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From Sensibility to Pathology: The Origins of the Idea of Nervous Music around 1800

Identifieur interne : 000D50 ( Pmc/Curation ); précédent : 000D49; suivant : 000D51

From Sensibility to Pathology: The Origins of the Idea of Nervous Music around 1800

Auteurs : James Kennaway

Source :

RBID : PMC:3935440

Abstract

Healing powers have been ascribed to music at least since David’s lyre, but a systematic discourse of pathological music emerged only at the end of the eighteenth century. At that time, concerns about the moral threat posed by music were partly replaced by the idea that it could over-stimulate a vulnerable nervous system, leading to illness, immorality, and even death. During the Enlightenment, the relationship between the nerves and music was more often put in terms of refinement and sensibility than pathology. However, around 1800, this view was challenged by a medical critique of modern culture based on a model of the etiology of disease that saw stimulation as the principal cause of sickness. Music’s belated incorporation into that critique was made possible by a move away from regarding music as an expression of cosmic and social order toward thinking of it as quasi-electrical stimulation, something that was intensified by the political and cultural changes unleashed by the French Revolution. For the next hundred and fifty years, nervousness caused by musical stimulation was often regarded as a fully fledged Zivilisationskrankheit, widely discussed in psychiatry, music criticism, and literature.


Url:
DOI: 10.1093/jhmas/jrq004
PubMed: 20219729
PubMed Central: 3935440

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<p id="P1">Healing powers have been ascribed to music at least since David’s lyre, but a systematic discourse of pathological music emerged only at the end of the eighteenth century. At that time, concerns about the moral threat posed by music were partly replaced by the idea that it could over-stimulate a vulnerable nervous system, leading to illness, immorality, and even death. During the Enlightenment, the relationship between the nerves and music was more often put in terms of refinement and sensibility than pathology. However, around 1800, this view was challenged by a medical critique of modern culture based on a model of the etiology of disease that saw stimulation as the principal cause of sickness. Music’s belated incorporation into that critique was made possible by a move away from regarding music as an expression of cosmic and social order toward thinking of it as quasi-electrical stimulation, something that was intensified by the political and cultural changes unleashed by the French Revolution. For the next hundred and fifty years, nervousness caused by musical stimulation was often regarded as a fully fledged
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<month>2</month>
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<italic>Zivilisationskrankheit</italic>
, widely discussed in psychiatry, music criticism, and literature.</p>
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