Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis


School of Music


Music Performance

First Advisor

Sarah Williams

Second Advisor

Julie Hubbert


This document provides evidence that music as therapy affects both the mind and physical body of the listener or music-maker. This document does not propose any evidence of modern-day clinical music therapy practice in the pages of history, but does support the belief that discussions of music, the mind, the soul, and the body are the forerunners of modern music therapy. In order to trace the place of music and its therapeutic powers throughout various points in western history, philosophies addressing music, the mind, the body, and the soul must also be considered within their cultural contexts. This document addresses these topics within pivotal historical moments such as the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment. Included are the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Marsilio Ficino, René Descartes, Gioseffo Zarlino, Athanasius Kircher, Robert Burton, Richard Browne, among other thinkers. Their lofty subjects, though seemingly broad, have more often than not been interrelated and were once studied in light of one another. This also accounts for the validity of music therapy in the past. Only from the nineteenth century until today have these disciplines been further segregated. Not until recently have scholars considered the histories of philosophy, music, and medicine as entirely interconnected.

Previous histories of music therapy have until recently also been simple accounts of legends, including the curing of insect bites and the soothing of King Philip V by means of appropriate music. Too easily could charming tales of music's power be written off as arbitrary and in the end provide very little in the way of illuminating the history of therapeutic music. Previous histories of music, therapy, and medicine have not sought to bring together the disparate parts of philosophy, emotion, and ethics concerning music. Side by side music and science have advanced, and visionaries of history have sought to harness the power of both. The effect of music on the passions and of arousing emotion will not be definitively explained, but the search for this historical discussion remains a worthy endeavor as evidence of musical catharsis abounds. This paper concludes that music as therapy is not a product invented by the modern era but rather a therapeutic tool humankind has continually rediscovered.


© 2012, Emily Sara Monk