Healing through music

Prof spent years pursuing soliders to research music and trauma

Pegley said her areas of research have been influenced by her personal experiences.
Pegley said her areas of research have been influenced by her personal experiences.

For Queen’s professor Kip Pegley, the relationship between music and violence isn’t just a professional interest, but a personal one.

Twenty years ago, Pegley, now a professor in the School of Music, was inside the World Trade Center when a truck bomb was detonated, killing six people. She was left with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and has since explored the connection between trauma and music in her research.

Pegley is the co-editor of a new book called Music, Politics, and Violence, which examines how society is shaped by music, where music can act as both an instigator and an avenue of healing for traumatic events like 9/11.

“Music is supposed to take us from a place of trauma and out again,” she said.

Pegley’s current research includes looking at how music shapes people’s perceptions of war; for example, how background music in war museums affect how visitors see war and Canada’s participation in it and how music in military recruitment videos attract sign-ups. This research will contribute to a new book Pegley is planning, which will focus on music and the military. Research for the book has been challenging, as the military values its privacy, she said.

It’s taken her four years to gain permission to interview soldiers. Her interviews were deemed high-risk because they involved soldiers talking about emotions.

“At this point, I just want music to be taken seriously,” Pegley said. “If I can get the door open on this, then I will be happy.” Pegley is also looking at how music can be therapeutically beneficial to current members and veterans of the Armed Forces.

“[I try to] find out what’s happening with them musically and in their lives,” Pegley said, “To figure out if there are any patterns in how their lives have changed and how their music preferences have changed.”

Instead of the prevalent method of using music as self-expression in therapy, such as learning to play an instrument, Pegley has found that introducing new music or music similar to genres veterans used to listen to is a way to help veterans learn new ideas and gain confidence for functioning in society.

“We’ve got to take music seriously, understand how it is used, and then we can use it to make change.”


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