I have previously mentioned the violinist (and former leader of the Medici Quartet) Paul Robertson's work with music and Alzheimer's Disease. It was a pleasure to hear him on BBC Radio 3's In Tune programme last night talking about his latest project, Swansongs. This is a 'performance' in words and music of the process, pathology, struggles, and compensations of Alzheimer's (which is one of the prime causes of dementia). The project is a joint one between Paul Robertson and John Zeisel who is an international expert on the non-pharmacological treatment of people with Alzheimer's (which is thought to be related to 'protein tangles' in crystal structures in the brain).
Swansongs mixes music and storytelling to give insights into Alzheimer's. Among the musical examples used are Bach's Allemande from the Partita in D minor, the Cavatina from Beethoven's Opus 130 Quartet, Faure's String Quartet (which was apparantely composed in the early stages of dementia and exhibits 'shapelessness'), Smetana's 2nd Quartet which was created in an advanced period of mental degeneration due to the composer's syphyllis, and Grundge by Judas Priest (no comment).
Prof. Paul Robertson
Paul Robertson is an informed, articulate and passionate advocate of the use of music to help Alzheimer's sufferers and carers. He can communicate far more fluently than me the benefits of his wonderful work. I urge everyone to visit the Swansongs web site, and to read in particular the Treatment Tips. The advice given here is applicable far beyond Alzheimer's sufferers. Paul Robertson is an inspiring communicators on this vitally important subject. Another book from him on the subject (he did write Music & Silence some years ago, but it is long out of print) would be invaluable - if only he had the time.
If the subject of Alzheimer's and dementia seems unduly gloomy remember that in the UK three-quarters of a million people suffer from the disease, while four and a half million family members and carers are affected. In the US five million live with the disease, and thirty million are affected in some way. No wonder Paul Robertson describes it as a pandemic.
Music is now an established tool for managing dementia related conditions