Sound artist Justin Wiggan worked with the residents on clusters 1 and 3 at Limewood, a new dementia care home in Stafford. He created a playlist of their favourite songs being sung by birds which have a special personal connection or meaning. The title comes from a statement a resident said during a session.
“I just wanted to say, on behalf of Limewood, how impressed we have been with the wonderful work you have done with our residents. The commitment you have shown and the ability you have to reach even those who are living with advanced dementia is exemplary. I know that the residents and the staff have loved the project and have found them both meaningful and stimulating. I was particularly impressed with how both yourself and the other artists in the communication between yourselves and the residents, entering into “their moment “and giving them time to remember, reflect, and enjoy the sessions. Thank you all its been a wonderful experience, and I know Debbie has loved every moment of hosting your team of amazingly talented people.”
Diane Wallace, Dementia Outreach Manager (Limewood)
“I give bird songs to those who dwell in cities and have never heard them, make rhythms for those who know only military marches or jazz, and paint colors for those who see none.”
The concept for the sound pieces is for them to be playing late afternoon when sundown dementia is triggered. Inspiration for this piece comes from observation that no birds enter the garden because the building is so high. The reason why the building is so high is to accommodate residents, the design of the buildings is such that each floor represents the level of dementia, and as I interpreted it, as the levels of the building got higher, it corresponded to the level of dementia and as a response to the worrying increase of the raise of dementia diagnosis.
Because no birds were visiting the gardens, I wanted to bring the birds into the home. With this in mind I started to research the potential creating a sound piece would unite birdsong with meaningful special songs of the individual. This was supported by research of the practice of teaching roller cage canaries to sing popular songs as early as 1700 via Artificial aids and mimic other sounds in nature and the link between birdsong memory and human speech.
Participatory sessions with residents on the clusters were centered on discussions of birds, memories of birds and listening to birdsong. During the sessions it became apparent that there was obvious memory triggers from listening to birdsong. For example one resident could clearly remember looking out of the window washing up, being visited regularly by Robin.We accessed books as visual aids but also used Youtube and Google maps to amplify the recall.
Here are the choices of songs along with the choices of birds:
Songs are to birds as memories are to humans