Story-telling through music
Updated: Sep 30, 2021
Kate Millett (ukulele and Voice)
Alice Zawadzki (violin and voice) Ben Hazleton (double bass)
Thom Rowlands (piano lesson)
Experimental Session - Kate Millett
One of the amazing things about music is its power to ground its listeners. Every week at Bridgeside Lodge, we see our audiences transform with the music. Those who were perhaps not fully with us become more present and more connected. Memories can be triggered, nerves can be soothed, and moods can be lifted. For my third experimental session last Wednesday, I visited three residents, and they were all moved by the music in different ways.
Last time I visited E.J we made a story through music. I played a series of stand-alone chords and asked her if she could put words to each chord and describe how they made her feel. Each chord had a personality and a story to tell. With each chord change, E.J and I added to her story, letting the chords guide her imagination. For this visit, E.J wasn’t quite as responsive. She needed a bit more guidance and admitted she wasn’t feeling her best, so I asked a few questions as we went along and made sure to keep checking that she was happy to carry on. Her carer Leyla was with her. She was really interested in the idea and wanted to join in. She said she loves seeing what imaginations can hold!
Finger picking in G:
E.J: “This makes me think of a lazy summer’s afternoon”
Changed to G7:
KM: “Where are you?”
E.J: “I can hear a difference. I think we must be sitting in the shade in the garden.”
Changed to D7:
Leyla: “There are flowers in the garden”
E.J: “Which flowers are there?”
Changed to Fmajor:
Leyla: “There are Daffodils”
E.J: “Isn’t it a bit late for Daffodils?”
Changed to Asus4:
Leyla: “It’s the last of the Daffodils for this year.”
E.J: “How peaceful.”
Changed to E minor:
Leyla: “This is peaceful. It feels like maybe it might rain.”
E.J: “Yes, I think it is raining. Just a quick shower. We haven’t been very lucky with the weather.”
Changed to Em7:
Leyla: “It’s a summer shower.”
Changed to Gmaj7:
Leyla: “And now it’s clearing.”
Changed to Cminor
KM: “Are there any other people with you?”
E.J “No, are we expecting anyone to join us? I can be a bit irritable.”
Changed to strumming with a pattern of C, G, Am, Em, F, C, D, C
(I felt like maybe she needed more contrast. She was quiet for a while, listening.)
E.J: “I feel safe.”
E.J then lay back on her bed and seemed tired so we drew to a close.
Resident A.S is bed-bound so it is difficult for her to come to group sessions. She loves music though and has responded so well to our 1:1 sessions that I thought she would enjoy the story-telling activity. We began by talking about music in Spain, which was something she had spoken to me about in previous visits. I sang her a Spanish song by Manuel de Falla, and she began telling me about her childhood in Spain just after the Civil War. It sounded like a traumatic and extremely difficult time with no running water, no electricity and very little food. The music reminded her of all this, and, although she said it was good to talk about it, she thinks she would prefer to forget it. Instead, we began the story-telling. I asked her what came to mind when I played different chords. At first she sat listening, concentrating hard and I could see her tuning in to the music. Watching her and listening to her comments was quite a moving experience. Her responses were very clear and she didn’t hesitate.
Finger picking in Dminor:
A.S: “Water. This makes me think of water. It’s very gentle water, going over stones.”
Changed to finger picking in Fmajor:
A.S: “There are people sitting by the water. They seem to be happy.”
Changed to finger picking in Cmajor:
A.S: “The people are talking to each other. They are in conversation and there are lots of smiles.”
Changed to finger picking in Gmaj7
A.S: “I think we are by the sea. We are on the beach…When I was young, the beach was my favourite place. I was always happy when I was by the sea. I can see lots of people sitting by the sea. They are calm and they are happy”
Changed to Asus2: A.S sat listening to this chord pattern for a while, just nodding. I was going to change again when she started talking.
A.S: “Now there is a child. And she is trying to lift leaves from the water. There are Autumn leaves in the water.”
I did a few more chord changes after this but she seemed to have reached the end of her story. For a bit of contrast I started strumming instead, to which she said:
A.S “Now we are dancing. The people are dancing together, slowly. But I am most happy when I am sitting by the sea, this is where it is most peaceful.”
When I looked in on Resident G.B, he was gently dozing. I turned to go but he opened his eyes and caught sight of the Ukulele. Suddenly wide awake and smiling broadly, G.B asked for some music. We sang a couple of songs together which G.B said was “Just smashing!” And he told me several times about the lovely girl who had visited him that day. G.B’s granddaughter, who hadn’t been able to visit in over a year, had been in that morning. Her visit had clearly had a profound impact on him. We tried a couple of activities, but he became a bit confused and started to think I was his granddaughter. As he loves singing, I decided a few more of his favourite songs would be a better idea. G.B sang loudly along to “La Vie en Rose” and “Berkeley Square”, in an impressively strong voice! When I left, he was still singing to himself. I could hear him all the way down the corridor, giving it socks!
While Kate conducted experiments indoors, Spitz GM Thom was in the garden, giving a piano lesson to carer Leyla (mentioned above). She is 1-to-1 care giver for resident E.J and has very close bond with her. When Thom & Leyla started piano lessons earlier this year, she asked to learn "Danny Boy", a firm favourite of E.J's so that she could play it to her while practicing. Lessons took a bit of a pause over the summer but have now recommenced and we can't wait for Leyla to join the rest of the Spitz band on stage one day soon.
Completing our 3-part Wednesday were Alice and Ben, roaming the halls, visiting residents in their rooms and performing in the communal spaces. A truly musical day at Bridgeside Lodge!