Christy Ringrose, a student at the University of the West of Scotland and some of her classmates have taken inspiration from the Dementia Carer Voices Campaign and produced an album of songs from the pledges made to the campaign so far. Christy shares her blog now with the Academy.
One way of caring for people is to listen to them. This is why Tommy encouraged people around Scotland to write to him about their experiences of knowing or caring for someone with dementia. Tommy wanted us to make these letters sing through our songs.
The day we read the letters, a world of feelings and stories was strewn across a table. There were statements, bold and true: “I feel lost”. There were prayers “Sweet Jesus get me through another day”, and words of encouragement to Tommy “mate, you’re doing great”*. Letters from sons, daughters, mothers, sisters, neighbors and care-workers. Each letter powerful because it was written because someone passionately cares about someone else.
How can a multitude of voices be compressed into a song? One way is to find out something that ties all the letters together. Tommy himself said that they are all “love letters”; love letters written in a time of difficulty. The struggles that come with dementia, bring feelings of sadness, perhaps even anger and irritation – but amongst this despair, love persists in being heard.
How can we ensure that our songs express these feelings? We can ensure that the feelings themselves are involved at every stage of the creative process: From the crafting of lyrics and melody, to the practicalities of recording and performing, it is important to come back to the heart of the matter, without which no song would exist.
When we care about someone, we put them first. Similarly, if we care about something, we put that something before everything else.
For example, when someone suggested to me during a recording session that I add computer crafted violins to my song, “Romeo and Juliette”, I thought that this is not an option because only a musician who knew the story behind the score
would be able to echo the fear of losing someone, or the sweetness of wanting to be with someone you love.
In this way, songwriting is constant collaboration with the subject matter. The songwriter can quite easily forget this, especially in thinking about how to entertain their listeners, or even how to make money or popularity from the song. What I enjoyed about this collaborative songwriting process, was that the material was so strong, so beautiful, that I felt it taking precedence. It was more important to find that balance between desperation and love, than to find a skillful melody.
Hopefully this shift of priorities will inevitably result in good quality