Tag Archives: Health

Mozart’s vitamin deficiency

Several hypotheses regarding the cause of Mozart’s death have been advanced, but until now none have noted the likelihood that a very low level of vitamin D in his system contributed to his untimely demise.

Mozart did most of his composing at night, so he must have slept during much of the day, minimizing his exposure to sunlight. Further, at Vienna’s latitude (48°N) it is impossible for the body to make vitamin D from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance for about six months of the year.

The composer died on 5 December 1791, about three months into the Vienna winter; since the half-life of vitamin D in the human body is four to six weeks, his level of the nutrient would have been very low—an important risk factor for infectious diseases.

This according to “Vitamin D deficiency contributed to Mozart’s death” by William B. Grant and Stefan Pilz (Medical problems of performing artists XXVI/2 [June 2011] p.117; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2011-3181).

Below, Jerry Hadley discusses solar irradiance in “Si spande al sole in faccia nube talor così” from Mozart’s Il rè pastore.

More articles about Mozart are here.


Filed under Classic era, Curiosities, Science

Pachelbel and immune response


In an experiment, 80 students were each randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions: no treatment (control), music only, imagery only, and music and imagery combined.

The first group was asked to sit quietly for 17 minutes. The second group listened to a recording of Pachelbel’s D-major canon. The third treatment used directed imagery to help the subjects visualize the bone marrow, a primary source of lymphocyte production, and the radiation of cleansing lymphocytes to various areas of the body. The fourth treatment combined the music and the directed imagery.

The second, third, and fourth treatments resulted in significant increases in the subjects’ immune response. The fourth treatment, however, did not show a significant increase over those of the second and third.

This according to “The effects of music and biological imagery on immune response (S-IgA)” by Chung Tsao Chien, et al., an essay included in Applications of music in medicine (Washington, D.C.: National Association for Music Therapy, 1991, pp. 85–121.

Today is Pachelbel’s 360th birthday! Below, Rob Paravonian discusses other uses of the celebrated canon in D.

BONUS: The notorious rubber-chicken performance.

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Filed under Baroque era, Curiosities, Science

Dhuns and dentistry


A 28-year-old woman urgently needed a tooth extraction, and local anesthesia was not an option.

The patient was offered all of the other anesthetizing options, but she chose music instead. A recording of a Rām dhun (Hindu devotional song for the deity Rāma) was played. The patient did not show any signs of pain or any pain behavior during the extraction procedure, indicating that analgesia was induced through music.

This according to “Extraction of a grossly decayed tooth without local anesthesia but with audio analgesia: A case report” by Manish Bhagania and Anirudha Agnihotry (Music and medicine: An interdisciplinary journal III/4 [October 2011] n.p.). Below, Morari Bapu sings the Rām dhun Hare Rām.


Filed under Curiosities, Science

Odes to obesity

“Odes to obesity: Images of overweight men and women in commercial sound recordings—A discography” by William L. Schurk and  B. Lee Cooper (Popular music and society XXXIV/2 [2011] pp. 237–246) explores more than 200 commercial sound recordings that address obesity themes in lyrics and song titles.

The introductory text examines gluttonous dietary patterns and food addictions among endomorphs. It also traces socially inflicted and self-ascribed references to individuals of hefty stature. Finally, it probes assertions of personal affection and social rejection based upon excessive body weight.

The discography features recordings that address fat themes that were released over the past eight decades as either singles (45 or 78 rpm records) or as songs compiled in albums (33⅓ rpm records) or on compact discs. A brief bibliography of articles and books that address either physical or lyrical obesity concludes the study.

Below, Queen analyzes the concept of Fat bottomed girls.

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Filed under Humor, Popular music, Resources

Praxis der Musiktherapie

Hogrefe Verlag für Psychologie inaugurated its series Praxis der Musiktherapie in 2009 with Spiel—Musik—Therapie: Methoden der Musiktherapie mit Kindern und Jugendlichen by Sandra Lutz Hochreutener. The book explores numerous approaches to music therapy for children and adolescents, including silence, improvisation, song composing, instrumental music, body-centered music games, language, and role-playing.

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Filed under New series, Science

Journal of applied arts and health

Intended for a wide community of artists, researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers, the Journal of applied arts and health (ISSN 2040-2457) was launched by Intellect in 2010. Seeking to provide a forum for interdisciplinary studies of arts in health care and health promotion, it defines health broadly to include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social, and community health.

The journal’s inaugural issue includes two music-related articles: “Choral singing and psychological well-being: Quantitative and qualitative findings from English choirs in a cross-national survey” by Stephen M. Clift, Grenville Hancox, Ian Morrison, Bärbel Hess, Gunter Kreuz, and Don Stewart; and “Emotional responses to music listening: A review of some previous research and an original, five-phase study” by Michael J. Lowis.

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Filed under New periodicals, Science

Physiognomy as biography

Due to the widespread popularity of theories first expounded in Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe by Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801), eighteenth- and nineteenth-century intellectuals viewed portraits as presenting clear information on a variety of aspects of the subject’s personality—qualities that their usual approach to biography, which focused only on verifiable facts, omitted. This aspect of portraiture is largely lost on modern music historians.

For example, in 1871 the English cleric and writer Hugh Reginald Haweis provided this interpretation of George Dance’s portrait of Haydn (reproduced above): “The face of Haydn is remarkable quite as much for what it does not as for what it does express. No ambition, no avarice, no impatience, very little excitability, no malice.

“On the other hand, it indicates a placid flow of even health, an exceeding good-humour, combined with a vivacity which seems to say, ‘I must lose my temper sometimes, but I can not lose it for long’; a geniality which it took much to disturb, and a digestion which it took more to impair; a power of work steady and uninterrupted; a healthy devotional feeling; a strong sense of humour; a capacity for the enjoyment of all the world’s good things, without any morbid craving for irregular indulgence; affections warm, but not intense; a presence accepted and beloved; a mind contented almost anywhere, attaching supreme importance to one, and one thing only—the composing of music—and pursuing this object with the steady instinct of one who believed himself to have come into the world for that purpose alone.”

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Filed under Classic era, Iconography

Music and medicine

Launched in 2009, Music and medicine (ISSN 1943‑8621) is a peer-reviewed journal published by the International Association for Music and Medicine (IAMM). The journal is intended for medical professionals, aiming to be “an integrative forum for clinical practice and research initiatives related to music interventions and applications of clinical music strategies in medicine.” While it naturally includes research in music therapy, the journal also invites work on “cultural implications of music in medicine in research and practice” as well as opinion papers on controversial topics.

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Filed under New periodicals, Science

Journal of dance & somatic practices


Launched in 2009, Journal of dance & somatic practices (ISSN 1757-1871) is a peer-reviewed journal that explores the relationship between dance and somatic practices, and the influence of this body of practice on the wider performing arts.

In the words of its editor, Sarah Whatley, the journal aims “to provide space for debate around moving, thinking, and writing, and to offer a celebration of the somatic epistemology that underpins important developments in dance and movement practices that have emerged and found purchase in recent years, whilst also acknowledging the challenges that this brings for all those engaged in the work.”

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Filed under Dance, New periodicals