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Music and Pain

Abstract and Keywords

This article looks at the connection between music and pain. It shows that the art of producing sound was closely linked with magic, and reveals that pain was believed to be inflicted by demons. Music was the only way these demons could be pacified, and the relief that music offered was more indirect. The article also examines modern music therapy, which directly turns to the person suffering the pain.

Keywords: pain, production of sound, demons, music therapy

Der menschliche Körper ist das beste Bild der menschlichen Seele.

—Wittgenstein, Philosophische Untersuchungen

1. Myth

The myth of Marsyas, one of European music's seminal narratives, culminates in an excess of pain. His competitor's suffering marks Apollo's triumph as the god of supreme music. Marsyas, a demon from Kelainai in Phrygia—only latter-day mythology transformed him into a silenus—had picked up the flutes that Athena invented. (The goddess had thrown them away since playing such wind instruments, she had determined, distorted the lineaments of her face.1) In the musical contest that follows, which sets the lyre against the flute, Apollo's sovereign detachment opposes the expressive primacy of the body. Nothing pushes the body more vehemently to its limits than a delirium of pain; Marsyas is being skinned while alive.2 As Ovid's Metamorphoses3 say of the flayed figure: “[N]ec quicquam nisi vulnus erat,” he was nothing but a wound.

Art is meant to be beautiful—and pain, it seems, can never be beautiful. Or can it? Western art has never been destitute of representations of tortured bodies. There is, however, something inappropriately placid about images of the body in pain. They put the dynamic phenomenon to rest and turn it into an object of contemplation. The image makes us observe pain (via pain behavior). Yet pain observed is virtually the opposite of pain felt. Contact would arouse feeling; observation (p. 69) implies distance. Perhaps pictures cannot succeed in making pain itself visible—or if they can, then the very process of making pain visible may turn it into something else entirely. At the same time, however, images can be eminently instructive in locating pain. Jusepe de Ribera's 1637 representation of Marsyas's death stands out as a monumental artistic landmark of the Counter-Reformation's violent culture. The picture places Apollo and Marsyas within a hierarchy congenial to the ancient myth: as befits an art of design, within a spatial hierarchy.4 Apollo is keeping his head up, while Marsyas's is hanging downward—it is, in the original sense of the word, perverted, turned upside down. Pain is not merely a fact of living nature; it concerns a norm.

Wherever there is pain, something has gone wrong: Pain reveals wrongness. De Ribera thus updates Ovid for the age of the Holy Inquisition. Through the punishment inflicted by Apollo, Marsyas's flute playing turned into a shrilling scream of pain (inaudible, though, within the visual medium)—and one of those who had relished Marsyas's music before is now (near the right margin of de Ribera's painting) found plugging his ears. Pain and screaming preclude music; at the same time, the penance executed demonstrates that Marsyas's music had too closely resembled a scream to start with: It had been steeped in bodily expression. Blowing through a wind instrument had distorted his face; accordingly, the chastisement Apollo imposed on Marsyas makes pain distort his face. Marsyas is not undergoing torture but rather torment: a painful, humiliating ordeal the quality and intensity of which are deemed adequate retribution for the deed done by the tormented.

Pain is “the most powerful device of mnemotechnics.”5 Whatever hurts gets remembered. Its end achieved, the device can be abandoned. Pain passes. Yet having suffered does not pass. We have reason to pause and reflect on how such a thing is possible, for pain lacks intentionality. When I experience pain, I do not feel, nor am I disposed to feel pain about anything (in the way I am, e.g., sad about something). In pain, I do not turn toward an intentional object, of which there is none, but rather look out for its (immediate and/or mediate) cause(s). Moral and legal mnemotechnics attempts to establish causal chains between sin and pain. In physical punishment, the desire to quench one's thirst for revenge becomes aligned with the intention to create a particular recollection in those who are punished or among those who see and hear them. The sanction backs the norm in such a way that it will never be forgotten. One can argue against charges, but one cannot argue against pain. Pain, apparently, can only be cried out—beyond the borders in which one can silently endure.

In contrast to unhappiness, pain is localized. Yet it is not merely connected to that part of the body from which it stems. It concerns the individual human being. It is not just that my head is in pain. I have a headache. It hurts me. Correspondingly, local symptoms aside, the reaction to pain is an utterance of the individual. A scream is strong pain's natural expression. The noun “woe,” an old-fashioned synonym for pain, originally corresponded to a shout of someone in pain. The screamer utters pain and makes it known to others, begging for help. At the same time, screaming seems to lessen pain by way of turning something inward into (p. 70) something outward and by wholly occupying us—not unlike gnashing one's teeth or clenching one's fist.

People whimper and whine in pain; they moan and groan, howl and bawl: All this becomes audible as music becomes audible, yet it is a far cry from music. When pain is articulated in music, it ceases to be just pain. To the extent that it has been stylized into melody, pain has been conquered. Music would, of course, be unbearable if it could ever plainly manifest pain. To attract listening, music has to have remedies against pain within itself. Still, pain can be alive in music; indeed, music (permitting such personification of a medium for the moment) might discern more in pain than a scream does, as music registers its qualities more discretely, more delicately, and more subtly.

Ancient mythology reflected this capacity whenever it understood music as the sublimation of pain. In the myth of Marsyas, pain stirred up in the body follows a music that is bound up within the body, allegedly nonsublimated. Yet in the tales of Orpheus and Philomela, the opposite occurs, with song growing from pain. Acting on Marsyas, Apollo lowers music—as he purports, the lesser music—to pain; Orpheus, by way of contrast, raises pain to music. Philomela, whom her brother-in-law raped and—so that she would not be able to articulate his crime—silenced by cutting out her tongue, is turned into a nightingale:6 Her pain becomes sublimated into singing so beautiful that it seems supernatural, yet is part of nature. Might this beauty justify the pain—and if it does, would it justify the rape and consequent deprivation of speech? The poet does not comment on this horrible thought. Unlike the hurtful making of castrati or the painful exercising techniques imposed on child prodigies—those martyrs of music—the woe inflicted on Orpheus and Philomela was no means to an artistic end. Rather, music is this pain's unintended by-product. Their relation is contingent and necessary at the same time. The pain was not aiming for art as its end, let alone its necessary consequence. Yet the former is supposed to be a necessary condition of the latter: Without pain, art cannot exist. Such is the idea of pain's sublimation into music—from ancient legends to modern times, embracing Heinrich Heine's “From my great pain / I make my little songs.”7 Philomela's art remains within what is not art: nature. However, Orpheus and his successors, up to Heine and beyond, suggest what might constitute more than a necessary condition: There has to be pain, there has to be skill, and, against all odds, there has to be an attempt to reflectively penetrate one's own pain.

Sublimation thus sets up spiritual meaning where, otherwise, effects of matter alone would prevail. While such elevation might originally be linked to artistic production, it turns out to be germane to the reception of art as well, not least to the topic of music in its relation to pain. Sounds can hurt, quite literally so. The pain caused by a very strong—piercing or excessively loud (beyond 90–110 dB)—tone is immediate and physical. It is caused by a cramp of the inner aural muscles or by excess pressure exerted on the eardrum. But does listening to music expressing pain have to be painful? Those who believe in sublimation deny that query's suggestion: Art changes the medium; it is received not by the body alone but by the mind as well. There is, of course, no pain without the body, and certainly music is related to the (p. 71) body, both in performance and in listening. Yet you cannot touch music as you can touch a body (or even a statue or painting). Music dematerializes whatever it relates to itself. It makes—so the story of sublimation ends—pain disappear through beauty. The birth pangs, then, might be attributed to the artist, not to the work of art.8

2. Philosophy

Friedrich Nietzsche, in his Birth of Tragedy, proposes an aesthetics of music rooted in pain,9 or “primeval pain” (Urschmerz).10 In doing so, however, he does not suggest a sequence of screams as an ideal music. To be sure, the way Nietzsche fancies the “demonic popular chant” (dämonischen Volksgesang) of the bacchanal (Dionysusfeier) partakes of the “piercing scream” (durchdringende […] Schrei).11 Yet Nietzsche himself argues that the “hard-to-grasp primeval phenomenon of Dionysian art” (schwer zu fassende Urphänomen der dionysischen Kunst) becomes intelligible only “within the marvelous meaning of musical dissonance” (in der wunderbaren Bedeutung der musikalischen Dissonanz).12 Pain is disharmony: My body is not in tune with my self. Strong pain penetrates: It descends far down into the bowels, and harmony—the vertical dimension of music—must become its medium.

On a historical note, Nietzsche's reference to dissonance may have little or nothing to do with how Dionysiac festivals sounded. Rather, his reference has more to do with modern Western music history from the Italian renaissance madrigal to the mature style of Richard Wagner. Still, Nietzsche renews an ancient notion that linked insight into pain with the theory of harmony. This same notion connects musical relations to the body, conceiving the latter as an instrument on which the world may play. According to Plato (though Nietzsche denies him proper Dionysiac expertise), living beings know neither pain nor pleasure as long as there is physical harmony. Pain emerges, Plato points out, only as harmony is dissolved; the re-creation of harmony, rather than its original existence, is pleasure.13 Dissonance participates in pain, but not in pain alone. It also evokes pleasure. Much tonal music alternates between tension and resolution. To convince us of the delights of dissonance, the dullness of strictly consonant music may suffice. Nietzsche, projecting late cultural achievements onto mythical beginnings, talks of a “primeval relish taken even in pain” (selbst am Schmerz percipirten Urlust).14 Pleasure may be found in pain, even in something as domesticated as sympathy, the emotion of being touched and moved by the predicaments of others.15

It is not, however, the intertwinement of pleasure and pain that distinguishes dissonance from screaming. Screaming may reassure living beings of their vital powers, which pain calls into question. It can thus act to relieve some pain—a feeling that at least borders on pleasure. The difference, then, must be found elsewhere. A scream is inarticulate:16 an outbreak—something beyond the order that linguistic conventions impose on vocal utterances. “I am in pain” markedly differs (p. 72) from “Ouch” in that it presupposes a whole ontology: A self is posited vis-à-vis a social world, distinct from yet relating to it; that first person undergoes changing states such as pain but remains the same self throughout the ordeal. Screams precede language; some animals cry, too, as they experience intense pain. Dissonant chords, by way of contrast, do not predate music; they emerge from its center. A dissonance is just as much a structured entity as a consonance is. To correspond to simpler or to more complex ratios is a difference that does not coincide with the opposition of what is formed to what is amorphous. When a chord contains a second or a seventh, it has not been overwhelmed by something inarticulate. The dissonant chord has its intervallic order, too—it simply differs from a consonant chord's intervallic order. Either thrives within the domain of artistry. To cherish and foster the powers of dissonance, both formal and expressive, has long been a crucial component of a composer's artistry. (To express pain by dissonance is quite different from, say, linking it with the brute force of volume, though a fortissimo dynamic is not inherently more disorderly than a piano.)

As it affects physiognomy, aches distort: The face twists in pain. The same can be said for the scream, matching pain as its expression: The voice breaks. However, dissonance relates to screaming as imagination relates to reality. It is crafted, not given. In this sense, it revokes distortion. Dissonances as such are not twisted consonances. A seventh cannot be construed as a buckled sixth or a compressed octave. It is an interval in its own right and can serve as a different, but equally legitimate, element of a chord. Composers can indeed construct deformation by means of dissonant intervals. Thus in Wagner's Ring we perceive the “woe motif” (Wehemotiv), characterized by the descending minor second, as distorting the initial “Rhinegold motif” (Rheingoldmotiv), with its descending major second. However, this is due to context rather than to the interval itself. A minor second elsewhere might not be heard as distorting anything at all.

Through its structure, dissonance (to borrow a phrase from Jane Fulcher) refracts pain like a prism rather than just reflecting it like a mirror. Yet imagery provides only weak pointers to musical phenomena. Where precisely is dissonance, that musical articulation of pain? Is it pinned down on the paper that the composer used to notate the work? Or does dissonance come about only in the listener's ear? In the Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche attempts to render an account of how Greek art, for later European audiences, had been transformed into classical beauty: into floating grace, “noble simplicity” (edle Einfalt), “calm greatness” (stille Größe). Johann Joachim Winckelmann, responding to as well as shaping eighteenth-century aesthetic debate, had introduced these formulae within the context of an argument about adequate expression (Ausdruck) of pain (Schmertz) in sculpture and painting. This argument concerned the issue of balance between soul (Seele) and body (Cörper) in art as well.17 The modern theory of Greek tragedy characterizes the chorus as guarantor of collectedness and discretion: the authority that, level headed as it is, controls and restrains pain. Nietzsche disputes this classicist view, which portrays the Greek tragic chorus as distant observer and deliberate commentator on the action. Instead, the chorus voices exultation and pain—only (p. 73) modern audiences have unlearned to perceive them, in part because exultation and pain were later eroded by the tragic genre itself.

Expression of pain may get overlooked if what we really expect is the exhibition of pain. Yet ostentation of pain hardly provides an index of its intensity. Dorabella's “Smanie implacabili” (Così fan tutte, I.3) is ostentatious to the extent that her pain is (still) shallow. It does not need to be soothed at this early stage—the show does not silence pain but rather the lady's guilty conscience about how she might act in due course. The more such exhibition invokes tragedy, the more comic it becomes. We watch it, it interests us, yet it does not touch us and is not meant to do so here and now. Mozart knew as well as any artist about the reverse notion's power to move: veiled pain. Beauty can be one of its veils. In truth, beyond the simple opposition of beauty and pain (section 1), they may enter a dialectic. There can be pain vis-à-vis the unearthly beautiful in art: pain experienced by the viewers or listeners because they do not relate. Such pain, by implication, is the twin of shame. Certain passages in Mozart and Schubert are experienced thus: painfully beautiful.

3. Music

Nietzsche's tie between pain and dissonance (section 2) is interwoven with the ways that people deal with that which hurts them—outside of art, in so-called real life. There is, of course, pain that comes on suddenly, without warning. However, even this is then placed within a person's life history: as a consequence of previous incaution, as a warning of future collapse, as deserved or undeserved punishment, as a test of bravery, or as proof of doctors’ incompetence. Such interpretations place pain in contexts of temporal succession (when? before or after which other event?), of causality (from which source or influence?), and of purpose or meaning (what for?). Correspondingly, dissonance is not just any noise, free from context. It has a place and a role within the system of relationships we call tonality. Only after dissonance's irritation can consonance unfold its potential for conviction, affirmation, and finality upon listeners. Mirrored by the tonal context of dissonance, pain is something that validates the very order it disturbs.

Within modern Europe's dissonance-ridden music of pain, tonality has ensured such a relationship, at least in a general way. Yet this circumstance has not released composers from the claim to elaborate on this relationship specifically through their art. Rather, it has exposed them to such a claim to the extent that they laid claims on themselves. Claudio Monteverdi is eminently a case in point. In his madrigal for five voices, “Sfogava con le stelle,” after Ottavio Rinuccini, from the Quarto Libro of 1603, the composer sets the words il suo dolore (bars 7–10) to a minor seventh by extending subdominant harmony in the lower voices. This same passage is first heard a few bars earlier against a stepwise descent in the Canto with the words d'amore (bars 4–5). Here, however, the characteristic dissonance is (p. 74) absent. It is very much the similarity of what we listen to, then, that makes pain stick out. Dolore is the reverse of amore. Whoever knows pleasure also knows pain and vice versa. Pressure exemplifies their continuity: What might start as a pleasant touch changes at some point, gradually increasing to the threshold of pain and beyond. Contrary to both pleasure and pain is apathy: the numbness of the body. Freedom from pain can be reached through loss of feeling—by renouncing the vitality that Rinuccini and Monteverdi designate as love. Pain emerges from life's energy, or it does not emerge at all. It is sensual—indeed, one of the intensest sense experiences human beings experience. (Sadists and masochists have discovered a peculiar erotic appeal in such negative sensuality. Their discovery may well constitute a chapter in the psychopathology of sexuality, yet it is instructive beyond the realm of mental illness.) Intense sensual episodes seize a living being in its entirety. Contra Augustine's influential doctrine,18 pain cannot be split up between body and soul, just as music cannot.

Pain's relationship to an organism's entirety, though, must not be taken for granted. Rather, it is precarious. In a functional sense, it is beyond doubt: Disease and injury that cause pain pose threats to an organism; aches are impulses of self-preservation, localized, felt in specific body parts, yet are related to the entire living being.19 That pain “hurts cannot be the issue since it is its essence.”20 Vehement aching, however, does not admit of any other thought or recollection. It keeps us within ourselves and the sensation of here and now. In this way, pain can make structures of existence disintegrate. We experience life, then, from one episode to the next, from one harrowing assault to another. Excruciating pain undermines identity. It wears down and spreads anarchy. Whatever provides life with regularity is dispersed by such affliction: the structure of the day, togetherness based on reliable appointments, projects and promises, deliberations and their well-considered expressions. For pain, even syntax seems to present too strict a sense of order. “Howl, howl, howl, howl!” King Lear exclaims at the starkest point of his woe.21 It is truly ineffable.

Thus, when experiencing excruciating pain, we are no longer ourselves. Wagner was aware of this; in Tristan and Isolde he makes the audience's experience more bearable by suggesting that loss of identity is in fact desirable. Yet Parsifal presents this desolate insight without the consolatory suggestion. Amfortas does not just feel pain; he is pain. Consistently, no leitmotif throughout the drama is more volatile than his.22 When compared to Amfortas's motif, that of Klingsor23—whose role is to inflict pain rather than to feel it—proves to be constancy itself.

Agonizing pain seems to affect crucially even God, who became human; the teleology of his life history appears shattered: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ” (Matthew 27:46). Perhaps no composer has opposed the anarchic force of such pain with more determination than Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music of suffering (in the cantatas and passions) presents miracles of order. In the “Crucifixus” from Bach's Mass in B Minor, flutes, violins, and voices express pain in halting sighs (suspirationes). Within this central section of the “Symbolum Nicenum,” only the continuo remains uninterrupted by rest. (p. 75) Twelve times Bach presents it identically. In this way, pain refers to a fixed order. Strict repetition endows music, that ever mobile medium, with an element of immobility. Since we experience pain as movement—as dragging, pulling, shooting, stabbing, piercing, throbbing, or raging—immobility bounds pain. It does not eliminate it but holds it in check. Order, in its consistency, thus presents itself as equal to pain or indeed superior to it. And, just as it establishes itself as the equal of pain, order assigns meaning to pain. It is because of such meaning that pain is endured. Yet the chaconne's strict order is not simply imposed upon pain, that potential threat to order and identity. By virtue of its descending chromaticism, the ground bass's order itself contains pain. At the same time, the passus duriusculus is part of a stylized, rhetorically codified musical language that—within the historical space and time it belonged to—made its conventions public. Intelligibility, if achieved, may soften pain.

The lamento bass of the “Crucifixus” in Bach's B Minor Mass provides a precedent for the piano part of Schubert's “Doppelgänger.” Schubert, too, builds his music of pain on a four-bar ostinato. Yet nothing else remains the same.

In Schubert's song, pain is perceived as gesture: Und ringt die Hände vor Schmerzensgewalt [And is wringing his hands out of violent pain] (bars 29–33). This pain resides in the middle of the ternary composition.24 What is it that happens at the song's midpoint? Ringen [here: wringing; otherwise: wrestling] evokes the realm of fight. This fight is violent (–gewalt); with a triple forte (bar 31), followed by a forzando accent (bar 32), its force breaks through undisguised. When in pain, the body is at odds or even at war with itself or, some might say, with the ego; this interpretation corresponds with the opposition of self and doppelgänger. Vis-à-vis his doppelgänger, the self experiences what has been familiar—pain—as foreign or alien. Paradoxically, pain is universal and bound up with the individual. On the one hand, it is common to all humans—even to all high-functioning living beings (that's why animal trainers brandish a whip). On the other hand, pain is a radically private experience that casts the individual inward. Hence, two axioms pointing in opposite directions hold true simultaneously: Everybody is (sometimes) in pain, and nobody can feel my (or anyone else's) pain. Others can try to imagine how I feel, thus empathizing with me. In doing so, they may even recall pain that they once experienced. Yet remembering pain is not the same as experiencing it. Hence, it is not pain per se but remembrance of pain. This marks a limit to empathy. Such moderation is pertinent to the “imitation of Christ,” as in the “Crucifixus” of Bach's Mass. (The exceptional character of stigmata is founded precisely in the limited connection between empathy and pain; the miraculous crossing of these borders makes stigmata signs of holiness.)

Imitating pain is also what Heine's and Schubert's doppelgänger does. Yet his imitation debases: “Why do you ape (mimic) my pain of love?” (Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid?) (bars 46–48). It is not apes who imitate suffering. Human beings—specifically, doppelgänger of other human beings—do. This is why imitation debases: There could be a more human (i.e., a more humane) response to pain. Hence, the doppelgänger's imitation does not relieve suffering. That pain is here (p. 76) viewed as both alien and one's own makes it uncanny. In the figure of the doppelgänger, pain becomes an object of observation. In normal cases, observation provides safe distance. Music, unlike image (section 1), does not force us to observe pain. The unexpected downward alteration of the dominant seventh chord's fifth (F♯–A♯–C–E instead of F♯–A♯–C♯–E) on the word Schmerzensgewalt (bar 32) embodies the eerie ambiguity of being alienated by what is one's own. This is manifested musically as the alien C returns on “eigne Gestalt” (“own figure”) (bars 40–42); the postlude reprises this connection (bar 59).

In Schubert's “Doppelgänger,” the repetition of the bass motif does not represent meaningful order. It enacts compulsion. The lyrical self's return to a place of loss, as well as his repetition in the form of the doppelgänger, are the sources of pain—albeit a pain that is expressed through nonrepetition (i.e., the alteration of C♯ to C, which infringes harmonic grammar). What this offense produces remains essentially unintelligible. “Nobody understands the pain of the other, and nobody understands the joy of the other! We always believe that we are coming together, and we always just walk past the other. O torment to become aware of this!”25 Incomprehension of pain begets more pain. Yet Schubert's music reaches farther than the rather conventional entry in his diary. It is not just the others’ pain that remains unintelligible. In the end, Schubert's doppelgänger suggests, one does not even understand one's own.

4. Medicine

Do we even wish to understand our own pain? Do we not instead wish to silence it? If modern European culture was once interested in how music could express pain, present preoccupations seem to have shifted toward ways in which music might numb pain.

In 1921 psychologist Esther Gatewood tried to explain music's potential analgesic effect by referencing the selectivity of the central nervous system. From the prolonged spinal marrow (medulla oblongata) to the structures of the interbrain (thalamencephalon) extends a core area called the formatio reticularis. This area receives information about sensations from all sensory organs via their respective channels. Depending on the relevance an organism attributes to each sensation, this area is activated (i.e., the sensory threshold is crossed). To put it nontechnically, we pay attention. A strong musical stimulus, Gatewood maintained, may make us pay attention to such an extent that subsequent—otherwise painful—stimuli might be repressed, or a preexistent painful stimulus could be diminished.26 Although initially claimed on a theoretical basis, Gatewood's principle of counterirritation has subsequently been confirmed by mounting empirical evidence.

Virtually anything could distract us. Music, however, does so in a unique way. A sound is not a sound about anything. Since it is nonreferential, music seems to (p. 77) constitute a self-contained fabric of sounds. While words and images, via their referentiality, connect us with the world, that manifold source of pain, music does not. Sound technology perfects that state. A headset shuts the listeners’ ears to the world while feeding them music. Music, particularly in recorded form, is an eminent medium of escape.

To escape from pain, no route is to be spurned. Music therapists dispense with any privileged relationship of the mind to music. Sounds that lessen pain, they have noted, are perceived all over the body via the skin. If this is true, the flaying of Marsyas can be seen in retrospect as a procedure meant to deprive him of music altogether. Since Marsyas's music had appealed not to the mind but to the body as a whole, his terminal chastisement had to do so as well.

As we perceive sounds through our skin, recent music therapy has been treating sounds as water rather than air. Norwegian therapist Olav Skille has suggested “the music bath”—a kind of massage performed through sounds.27 Music therapy consistently disconnects music's relationship to pain from artistic merit—that European obsession that can be traced from Marsyas's mythical contest with Apollo to the disputed aesthetics of expression found in Romanticism and Modernism. This disconnect is cogent, for the physiological effect of sound remains independent of whether a work of art is composed of these sounds. If a sine tone soothes pain most efficiently, then it ostensibly becomes the music of choice (i.e., something not to be called music at all).

In its beginnings, the art of producing sound was intertwined with magic.28 As pain was believed to be inflicted by demons, music had to pacify them. The relief music offered was thus indirect rather than direct. Modern music therapy, by way of contrast, directly turns to the sufferer, not to the pain-inducing agents. Thus, cultural history does not repeat itself. Or, at least it takes care to change the names, replacing demons with more acceptable entities.


I am grateful to Klaus Aringer, Federico Celestini, Jane Fulcher, William Kinderman, Michael Mauskapf, Peter Revers, and Katherine Syer for their topical suggestions.

(1.) Ovid, Fasti [ad 13–18], 6.695–710, ed. E. H. Alton, D. E. W. Wormell, and E. Courtney (Leipzig: Teubner, 1988), 159–60.

(2.) Herodotus, Historiae [ca. 430 bc], 7.26, ed. Heinrich Stein, vol. 4 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1988), 39–41; Xenophon, Expeditio Cyri [ca. 375 bc], 1.2.8, ed. C. Hude and J. Peters, 2d ed. (Leipzig: Teubner, 1972), 5–6.

(3.) Ovid, Metamorphoses [ca. ad 1–8], 6.388, ed. William S. Anderson (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1996), 136.

(4.) Reproduced in Lionello Puppi, Torment in Art: Pain, Violence, and Martyrdom (New York: Rizzoli, 1991), 146–47. The painting is now in the Museo di San Martino in Naples.

(5.) Friedrich Nietzsche, Zur Genealogie der Moral [1887], in Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Studienausgabe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, vol. 5 (New York: de Gruyter, 1980), 245–412, 295: “das mächtigste Hülfsmittel der Mnemonik.”

(6.) Ovid, Metamorphoses (note 3), 6.441–670, 137–45.

(7.) Heinrich Heine, Tragödien, nebst einem lyrischen Intermezzo [1823], Sämtliche Gedichte in zeitlicher Folge, ed. Klaus Briegleb (Frankfurt: Insel, 1993), 150–63, 156: “Aus meinen großen Schmerzen / Mach ich die kleinen Lieder.”

(8.) Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften [1817], §462, Sämtliche Werke, Jubiläumsausgabe, ed. Hermann Glockner, 2d ed. (Stuttgart: Frommann, 1938), vol. 6, 304.

(9.) Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik [1872/1886], in Colli and Montinari, Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. 1, 9–156, 43: “Schmerz.”

(10.) Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie, 44.

(11.) Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie, 40–41. On scream and music cf. Richard Wagner, Beethoven [1870], Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen, vol. 9, 4th ed. (Leipzig: Siegel [Linnemann], 1907), 61–126, 71.

(12.) Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie (note 9), 152. Cf. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Ästhetik [1820–1829], ed. Friedrich Bassenge (Berlin: Aufbau, 1955), 840.

(13.) Philebus, 31d–33b; Timaeus, 81a; Laws, 732e–733d.

(14.) Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie (note 9), 152, cf. 41.

(15.) Cf. Friedrich Schiller, “Über den Grund des Vergnügens an tragischen Gegenständen” [1792], Werke, Nationalausgabe, vol. 20, ed. Helmut Koopman and Benno von Wiese (Weimar: Böhlau, 2001), 133–47, 137–38; Hegel, Ästhetik (note 12), 522.

(16.) Cf. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Essai sur l'origine des langues” [1755], ch. IV, Oeuvres complètes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond, vol. 5 (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), 371–429, 382.

(17.) Johann Joachim Winckelmann, “Gedancken über die Nachahmung der Griechischen Wercke in der Mahlerey und Bildhauer-Kunst” [1755/1756], Kleine Schriften, Vorreden, Entwürfe, ed. Walther Rehm, 2d ed. (New York: de Gruyter, 2002), 27–89, 43.

(18.) Aurelius Augustinus, De civitate Dei [413–426], l. XXI, c. 3, 2 vols., ed. Bernhard Dombart (Leipzig: Teubner, 1877), vol. II, 490: “Animae est enim dolere, non corporis.”

(19.) Cf. Immanuel Kant, Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht (Königsberg: Nicolovius, 1798), 170.

(20.) Friedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft [1882/1887], §318, in Colli and Montinari, Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. 3, 343–651, 550: “[Daß] er weh thut, ist kein Argument gegen ihn, es ist sein Wesen.”

(21.) William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear [1610], 5.3, The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 2005), 1153–84, 1183.

(22.) First appearance: act 1, bars 151–53, as Gurnemanz says: “Zeit ist's, des Königs dort zu harren.”

(23.) First appearance: act 1, bars 627–33, as Gurnemanz says: “Jenseits im Tale war er eingesiedelt; darüber hin liegt üpp'ges Heidenland.”

(24.) A: bars 1–24; A´: bars 25–42; B: bars 43–63.

(25.) Franz Schubert's diary, Mar. 27, 1824 (as copied by Bauernfeld), in Schubert, Die Dokumente seines Lebens, ed. Otto Erich Deutsch (Paris: Breitkopf and Härtel, 1996), 232: “Keiner, der den Schmerz des Andern, und keiner, der die Freude des Andern versteht! Man glaubt immer, zu einander zu gehen, und man geht immer nur neben einander. O Qual für den, der dieß erkennt!”

(26.) Cf. Esther L. Gatewood, “The Psychology of Music in Relation to Anesthesia,” American Journal of Surgery, Anesthesia Suppl. no. 35 (1921): 47–50.

(27.) Olav Skille, “The Music Bath—Possible Use as an Anxiolytic,” in Angst, Schmerz, und Musik in der Anästhesie, ed. Roland Droh and Ralph Spintge (Basel: Edition Roche, 1983), 111–14; Olav Skille, “Low-frequency Sound Massage—The Music Bath—A Follow-up Report,” in Musik in der Medizin, ed. Ralph Spintge and Roland Droh (Basel: Edition Roche, 1985), 253–56.

(28.) Cf. Jules Combarieu, La musique et la magie: Étude sur les origines populaires de l'art musical, son influence et sa fonction dans les sociétés [1909] (Geneva: Minkoff, 1978).