Improvised piano piece around depression
by Hannah Cooney


Play: Improvised piano piece around depression

My creative piece is an improvised piano recording that was inspired by a patient I saw on a GP placement who had long term mental health problems. I decided to improvise rather than carefully writing the piece to reflect the way that living with a mental health problem is unpredictable and although treatments can be planned, outcomes of these are less certain than with physical health problems.

I began playing in a minor key, as I was thinking of pain I had seen in the patient’s eyes - she had lived with severe depression for a long time. Then a melody begins to emerge from the initial chord sequence.

At times, due to the nature of improvisation, the music feels uncertain, with irregular phrasing and a changeable chord sequence, and occasional dissonance, representing how lost people can feel.

About halfway through the piece, the mood turns a corner, as a brighter theme emerges. I feel this represents pockets of hope that people with depression sometimes get, often unexplained, sometimes upon receiving a new treatment such as a new medication that this patient was taking.

The theme begins to darken as it lowers in pitch and is combined with minor chords and a degree dissonance before the opening theme returns. This could represent the daily fluctuations in mood, or when looking at the piece as a whole could represent a relapse after a period on remission. Either way, reflecting difficulties those with mental illness face. The ending is ambiguous and uses a few different chords within the remainder of the piece, again reflecting the unpredictability of mental illness, however emphasising the fact that depression is a long-term condition with no definitive end.

Overall, this piece came from the way this patient, and others in similar positions, made me feel, and I hope that it gives some sort of an impression of what living with a mental illness can be like.

Hannah Cooney
Effective Consulting, Year One, 2017-2018
Creative Piece Commended