Join us for the Music Department Research Forum where we welcome Professor Rennee Timmers and Dr Julian Christensen from, The University of Sheffield's 'Music, Mind, Machine Research Centre' who will be discussing their work to develop new technologies for people living with dementia.
Dementia, Music, & Technology, UKRI funded research project
Abstract: The presentations reports on recent findings and developments of the UKRI funded research project on ‘Developing music technology for older adults’ wellbeing’ and introduces some new theoretical work. A scoping review of existing arts technology for carers, patients and therapists has been conducted highlighting the growing availability of technology for arts engagement, specifically since the start of the Covid pandemic. Tailor-made technology specific for particular arts applications are most prevalent, with applications for music and story-telling being relatively large in number. Survey results of relevant organisations and an ongoing survey of people living with dementia help to clarify where the needs are and desires for technology designed to support music engagement. This shows very high variability and individual-specific desires and needs. For our design-approach going forwards, this suggests that case studies may be worthwhile, as well as designing for particular contexts and scenarios of musical interaction. In further research, we will be tapping into artificial intelligence for context-specific learning, as well as examine common themes such as the role of agency and enabling meaningful, in the moment engagement with selected musical materials.
In looking towards future work, group musical activities have been shown to positively impact the relationships of people living with dementia and their family caregivers, but we are still at an early stage of understanding how the mechanisms of this might work. This is likely because there are several overlapping strands involved in this, with individuals differently weighting the importance of some strands over others based on their personal circumstances. Some musical situations, with their goals of high performance precision, can work well when everyone involved has a similar musical ability, and everyone can similarly strive towards the same performance goals, often reaching flow states together and feeling part of something bigger than themselves (Turino, 2008). Unfortunately, people living with dementia through their disease progression can lose their ability to read and follow music which often leads to their being left out of these types of group music-making activities. Generally there are seen to be two solutions to this. First, they have a person or technology that supports them to overcome these barriers. The second is for them to become more involved in a more participatory style of music-making, which is more open and allows people to more easily engage with music at a level appropriate to them. Some participatory activities can be overly simplistic, and so there is also a role for technology to allow people to feel like they have something significant to contribute to the whole in this case as well.
Justin Christensen is a Canadian researcher, composer and performer who is a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield working on the development of music technology for people living with dementia, researching the benefits for people living with dementia to engage with others when performing meaningful music together, as part of a UKRI Future leaders fellowship with Jenni MacRitchie. He has completed periods of postdoctoral research at the University of Saskatchewan and Aalborg University. Prior to that, he earned his PhD in music composition in the UK with Michael Finnissy, completed degrees in music composition at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Netherlands, and degrees in music composition and trumpet performance at McGill University in Canada. His previous research has also focused on the behavioural mechanisms and musical cues that affect the sense of agency experienced while playing music together, and on on the temporal and interpersonal musical experience, and has resulted in him writing a book titled Sound and the Aesthetics of Play: A Musical Ontology of Constructed Emotions. He regularly performs with the Dutch Ensemble Modelo62, and has also received a number of awards and prizes, including the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music and TIHMS Composition Prize.
Renee Timmers is Professor of Psychology of Music, at the University of Sheffield. She is interim Head of Department of Music, following a period of acting as Faculty Director of Research and Innovation in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. In her research, she employs interdisciplinary research methods combining perspectives from music, psychology and computer science to investigate music cognition and behaviour. She directs the research centre Music, Mind, Machine, that brings together students and staff at various career stages with a shared interest in musical behaviours in a variety of contexts - from ensemble performance, to music for health and wellbeing, to synaesthesia and crossmodal experiences of music, to implications of music psychology research for teaching, technology, and music industry. Edited books include The Routledge companion to music cognition; Together in music: Coordination, expression, participation; Expressiveness in music performance: Empirical approaches across styles and cultures; Sound teaching: A research-informed approach to inspiring confidence, skill, and enjoyment in music performance.
This session will take place in the concert room and online via Zoom