1. The medical profession has addressed the theme of the medical use of music on many occasions:
- Music and pregnancy, with Hippocrates already associating embryology and music in Argument. What music can a pregnant woman listen to for the well-being of the fetus and herself?
- Music and early childhood. What musical care should be given to the child, if he or she is sick, if the child can't stop wetting the bed, if he or she has trouble falling asleep, if he or she is worried, if he or she is agitated...?
- Music and food. What to listen to to facilitate the digestion of this or that particular food?
- Music and bathing, for well-being - today's beauty salons are no exception.
- Music and eros, the doctors of the school of Montpellier believed that music would encourage sexual activity and cure impotence. Elsewhere, it calms down excessive ardors, as in Athanasius Kircher, where it is used to lead erotomaniacs back to temperance.
- Music against restlessness and loss of sleep - which the Pythagorean school already practiced, with songs and melodies ensuring a calm sleep, with few dreams.
- Music as a remedy against illness or as a support for therapy...
This corpus opens a vast field of thought between the history of music and the history of science.
2. The second, more familiar theme is that of pathography, which aims to describe the consequences of illness on the musician's biography, practice, and aesthetics. In a striking reversal dating from the modern age, this musician, once a kind of Orpheus, expresses, exposes his pathos, and becomes ill, more and more seriously: Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Puccini, Ravel, Bartók, among others, allow us to approach eye surgery, complex clinical pictures, two of the great evils of the 19th century, syphilis and tuberculosis, a hereditary disease, psychiatric disorders, cancer or AIDS, but also pathologies constructed as specifically musical (amusia, hypermusia, "auditory worms"), as well as the history of hygiene, sexuality, pharmacology, the hospital... by paying attention to the mutations of the medical view.
3. Finally, it is a question of studying how musical works reflect mental or somatic pathologies. There are, of course, the cases of psychotic musicians, but also the principles of musical writing that denote psychosis through the centuries. It is also appropriate, in this context, to study medical disciplines, by measuring, for example, the history of pediatrics by the yardstick of childhood music, the history of cardiology by that of rhythm, or the history of pneumology by that of breath, by relating illnesses to musical discourses and representations, notably in the literary and scenic domain of opera.
IRCAM's Team : Analysis of Musical Practices