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Goldsmiths - University of London

Striking a Chord: Dementia and Song

Parmar, Prabhjot and Puwar, Nirmal. 2019. Striking a Chord: Dementia and Song. Performance Research, 24(1), pp. 25-34. ISSN 1352-8165 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

We have co-written this piece to relay what can be achieved with song and music in familial and non-familial settings when caring for a person with dementia. This article started as a conversation we had in the Wellcome Collection cafe in London to catch up with each other while Prabhjot was en route from Canada to India, to meet her father. We shared how dementia was becoming a part of our parents’ lives. This article is dedicated to the chords Prabhjot Parmar has struck with her father, Major Harbhajan Singh (25 Dec 1925 – 16 April 2018) and Nirmal Puwar has had the pleasure of sharing with her mother, Kartar Kaur. Both of us have been drawn to understanding how our own performance of song with our respective parent enabled them and us to maintain a register of connection. Song became a means of trying to keep striking a parental and musical chord. We aimed to connect by engendering ‘therapeutic atmospheres’ (Sonntag 2016) through song. We use song and music interchangeably, operating with performance as an umbrella term that includes gesture, utterance, dance, singing and playing musical instruments, for example.

Two autoethnographic relational contributions provide a substantive basis to our article, each written by a researcher-carer-daughter, seeking to sustain contact with what remains in her parent living with dementia.

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Additional Information:

This article connects private issues with public concerns for dementia and song.


dementia, music, song, gesture, care, daughter-carer-researcher, geriatric, transmission, diaspora, transnational, intimacy

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10 January 2019Accepted
29 April 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

15 May 2019 13:43

Last Modified:

27 Aug 2019 11:38

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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