Music-thanatology is a professional field that utilizes harp and vocal music to serve dying patients and their loved ones. During a music vigil, the music-thanatologist responds moment by moment to the patient’s needs using music in a prescriptive way.
A music vigil can help to manage symptoms and relieve suffering. It is a quiet, meditative space for dying patients and their loved ones. For some, it may provide an opportunity for the work of meaning-making at the end of life.
The Music-Thanatology Association International provides information about events, certification and an online list of music-thanatologists.
Musicmakers sells harps and harp kits and many other wonderful musical resources.
Sacred Flight, a music-thanatology practice in Portland, OR, has an online shop with books and CDs by music-thanatologists.
Harps of Comfort provides remote music to isolated patients, those with COVID-19 and other serious illness, patients nearing the end of life, as well as loved ones and caregivers.
The From Behind the Harp website provides links to online videos about music-thanatology.
From Music Into Silence is a documentary from Director Farshid Akhlaghi about music-thanatologist Peter Robert’s 23-year career in music-thanatology, and his pioneering work in Australia.
Resources for End-of-Life Conversations
How Faith Communities Facilitate Conversations Around End-of-Life Concerns, Pew Charitable Trusts Issue Brief
Q&A with Faith Leaders, Pew Charitable Trusts
Resources for Anti-Racism
Resmaa Menakem: Teaching Embodied Anti-Racism (books, courses, and other resources)
Ann Hobson, A Black Harpist’s Story (TEDx Talk)
Q and A with Angelica Hairston, Harpist, Educator and Activist (article)
New Jersey Association of Music Therapists, Anti-Racism Resources (list and links)
Books I love
From Behind the Harp: Music in End of Life Care by Jane Franz and Sandra LaForge
The Harp and the Ferryman by Helen Cox and Peter Roberts
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Counting Descent by Clint Smith
What the Living Do by Marie Howe
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron