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Music is relational

Why does music help in care?

Because it is relational.

Music strengthens bonds between people

  • Engages through participation
  • Encourages group cohesion
  • Destabilizes hierarchy

Strengthening relationships between care providers and receivers is critical to caring for the whole person. When introduced into care settings, live or recorded music can provide a context for engaging in relationships between all people in the setting. Music is by nature participatory: it requires listening and reacting, and has an impact on our physical being, whether or not we are actively creating the music ourselves. In coining the term “musicking,” ethnomusicologist Christopher Small (1996) stressed that music is, by its very nature, a “verb.”

Engaging care receivers is crucial for keeping them actively involved in their treatment plans. Through incorporating music into a person’s care, we keep them participating in their everyday lives through activity and emotional expression. Mitigating against the depression, isolation, and feelings of lack of agency that can result from short or long-term care dependency, and music can serve as a key factor for maintaining personal engagement.

In the midst of care culture, particularly when a person has little physical autonomy and loved ones are limited in what they can do to help, musical programming can provide a way to relate to one another. Musicking together creates cohesion; be it through listening to meaningful music, or participating in live musicking, music can provide a means of being in relationship amidst unfamiliar, stressful, or life-limiting care scenarios.