The eyes have it…

Derbyshire Children’s Hospital – 15 June 2012.  When we’re working as musicians in the hospital, eye contact is critical to us, not only between ourselves as musicians, but also with patients, visitors and staff.  A glance from a patient can invite us into their space, give us an indication of their comfort with our presence and give us a clue as to ‘how we are doing’.  We often find ourselves using sympathetic eyes – matching a patient’s contact with our own, and negotiating a closer collaboration through eye ‘communication’.  Sometimes we can encourage participation or simply smile with our eyes.  So much is communicated in this way, and we often reflect upon how our training and experience allows us to use eye contact as a valuable tool in our practice.

Yesterday at the Derbyshire Children’s Hospital we were confronted by the best eye ‘communicator’ we have perhaps ever encountered in the form of a very young baby – only a few weeks old.  He had just woken up, and nursing staff had come to find us to ask us to play for him.    He was brought out of his room by his parents, carried by his father to meet the three of us (Sarah, Richard and myself).  He was at first somewhat agitated, however as we began to play, the three of us lined up playing over each other’s shoulders so as not to crowd the scene, the baby fixed his gaze, as so often happens, upon Sarah’s viola.  He became suddenly very calm and purposeful with his wide-eyed gaze, and the whole environment became very calm as doctors and nursing staff looked on.  After a minute or so, the baby purposefully moved his gaze to Richard’s bodhran, insisting that Richard come closer to play.  Again, after a short time I was also ‘invited in’ by the baby as his stare moved first to my right hand on the guitar, and then to my left hand.  Throughout this time baby, mother, father and the medical team were all very calm and peaceful as we all enjoyed the musical moment together.  Finally, the baby moved his gaze upwards towards his father’s eyes, as clear a sign as ever that it was time for us to go, and that it was time for the baby to be with his father.  We moved slowly away, leaving a peaceful scene behind with an incredibly connected father and baby.

Music had brought people together in a unique way within this scene, and had allowed the baby an opportunity to orchestrate his own environment which was respected and followed by everyone.  All through the eyes………

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