While the Music Lasts (ebook)On Music and Dementia Rineke Smilde, Kate Page en Peter Alheit


This book on the challenging topic ‘Music and Dementia’, describes recent research into the innovatory practice of ‘Music for Life’, a project managed by Wigmore Hall in London. Through engaging in music as a participatory process, its goal is to make the person behind the dementia visible again. The book explores the interaction between music and dementia through the stories of people who have been working closely together: three musicians, eight women living with dementia, five caregivers, a staff development practitioner, a project coordinator and three scientific observers.

The result is a book in which all of them have participated in their own way. It consists of field observations, reflective journals, conversations, interviews and careful scientific analyses. There is, in the words of Clifford Geertz, a ‘thick description’ of a new friendship between music and dementia, a story about a fascinating practice. The project presented in this study opened up learning processes for the musicians involved, nurturing their professional lives and development. It changed their understanding of the place of music in people’s lives; it touched their personality and stimulated deep reflections about their identity.

The book is highly beneficial for any musician who wants to reach out into society, to engage with new, and perhaps vulnerable audiences. However, musicians are not the only target group. The discoveries of the study are also helpful and inspiring for caregivers of people with dementia and for families of a loved one living with dementia.

Flautist, musicologist and music educationalist Rineke Smilde is Professor of Lifelong Learning in Music at Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, the Netherlands, and Professor of Music Pedagogy at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

Kate Page is oboist and former project manager of Music for Life at Wigmore Hall in London. Kate currently lives in Australia, where she specialises in the field of the facilitation of creative music workshops for various audiences. Sociologist and educationalist Peter Alheit is Emeritus Professor at the University of Goettingen in Germany and former holder of the Chair of General Pedagogy. He is considered a world expert on biographical research and lifelong learning.

‘This book is a valuable contribution to the growing body of scientific literature that documents how fundamental music can be to our health and well-being. As such, it is an important text for conservatoire teachers and students who are alert to the most recent trends in higher music education, and who are keen to exercise their art to the benefit of society.’ Dr. Jeremy Cox, Chief Executive Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen (AEC), Brussels

‘Breaking new ground in understanding how music can reach people with dementia, their families and carers, is essential. This book does exactly that. Most importantly it brings real insights into particular ways in which musicians have developed creative practices and partnerships working in this field. These open new doors for other professional musicians, and signal the potential for further collaborations to expand on and deepen this work.’ Prof. Helena Gaunt, Assistant Principal (Research and Academic Development) Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London

‘People living with advanced dementia frequently experience isolation and loneliness because they are perceived by others as being unable to communicate. While the Music Lasts shows us that, where we have the belief and commitment to reach people living with advanced dementia, communication is not only possible but it also reaches depths and tenderness that are extraordinary.’ Simon Morris, Chief Executive Jewish Care, London