Article in Music and Arts in Action
My first paper from my PhD research will be published in the next issue of Music and Arts in Action, this is a theme issue on music/arts and health. The paper (‘Music in Dementia Care: Increased Understanding through Mixed Research Methods’) is discussing how I used music as a part of my research to engage with people with dementia and their carer. I am also discussing my preliminary findings briefly. A more detailed look at my findings will be published in a forthcoming article in Voices.
Over the past decade there has been an increased interest in the wide variety of issues involved in the care of individuals with dementia. One particular area of research is the effect of music on those with dementia, commonly studied through the perspectives of neuroscience and (the more applied) music therapy. There is, however, a black box common to both these fields: music is seen as an input and its effect as a simple output. In treating the human (brain) as merely an object to stimulate with music or sound, the socio-cultural context of musical interaction is omitted from the analysis. This article discusses the employment of mixed research methods adapted specifically to explore the use of music in dementia care and open this black box. In particular, this article discusses the use of ethnographic participant observations and semi-structured interviews with individuals with dementia, their families/carers and (volunteer) staff of Singing for the Brain (SFTB) in a British town. The article concludes with a discussion of the preliminary themes generated by this mixed-methods approach (such as the importance of ‘relationships’), and the importance of examining music as a ‘catalyst’ in building relationships. Although the issues discussed in this article are specific to dementia, similar sensitive issues may be found in research on health and other creative (therapeutic) activities for people with dementia.