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Music and Medicine


The relationship between music and medicine involves the notions of affinity between the human body and musical structures, relief, catharsis and therapy. The Homeric poems attest to the use of healing songs (paeans) and spells (epaoidai). The early Pythagoreans used musical catharsis for both the soul and the body. The doctrine of musical ēthos (whose main source is Plato) presupposes a relationship between music and character based on mimēsis, also establishing a link between therapy and ēthos. According to Aristotle, melodies performed in the rites are able to arou-se the emotions and purify from their excesses (the same dynamics appear in Theophrastus). The musical notions first detectable in the Hippocratic On Regimen for the development of the embryo, together with Herophilus’ application of the model provided by musical rhythms to the study of the pulse, show a fertile exchange between music and medicine, also attested in Aristides Quintilianus’ De Musica.