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Musified togetherness: Co-singing in families living with dementia

Waage hopes her work will inspire lay people and professionals alike to tap into and explore singing’s relational and co-creative potential as part of everyday life. She dreams of a society where singing is valued and supported as a communicative and creative resource from the cradle to the grave.

Helene Waage

PhD Candidate

Helene Waage will defend her thesis titled “Musified togetherness: Co-singing in families living with dementia” for the PhD degree on Friday 9 February 2024. Waage has followed the PhD programme at the Faculty of Fine Arts, with a specialisation in Art in Context.

Summary of the thesis: 

In her PhD thesis, Helene Waage explores the possibilities and implications of daily-life singing for people living with dementia and their close ones. Extensive research has addressed music and dementia in various professional or organised contexts. Waage instead focuses on everyday life and how people affected by dementia might use and experience singing as an integral part of their communication and interaction, even outside of professional or therapeutic frames. 

For the empirical part of the project, Waage collaborated with an older woman living with dementia and her daughter to explore simple singing activities that the two could integrate into their daily lives based on their musical preferences, interests, and previous experiences. Theoretically, the thesis is grounded in Karen Barad’s agential realism and theories connected to affirmative philosophy, neuropsychology, and neurophysiology. Its research questions engage (1) relational singing as practice and experience, (2) its underlying processes and mechanisms, and (3) its conceptual and discursive implications. Thus, the research framed singing in families living with dementia as what Barad calls a material-discursive practice, wherein the material conditions, the related concepts and discourses, and the practice itself are all interwoven and inseparable. 

Based on empirical and theoretical exploration and an innovative methodology relying upon diffraction, the thesis contributes new knowledge by weaving together existing research, various theories and discourses, and insights from its empirical study and Waage’s own autoethnographic material. In this way, it illuminates affirmative and relational aspects of everyday singing for people with dementia and their close ones. It also proposes “co-singing” and various forms of “musified togetherness” as suitable terms and concepts – and examples of everyday practice – for conveying the implications of such an approach to singing and dementia. These terms, that is, highlight singing as a relational activity that can be integrated into everyday pursuits, physical activities, and communication and interactions beyond language. 

Waage hopes her work will inspire lay people and professionals alike to tap into and explore singing’s relational and co-creative potential as part of everyday life. She dreams of a society where singing is valued and supported as a communicative and creative resource from the cradle to the grave. 

More information about time and place for the doctoral defense.