Shame and its Soundscapes


  • Zoe Tao UT Southwestern Medical School



In this essay, I engage with issues of shame and social marginalization through “assisted” musical artworks, which combine an individual’s words with my musical accompaniment. Despite being a first-year medical student without clinical or therapeutic credentials, I generate interpretations of how collaborative, improvisatory, and informal artworks I have created as a music volunteer may assist in recognition and affirmation of one’s humanity. I present and discuss one experience in hospice care and its accompanying artwork which reflected the beauty and humanity of an individual I became close to. Additionally, I discuss more broadly how artistic creation may grant agency for people in marginalized social positions to express adverse affective and social states in their own voice. I believe that musical artworks such as these can serve to retain elements of an individual’s life and psychosocial profile that may not be directly medical in nature, but matter greatly transforming how one appraises, expresses, and resists fixed positions of shame and social stigma.


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