Music News

The Rhapsody Project

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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As part of a new arts-in-health project, Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity commissioned 15 talented composers out of over 250 applications back in April (2013) to create new pieces of music inspired by the artworks in the museum collection at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital London.

The composers will be mentored through the process by William Mival, head of composition at the Royal College of Music, and their final works will be reviewed by our composing ambassador, the international award-winning composer Eric Whitacre. The works will be recorded onto CD and audio guides as part of the hospital’s museum ‘art trail’ for patients and visitors to enjoy, funded for by Arts Council England.

“I am honoured to support the ground-breaking work of Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity.  Their vision to create works of art for the healing environment will provide benefits today and a legacy for the future.   This is a tremendous opportunity for young composers to embrace, and a complex challenge.   I look forward to hearing their work.”  Eric Whitacre

Drawing on research about the health benefits of different styles and genres of music, these pieces have been composed specifically to suit patients in the hospital. Once recorded at and by musicians of the RCM the compositions will be released for long-stay patients, as well as for audio guides that lead patients on trails through the artwork in the hospital. The project leaders teamed up with technology company Imagineear who have designed interactive touch-screen audio guides involving maps, photos of the artwork and music to provide an innovative patient experience.

The wonderful thing about this project is that it shows people and industries outside of the normal sphere of the music, film and game industries value the power and potential benefits of using bespoke musical writing whilst also helping to promote emerging musicians; for which it becomes a greater struggle each year to break into professional music.

These new compositions will draw on the growing body of research that looks at the ways different types of music can impact on health, in order to provide the most relaxing experience for the patients who will be listening to them.

Darren Brown, physiotherapist, involved in the project says: ‘Without the audio guide, my patient stayed in bed. But the patient and I are using the incentive of the music to go a bit further off the ward each day. It made my job easier because my patient enjoyed his engagement in physical activity.’ And a delighted chronic pain patient told us ‘I could still feel the pain, but the music helped to blank it out’.

Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity have not only commissioned these pieces but also organise bespoke performing arts programmes include live music, dance and theatre to patients across the hospital and within the local community we are committed to arts-in-health research.

The Charity carried out a large-scale study from 1999-2002 into the psychological and physiological benefits of incorporating the arts into the hospital’s patient experience and discovered distinct decreases in both depression and anxiety as well as a massive number of patients saying that the art changed their mood for the better. Even more impressively the study suggested that the labour that women experienced whilst giving birth in rooms with artist-designed screens was reduced by an average of 2.1 hours.

The benefits of merging both music and art have been proven to affect people in massive ways, even in something as comparatively paltry as being brought to tears by a climactic scene in a film – the combination of music and emotive acting. For such a massive entity as the NHS to not only recognise but to utilise musicians to try to help their patients shows that they do understand the power of music and that they do value the time, effort and resulting expertise that musicians put in.

The Rhapsody project is an example of an effective and extremely mutually beneficial collaborative effort that the composers chosen are lucky to be a part of. Searching out these sorts of opportunities are incredibly worthwhile whether you are a classically trained composer or a loop-master producer – musicians, get fishing.

At Music Gateway you never know which projects you could get involved with that may make such a positive impact on an individual’s life. We are about bringing the industry together to bring new and innovative projects to life. All the projects will be different so it’s worth keeping an eye out for a whole range of opportunities. The possibilities are quite simply endless.

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