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In the company of music and illness : the experience and meaning of music listening for women living with chronic illness Nicol, Jennifer James

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to contribute an experiential understanding of everyday "music listening experiences through a text that also conveyed a pathic way of knowing. I studied the phenomenon of music listening in the particular context of women living with chronic illness (i.e., a physical condition that is managed rather than cured), and in keeping with van Manen's (1990, 2000) applied hermeneutic-phenomenological approach. Van Manen's approach to phenomenological inquiry emphasizes implementation of the reductio (the reduction), attention to the vocatio (the vocative dimension), and the use of empirical and reflective methods to generate and analyze data. The question that guided this study was: What is the lived experience and lived meaning of music listening for women living with chronic illness? Six women were interviewed in multiple conversations about their music listening experiences. All lived with chronic illness, and identified music listening as important in their lives. Following an initial analysis based on multiple readings from holistic, selective, and detailed perspectives, I used a guided existential reflection based on lived body, lived time, lived space, and lived relation to further understand, organize, and reveal the many ways in which the women listened to music. Writing and rewriting in a reflective and dialogical manner were grounding elements of analysis. Findings contribute in several ways. Most broadly, the final text was constructed to communicate an understanding that is embodied and discursive (i.e., knowledge as participation), and that leads to personal formative knowledge (i.e., knowledge as being). As a phenomenology of music listening, results suggested that to listen to music is to be in the company of music; that is, to be with a longtime companion who ultimately aids in accommodating the unanticipated arrival of chronic illness. Implications include future research to further investigate the complex, relational dynamics associated with music listening experiences, as well as the possibility of the body as a source of knowledge (i.e., mind-body), acting as a musical compass in music listening experiences. Implications for counselling practice are also described.

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