Presenting at the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities conference 2013

I am very pleased to have had my paper “Lay crafting of joyful and inclusive musical events: Participant observation with a community-based volunteer group in South England” accepted at this years conference on “Multiformity and diversity: Combining individual care and community-based supports” in Tokyo, Japan. I will participate in a panel with colleagues from Kobe University on the topic of “What helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to enjoy music activities: towards better quality of life-long development“. 

Title: Lay crafting of joyful and inclusive musical events: Participant observation with a community-based volunteer group in South England

Abstract: Music is used in various educational and recreational settings for people with learning disabilities. Its benefits have been discussed mainly in the field of music therapy; helping their emotions to be expressed, helping their behavioral problems, aiding their identity constructions, and enhancing communication with others. However, little in-depth research exists on how music can provide a medium for a joyful and inclusive environment where dialogues are encouraged and various relationships are transformed, which our symposium will approach. I will contribute to the discussion from a music-sociology perspective using empirical data collected through long-term participant observation research (2 years) and interviews with a music group called “Singing for the Brain (SFTB)” in England that involves people with dementia and their caregivers. SFTB involves about 10 people with dementia, their caregivers and 10 local volunteers and is run by Alzheimer’s Society weekly in a community centre. The weekly musical event begins with a social time over tea and biscuits followed by a one-hour music activity. 


Musical affordances of such events have discursive roots rather than causal roots as is often suggested in the current literature of music sociology (e.g., DeNora 2003). Small’s sociological work (1998) is also important because he has highlighted the process of people participating in musical performances in a multitude of ways through the use of his concept of “musicking”. Therefore, I have closely investigated the process of how people participate in, and interact with, music, as well as their lived shared experiences of musicking together, in this case, mainly through the weekly SFTB sessions.  


The collected data was analysed using the grounded theory approach and the main findings relate to the lay crafting of the events; how musical events can be crafted as inclusive and joyful activities while considering the different cognitive and physical capacities of all participants. This will be explored and explained in two temporal phases around the regular weekly events—the preparations before the events and collaborative crafting during the events. Here I utilise DeNora’s (2003) methodological model, “The Musical Event”, which looks at a specific act of engagement with music based on three time phases; “before the event”, “during the event” and “after the event”. What are the preconditions of the musical events? How are physical and material preparations of the SFTB sessions? What kinds of the social phenomena are encouraged by the physical and material framings and how are they important for the overall success of musical events? How is the actual musical event structured? What are the volunteers’ crafting techniques? How does music help in crafting safe and joyful environments? How can the musical events be crafted collaboratively? What are the devices that produce the joyful group culture? How is the feeling of being together forged and crystallized? 


I will discuss the findings with the other discussants to explore the possibilities of how such solid and discursive musical affordances can also be applied in special education that involve younger people with disabilities. 

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