as it were, a number of sketches of landscapes which were made in the course of long and meandering journeys […] The same or almost the same points were always being approached from different directions, and new sketches made. So this book is really just an album.”[§3e]
It seems we’re in good company in this project of edging towards understanding through a mode of data presentation that is not abstract and transparent, but rather what Walter Benjamin called a ‘constellation’ of material, from which what matters and what is significant can shine out.
Wolfgang: Well, to me this work appeals to my own creative engagement and curiosity as researcher. I think these features that are core to my therapeutic work can now become more visible and comprehensive in the research as well. Moreover, I see that the mosaic experiment brings a freshness to data collection and analysis that enables the involvement and participation of vulnerable people in a way that I have not expected beforehand. I did not plan this, but rather followed my wish and concern to stay in touch with the people and the vitality and presence of the original material; to discover and understand and to avoid to let go of ‘the phenomenon’ during the process of analysis.
Of course, our experiments with albums and mosaics are in their beginnings, and I think this kind of ´visual inquiry´ does not aim to present a ´truth´, but rather shows ideas of how our data material could be understood and make sense.
When I shared details from the mosaic with Mia´s parents her father commented with the words: “I am still grieving. But I start to feel gratitude for all Mia has given to us. And looking at this mosaic, her music, talking about it, hearing how you describe it, makes me grateful”.
Di Paolo, E.A., Cuffari, E.C., and DeJaegher, H. (2018). Linguistic Bodies – The Continuity between Life and Language. London, Cambridge (US): MIT-Press
Dodd, Nigel (2008). ‘Goethe in Palermo: Urphänomen and Analogical Reasoning in Simmel and Benjamin.’ Journal of Classical Sociology 2008; 8; 411 DOI: 10.1177/1468795X08095206
Ellingson, L. (2017). Embodiment in Qualitative Research. Routledge
Seamon, David & Arthur Zajonc (1998). Goethe’s Way of Science. NY: State University of New York.
Swift, Ruby (2020) Flourishing through Music: Understanding, Promoting and Supporting Shared Musical Activity within the Caring Relationships of People with Dementia Living at Home. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.
Vine, Troy (2015). The philosophical legacy of Goethe’s morphology. inIsis – The Field Centre Research Journal Vol.2 No.2 – 2015
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, P. M. S. Hacker and J. Schulte, revised 4th ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), p. 3e
“A rainy, dark day… in every sense! We’ve just heard of a new lockdown throughout most of the UK starting on the 26th of December, with a new variant of C19 [delta] rapidly spreading. Happy Christmas!! And, of course, the residents of Hill House won’t be able to see their families over Christmas… everything just feels very dark at the moment. But today we nevertheless… despite… (all those characteristic Covid times words)… manage to have some comfort and joy in the session. As ever, I’m surprised, heartened, thankful that this is possible…” – Gary’s logbook, December 23, 2020.
Special occasions are still important to people at Hill House, ‘despite’ the pandemic, ‘despite’ adversity and the various challenges faced there by all. And everybody pitches in to make a convivial feeling.
Staff enact the carols in pantomime mode, with energy that is contagious. The manager dances in to the room to The Holly and the Ivy, then snaps a photo with her phone.
One resident has a sheaf of carol lyrics in her hand (this causes confusion later as she can’t find the carols Gary’s playing) so in the middle of Silent Night she snaps, “we’ve got different words here” and looks up at the TV screen in something of a huff.
Meanwhile, and as with any group of people, Christmas is not everyone’s cup of tea, even if the complaints are received as if they are in the spirit of British Christmas Panto heckling (“Look behind you,” “Boo!” and “Oh no it’s not”):
Gary: Shall we do this one now?
Roderick: [sotto voce, off stage] If you must!
Gary: That’s a nice song isn’t it?
Roderick: It’s dreadful!
Gary: What shall we do now?”
Roderick: Go to bed!
The occasion of Christmas is however one that most of the members of Hill House recognise and ‘celebrate’ – if not necessarily as a religious occasion. And Christmas at Hill House does not only have to happen in the month of December. For one thing, there is a lot of cultural diversity in the living room of this care home with staff from all over the world (and a multiplicity of religions) and residents with diverse religious and spiritual orientations. For another thing, many of the residents cannot always say when pressed what season they are in, or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that ‘the seasons’ for them are now more flexible and floating occasions:
“At the end of the session as usual we sing Auld lang Syne as a goodbye song. Jane quickly follows this up with Merry Christmas [it’s May!!] – at which point several of the carer staff dissolve in laughter. Jane quickly moves on to calling for a vote of thanks for me, reverting to her ‘hostess’ role again (a sign of her recovery!).” – Gary’s practitioner log, May 2020.
However, simply having things to celebrate is the key thing, and the occasion of Christmas – along with the pictures all festooned with tinsel, and the special things to eat – is an opportunity for festivity, for being together, sharing and enjoying seasonal treats. And in real time, perhaps especially in this situation where language and remembering pose challenges to some, music can support a sense of occasion. It can lend shape to what people do in the name of special occasions.
For example, Gary offers is a very hammed up climax to Mary’s Boy Child, increasingly swinging the rhythm in response to the amount of dancing taking place. Gary’s practitioner log also tells us that he used the famous rhythm in the carol, Drummer Boy (‘Pa rum pum pum pum’) as a ‘hook’ to collect together residents and staff. When we watch the video of this carol, it is clear that music gets latched on to, developed and varied by individuals who, through that process, further distribute the rhythm across the room. And that invites others to join in, in ways that further elaborate the festive scene.
And sure enough (a) care team member Dan sits with May, taps the song’s rhythm on May’s knee and later gives her a hug (b) Tina, a member of the care team, claps the rhythm and bounces on her knees (c) Sandra one of Hill House’s keenest resident dancers, watches the TV screen carefully, clapping in rhythm (d) Joan, who is slightly slumped in an armchair begins to conduct with her right hand (e) Mavis, a care team member, dances across the room close to the camera (f) Brydie gently explores her chair arm and then begins, eventually, to focus on the TV. And (g) even Roderick (“if you must”) taps the rhythm on the arm of his chair with verve. Then Tina and resident Sandra begin to dance.
Seasons’ greetings from us to everyone at Hill House at this challenging time.
The UK Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards 2021, Support During the Pandemic
We are thrilled to announce that the UK Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards 2021, Support During the Pandemic, was won by Care for Music Team Member, Fraser Simpson. Fraser won the award on behalf of Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy for his work including work that facilitates the Mountbatten Hospice Community Choir Project. Mountbatten delivers hospice and end of life services across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, supporting up to 3,000 people on any one day within their own homes, as well as in the hospices buildings. The Community Choir Project was one of 17 shortlisted projects to be nominated for this prestigious award.
In his acceptance speech, Fraser described how, along with virtually every other care service provider in the UK during the pandemic, for many months Mountbatten’s very active psycho-social program (open to the entire local community) and day, self-help and rehabilitation services had to be delivered very differently – with many of these services being delivered virtually through on-line services and programmes. To keep the choir active, Fraser supported music therapy services to move online, and several of the Hospice’s music groups began to run via zoom, including the Hospice’s more than 50-member strong Community Choir.
In March 2021, Gary and Tia spoke to members of the Choir via a zoom focus group. The members described how their participation in the choir offered relief from the social isolation of lockdown and a way of staying connected to the Hospice and all the people there whom they greatly missed. They described how the online choir provided, ‘a very welcome sense of purpose and belonging’. They said it gave them a sense of accomplishment (mastering all the new IT things that zoom entailed, for example), and opportunities to see and speak with each other. The zoom choir meetings also gave rise to various spin-off groups such as a choir chat meeting.
The Choir recorded and released several songs, including one entitled One Day Soon. The song was composed by members of a group of young adults with life-limiting conditions. Choir members described how the song’s lyrics were about hope and the importance of social connection. You can find it here.
Fraser has worked as a music therapist for over twenty years. He is South West & South Wales Regional Manager for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy. His work includes one-to-one music therapy sessions, group sessions, work with families and the Mountbatten Choir. You can read an earlier blog by Fraser about the online choir here
Congratulations Fraser, Nordoff Robbins, Mountbatten, the Young Adults Group, and the Choir Members!
They say you really start to see things when you draw them. Recently, we’ve been experimenting with drawing, the notion of Goethe’s gentle methods always on our mind. We’ll probably never be a Rembrandt (though we are learning and improving). But the process of spending time looking, and learning to look by drawing, reminds us of why ethnographic drawing was integral to ‘classic’ anthropology and why it is being revived by visual anthropologists and communication scholars today.
Our journey has been supported by close involvement with the Nordoff Robbins PhD researchers, some of whom have been drawing for a while, especially Maren Matell and Wendy McMahon. And, as with so much of what we do in our research (and our lives), we’re guided by memories of the late Mercédès Pavlicevic, music therapist and – artist extraordinaire (Mercédès designed the three book covers for our triptych on the SMART project).
For Mercédès drawing was a way of knowing and a way of knowing things that might otherwise go unnoticed or unspoken. It was a way of knowing what might be difficult to convey in words. As Gary wrote in his memorial essay (Ansdell 2018: 55), ‘some ideas need to be seen before they can be understood’. In this blog entry we suggest also that some things need to be drawn before they can be seen before they can be understood as ideas.
Drawings do a lot. They can show us relational engagements between people in a scene. They can convey emotions, facial expression, gesture, postures. They can document the ways that people are placed, and place themselves, within particular scenes and settings. And, unlike photographs (which contain virtually ‘everything’ registered by the film or digital device), drawings are selective. Drawings at once simplify and complexify an image.
But, one might ask, surely, an image that contains, ‘everything’ is better? If you can use a photo, unedited (more on that below), why ever would you not? A photo shows you the ‘real’ person (in two dimensions). Why not simply markup, highlight or point to what you want the reader or fellow-researcher(s) to ‘see’?
One answer is linked to our ethical responsibilities (more on that below). Another answer is linked to what we’re trying to do with an image. Sometimes, for some purposes, a photograph is ‘better’. But other times, you might want to ‘zoom’ in, to consider only one part of an image, ‘uncluttered’ by background, or things that might divert the eye (think of colour-staining a slide for a microscope or astronomical image, think of Goethe’s many documentary drawings of plant morphology [Goethe 1972]). Sometimes, in other words, you might want a ‘prepared’ image for examination. And whether a slide made up for a microscope or a portrait of a person, the image is produced to guide the eye, to support it to see certain things from certain angles, and in certain ways, more clearly. But there is at least one other answer, linked to what drawing does for the person who draws, and to philosopher Wittgenstein’s admonition that we need to, ‘‘look and see … don’t think but look!’ (DeNora 2014: 7).
Looking – at a photo or anything else – can be intensive, but it can also be cursory, indeed, illusory. Wittgenstein said that our eyes tend to follow particular paths such that we notice what we ‘expect’ to notice. What we ‘see’ tends, in other words, to derive from and reinforce hidebound expectations. Our ‘vision’ takes shape in our minds and in ways that project identity on to what we seem – merely – to ‘see’. We add to images things that are not there because we think they ‘must’ be there (emperor’s beautiful clothes), and we subtract things that are there (a gorilla in the very middle of a basketball game [Simons and Chabris 1999; DeNora 2014: 6-7]). When either of these things happens, it is because – as Wittgenstein put it – we are thinking more – and looking less (DeNora 2014: 110).
But if we’re looking to draw something, we have to look intently. While ‘looking and thinking’ are never inseparable, adding drawing, or trying to draw, into the mix can be of help. Drawing can be used to as a corrective to the, often tacit, habit of leaping to conclusions about ‘what is there to see’. It is, in John Law’s sense (Law 2004), a ‘brake’ on perception. Drawing – even quick drawing – slows us down. It requires us to ‘stay with’ things. A photo, these days, can be taken in a fraction of a second.But it takes time to capture a line or the placement of a hand or an eyebrow. And when we put that eyebrow on a page and see that it looks ‘wrong’, when we erase and try again, we begin to see how we were not really looking at the thing properly, how maybe we took for granted that our subject looked a certain way. Attempting to capture an image with pencil and paper can ‘tell us’ what it is we have not seen.
So drawing is an important partner in the business of looking, seeing and thinking about things. Drawing is perhaps less about the ways of the hand than the ways of the eye, or at least, it is a way of training our eyes to see – more, differently, troubling or queering habitual assumptions. And that means that drawing offers a means, potentially, for getting, literally, closer to our subjects because drawing is an intimate art: as we draw, we are imaginatively, sometimes empathically, engaging with our subjects. While drawing, and taking in what we learn about a subject by drawing, we may be thinking, wondering – when did her hair go white, was it laughter that produced those lines around his eyes, how was it that his face is only shaved today on one side, or why does she repeatedly pat her knee like that? We turn over in our minds potential questions, theories, hunches and ideas and in ways that are unobtrusive, that are attentive but that try hard not to disturb (Ansdell and Pavlicevic 2010).
And so, for us, drawing is a prosthetic technology – just like a pair of prescription lenses, drawing can extend visual capacity. To draw is, at least some of the time, to be heavily surprised. What the eye and hand produce can surprise the mind. And this means that drawing is a technique that supports ethnographic understanding.
For these three reasons, the process of looking and making marks on paper, and the resulting representations, are now part of our ‘gentle methods’ repertoire. As already described in other entries in this blog, we’re spending a lot of time watching (re-watching, pausing, rewinding, fast-forwarding, playing without sound, playing without image) video footage of people in musical processes.
We have been working with short video clips, indexing, second by second (often split second). Sometimes the ratio of time spent per minute of video has been more than 10 hours, which we like to think of as enlargement to the power of 600 x 1. We write up in detail what each person in the frame is doing, their interactions, what they do in and with music, their gestures and facial expressions, the movements of hands, feet, eyebrows. We look at how each participant uses materials (e.g., a walking stick as a drum beater, a Zimmer frame as a dance partner), how people sit in their chairs (and which chairs), and how they move about the visible space… We sample – exemplary moments, moments of specific musical processes (e.g., cadences) and according to time intervals. (On our process of choosing good examples for analysis, the two entries on ‘cherry picking’ and ‘cherry arranging’.
We look at people as physical wholes, in groups, and we look at specific physical parts of people, such as hands, eyes, mouths, chins, feet. And we look at all the people in the setting, all of them together – younger, older, care staff, residents, music therapist… All of this fine-grained detail is in turn linked to broader analytical questions about people – all the people – together, in musical engagement and how, by observing that engagement, we can learn more about people and about what caring for music can do for people. We have been looking at people in relation to repertoire, social and occupational roles, person-centred ‘pathway’ case studies, particular musical devices, features, tropes and the integration of music with types of activity and interaction… And at a certain point, and for specific reasons, we then go to the drawing board….
The process of drawing is two-fold. First, we trace, carefully, using tracing paper over a still shot from the video. We trace the outline of bodies, and parts of bodies, the positions, and facial expressions. This means that we can return to the precise moment in the film and lay the transparent traced image over the video image to check and cross-check that its contours are accurate. Second, we draw and fill in details, add colour. And at this stage, very importantly, we take care that recognisable features are altered – of people and of place.
So, for example, if we are interested in exploring and conveying a specific facial expression, we might subtly alter the shape of a nose or chin, the colour of skin or hair, the body shape. But we will retain the shape of the mouth, the placement of eyebrows, the chin.
Similarly, if we are trying to depict a moment of dancing, we might change many features but also try to retain the basic postures, the signs of fitness or frailty present in the original image.
So too, if we’re interested in what someone’s hands are doing, we might alter skin tone and hand size but maintain the hand’s position.
As a way of anonymising, the cartoon offers important resources. It sidesteps the debate around whether, and how, to blur or block out a face in a photo (recognising that in some cases, an actual photo, with face obscured, may be preferrable if you want to hold on to the in situ background detail – for this drawing is less good). So drawing also helps us think about when it may or may not be necessary to refer to photographic images (and when it might be useful to use mixed media, a blend of ‘real’ and drawn images).
But we change details for reasons that go beyond anonymisation, and here is where we believe that drawing, and diagrams, have important affordances in their own right. And thinking about when we change things in a drawing takes us back to where we began, with Goethe, his notion of gentle methods, and the idea of multiplicity in unity.
Drawings are less, and more, than exact likenesses of any one individual. Their divergence from likeness is one reason they are so highly valued in the study of natural history. When a botanist draws a leaf or a plant it is because they want to capture the manifold, possible, potential variations that make it whole (this leaf, that leaf) and how a plant manifests itself in time (root, leaf, flower, fruit, seed). For these reasons, any one drawing can be understood to be more than a snapshot. Instead it conveys, as Borthoft (2013) puts it, ‘multiplicity in unity’.
Multiplicity in unity is very different from the reductive notion of ‘unity in multiplicity’ – the abstracting out from each individual common traits and then returning to brand each individual as yet one more ‘type’. Multiplicity in unity recognises instead how each individual may share family resemblances with others but is, at the same time, unique.
So while a photo is an image of one individual, a drawing, by contrast, can be produced such that it is neither an exact likeness of an individual in one moment, nor an abstracted type or composite of many individuals. Instead, it can arrange lines on a page such that its subject can be shown, all at once, in terms of its diversity and variegation. A drawing can transcend this duality to depict the manifold ways that an individual – plant or person – may manifest itself, himself, herself (the mercurial changes in how we might feel, second-to-second – sorrowful, exuberant – or what we might be able to do, from one time or setting to the next, how we can be both a child and an adult at once). The drawing Goethe commissioned from French botanist, Pierre Jean Turpin, of an imaginary plant that depicted in one image a diversity of form that it would never exhibit in an actual example in the world, serves to illustrate what is meant by multiplicity in unity.
And it serves to remind us of how we need to recognise that there may a great deal of intra-categorical difference between individuals, sometimes perhaps an even greater degree of intra-categorical difference than inter-categorical difference. And that we should not brush aside these intra-categorical differences in an attempt to make individual phenomena conform to our ideas of what they ‘must’ be like, categorically (DeNora 1991: 100). Under some circumstances, a yew tree and a rose have more in common than they have apart (suffering from drought, for example, giving shelter to birds, putting down roots). Under some circumstances, two roses have seemingly more differences between them than do a rose and a yew tree. Brent Dean Robbins describes this notion in relation to Goethe’s botanical study:
“In practice, the ethical responsiveness initially emerges either through a bracketing or, sometimes, a surprising and perhaps even violent shattering of our habitual ways of seeing so that we no longer see past the phenomenon toward our abstract categories, such as “this is a leaf”. Instead, the particularities of the organism’s form emerge from outside the boundaries of our understanding into the shape of a concrete, palpable insight of its magnetic, vital structure which comes into being through the sustaining activity of a vigorously active yet receptive consciousness” (Robbins 2006:7).
As with botany, so too with people. Keeping the ‘whole person’ in the picture, imaginatively engaging, depicting acts or people in and across time, changing recognisable details to anonyise but also to depict multiplicity in unity – these things allow us to consider how the eyes, mouth, hands, and postures we depict are both unique to specific individuals and shared, across individuals – including ourselves. It lets us consider how these gestures and moments contain and speak to the individual in the round, across various moments and (in our case, musical) situations. And that in turn returns us to how it is probably misleading to speak too generally, and without slow, gentle attention, about ‘people with dementia’ since, understood socially, temporally, and ecologically, it might be more accurate to say that all of us share in the problem of living associated with certain brain injuries or memory problems. We share these problems in living because all of us exhibit varied qualities and capacities (communicative, cognitive, emotional, empathic) over a moment, day or decade. We share these problems in living because the ways that environments come to be furnished – with materials, representations, communicative media – have consequences for the kinds of problems in living we notice, and from whom.
Thinking about those consequences highlights, of course, how drawing – as a representative medium – has politics. It is vital that the hand, the pencil and the brush do not overly emphasise dis/ability or reinforce stereotypical assumptions about people, that we do not reduce the manifold to a unity in multiplicity. So too, we need to think about how it was we came to choose to anonymise in the ways we did. Why, for example, are some people are portrayed wearing jewellery or with what seems to be a recent manicure and others not? Why do we choose the colours we’ve chosen (bright and pastel, mostly, as it happens)? When the drawings raise questions like these, they give us a resource for eliciting from each other our often-implicit and unconscious assumptions and attitudes about people and processes.
One way of questioning these assumptions is, now and again, to – literally – paint ourselves (or some of our willing colleagues) into the picture. To use our own features and set them in to the context of the ‘scene of care’. There can be something slightly disturbing, analytically, perhaps at times also emotionally, about this kind of visualisation. We are using it in a way that is similar to how we use poems – to evoke, and then query, our representations of, and empathetic identification with, participants and their situations. In other words, a drawing or cartoon offers us an occasion to reflect on our own assumptions. and our reactions to ‘seeing ourselves there’ is a way of gaining a kind of momentary, virtual experience of of what it might be like to be us, there (remembering that this is imaginative – only time will tell us…). So drawing can help to ‘draw out’ what was otherwise ‘invisible’ in our orientation and assumed knowledge. We are currently writing a longer piece on this topic, setting it in context of recent work on auto-ethnography, visualisation, and how the visual can sometimes ‘make’ the future (DeNora 2021: 111; Hara and DeNora 2014).
For these reasons, along with poetry, drawing is now part of our gentle methods repertoire. We are not trying to ‘make art’ out of what happens in Hill House. We have no desire to publish a ‘cartoon book’. We are cautious about some of the romanticising images we have seen in other places, of ‘old folks’ enjoying (or being ‘revived’ [sic] by the ‘magic’ of music) -that will be a topic of a future blog. But if drawing is documentation, elicitation device, a way of exploring, technically and imaginatively, what we otherwise might not know we know, we are – drawn to it. If it helps us to see what we might otherwise not have noticed, and to think about what we see, not see what we think, we are also grateful for the ways that drawing – draws us in.
Ansdell, G. 2018. Sketches of Mercédès’ Imagination. British Journal of Music Therapy 32, 2, pp. 52-7.
Ansdell, G and M. Pavlicevic. 2010. Practicing Goethe’s Gentle Empiricism: The Nordoff Robbins Research Heritage. Music Therapy Perspectives, 28, pp. 131-40.
Causey, A. 2017. Drawn to see: Drawing as an ethnographic method. North York, Ontario: University of Toronto Press.
DeNora, T. 2014. Making Sense of Reality: culture and perception in everyday life. London: Sage.
DeNora, T. 2021. Hope: The dream we carry. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
DeNora, T. 1991. Fast, Faster, Fastest: Comment on Chambliss’ ‘The Mundanity of Excellence’. Sociological Theory 21, pp. 99-102.
Hara, M. and T. DeNora. 2013. Leaving Something to the Imagination: “Seeing” New Places through a Musical Lens. Pp. 659-72 in J. Richardson, C. Gorbman, and C. Vernallis (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Law, John (2004) After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge
Metell, M. (2019). How We Talk when We Talk About Disabled Children and Their Families: An Invitation to Queer the Discourse. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 19(3). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v19i3.2680
Alfonso, A. I. and M J Ramos. 2004. New graphics for old stories: Representation of local memories through drawings. Pp. in Alfonso, A I, L Kurti and S Pink (Eds), Working Images: Visual Research and Representation in Ethnography. London: Routledge.
Goethe, J. W von. 2009 . The Metamorphosis of Plants. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Halstead, J. and R. Rolvsjord. 2015. The gendering of musical instruments: what is it? Why does it matter to music therapy? Nordic Journal of Music therapy 26, pp. 3-24.
Kuschnir, K. 2016. Ethnographic Drawing: Eleven Benefits of Using a Sketchbook for Fieldwork. Visual Ethnography 5, 1, pp. 103-34.
Lyon, P. 2020. Using Drawing in Visual Research: Materializing the Invisible. Pp. in L Pauwels & D Mannay (Eds)The SAGE Handbook of Visual Research Methods. London: Sage Publications.
Puurveen, G. A. Phinney, S. M Cox and B. Purves. 2015. Ethical issues in the use of video observations with people with advanced dementia and their caregivers in nursing home environments. Visual Methodologies, Vol 3, 2, pp. 16-26.
Wiles, R, A Coffey, J Robinson and S Heath. 2011. Anonymisation and visual images: issues of respect, ‘voice’ and protection International Journal of Social Research Methodology Vol. 15, No. 1, January 2012, 41–53
Tia’s essay on Even Ruud’s Toward A Sociology of Music Therapy: Musicking as a Cultural Immunogen(Barcelona Publishers, 2020) has just been published in Contemporary Sociology, the American Sociological Association’s bi-monthly book review journal. This picture shows you a rhizome (and a frog) because Ruud’s book deals brilliantly with the notion that health and wellbeing are rhizomatic, that is, capable of taking shape in multiple directions and in relation to things and practices in the surrounding environment. Rereading the review essay one year after it was submitted, we find connections between our analyses of the music sessions in Hill House and Ruud’s focus on the importance, and sociological situation, of ‘moments’ of intense connection (resonance) and wellbeing.
For Ruud, health and well-being are connected to what sociologist Hartmut Rosa speaks of as ‘resonance’ (Rosa 2019:174). Resonant relations allow us to experience moments in which things feel whole, connected, pleasurable, confident, fulfilled, empowered. Ruud sees Rosa as wanting to promote, as Ruud puts it, ‘a vibrant relation to the world. This, he contends, may involve intense moments of subjective happiness understood as forms of resonant experiences in contrast to a feeling of unhappiness that may rise particularly when and where we find the world unexpectedly indifferent or even repulsive’ (p. 59). But, Ruud goes on to explain, a good life, and wellbeing, is not the outcome merely of accumulated, ‘happy’ moments; it involves a fulfilling relation with environment (people, things, practices) that can be sustained, that give rise to such moments.
In Hill House, we often see participants experiencing resonant moments, and we’ve seen them building sustainable relationships in, out of, and arising from, those moments. In a moment, for example, it is possible to transcend an otherwise challenging set of circumstances. And in a moment, it is possible to have flashes of insight. For example, it is possible to ‘see’ a person ‘with dementia’ as – a person, full-stop. Which means a person with capabilities, for example for dancing, singing, smiling, or sharing musical pleasure. That moment of vision – for residents themselves, for care staff and family members – can carry over into other moments outside music. A moment is, in other words, much more than one moment, passing in time. It is an opportunity for change, for changed relation, identity, and future practice. It is a way of adding to, and potentially altering, the environment in ways that may further sustain resonant relations. And the craft of music therapy includes facilitating those kinds of moments.
Music therapists have long-explored the importance of momentary respite. Their explorations have included the occasionally electrifying, split-second moments of collective effervescence in which two or more people seem to ‘meet’ in musical time and space (Pavlicevic 2010). There are also moments in which a person, or group, may experience recognition, validation and joy through the medium of music—and songwriting can be a tremendous resource for advancing this type of project (Rolvsjord 2005; Lewis 2017; Aasgaard 2004). There are moments of epiphany, profound pleasure and appreciation of beauty (Ansdell 2014). There are moments in which hope can be supported and enhanced (DeNora 2021). And there are moments that, through mutual, creative crafting, and often with terrific uncertainty, can be stretched, one into the next, such that, for all practical purposes, well- being is established (MacDonald and Wilson 2020). These moments can be catalytic and enlivening, even in the face of grave injury and imminent demise (Schmid 2017). Such moments can be multiplied, facilitated, and developed into pathways away from disease and disability toward—in the broadest sense of the term—recovery (Stige et al. 2010; Ansdell and DeNora 2016). As Trygve Aasgaard once put it, in relation to his study of the joy that children in a cancer ward took from song creation, ‘[h]ow long does a pleasurable moment last?’ Taking a leaf – or perhaps a rhizome – from Ruud’s book, we think this is a question to be explored empirically as moments not only last but have lasting effects.
Aasgaard, T. 2004. ‘‘A Pied Piper among White Coats and Infusion Pumps: Community Music Therapy in a Paediatric Hospital Setting.’’ Pp. 147–67 in Community Music Therapy, edited by M. Pavlicevic, G. Ansdell, and E. Ruud. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Ansdell, G. 2014. How Music Helps in Music Therapy and Everyday Life. London: Routledge.
Ansdell, G., and T. DeNora. 2016. Musical Pathways in Recovery: Community Music Therapy and Mental Wellbeing. London: Routledge.
DeNora, T. 2021. Hope: The dream we carry. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Elliot T. S. 2001 . Four Quartets. London: Faber.
Lewis, G. 2017. ‘‘‘Let Your Secrets Sing Out’: An Auto-Ethnographic Analysis on How Music Can Afford Recovery from Child Abuse.’’ Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy 17(2). https://voices.no/index.php/voi ces/article/view/2346.
MacDonald, R. A. R., and G. Wilson. 2020. The Art of Becoming: How Group Improvisation Works. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pavlicevic, M. 2010. ‘‘Reflection: Let the Music Work: Optimal Moments of Collabora- tive Musicing.’’ Pp. 99–114 in Where Music Helps: Community Music Therapy in Action and Reflection, by B. Stige, G. Ansdell, C. Elefant, and M. Pavlicevic. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.
Rolvsjord, R. 2005. ‘‘Collaborations on Song- writing with Clients with Mental Health Prob- lems.’’ Pp. 97–115 in Songwriting: Methods, Techniques and Clinical Applications for Music Therapy Clinicians, Educators and Students, edited by F. Baker and T. Wigram. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Rosa, H. 2019. Resonance: A Sociology of Our Relationship to the World. Medford, MA: Polity Press.
Ruud, E. 2020. Toward A Sociology of Music Therapy: Muskcking as a Cultural Immunogen(Barcelona Publishers).
Schmid, W. 2017. ‘‘Being Together: Explor- ing the Modulation of Affect in Improvisation- al Music Therapy with a Man in a Persistent Vegetative State — a Qualitative Single Case Study.’’ Health Psychology Report 2(5):186–92.
Stige, B., G. Ansdell, C. Elefant, and M. Pavlicevic. 2010. Where Music Helps: Community Music Therapy in Action and Reflection. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.
We talked in the previous post about ‘cherry-picking’ – the negative term directed at researchers who are accused of selecting only the data that fits their pre-existing theory. The implication is that their nice, shiny cherries are idealised and partial data, and that a ‘complete picture’ of a phenomenon needs analytic and statistical methods that ‘process’ the ‘full data’. But what often comes out of this is an ‘average cherry’ or even cherry pulp. The unique qualities and context of the thing being researched disappear, and the ‘processed data’ becomes lifeless. Both quantitative and qualitative research often end up with colourless and tasteless data fruit, and the sense subsequently made from them becomes what Goethe called ‘grey theory’.
But there’s another way of thinking about the research process, especially for subjects where the unique and varying qualities of the particular things you’re studying are important. Here the purposive use of the best examples – exemplification – is a way to keep theory ‘green’ and useful. We suggest how strategic and imaginative ‘arranging of cherries’ can be an important and valid stage and process in qualitative and ethnographic research.
To make the photo for this post Gary went to his local fruit-shop and asked a surprised server for ten cherries (he got 11!). Because he’d asked for only 10 she kindly starting looking for the best ones. Gary said ‘just give me any ten please!’. She looked even more puzzled, but put these carefully into a brown paper bag. If Gary had said “10 of your best cherries please” how would she have selected these? Probably according to the ‘best looking’ as in the shop it wasn’t so easy to select the ‘best tasting’ or ‘best smelling’. The point here is that our selection is always based on certain situational criteria, and in relation to what we are selecting for…
As with ‘picking cherries’, ‘arranging cherries’ is another research metaphor. Forms of data that result from complex qualitative/ethnographic projects first need arranging as part of the ongoing analytic process. This is exactly what we’re doing at the moment with the Care for Music project. The data is mostly safely gathered in, but there’s now an embarrassment of riches, and the prospect of ‘data death’ – being submerged under the sheer weight of what’s there. A way to deal with this is the strategic arrangement of data. But importantly, this is not done in terms of fixed and pre-determined criteria, but in relation to how the collected data itself suggests its arrangement. What is the data beginning to show you of its pattern and significance? We find the answer to this question through making what Wittgenstein called a ‘perspicuous representation’ – that is, the laying out, arranging and synoptic viewing of data such that larger patterns and meanings begin to emerge.
One interesting thing that our data is showing us is how the elderly residents and staff of the care home participate in music through both conventional and unusual modes of active performance: singing, but also conducting, tapping, nodding, dancing with zimmer frames, and more. But within these categories each example is unique to that person, their style, and that particular social situation. So initially it’s the relationship between the category and the varying individual examples that is analytically interesting. As a preparatory stage of theory-building we are compiling detailed ‘analytic albums’ of each of the performance modes: an album of conductors, singers etc – using Powerpoint files to gather together audio-visual and verbal data. In our data-set we have strong examples of 27 conductors, 20 dancers and 40 singers. This process shows up the diversity-in-unity of the phenomenon, and helps us think about our broader research question: How are people caring for music, and what are the consequences of this for caring in general?
This arranging process uncovers good examples that can be further worked with: analysed in micro- or even ‘nano’-detail; or tracked longitudinally – comparing and contrasting similar examples across the full data set. Take the cherry picture above as illustrative of this arranging logic: at a first glance we might see 10 identical cherries. But as these are arranged on a piece of white paper to photograph we might see subtle variations between them, and even how the cherries suggest a sequence in which to place them experimentally in order to directly see the pattern of similarity/variation, and what this might mean for understanding either the phenomenon of ‘cherryness’; or the development over time of the cherry in any parameter we might be interested in – colour, form, taste etc. We might then (imaginatively) work on the active process of this developing pattern – something which can’t usually be perceived purely empirically, but can be sometimes seen by the ‘rational imagination’ when we give the phenomenon this kind of comparative and sequential analytic attention.
What we’re doing is to let good examples find us – which is the opposite of cherry-picking. It’s rather a process of allowing the exemplary cherry to show itself in terms of itself when we’ve got enough richness of data to make this process possible, and we’ve given enough attention to the multiplicity-within-unity of the phenomenon through this kind of scientific/artistic process of data arrangement and attention. This is the method of exemplification – where particular instances lead our thinking by standing forth as the most complete manifestation of a phenomenon. Example is method rather than illustration.
There is of course a heritage to this logic and practical approach, but one that’s not very common in research culture these days. Wittgenstein was famous for having two philosophies, the first actively abandoned for the second. An important factor that characterises the difference between the two is his use of examples. The very few examples in the first philosophy are generic and artificial (“this chair is brown”). The particulars don’t matter as they are only designed to illustrate a pre-formed abstract statement. Whereas, as Beth Savickey (2011) puts it, “the later writings could be described (with little exaggeration) as nothing but examples”. In this later work, thousands of detailed and imaginative examples function as ‘thinking-tools’, leading not following thought.
Wittgenstein partly developed this method from his reading of Goethe’s scientific writings on method. Again, this approach has been largely eclipsed by standard scientific perspectives, though the Anthroposophical science movement has both preserved and developed it (Bortoft 2012; Seamon & Zajonc 1998). Goethe studied plants, animals, the weather, minerals in a way that we of would now call phenomenological, ecological, and comparative. He painstakingly observed phenomena in their natural habitats, observed their development over time, and collected and arranged exemplars which then led his systematic thinking through cycles of observation, imagination, and intuition – towards an ‘archetypal’ insight into a phenomenon.
Music therapists Nordoff and Robbins were deeply influenced in their practical and research work by this Goethean paradigm through its development by the Anthroposophists. They let their practical music therapy work yield exemplars that they could think with in order to explore what music therapy could be, and to transmit this understanding to others. The famous case example of ‘Edward’ in Creative Music Therapy (1977) is an exemplary case in this way – showing how crying can be heard musically, and then worked with in a music therapy context. Exploring this example (amongst many others) led Nordoff and Robbins to develop their early work and theory.
This leads us to our final point: that exemplification in research is part of case study method. Of an ideal example we often say ‘this is a good case of…’, recognising how it is both singular, unique and how it belongs to a family of similar and different cases. ‘Case logic’ could be said to be the basic intention of much ethnographic work – or as Howard Becker puts it ‘reasoning from cases’:
When I investigate a case, I look for elements that seem to resemble each other in many ways and then look for how they differ, using the differences to uncover new variables and dimensions of explanation. [… I’m] always looking for new elements to add to the explanatory scheme and finding them in the careful inspection of the details of specific cases, reasoning from the details of a case to a more general idea. [2014, p.186/4]
Ultimately it could be said that, like all researchers, what we are ultimately doing is not picking, selecting, or arranging, but creating cherries. That is, we are making data through successive processes: ‘capturing’, gathering, selecting, analysing, and finally theory-building. As ever, it is the underlying rigorous reflexivity of the overall process which makes this ‘rationally imaginative’ work open to scrutiny and further thinking.
Cherries are good to think with!
Becker, Howard (2014). What about Mozart? What about Murder? Reasoning from Cases. University of Chicago Press.
Bortoft, Henri (2012). Taking Appearance Seriously: The Dynamic Way of Seeing in Goethe & European Thought. Edinburgh: Floris Books.
Nordoff, Paul and Clive Robbins (1971/2004). Therapy in Music for Handicapped Children. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.
Savickey, Beth (2011). Wittgenstein’s Use of Examples, In: Oskari Kuusela and Marie McGinn (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein. Oxford University Press.
Seamon, David & Arthur Zajonc (1998). Goethe’s Way of Science. NY: State University of New York.