Music in the hospital – geschreven door Krista Pyykönen

Meaningful Music in Health Care (MiMiC) is een bijzonder samenwerkingsproject van een chirurgisch onderzoeksteam van het UMCG-ziekenhuis en het Lectoraat Lifelong Learning in Music van het Prins Claus Conservatorium. De Finse violiste Krista Pyykönen maakt als violiste én in het kader van haar promotieonderzoek deel uit van het onderzoekteam.

How can interactive live music sessions enhance the well-being and recovery of elderly surgical patients? That is one of the questions of the mixed-methods research project I am involved in. Apart from looking at the wellbeing of elderly hospital patients we also seek to find out what interactive music sessions can mean for the health care professionals working on hospital wards, and what kind of learning takes place for the musicians working in the context. We have a unique mix of qualitative researchers, musicians and medical researchers in our team. The special interest of the Lifelong Learning in Music – research group is to develop a new practice for musicians, and a teaching module for music master students to train for this specific professional context.

Meeting a person through musical interaction

Why would one introduce music in a hospital ward? Older adults who undergo surgery are at an increased risk of complications and tend to be more vulnerable during recovery. This project intends to show that music brings a meaningful aesthetic experiences close to elderly patients. This helps them coping with the complicated situation they experience during hospitalisation.

We have just finished a third, intensive week of music sessions at the UMCG. The music was not exclusively offered to elderly patients, all patients on the ward (ranging from 18 – 100) who wanted to, were invited to take part in a musical encounter. How does that go about?

A team of three musicians creates improvised music for a patient or a group of patients and their nurses. Last week the team consisted of a flutist, clarinettist and cellist, but during the whole course of the six pilot projects of the research, there are different combinations of a flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and a double bass. The patients’ condition taken into consideration, he or she is invited to be part of the creative processes. The musicians may ask the patient to describe a landscape or choose a mood or a colour, and then translate that idea into music. In other occasions, the patients may engage in co-creating a piece of music by telling a story, singing along or conducting with a baton. The music is created in various styles, genres and moods. For example, last week the musicians created an improvisation with a group of patients in one room. The story of the piece was co-created by the patients together. They presented their story to the musicians and one of them conducted the players as the story was translated into music, because the patients had a very clear idea of the structure of the piece and how the music should portray their story.


About the meaning of music with hospitalised people

It has been extremely beautiful and often humbling to witness how quickly the musicians and the patients connect through music. For many of the patients, the musicians become their daily visitors with whom they may share musical moments of joy, peace, distraction or discovery. I have been astonished at how strong patients’ need for artistic experiences is, and how openly they express themselves artistically even when in a vulnerable situation. Some of the finest moments I have witnessed are those, where the patient, musicians and members of the ward staff all take part in the musical creation.

What I have experienced in the music sessions as a musician and a researcher is that the aesthetic, artistic experience of the music interventions as well as the social interactions that happen can have profound personal significance. That has been the case not only for the patients but also for musicians and nurses. Music helped to bring out emotions, promote social sharing between patients and nurses or within a group of patients. The shared improvisations created a space for imagination, fantasy and moments of enjoyment on hospital beds.

Krista Pyykönen

MMus, MMusEd, PhD-student at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Member of the research group Lifelong Learning in Music of Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen.


Picture from one MiMiC session in November 2016. Maaike van der Linde (flute), Jesse Faber (clarinet) and René van Munster (cello).

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