Dementia's Hidden Voices

Dementia's Hidden Voices


"Using a combination of modern classical and minimalist influences, John McHugh has composed a piece that elevates the voices of people with dementia and their carers. It is beautiful as a piece in itself, it brings attention to dementia, and seeing and hearing the piece's origins brought tears to many eyes in the audience."

These are Ian Deary's first reactions after hearing Hidden Voice performed in the University of Edinburgh's St Cecilia's Hall as part of the 2017 Luminate festival of creative ageing on Sunday 1st October.

The musical piece developed its themes from the comments made by people with dementia and their carers. John McHugh heard melodies and rhythm in their natural speech prosody. He composed a piece for a quartet in which he played piano and three members of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra played strings; samples of the voices appeared in the piece. Ian Deary joined John McHugh and Dr Katie Overy (from the IMHSD, Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh) to discuss the performance and answer questions from the audience.

"I was still savouring the beauty and poignancy of the piece when I was cast back into professional mode," said Ian. "However, alongside using the discussion to explain how the Lothian Birth Cohorts were contributing to understanding cognitive ageing, I also discussed the music with John, and others' artistic attempts to reflect on dementia and cognitive ageing."

(Scroll down to watch a video of Hidden Voice)

Ian Deary, Katie Overy and composer John McHugh in discussion after the performance of Hidden Voice.

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