CNMN > Projects > Vintage Voices

Laura Gillis

See profile

  • Voice
  • Digital devices
  • Seniors

30-60 minutes interview/listening/recording session, 2-4 hours editing/mastering

  • Health
  • Diversity
  • Feminism
  • Memory
  • Memory conditions (e.g. Dementia care, Alzheimer
  • Palliative care
  • Mental health

Vintage Voices


Vin­tage Voic­es fea­tures the voic­es of res­i­dents liv­ing in the Long Term Care sys­tem shar­ing and respond­ing to music that they love; it brings these voic­es to the rest of soci­ety via short radio clips. Res­i­dents act as DJs; they intro­duce songs and share their plea­sure and thoughts like any oth­er radio DJ would do.

As a Psychotherapist/Music Ther­a­pist work­ing in the Long Term Care sec­tor, I believe that cre­ativ­i­ty does not nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be gen­er­a­tive, but can also be about the process of con­sum­ing and respond­ing to art; this is crit­i­cal to enabling indi­vid­u­als with com­plex health issues, such as those I work with in Long Term Care, to be able to con­tribute to the world of art and creativity.

In my work in Long Term Care, I wit­ness the neg­a­tive effects of our soci­ety’s ageism and ableism: Indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in Long Term Care, fam­i­lies, and health­care providers often strug­gle to have a voice, to be noticed, val­ued, and to receive the sup­port and recog­ni­tion that is need­ed. The tone of Vin­tage Voic­es is light and fun, how­ev­er it serves to ampli­fy sel­dom-heard voic­es and to put a face (or rather a voice!) to indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in these set­tings, allow­ing them to show the val­ue of life at every stage.


-portable audio recorder (I use a Zoom H4n)

-wind­sock to cov­er mic (to avoid plo­sive sounds dur­ing record­ing speech)

-iPad/speaker (to lis­ten to music together)

-com­put­er with audio edit­ing pro­gram (I use a Mac with Log­ic Pro)


1) I meet with inter­est­ed Long Term Care res­i­dents (from now on known as guest DJs) to engage in a music-lis­ten­ing inter­view in a pri­vate space. I explain that I’ll be record­ing our voic­es and then we engage in sim­ple greet­ings and intro­duc­tions, so the indi­vid­ual can get used to hav­ing a micro­phone held up to them while talk­ing. I will mod­el speak­ing into it, but then keep the micro­phone close to the guest DJ to make sure their voice is clear.

2) We lis­ten to music togeth­er! Some guest DJs may have a favourite song right away that they want to share. Some guest DJs may not be sure what to start with: in this case I might sug­gest a song or singer this DJ has expressed enjoy­ment of before, or sug­gest a style of music that I know is gen­er­al­ly pop­u­lar with the guest DJ’s age/cultural group to get the ball rolling… Often this stirs ideas for oth­er songs and music, or may allow the indi­vid­ual to share their response and love for that par­tic­u­lar song.

3) I may ask ques­tions like “What is it about music that is impor­tant to you?” “Why do you like music/or this song?” “What does it mean?” (lit­er­al­ly if in a dif­fer­ent lan­guage) or “What does it mean to you?” Or I may not ask any ques­tions at all, and just get into enjoy­ing the music with the guest DJ, sup­port­ing their respons­es and joy.

TIP: The most impor­tant thing is just to enjoy lis­ten­ing to the music togeth­er, so what­ev­er approach is most moti­vat­ing and enjoy­able for the guest DJ is the way to go. As such, it does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mat­ter if a guest DJ has advanced health and mem­o­ry issues… as long as they can express them­selves in some audi­ble way, I can take the sounds and edit them into an episode.

4) I import the raw inter­views onto a com­put­er and edit them.  I cut out any con­ver­sa­tion not relat­ed to music or any audio/words that are more pri­vate, keep­ing only the res­i­den­t’s greet­ings, intro­duc­tions, one or two song/artist choic­es, their reflec­tions or mem­o­ries about the songs or music that they want to share with oth­ers, maybe some singing along or excla­ma­tions of enjoy­ment, as well as goodbyes.

5) I then re-record or voice-over my own voice (using the Zoom portable recorder, which also acts as an audio inter­face, into Log­ic Pro) to intro­duce the show/DJ, and con­nect every­thing togeth­er and make it flow. I use a theme song under the intro­duc­tions and good­byes to  start and end the show.


Fin­ished episodes are mas­tered by pow­er­Sound, and our Vin­tage Voic­es episodes are aired week­ly on the won­der­ful radio show 33–45-78! (please see links). I also may pro­vide a dig­i­tal copy to the fam­i­lies if request­ed, but impor­tant­ly I remove the copy­right­ed song (I will leave a few sec­onds of the song fad­ing in and out instead). We now also have a You Tube chan­nel to share the episodes on (also includ­ed in the links).

Our guest DJs and their fam­i­lies have been over­joyed while engag­ing in the process and upon hear­ing the fin­ished episodes. Tony, who’s episode you can lis­ten to in the audio sec­tion, exclaimed dur­ing the record­ing process “this brings the music alive and makes life worth liv­ing!” Eleanor’s daugh­ter, Mau­reen (you can also hear Eleanor’s episode in the audio sec­tion) com­ment­ed on keep­ing the episode as a trea­sured keep­sake, say­ing “It will be a beau­ti­ful mem­o­ry that I can always keep of mom.” Eleanor’s daugh­ter recent­ly called me with a fur­ther update, shar­ing that since her mom died she has lis­tened to it a lot, and had the idea to play the episode at the funer­al. She said how touched every­one attend­ing was… no one cried dur­ing the first half of the funer­al, but there was “not a dry eye in the place” after they played Eleanor’s episode. They got to hear Eleanor, say­ing music is good for “help­ing peo­ple… they could be down­heart­ed, but it’ll bring it up,” and then get­ting to say good­bye in her own words: say­ing “oh ya! bye bye every­body! And I hope you folks all enjoy… this is all just so great!”


Many indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in Long Term Care have fam­i­ly mem­bers who are Sub­sti­tute Deci­sion Mak­ers or Pow­er of Attor­ney. I com­mu­ni­cate with both the guest DJ as well as their fam­i­ly mem­ber to ensure that they want to par­tic­i­pate. I have a con­sent form that must be signed before I start an inter­view. Also when I form the inter­view into a more fin­ished episode, I go back and play the episode for both the guest DJ as well as their fam­i­ly mem­ber to make sure they are both hap­py with it before it is shared publicly.

An inter­view and music-lis­ten­ing ses­sion can also bring up many mem­o­ries and emo­tions. I am avail­able in my role as a Psychotherapist/Music Ther­a­pist to pro­vide sup­port and pro­cess­ing as need­ed. Please under­stand that it is impor­tant to be able to con­nect a guest DJ with appro­pri­ate sup­port as need­ed, so please be aware of who in your facility/community you would con­nect a guest DJ to if they are in need of sup­port. These issues may come up dur­ing the inter­view and be record­ed: as such, I edit all of the record­ings myself and delete any­thing that should be private.

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