The Sweet and Low story
"...a confusing, distressing racket..."
(how some people hear normal CDs)
Hello and welcome to the Sweet and Low website!
I'm Sandra, a dementia-trained care home singer and entertainer since 2001.
I’ve seen it time and time again, while performing my Old Time shows - music and particularly old songs are a way for people living with dementia to find a feeling of familiarity in an otherwise sometimes scary, confusing world.
But, there’s a problem.
There are some people, who, as soon as I start the music, become anxious and distressed. They ask to be taken out of the room, or they want to stay but their confusion and agitation level grows. Or they drop their heads and appear to be asleep. They don’t seem to be able to hear me enough to get any benefit from the old songs I’m singing, unlike the rest of the residents in the room.
But a strange thing – after the show has finished and I’ve turned off all the electricals and I’m just singing quietly to fill the silence in the room – all these people who were not singing before, suddenly join in. The staff shout to each other “Look at Mary! She’s singing every word with the singer!” “Ken’s joining in!”
And I think, hmmmmmm, how can they hear me now when I’m at a lower volume, when you’d think it would be the other way round?
How can this resident access this song now, when they couldn’t during the show? How could they not hear the warm-up cd, SingalongaMax, which is also played at a low background level?
And how is it that my singing is now a distraction from their anxiety and confusion, whereas I was actually adding to it before?
Standard music CDs
have one thing in common -
In addition to the singer’s voice, they have prominent backing music, hard percussion, backing singers doing unexpected twiddly bits, high pitched notes, harmonies on top of melodies, instrumental parts with vibrant trumpets and other high pitched instruments, unexpected modulations…
In other words, they’re geared towards people who are able to recognise a song in the midst of lively, rousing, complex, exciting multi-part music.
However, for a person whose dementia or illness, or age has affected their ability to distinguish sounds, or cope with mixed or unexpected sounds, a standard music cd can become, (to quote one of my activity co/ordinators) –
“a confusing, distressing, racket”
This is why this cd was made.
How is this cd different?
All the elements which raise anxiety on standard cds, have been eliminated. The only sound is the human voice.
The sound quality has been deliberately designed to sound as if a family member, or carer is sitting right next to the person, singing to them one-to-one.
What type of songs are on the cd?
These are songs that people over the age of 75 would have been singing in their childhoods, teens and early twenties - the songs are SO ingrained into their early years, they can access them much easier than later songs. These older people will definitely know these songs, but more importantly, they will have strong happy feelings associated with them.
The CD is 32 minutes long.