Can music help us understand delirium in hospital?

Saturday, 16 April, 2016 - 11:30

Can music help us understand delirium in hospital? 

Live music and discussion by
Victoria Hume, with Chris Letcher and Quinta 

Delirium is a ‘disturbance in consciousness’ (DSM IV) which manifests as confusion and often multi-sensory hallucination. It arises when acute illness and its treatments overwhelm the brain. The more vulnerable we are, the more likely we are to experience delirium. Even in a normal hospital ward as many as one in five will be delirious, but in intensive care prevalence can rise to 80%. Delirium is often traumatising not just for those who experience it, but for their families and for care staff. It is associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and long-term cognitive damage. Yet it is neither researched nor treated at a level which matches the experience.  

Victoria (piano, vocals), Quinta (viola, vocals) and Chris Letcher (guitar) will play excerpts from the first Delirium song-cycle, followed by a discussion of both this project, and the different approaches and initial findings from the new study.  

Friday, 15th April 2016
WiSER Seminar room
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building, East Campus, Wits University 

This ongoing project is an attempt to understand delirium through musical compositions based on interviews with people who have experienced delirium, families, carers, and clinical staff. It began in 2013 with a song-cycle – Delirium – which interweaves a series of interviews with live music; the cycle has been performed in a variety of public, clinical and educational settings in the UK, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Medicine Unboxed Creative Prize in 2014. Victoria is now part-way through a masters in Health Communication and Music, focused on delirium, which will lead to new compositions based on interviews from a South African teaching hospital.  

Victoria Hume is a musician and arts manager. She worked for 15 years in the UK's NHS, mainly in London, running arts programmes in public hospitals. She has also released a number of albums as a singer-songwriter. She is currently based at the University of the Witwatersrand where she works with the Health Communication Research Unit, the WiSER medical humanities programme, and the Wits School of Arts.
Chris Letcher is head of the WSOA music division, and teaches courses in film composition and musicology. He is also a film composer and songwriter.
Quinta is a multi-instrumentalist performer and composer. She is currently composer-in-residence with Rambert, and completing her second album. 

For more information see

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