Aeriel: Aesthetic Research in Everyday Life
Principal Investigator: Stuart Wood
Project Dates: July 2017 – June 2018
This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust [205475/Z/16/Z].
Aeriel was a pilot study that sought to address the impact of reduced resourcing in care homes on the relationship between the carer and the cared-for through highlighting non-verbal interaction in everyday situations, using music as a tool. The leading interest was how these moments are performative of care roles: how they are complicit in enacting power relations, notions of ability or disability, and commodification, through subtle and often overlooked modes of behaviour.
Through audio recording and musical analysis of the special timing, tone of voice, and sympathetic sounds that carers make naturally, but that are usually not celebrated, Aeriel sought new ways of understanding care roles and their potential for change, offering new perspectives to care staff, providers, academics, and, most significantly, people living with dementia.
Care homes are suffering an unprecedented squeeze on resources, which is played out most acutely at the point of contact between carer and resident, and the Local Government Association estimates that there will be a £2.6 billion funding gap in adult social care by 2020. Recent reports speak of a ‘crisis of care’ in the UK, highlighting carer burnout, job insecurity, and associated experiences of alienation amongst people with dementia: 49% of dementia carers feel that they don’t receive enough help.
Care has now become a site of research significance for the arts, and this project piloted a new methodology exploring performance-based perspectives on care. It investigated care situations reflecting everyday life, such as personal care, transitions, and dining, using an innovative musical ethnographic toolkit.
Applying a musical and dramatic lens to situations we usually take for granted, Aeriel refined this research approach, bringing it to a new level of credibility. The pilot study included a period of observation and audio recording in three UK care homes, followed by an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of field notes and audio recordings using approaches drawn from verbatim theatre and past experience of clinical practice in music therapy.
The project was completed in June 2018 with the Found Performance symposium and published in the BMJ Medical Humanities journal in 2019.
Wood S. Beyond Messiaen’s birds: the post-verbal world of dementia. Medical Humanities 2020;46:73-83.