chapter  TWO
18 Pages

Music Therapy in Antiquity

ByMartin West

The connection between music and medicine is very ancient. In all probability it goes back to palaeolithic times. It certainly has its roots in a primitive world-view. This chapter considers music therapy in the Greco-Roman world and describes something about these primitive roots. It examines the primitive musical instruments. They are all made from parts of dead animals: the skin of the drum, the bowstring of gut or sinew, the flute of bone, the cow-horn. The chapter explores the use of music in treating psychic disorders, but there was some belief in its applicability to physical ailments too. When Hesiod remarked on the power of epic song to make a grieving man forget his sorrows, he was no doubt referring to the absorbing narrative rather than the musical aspects of the performance. It remained a matter of debate in antiquity whether music does in fact exercise any effect on the emotions apart from the words with which it is associated.