Music for a While BLOG
BSO Associate – Neil Valentine
Entry 1, 02/07/15
Music and Dementia. BSO Associate Neil Valentine is working acute older peoples wards in Poole, Portsmouth and Hampshire Hospitals. He will be visiting the each ward once a week for 6 months.This is a collection of his thoughts, feelings, impressions and experiences.
Music for a While is now at the end of week 2, and with a week’s gap to contend with, there are some reflections and thoughts that have been constant companions from the start.
Firstly I am blown away by the positivity and generosity of the nurses and staff in all settings. There is a real sense in these wards that real care and compassion for the patients makes a difference. The welcome and space they give visitors and relatives of patients is also very moving to see, and this has allowed me to just slip into ward life, play some nice music, share some instruments and musical games, and leave with smiles on faces.
My first barrier to overcome is how to approach working in a hospital bay, when there may be up to 6 patients with visitors or family around, and I am intending to bring some calm and positivity to the space. Firstly this is often already the case, due to the work of the nurses, but the problem with music is it is made up of sound.
Sound has an annoying habit of just going. It travels, and musicians have difficulty directing it in a specific manner. I cannot take my viola into a patient bay and just play to one patient, the very definition of sound means it goes in all directions it can. And that means everyone can hear it.
So I can play quieter so as not to disturb, or I can play very relaxing and calming music or improvisations that will bring as many people in to my world as possible, and these do work.
But when a patient would like something more upbeat, or perhaps clearly wants to be ‘involved’ in the music making, rather than just being a listener, this is where things can more difficult.
To connect properly you have to meet the audience half way, you have to go where they want you to go, and then be the musician you are in that space. And being this way for multiple people at the same time is very difficult indeed.
So the thought remains, how to effectively make meaningful musical connections in a hospital bay, when the very source of that connection for one person may indeed prevent a musical connection for someone else?
Just something to ponder as we go on.
Music for a While continues second week of July.