Musical Genres

Bad Vibrations. The History of the Idea of Music as a Cause by James Kennaway

By James Kennaway

Tune has been used as a therapy for disorder due to the fact way back to King David's lyre, however the concept that it'd be a significant reason for psychological and actual disease was once infrequent till the overdue eighteenth century. at the moment, physicians began to argue that over the top song, or the inaccurate form of tune, may possibly over-stimulate a weak worried approach, resulting in affliction, immorality or even dying. when you consider that then there were successive waves of ethical panics approximately meant epidemics of musical anxiety, brought on by every thing from Wagner to jazz and rock 'n' roll. It was once this clinical and important debate that supplied the psychiatric rhetoric of "degenerate tune" that was once the reason for the persecution of musicians in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. via the Fifties, the point of interest of scientific nervousness approximately song shifted to the concept that "musical brainwashing" and "subliminal messages" may perhaps pressure the nerves and result in brain keep watch over, psychological sickness and suicide. extra lately, the superiority of sonic guns and using tune in torture within the so-called conflict on Terror have either made the topic of song that's undesirable for the future health worryingly topical. This publication outlines and explains the improvement of this concept of pathological song from the Enlightenment till the current day, supplying an unique contribution to the heritage of medication, tune and the physique.

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Additional info for Bad Vibrations. The History of the Idea of Music as a Cause of Disease

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61 Penelope Gouk, Music, Science and Natural Magic in Seventeenth-century England (New Haven, CT, 1999); Penelope Gouk, ‘Music’s Pathological and Therapeutic 18 Bad Vibrations und Medizin (‘Music and Medicine’) by Werner Kümmel, Rudolf Schumacher’s Die Musik in der Psychiatrie des 19. 62 Similarly, George Rousseau’s argument that neurology formed a vital basis for much in Enlightenment culture marked the beginning of a whole historiographical tradition dealing with nerves and culture that is the starting point for my own work.

In contrast to most eighteenth-century texts on music and medicine, which considered the effect of music on the nerves in the context of a regimen of selfcontrol leading to moral improvement rather than sickness, by 1800 many argued that music could strain the nerves to breaking point. This happened in the context of a wider medical critique of sensibility and nerves, particularly in relation to women, as physicians such as William Cullen at times asserted that nerves were responsible for most sickness.

The changes unleashed by the French Revolution and the start of bourgeois modernization undermined music’s associations with order, while also leading to a new suspicion of sensuality. 3 At the same time, these changes disrupted the class and gender connotations of sensitive nerves, as nervousness seemed to slip from being a fashionable condition to a social menace, and medicine became more critical of the habits of the elite. It was also no coincidence that the idea of pathological music emerged at the same time as the Romantic musical aesthetics that proved so influential throughout the nineteenth century.

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