What do you know?

MUSIC – Time, Place, Between: Most of the time we know who we are, and we are oriented to time and place. We know how we feel, how to ‘find ourselves’ and what we enjoy and need. This knowledge is part of our everyday expertise in how to keep ourselves well. But sometimes illness, or challenging situations disrupts all of this – especially in later life, or when dementia develops.

How we engage with culture is crucial to keeping a sense of ourselves in time and place, and to keeping that experience of ‘in-betweeness’ with others. New research shows that something as simple as regularly going to the park, to museums or exhibitions, singing in a choir (or in the shower) or taking part in a leisure activity with others, can make a huge difference in our overall sense of wellbeing. It can even boost our systems of immunity. Being expressive, and engaging with cultural materials, on our own or together – helps. We adapt, we learn, we apply skills, and we develop. Culture forms experience. This topic is currently part of a major UK Research Council initiative – see the MARCH Network project website to read more about cultural and community assets and their role in promoting mental health.

In relation to wellbeing, music can be hugely powerful. You probably already know that if you’ve ever turned to music when you’re feeling sad or distressed. Listening to the ‘right’ music can draw us out, alter mood, remind us of ‘happier times’. Music can lift us up. We can imaginatively re-connect with people we’ve lost through music (music is a powerful way to evoke memories) and we bond with people through music. (For example, think of how often couples have an ‘our song’, but also think of how powerful music can be in contexts of collective action – from protest movements, to marching music, to music’s role as a medium of collective remembering.)

If you have thoughts on this that you might want to share with others, please take a look at our related page: your music stories