Music for a While – Blog 4

Music for a While BLOG
BSO Associate – Neil Valentine
Entry 4, 08/09/15

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.

Finding the right music

One thing that has become clearer over the course of the project so far is the need to find the ‘right’ music as often as possible. When the aim is to make connections and engage with someone through music you need to establish a common ground. In musical terms this means meeting their expectations to some degree if possible.

Often I have had requests for music that is special to a person or a family. In some cases I have been able to source the music and play it quite quickly, but only if I have an idea of what the music sounds like, its style, the singer or composer. And in these cases the standard of the playing is not as high as I would like, seeing as I have quickly learnt some music using my phone or laptop to download a score or picture.

Sometimes it is fortunate as I know the music, and if they are able to sing the first few notes then the rest of the song can follow relatively easily. But this is not often not the case. The questions I have taken to asking when appropriate are 1: Do you have any types of music that you particularly like? and 2: Would you like music that is upbeat and exciting or calm and relaxing?

The answer to the first question seems to always be ‘Not really, I like a bit of everything’. But by the way they answer, it gives an opening to prod further if you think it’s appropriate or take that as your answer and choose yourself.

As it turns out variety is very appreciated. Even when a particular style is requested, varying the music does not put patients off from engaging. The common thread here is my instrument, me and the way I approach the music. Music played well and beautifully tends to be appreciated, engaged and enjoyed. Which is why it seems that unrequested music I have had a chance to practice and feel comfortable with is more enjoyed than music that is requested but thrown together in the moment.

This is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes working out a piece of music with a patient so you both rediscover it together can be lots of fun. This happened recently with a patient who was a keen singer, and together we were able to work out ‘Abide with Me‘ and ‘Jerusalem‘.

After writing this, finding the right music now appears to be about attitude. Being open and honest, and presenting what I can to the best of my ability. I cannot always present the perfect music, but I can have enough ideas, enough improvisation skill and enough repertoire to be able to adapt something to the presented situation. So maybe the statement from the opening paragraph should be: One thing that has become clearer over the course of the project so far is the need to find the right outlook or attitude as often as possible.

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