- Acoustic instruments
- Digital devices
1-3 thirty-minute sessions
- Palliative care
The Beat of the Heart
The beat or pulse could be considered the foundation of what we do, as music-makers. It is often the structure within which we tell a story through melody, rhythm, timbre, dynamics and even lyrics. As a music therapist, I have been witnessing the power of the beat in the form of heartbeat recordings. I work in an acute care setting, with both palliative and paediatric patients. Heartbeat recordings were introduced to me by work colleagues who had come across the work of Louisville music therapist Brian Schreck. Brian’s work with individuals with cancer focuses on the process of recording individual’s heartbeats, and composing a song to companion that recording. The resulting process and product is one that emphasizes creativity, beauty and legacy. In the work that I do, heartbeat recordings are used in work with patients, young and old, as a form of legacy for those whose diagnosis may be life-limiting.
Materials: ipad or recording device, stethoscope, lapel mic
These materials are not prohibitively expensive, as iPads are common tools, and the other supplies (Rode lapel mic and stethoscope) total ~$350.00. Other individuals have success in using digital stethoscopes like the Eko Core which may have a steeper learning curve, but is roughly the same price, with some compatible smart tools (app, etc) that make it equally easy to use.
Considerations: When doing a heartbeat recording, it is important to determine the best place on the chest in order to capture the strongest sound of the beat. There are lots of great resources online that provide a good overview, along with diagrams that give an idea of placement.
When using equipment that is sensitive, it is good to try to have as quiet of an environment as possible – to put a sign on the door indicating that a recording is in process, etc.
It is important to put the individual at ease, as they may be uncertain about a new experience, even when feeling positive about making the recording. Many people with health challenges often have changes to their bodies that can make them feel self-conscious. This can be done by easy conversation leading up to the recording, by warming the stethoscope, etc.
There are other considerations that may make it difficult to obtain a clear recording. If someone’s heartbeat is very weak, it may be challenging to get a recording that sounds like a heartbeat. This is also the case with individuals who have experienced extreme weight loss due to disease. The most important thing would be to be able to have a pressure-free time of trying to find a clear heartbeat that will determine whether proceeding with a recording is a good idea.
Consent: It is important to have consent for the process and the recording, whether it be for art, research, treatment/therapy, etc. Ensuring that the individual clearly understands what is taking place, and what the recording will be used for is critical. I use the consent forms for recording as well as communicating electronically (to deliver the final recording) in my work with patients. I put the original in the chart, keep a copy for my records, and then provide the individual with a copy of the consent as well. It is a straightforward process in my work, as the recordings are solely for the use of the patients, as they see fit.Read More +