Song and Sanity: Music as Treatment in 19th-Century Asylums

Tune and Sanity: Music as Remedy in Nineteenth-Century Asylums


I awakened this morning with a music in my head. It was Booker T and the MGs’ “Time is Tight,” a very catchy monitor that put me in the suitable mind set to start out my day. Right here within the UK, Booker T and the MGs’ music “Soul Limbo” is the soundtrack for the cricket season through the summer time. I have been listening to the present check match between England and New Zealand, in order that’s in all probability why a music by Booker T and the MGs popped into my head as I awakened. The music had an extra that means as I and everybody else in the home had slept in. Time was tight. However though the morning proved to be a blur of getting lunches made, shoelaces tied, and canine walked, I saved buzzing that tune. And it helped, not solely through the morning, however all day.

Usually, I in all probability would not have thought an excessive amount of about getting a music caught in my head. It occurs fairly often in any case (and normally it isn’t a music I would like there). However Rosemary Golding’s e book Music and Ethical Administration within the Nineteenth-Century English Lunatic Asylum made me assume once more. Golding’s e book describes the extent to which music was utilized in English asylums through the 1800s.

Music as “ethical remedy”

Palgrave Macmillan, used with permission

Music and Ethical Administration within the Nineteenth-Century English Lunatic Asylum, by Rosemary Golding

Supply: Palgrave Macmillan, used with permission

The Nineteenth century was a time of growth when it got here to asylum provision. Though we have a tendency to think about asylums in damaging phrases lately, they had been usually constructed with good intentions.

Many English asylums had been additionally established with “ethical remedy” as their guiding framework (Golding makes use of the time period “ethical administration.” Ethical remedy was based mostly on the assumption that sufferers could possibly be helped by being handled with compassion, kindness, and dignity in a clear, comfy setting that supplied freedom of motion, alternatives for occupational and social exercise, and reassuring talks. In lots of asylums, social exercise included each music and dance.

It is necessary to notice that it wasn’t simply rich sufferers that had been capable of partake in musical leisure. Sufferers at pauper asylums, which catered for the poor, additionally had entry to music at occasions. In reality, it was an commercial for an organist to work at a pauper lunatic asylum that spurred Golding to analysis additional into using music in asylums.

So, how was music employed? Whereas sufferers usually listened to music and took half in dances, in addition they performed it themselves occasionally. Asylum bands had been established and infrequently boasted intensive repertoires. The Brookwood Asylum Band in Surrey, as an example, performed choices from Verdi, Strauss, Rossini, and Donizetti, in addition to extra common tunes. Their program for the 1874-75 season listed two live shows per months, together with two further live shows in December for Christmas and New 12 months’s.

Music was supposed to assist sufferers therapeutically, socially, and even bodily through dance. Sufferers regarded ahead to live shows and dances, which could possibly be used as incentives for good habits. Asylum employees additionally regarded ahead to such events, as they supplied a break from what could possibly be a monotonous and demanding routine. Lastly, and essential to ethical remedy, music supplied a way via which asylums may put together sufferers for returning to the surface world.

Music was generally seen as a menace to well being

Though music was seen positively in lots of English asylums, it has additionally been seen as a menace to well being. As James Kennaway’s entertaining e book, Dangerous Vibrations: The Historical past of the Thought of Music as a Reason behind Illness demonstrates, music has additionally been seen as doubtlessly detrimental. These theories gained some authority through the Enlightenment when music, together with different stimulants, comparable to espresso, tea, and tobacco, had been thought to overexcite the nerves. Ladies had been considered particularly susceptible to such results.

The advantages are price remembering right this moment

For me, there’s something intrinsically pleasing in music (properly, good music, a minimum of) that’s useful to psychological well being. A part of it could be the best way that music can naturally make us aware, in the best way that publicity to nature can; it coaxes us into dwelling within the second and setting anxieties apart. However it could possibly additionally remind us of occasions previous and assist us to place issues in perspective. Many asylum superintendents understood simply that through the Nineteenth century. It’s price remembering right this moment, too.


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