Naila Kuhlmann, Lili Saint Laurent, Caroline Barbier de Reulle
- Open (def: scores for unspecified instrumentation)
- Acoustic instruments
This can vary, but would work best over a series of 1-2 hour sessions (over weeks or months).
Piece of Mind — Understanding and Communicating Parkinson’s Disease through Music and Poetry
Within the context of the Piece of Mind project (details at the bottom of the page), we describe a collaborative activity in which we translated a poem about the lived experience of Parkinson’s disease (PD) to music and then put it onto the stage. In collaboration with the author Lili Saint Laurent, musician Caroline Barbier de Reulle initially composed a song based on the original text, and by drawing inspiration from exchanges with other Piece of Mind participants. The creative process then went through several iterations, including incorporating the many voices of our project, and becoming the starting point for the final scene of Piece of Mind: Parkinson’s.
Below we break down our process of co-creation, with the hope that it can be adapted to other texts and contexts.
Goal: to depict a lived experience (in our case, Parkinson’s disease) using different forms of artistic expression. We aimed to add new dimensions to the initial text by mixing different artistic styles and points of view, while remaining true to its original meaning.
Where: On a virtual platform such as Zoom, through direct messaging, and/or in person.
Duration: Plan for a minimum of several ~1–2 hour sessions, spread over multiple weeks or months. This type of collaborative process requires time to build relationships and listen to all participants.
Participants / Target Audience: In our case, this activity was carried out in a collective including people with lived experience of PD, caregivers, neuroscientists, dancers, circus artists and musicians. This activity could be adapted to other groups.
Group size: We suggest that the primary collaboration be between 2 to 4 people (small group), in order to ensure that meaningful communication can be established and that the exchanges will be fruitful.
- Choose a work (a poem or other text) that fits your final objective and represents the spirit of the project, while considering the musical possibilities. In our case, the poem “Sur le fil” by Lili Saint Laurent, a woman living with PD, became a common thread for our group as it created a natural link between the lived experience of PD and the circus arts through which we wanted to depict it.
- Take the time to listen to and understand the piece. Ask yourselves what it means, what key feelings or messages are conveyed in the work, and which musical elements might best correspond to the desired feeling. Based on this reflection, the musician can compose and propose an initial musical interpretation of the text.
- Following this initial proposal, plan an exchange between the musician and the author of the text so that the latter can express his or her reaction to it. This will allow the author to have an idea of the musical style proposed, and to verbalize what works and what does not. Be open to experimenting with possible avenues, and going through several drafts and iterations — sometimes you have to go in the wrong direction at first to find a common path! As an example, have a listen to the first and second version Caroline proposed here.
- Once you are happy with the combination of text and music, share it with the other artists, to allow them to form their own associations with it. If you are working in a group, find ways to incorporate the other perspectives or ideas so that the work becomes a collective effort. In our case, this meant integrating all the participants’ voices into the soundtrack, and adjusting the musical composition to fit the choreography for our performance. You can check out the final version of the song here, and see the corresponding scene here.
To learn more about the creative process of producing this piece of music, and hear directly from Lili and Caroline, check out our little vignette (primarily in French) here.
Quotes (translated from French):
“When I wrote the poem, it was with the idea of physically transcribing the impermanence of my life with Parkinson’s disease. Every movement, every thing that I would do took on a new importance, recognizing that where I would be in the next moment was unpredictable.” — Lili Saint Laurent
“My first proposition to Lili was a melodic song — with piano, voice, verses and a chorus […] I sent it to her, and she said: ‘Listen, your song is very lovely, but it doesn’t correspond to what I feel and how I live in my body.’ ” — Caroline Barbier de Reulle
“This poem kept coming back to me, because it illustrated the theme of the project so well. So at the end of a Zoom session, I asked: ‘could I read something to you?’ For me, it was just a little offering… but it touched everyone so deeply, and kept coming up in discussions afterwards, so it ended up being a narrative thread for the performance.” — Lili Saint Laurent
“[…] What could correspond best to what Lili explained to me regarding how she feels? So then I thought about the violin — the idea that “the wire” can also be a string, a chord — and I wanted to use the violin in a chaotic and noisy way, to represent the multitude of emotions in the poem…” — Caroline Barbier de Reulle
Piece of Mind
Piece of Mind uses the performing arts to synthesize and translate knowledge about Parkinson’s disease (PD) and dementia. Our participatory research-creation project brings together artists (circus performers, dancers, musicians, visual artists), researchers, individuals living with PD or dementia, and caregivers to co-create artistic works based on scientific research and lived experience. The overall goals are to:
- facilitate knowledge creation and exchange between the seemingly disparate communities participating in the creative process and
- create performances that can engage a wide audience on both an emotional and intellectual level, and spark meaningful conversations around PD and dementia.
We use an emergent and iterative process to identify the key themes and messages to communicate in our performances, and to ensure that multiple perspectives are incorporated along the way. Our research process has included numerous virtual workshops, facilitated discussions, and movement/music sessions to build relationships and explore both scientific and lived experience knowledge through creativity and embodiment. You can see other examples from our project here:Read More +