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The “musical people” of Italy: a nineteenth-century medical question

Céline Frigau Manning
Traduction de Nicholas Manning
Cet article est une traduction de :
Peuple d’Italie, « peuple musical » : une question médicale au XIXe siècle

Texte intégral

My warmest thanks go to Jean-Louis Fournel, Sarah Hibberd, Nicholas Manning and Emanuele Senici for their attentive rereading of this introduction. The issue was made possible by the prior work carried out in the context of the workshop “Italian Music and the Medical Sciences in the Nineteenth Century” which took place at the Maison de l’Italie (Cité internationale universitaire de Paris), on October 20 and 21, 2016, funded by the project “Clinic of the Singer. Opera and the Medical Sciences in the Nineteenth Century” which I am carrying out at the Institut universitaire de France (2015-2020). I am deeply grateful to the workshop’s participants – Simone Baral, Marco Beghelli, Jean-Christophe Coffin, Sieglinde Cora, Pierangelo Gentile, Sarah Hibberd, James Kennaway, Carmel Raz –, to the translators who helped make possible our exchanges in three languages – Laurent Baggioni, Nicholas Manning, Giulia Pradella –, as well as to the respondants – Elena Bovo, David Christoffel, Françoise Decroisette, Claude-Olivier Doron, Maria Pia Donato, Laura Fournier-Finocchiaro, Isabelle Moindrot, Laura Naudeix, Emmanuel Reibel, Xavier Tabet.

  • 1 H. Heine, Florentinische Nächte, in Säkularausgabe: Werke. Briefwechsel. Lebenszeugnisse, Berlin, (...)

Music is the soul of these people, their life, their nationality. There are undoubtedly musicians in other countries who enjoy a reputation equal to that of the greatest Italian celebrities, but there is no musical people like this. Music is represented here in Italy not by individuals, but reveals itself in the whole population: music has become the people itself.1

1In Heinrich Heine’s Florentine Nights, these statements emerge from the continuous flow of words and stories with which Maximilien soothes the young Maria so she may peacefully rest. This is indeed the mission entrusted to him by a busy doctor. Unable to heal or even appease, medicine gives way to a form of alternative assistance, based on narrative and imaginative power. This discourse on the “musical people” of Italy is part of the dying woman’s palliative care, and accompanies her in the experience of death.

  • 2 F. Liszt, “De l’état de la musique en Italie”, in Pages romantiques, ed. J. Chantavoine, Paris, Al (...)

2The vision of Italy not only as a home of works and artists, but as the territory of a whole people devoted to music, is certainly not a merely literary theme. It more widely constitutes a cultural trope whose history, particularly in France, goes back well before the historical period under consideration here, and is based on real situations and on the lived experiences of travellers as much as it feeds such experiences in turn – as when, after so many others, Franz Liszt expresses surprise at those “happy melodies which, in Italy, float through the air as it is said that in Paris wit runs in the streets2.” This trope was invested with meaning by the nineteenth-century medical sciences.

3The purpose of this introduction is firstly to shed light on some crucial aspects of these questions with the help of French sources in particular – at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Paris was indeed at the forefront of scientific thought, and was a European capital of medicine as much as music. Secondly, this introduction will present the three main sections of this issue. The first, entitled “Healing With Music”, opens the issue with the study of the therapeutic experiments conducted in Aversa and Palermo in the first half of the nineteenth century. The second section, “Anatomies of the Voice”, focuses on the singer’s body, poised between virtuosity and medical knowledge. Finally, the third section explores the question of musical genius as it comes to be medicalised in the eyes of phrenologists or of Cesare Lombroso. How may we better understand the attention that medical sciences paid to Italian music, and to some of its emblematic figures in particular? To what extent were such disciplines less interested in specific works than in the musical phenomenon itself, including its effects on the body and the imagination? How did Italian music – as a universe of references, practices and performativity – feed into original medical approaches, or take hold of them? These are some of the questions which are raised in this issue. They cannot be posed without taking into account the notion of the Italian people’s natural musicality, as it was medicalised at this time.

The question of a natural musicality

  • 3 H. Heine, Florentinische Nächte, op. cit.: “Bei uns im Norden ist es ganz anders; da ist die Musik (...)

4“Among us in the North it is quite otherwise,” Heine’s character affirms, “here music is incarnated in men, and is called Mozart or Meyerbeer3”. The interest that the medical sciences express in Italian musicians, whether interpreters or composers, must be related to the broader apprehension of a national category of individuals, Italians, who also tend to consider themselves as coming from a “musical people”.

  • 4 Goyer-Linguet, Le génie de la langue française ou Dictionnaire du langage choisi, Paris, Émeline D (...)
  • 5 P. J. G. Cabanis, Coup d’œil sur les révolutions et sur la réforme de la médecine, Paris, Crapelet (...)

5The groundwork for the medicalisation of this natural musicality is already laid by the identification of an innate character, which is not limited to the observation of cultural facts: “Harmony: harmony of which the Italians have an innate feeling” we read in Le génie de la langue française4. This reflection on innate qualities is part of an epistemological framework which is considerably broadened by medicine’s opening, particularly in the last decades of the eighteenth century, to other disciplines – anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physics, mathematics – which thus renewed its methods and modes of enquiry. The interest of these sciences for hearing and music was ever increasing. “In the functions of hearing, there remains much more obscurity than in those of sight,” we read for instance in Cabanis; “the pleasant impressions caused by music have themselves become, in a sense, problems of geometry5”. Based on the method of analysis and on the notion of causality, medicine does not devote itself to recognising the essence of a national character, or to describing the biological basis of a musical disposition. In this encounter and reconfiguration of knowledge and approaches, priority is given to the search for causes, conceived within a set of parameters and questions. Interpretive models overlap, then, rather than compete. The old and revisited theories of the humours, climates, physiognomy, or mechanism are combined with more recent work on electricity, heredity, phrenology, or the nervous system, in order to explain Italians’ innate or acquired dispositions, the physiological effects that music has on them, and more particularly the constitutions and pathologies of musicians. These investigations are not only the work of specialists: their categories and notions, present throughout European literature, criticism and the popular press, abundantly circulate, and trace the motifs and figures of a medical imagination of a musical people and, through this people, of Italian music itself.

  • 6 A.-E.-M. Grétry, Mémoires, ou Essais sur la musique, t. II, Paris, De l’imprimerie de la Républiqu (...)

6This is the case, for instance, for the obsession with climate, which is largely the basis of the theory of Italians’ innate musicality, and which takes as its main evidence the talent of Italian musicians. Formulated notably by the Abbé Du Bos, the theory of climates informs a European cartography structured by a North-South division, between harmony and melody, the latter of which is described by Grétry as “the heritage of sensibility produced by the influence of a burning sun6”. The application of the theory to music which the composer proposes, and which directly concerns Italy, is from this point of view foundational:

  • 7 Ibid., p. 137: “disons que tous les peuples sont plus ou moins préparés à la mélodie ou à l’harmon (...)

Let us say that all peoples are more or less prepared for melody or harmony, by the warmth, temperature or coldness of their climates, and that it is this degree of heat or cold which gives the most or the least sensibility; that the heat, such as it reigns in Italy, gives its inhabitants the degree of sensibility most appropriate to the most beautiful melody.7

  • 8 Ibid., p. 139: “correctif”.

7It is thus not about opposing or classifying by irreconcilable types, but about distinguishing “degrees”, which in turn determine a polarity of cold and heat, harmony and melody, “more” and “less” – the artist of warm climates can then serve as a “corrective8” to the artist of the cold countries, and vice versa.

  • 9 The term, which emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century, aims at advocating the adopt (...)
  • 10 H. Soula, Essai sur l’influence de la musique et son histoire en médecine. Thèse pour le doctorat (...)
  • 11 Stendhal, The Life of Rossini, trans. R. N. Coe, 2nd edition, London and New York, 1985.

8The climatological approach continued to spread throughout the nineteenth century, thanks in part to an ambiant neo-hippocratism9. “The musical sense is more developed in some countries than in others,” we may again read, in 1883, in a doctoral thesis in medicine devoted to the influence of music: “Should we invoke the conditions of a milieu, a climate, a way of living, the exaggerated development of the imagination? Everyone knows how much the Meridionals worship music10”. If the climate, habit and environment shape sensibilities, they also shape the organs and their functions, the ear and the larynx. And for a Stendhal, the Italians, whether they be innkeepers, gondoliers or singers, derive from a sunny climate, as much as from their habits, their lively sensibility, their poignant energy, as well as their powerful voices11.

  • 12 See notably A. von Haller, A Dissertation on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of Animals (1756-176 (...)

9The attention paid to the nerves, previously apprehended in the perspective of self-control and moral reform, reserves moreover a crucial role for music. The key notions of excitability and irritability are related to the paradigm advocated by John Brown and George Cheyne, in the prolongation of the work of Francis Glisson and Albrecht von Haller: all illnesses are supposedly due to an imbalance produced by too much excitement or overly weak nerves12. Studies of the effects of music thus expanded in this area. It was no longer only a matter of describing the universal, physical and moral power of music in general over men (or animals), but of differentiating between situations and of sketching out casuistries. Indeed, music, depending on the case, the subjects, the pathologies or even the musical forms, is seen to trigger or aggravate diseases, or on the contrary to appease or even cure them. This is indeed a question dear to the medical sciences of the time, not only from the standpoint of the effects of Italian music, but also of the uses of music in Italy.

The physiological effects of music on bodies and minds: musician doctors and Italian music

  • 13 P. Lichtenthal, Der musikalische Arzt, oder: Abhandlung von dem Eiriflusse der Musik auf den Korpe (...)

10In 1807, Lichtenthal proposed that the “musician doctor” – to use the title of his work – may attempt to determine which “doses of music” should be applied according to the “Brown scale”13. It is also in this spirit, in 1838, that Leonardo Basevi dispenses the following recommendations:

  • 14 L. Basevi, Degli effetti prodotti dalla musica sull’uomo. Dissertazione inaugurale, Milan, Pirotta (...)

The practitioner who wishes to experience the efficacy of music on certain diseases must therefore take into consideration: 1° the specific nature of these diseases; 2° the particular inclination of the patient for one kind of harmony rather than another; 3° the effects which certain sounds may have on him, rather than others; 4° he shall always avoid using this method for headaches, diseases of the organ of hearing, for women in a state of gestation, or in all cases where the whole organism displays excitability to excess; 5° he will endeavour to control these sounds, […] and to gradually increase them in cases where the patients would need to be resuscitated or reinvigorated, following in this respect the precept of Brown.14

  • 15 Ibid., p. 15.

11For Basevi, music is indeed one of those “imponderables” whose effectiveness is proved in the treatment of certain diseases, especially moral ones, even though it is not yet possible to clearly explain their mode of action15. Music escapes reason, as it cannot be described or grasped by the processes of rationality; but it is precisely from this, it seems, that it draws its power, and can serve the project of reason itself.

  • 16 G. Carpani, Le Rossiniane, ossia Lettere musico-teatrali, Padova, pei tipi della Minerva, 1824, in (...)
  • 17 G. A. Villoteau, Recherches sur l’analogie de la musique avec les arts qui ont pour objet l’imitat (...)
  • 18 Ibid.
  • 19 Encyclopédie théorique et pratique des connaissances utiles composée de traités sur les connaissan (...)

12We are deeply involved here in the aesthetic debates of the time. Does music, which acts on the senses and is defined by physical pleasure, necessarily lean towards sensualism? “Music, distinct in this sense from the other arts, acts principally on us as a physical power which, without even imitating nature, gives us a remarkable and perceptible sensual pleasure or displeasure,” writes Giuseppe Carpani in the text which he devotes to the music of Rossini; “false notes tear at our ears, harmonies delight them, and the succession of analogous and well-linked tones enchant them even without the use of language. We could develop a whole theory on the physical pleasure of hearing16”. If music accomplishes such feats on moral diseases, however, this is because, reinforced by its immateriality, it acts directly on the imagination, which it activates and nourishes with changing images. Its object – and this is a commonplace – “is to melodiously imitate the natural expression of such and such a feeling or passion, and to transmit it to our hearts by the vivifying air which animates us17”. It is necessary, however, that the musician master his art, “for sounds, whatever they may be, can express nothing by themselves18”. The reflection on music, at the heart of the aesthetic theories of the time, is also part of one of the era’s great debates, namely the question of the physiological mechanisms of interaction between the physical and the moral. “Music, while it delights the ear”, we read in the Encyclopédie théorique et pratique published by Garnier in 1875, “takes possession of the mind and soul in a manner as lively as it is rapid. It acts on both the physical and the moral faculties, on the nervous system and on the intelligence, so that it becomes all together one sensation and one feeling19”. This question brings to the fore the action of passions, but also of ideas, and nourishes a debate between sensualists, ideologues, spiritualists or even phrenologists. As for Italian music, it is certainly not neglected in these considerations, especially when defined in the following terms by Giuseppe Mazzini in his Filosofia della musica:

  • 20 G. Mazzini, “The Philosophy of Music”, in Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini, vol. IV, London, Sm (...)

Italian Music surrounds itself with the objects and impulses of external life, receives their every impression, and gives them back to us beautified and idealised. Lyrical almost to delirium, passionate to intoxication, volcanic as the land of its birth, and brilliant as her son; – it cares little in its rapid modulations for method or mode of transition; it bounds from object to object, from affection to affection, from thought to thought; from the most ecstatic joy to the most hopeless grief; from laughter to tears, from love to rage, from heaven to hell; ever powerful, emotional, and concentrated. Endowed with an intensity of life double that of other lives, its pulse is the pulse of fever.20

  • 21 G. Mazzini, “The Philosophy of Music”, op. cit., p. 32.

13Generally conceived as a music of passions, of “eminently artistic, not religious” inspiration21, Italian music is sometimes perceived as a threat, at others as a remedy. It provides numerous anecdotes and case studies which allow one to determine the extent to which the aesthetic, moral and political perspectives meet on the question of the health of the subject and of the social body.

  • 22 Stendhal, The Life of Rossini, op. cit., p. 16.
  • 23 L. Rellstab, “Die Gestaltung der Oper seit Mozart”, Die Wissenschaften im 19. Jahrhundert, I, 4/5, (...)

14We may think of the statement that Stendhal attributes to Doctor Domenico Cotugno, the author of studies on the “fluid” of the same name and on the inner ear: “I could quote you more than forty cases of brain-fever or of violent nervous convulsions among young ladies with an over-ardent passion for music, brought on exclusively by the Jews’ Prayer in the third act [of Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon], with its extraordinary change of key22”. Rossini, the figure par excellence of a sensualist aesthetic, is in particular a favourite target of this pathological approach. Not only is his person the subject of biographies and – sometimes even phrenological – portraits, that emphasise his laziness or gluttony, but his triumph across all European stages went along with accusations of abuses of stimulation, when he was not accused, more rarely, of producing sedative effects comparable to those of chloroform23.

  • 24 See in particular J. Nuñez, Étude médicale sur le venin de la tarentule, précédée d’un Résumé hist (...)
  • 25 On Aversa, see the account by A. Dumas, Jacques Ortis; Les fous du docteur Miraglia, Paris, Michel (...)
  • 26 See for instance Annali frenopatici italiani: giornale del R. Morotrofio di Aversa e della Società (...)

15Italy also attracts attention, however, for the experiments in musical-therapy which were carried out there. Thus, tarantism, which was to have a fine future ahead of it in the field of ethnomusicology, is one of the favourite cases presented in the European medical writings of the time24. The latter are also very interested in the pioneering uses of music and theatre by Italian alienists in the psychiatric institutions of Aversa (near Naples) or Palermo25; alienists who follow, in turn, the approaches developed elsewhere, as illustrated by the articles that the Annali frenopatici devote to the musical and theatrical performances which take place at the asylum in Montevergues26.

  • 27 If Italian music, undoubtedly the most widely exported of the period, is thus the subject of medic (...)
  • 28 G. Mazzini, “The Philosophy of Music”, op. cit., p. 37.

16The question of the relationships between the medical sciences and Italian music at this period must, we see, indeed be tackled from a transnational point of view, in the circulations of people, artists, works, practices, and scientific knowledge. Even the apprehension of national styles or characters is part of a dialogue, and sometimes even a dream of hybridity – Mazzini’s vision of Italian music plays itself out in comparison with German music27, the former embodying the South, the latter the North, and culminating in a unifying impulse: “And the Music I foresee, European Music, will never exist until the two, fused into one, are directed towards a social aim28”.

  • 29 H. Combes, De la médecine en France et en Italie, op. cit., pp. XI-XII. Doctor Combes was at the t (...)

17The article which opens this issue precisely adopts a perspective which is at once European, and attentive to features recognised as being national. Analysing the musical and theatrical treatments developed in the Casa dei matti of Aversa and Palermo in the first half of the nineteenth century, Carmel Raz seeks to understand the extent to which this treatment is based on the idea that the body and mind of an Italian present a particular sensibility for the arts. This approach seems to echo the words of Doctor Combes, the author, in 1842, of a comparative study entitled De la médecine en France et en Italie: “Beyond the Alps, the science of diseases presents real differences when compared with our medical doctrines. It possesses an eccentric character, an originality, one could almost say a distinct nationality29”.

  • 30 L. Morando de Rizzoni, La Pasta nell’Otello. Dialogo del nob. Dott. Luigi Morando de Rizzoni, Vero (...)
  • 31 L. Morando de Rizzoni, Sopra gli effetti del vino sul corpo e sull’anima dell’uomo, Verona, [s.n.] (...)

18The medical question of the power of music is not dissociated, however, from that of the effects of such and such an artist. Indeed, this is exactly what is at stake in the document of which we propose a new translation in the section Textes et documents: a fictitious dialogue entitled La Pasta nell’Otello, published in Verona in 183030. The author, Luigi Morando de Rizzoni, a notable figure in the region, was not only concerned with the physical and moral effects of music, but also with those of wine – as a cultivator of wines and oils in the hills of Costa Culda, he published a text on the question several years later – while his doctor brother, Marco Morando de Rizzoni, devoted his thesis in medicine precisely to the “sensitivity to desires and affections31”. Devoted to Giuditta Pasta, this dialogue is fascinating for the task it sets for itself: to demonstrate the superior talent of the actress-singer, her power over the body and soul of her spectators, through descriptions of Pasta on stage combined with considerations of a medical nature. Indeed, if the medical sciences and their professionals or amateur ambassadors are particularly interested in music’s effects, Italian artists themselves are at the forefront of their interrogations.

Musical and medical scenes of exceptional beings: Italian doctors, singers, and composers

  • 32 Le Moniteur universel (3 Oct. 1808). See also J.-J. Rousseau, Les Confessions, [Paris, Cazin, 1782 (...)
  • 33 La France musicale (7 Oct. 1838), pp. 323-324.

19Italian music, undoubtedly the best exported of the period, embodies a tradition of excellence that stimulates medical reflection and the medical imagination. And while phrenologists illustrate the organ of tone by means of abundant lists of Italian names, where Rossini and Pasta rub shoulders with Handel, Gluck and Weber, the Italian school of singing, based on abdominal breathing, is presented by hygienists as a model of voice preservation. The medical sciences thus reflect the domination of a so-called Italian school, even when the latter has its roots only in the Neapolitan tradition, or when it brings together singers of various origins. This school emerges as the touchstone of all vocal practices, with the Italian singer as the embodiment of a model of singing very rarely in dispute. The idea, then, that “Italian opera forms our musical taste, trains our ear, makes it delicate and demanding” is an old legacy, particularly in France32. In this respect, contemporaries have a real historical consciousness: “I have not had the good fortune to hear Mme Grassini, M. Crivelli and Crescentini”, writes a journalist of La France musicale in 1838: “But I will never believe that there have been better singers than Rubini, Tamburini, Lablache and Mlle Grisi33”. The continuity in which Italian singing inscribed itself, its history and its galleries of illustrious performers and composers, both past and present, is strongly felt in the medical approaches to music, which help maintain the operatic star system as much as they are nourished by it in order to better establish their own legitimacy.

  • 34 Under the decree of 1 November, 1807 (AN AJ 13-61), the Théâtre-Italien was one of the four theatr (...)

20The second section of this issue addresses the question of voice by way of singers’ bodies and practices. Sarah Hibberd introduces us to one of the most important sites of European cultural life, the Théâtre-Italien, which, specialising in the production of Italian plays sung in the original language, was at the time the only stable “foreign” theater in Paris subsidised by the State34. Media, musical and medical sources are contrasted in order to support a bold hypothesis: that the duet for two basses in Act II of Bellini’s Puritani functions like a musical microscope, aiming to make audible the characteristics of Lablache’s timbre. Music does not only appear here as an object of the medical sciences: it is as though musical composition were actively taking charge of the investigations, especially on the larynx, which were being carried out, and were using the performance in order to allow spectators to hear its own experiments.

  • 35 Canguilhem uses the expression when speaking of genetics, which “offers biologists precisely the p (...)
  • 36 B. Gordon, “The Castrato Meets the Cyborg”, The Opera Quarterly, 27/1, 2011, pp. 94-121.

21While the inaudible is thus made audible, Marco Beghelli, in the second text of this section, delves into the figure of the castrato. The castrato is the direct result of a medical technique practiced especially in Italy, but nevertheless invisible in the medical literature, when it is not deliberately hidden. As in any situation dealing with taboos, the medical and cultural prohibition is characterised by a reluctance to talk about what is close by, and a detour is taken by way of an exotic equivalent – here, eunuchism in the East. More broadly, the castrato, an “experimental living being” if ever there was one35, poses the question of the limits of discourse and medical practices, of its neglected or repressed questionings. As a “cyborg” on the margins of society, the castrato, subjected by amputation to a physical, moral, and symbolic deprivation, is called on to devote himself to artistic creation, and to attain a state of transhumanity36.

  • 37 See M. Krishaber, “Musiciens (Hygiène des)”, in Dictionnaire encyclopédique des sciences médicales(...)
  • 38 T. Ribot, L’hérédité. Étude psychologique sur ses phénomènes, ses lois, ses causes, ses conséquenc (...)
  • 39 See F. J. Gall, Sur l’origine des qualités morales et des facultés intellectuelles de l’homme, Par (...)

22Though they ignored the castrati, the medical sciences paid specific attention to interpreters and composers, and especially Italians, in an effort to understand the exceptionality of the creative individual. Alongside other figures of artists, painters and writers in particular, that of the musician is well represented in medical texts, especially those of an encyclopaedic type, which provide a catalogue of specific pathologies. The musician is generally presented as a case of sensitivity exacerbated by artistic practice, leading to an “overactivity of the nervous system37”. A subject of reflection for hygienists, musicians are also of interest for studies on heredity38, with musical talent being associated with a strong precocity that can relativise the role of education and surround it with an aura of mystery. Music is thus often included in lists of dispositions, sometimes even at the head of all others, as in Gall, the founder of phrenology39. Whatever their respective schools, however, doctors often look towards Italy in order to add to their lists of names or, more rarely, to the specific studies that they devote to a particular artist. By integrating Italian musicians into their reasoning, they engage in a selection process that reflects and nourishes the media doxa. The third section of this issue is devoted to the process of medicalisation of the Italian musical genius.

  • 40 C. Lombroso, “Il fenomeno psicologico di Verdi”, Gazzetta musicale di Milano (26 Feb. 1893).

23Phrenology, the subject of the text that opens this section, is emblematic of an approach aimed at summoning science to consecrate what contemporaries already knew: that Pasta was an accomplished actress-singer, that Lablache excelled in the art of the comic actor, that Rossini was a genius. Simone Baral analyses the place of Bellini and his persistence in the phrenological discourse of the time, taking into consideration the reasoning developed with respect to other composers. Characterised, from a craniological as well as a stylistic point of view, by “benevolence”, the Bellini case emphasises the extent to which the medicalised publicising of these figures was carried out in the deliberate absence of technical musical knowledge or of the observation of musical skills. In order to grasp genius and its manifestations, it was indeed the study of an artist’s identity and person that was prioritised: an identity interpreted and exalted not so much through actual works, but through biographical, anecdotal or iconographic elements. Against this consecrating project, but again with recourse to biography and anecdote, Cesare Lombroso, in the second half of the nineteenth century, developed a theory of genius which tends, if not to pathologise the individual of genius, at least to normalise him. The two texts that close this enquiry propose two complementary approaches to the Lombrosian exploration of Italian musical genius. Jean-Christophe Coffin firstly deals with the theme of genius and its relation to madness, as developed by Lombroso in his works and with particular attention paid to his more strictly musical conceptions; the article replaces Lombroso more broadly in contemporary reflections devoted to the behaviour of the artist. As for Pierangelo Gentile, he concentrates on an 1893 episode when, at the time of the success of the creation of Falstaff, Lombroso attempts to explain “Il fenomeno psicologico di Verdi” in an article published in the Gazzetta musicale di Milano40. Affirming the reducibility of music to the norms of science, Lombroso distinguishes Verdi’s “ingenuity” from “genius,” a form of degenerative neurosis that Wagner is afflicted with, thus normalising this exception.

  • 41 They benefit from a strong interest for the relations of the arts with the sciences, and the ninet (...)
  • 42 See M. Beghelli, “Pazienti, medici e speziali nel melodrama”, Bollettino delle scienze mediche, no (...)
  • 43 We may thus mention M. Jackson, Harmonious Triads: Physicists, Musicians, and Instrument Makers in (...)

24Dedicated to the relationships between the medical sciences and Italian music in the nineteenth century, this issue thus embarks on a terrain little explored by both the history of medicine and the history of music, bringing together researchers from both fields. This was for them the opportunity to reflect on questions which were in some cases new to them, and often to produce work outside of their traditional lines of enquiry. Based on the observation of reality and its human types, oriented towards its applications to social progress, nineteenth-century medicine, in its various forms, accorded a crucial place to the arts, and in particular to music. The relationship between the medical sciences and the arts is the subject of fruitful research in literature, cinema, photography, and art history41. In the field of music, however, if the doctor as a character has been of interest to specialists of opera, medical biographies and investigations into the diseases and deaths of composers were, for a long time, the main centre of enquiry42. And yet, the exploration of the relationships between medicine and music has everything to gain from the work that historians of music have recently devoted to the sciences43.

25This is what the authors of this issue have undertaken, making use of as yet unexplored sources. Italian music is thus apprehended from various points of view: for its characteristics and effects as they are described by the European medical sciences of the time; as a field of application of specific medical practices and protocols; as a site of experimentation, in an era of the musical star system, conducive to the emergence of new approaches and new aesthetic and moral questions. The question of the place of Italian music in a larger reform of society is, as we shall see, at the heart of this questioning.

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Notes

1 H. Heine, Florentinische Nächte, in Säkularausgabe: Werke. Briefwechsel. Lebenszeugnisse, Berlin, Akademie-Verlag; Paris, Éditions du CNRS, 1970, vol. IX, p. 22: “die Musik ist die Seele dieser Menschen, ihr Leben, ihre Nationalsache. In anderen Ländern gibt es gewiß Musiker, die den größten italienischen Renommeen gleichstehen, aber es gibt dort kein musikalisches Volk. Die Musik wird hier in Italien nicht durch Individuen repräsentiert, sondern sie offenbart sich in der ganzen Bevölkerung, die Musik ist Volk geworden.” All translations are the translator’s own unless otherwise indicated.

2 F. Liszt, “De l’état de la musique en Italie”, in Pages romantiques, ed. J. Chantavoine, Paris, Alcan, 1912, pp. 268-288, cf. p. 277: “heureuses mélodies qui, en Italie, courent dans l’air comme on dit qu’à Paris l’esprit court les rues”.

3 H. Heine, Florentinische Nächte, op. cit.: “Bei uns im Norden ist es ganz anders; da ist die Musik nur Mensch geworden und heißt Mozart oder Meyerbeer”.

4 Goyer-Linguet, Le génie de la langue française ou Dictionnaire du langage choisi, Paris, Émeline Desrez, 1846, p. 387: “Harmonie dont les Italiens ont le sentiment inné”.

5 P. J. G. Cabanis, Coup d’œil sur les révolutions et sur la réforme de la médecine, Paris, Crapelet, 1804, p. 415.

6 A.-E.-M. Grétry, Mémoires, ou Essais sur la musique, t. II, Paris, De l’imprimerie de la République, 1797, p. 138: “partage de la sensibilité produite par l’influence d’un soleil ardent”.

7 Ibid., p. 137: “disons que tous les peuples sont plus ou moins préparés à la mélodie ou à l’harmonie, par la chaleur, la température ou le froid de leurs climats, et que c’est ce degré de chaleur ou de froid qui donne le plus ou le moins de sensibilité ; que la chaleur, telle qu’elle règne en Italie, donne à ses habitants le degré convenable de sensibilité propre à la plus belle mélodie”.

8 Ibid., p. 139: “correctif”.

9 The term, which emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century, aims at advocating the adoption of the method of analysis to the detriment of the doctrine. Neohippocratism, which gives primacy to clinical medicine, notably emphasises paying attention to climate and environment.

10 H. Soula, Essai sur l’influence de la musique et son histoire en médecine. Thèse pour le doctorat en médecine, Paris, Alphonse Derenne, 1883, p. 45.

11 Stendhal, The Life of Rossini, trans. R. N. Coe, 2nd edition, London and New York, 1985.

12 See notably A. von Haller, A Dissertation on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of Animals (1756-1760), reprint Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1936, and J. Brown, The Elements of Medicine of John Brown, translated from the Latin, with Comments and Illustrations by the Author, Portsmouth, William and Daniel Treadwell, at the Oracle Press, 1803, 2nd edition.

13 P. Lichtenthal, Der musikalische Arzt, oder: Abhandlung von dem Eiriflusse der Musik auf den Korper, und von ihrer Anwendung in gewissen Krankheiten. Nebst einigen Winken, zur Anhorung einer guten Musik, Vienna, Christian Friedrich Wappler und Beek, 1807, p. 172, quoted by J. Kennaway, Bad Vibrations: The History of the Idea of Music as a Cause of Disease, Farnham, Ashgate, 2012.

14 L. Basevi, Degli effetti prodotti dalla musica sull’uomo. Dissertazione inaugurale, Milan, Pirotta, 1838, p. 45: “Volendo pertanto il pratico sperimentare l’efficacia della musica in alcune malattie, dovrà aver riguardo : 1° alla natura essenziale delle medesime ; 2° alla speciale inclinazione dell’ammalato per uno piuttosto che per un altro genere di armonia ; 3° agli effetti che potranno indurre sul medesimo alcuni suoni a preferenza di altri ; 4° eviterà costantemente l’impiego di questo mezzo nei dolori di capo, nelle malattie dell’organo dell’udito, presso le femmine in istato di gestazione, come pure in tutti quei casi in cui tutto l’organismo si mostri soverchiamente eccitabile ; 5° procurerà di moderare quei suoni, […] e di aumentarli a poco a poco in quei casi in cui gli ammalati si trovassero in necessità di venire rianimati o rinforzati, seguendo in ciò il precetto lasciatoci da Brown”.

15 Ibid., p. 15.

16 G. Carpani, Le Rossiniane, ossia Lettere musico-teatrali, Padova, pei tipi della Minerva, 1824, in Rossiniana. Antologia della critica nella prima metà dell’Ottocento, ed. C. Steffan, Pordenone, Edizioni Studio Tesi (coll. L’arte della fuga), 1992, pp. 103-118, cf. footnote 2 p. 116: “la musica, in ciò diversa dalle arti sorelle, agisce principalmente su di noi come potenza fisica, cosicché, anche senza l’imitazione della natura, ci reca notabile e ben distinto piacere o dispiacere sensuale. Le stonature ci lacerano l’orecchio, gli accordi lo beano, e la successione di tuoni analoghi e ben concatenati lo incanta anche senza la parola. Si potrebbe stendere una teorica pel fisico diletto dell’udito”.

17 G. A. Villoteau, Recherches sur l’analogie de la musique avec les arts qui ont pour objet l’imitation du langage, pour servir d’introduction à l’étude des principes naturels de cet art, Paris, De l’Imprimerie impériale, 1807, t. II, p. 68.

18 Ibid.

19 Encyclopédie théorique et pratique des connaissances utiles composée de traités sur les connaissances les plus indispensables, t. II, Paris, Garnier frères, 1875, p. 1949.

20 G. Mazzini, “The Philosophy of Music”, in Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini, vol. IV, London, Smith-Elder, 1891, p. 23. See also Giuseppe Mazzini’s Philosophy of Music: Envisioning a Social Opera, trans. E. A. Venturi, ed. F. Sciannameo, Lewiston, E. Mellen Press, 2004.

21 G. Mazzini, “The Philosophy of Music”, op. cit., p. 32.

22 Stendhal, The Life of Rossini, op. cit., p. 16.

23 L. Rellstab, “Die Gestaltung der Oper seit Mozart”, Die Wissenschaften im 19. Jahrhundert, I, 4/5, 1859, pp. 242-296, cf. p. 270, quoted by J. Kennaway, Bad Vibrations, op. cit., p. 72. On this debate, see M. Esse, “Rossini’s Noisy Bodies”, Cambridge Opera Journal, vol. XXI, n° 1 (March 2009), p. 27-64.

24 See in particular J. Nuñez, Étude médicale sur le venin de la tarentule, précédée d’un Résumé historique du tarentulisme et du tarentisme et suivie de quelques indications thérapeutiques et de notes cliniques, trans. J. Perry, Paris, Baillière, 1866.

25 On Aversa, see the account by A. Dumas, Jacques Ortis; Les fous du docteur Miraglia, Paris, Michel Lévy frères, [1863], 18672, p. 261 et seq., or the data collected by H. Combes, De la médecine en France et en Italie: administration, doctrines, pratique, Paris, Baillière, 1842, p. 425 et seq. See also P. Messina, Effetti della musica e del teatro presso gli alienati di mente. Ricerche storico-critiche, ed investigazioni medico-pratiche, Palermo, G. Lorsnaider, 1871.

26 See for instance Annali frenopatici italiani: giornale del R. Morotrofio di Aversa e della Società frenopatica italiana diretti dal dott. Cav. B. G. Miraglia autore del Trattato di Frenologia applicata, direttore dello stesso Reale Morotrofio, presidente di detta società e socio di molte accademie italiane e straniere, II/2, 1864, p. 94.

27 If Italian music, undoubtedly the most widely exported of the period, is thus the subject of medical obsession, it is necessary to investigate, more than was possible here, the other pole of this paradigm, namely the medicalisation of German music. Wagnerism as the “disease of civilisation”, to speak in Nietzschean terms, is one aspect of this question, but certainly not the only one.

28 G. Mazzini, “The Philosophy of Music”, op. cit., p. 37.

29 H. Combes, De la médecine en France et en Italie, op. cit., pp. XI-XII. Doctor Combes was at the time Professor of Hygiene and Legal Medicine at the University of Toulouse.

30 L. Morando de Rizzoni, La Pasta nell’Otello. Dialogo del nob. Dott. Luigi Morando de Rizzoni, Verona, Crescini, 1830.

31 L. Morando de Rizzoni, Sopra gli effetti del vino sul corpo e sull’anima dell’uomo, Verona, [s.n.], 1844; M. Morando de Rizzoni, De sensibilitate cupiditatibus et pathematibus. Dissertatio academica quam in celeberrima ac pervetusta Universitate patavina ad summos honores obtinendos in medicina publice defendit Marcus Morando de’ Rizzoni, Padova, Tipis seminarii, 1831.

32 Le Moniteur universel (3 Oct. 1808). See also J.-J. Rousseau, Les Confessions, [Paris, Cazin, 1782-1789], ed. L. Martin-Chauffier, Paris, Gallimard, 1951, pp. 375-376.

33 La France musicale (7 Oct. 1838), pp. 323-324.

34 Under the decree of 1 November, 1807 (AN AJ 13-61), the Théâtre-Italien was one of the four theatres devoted to the noble genres (tragedy, comedy, opera, comic opera), subsidised and placed under the tutelage of the State. This decree reduced the number of theatres in Paris to eight by specialising them.

35 Canguilhem uses the expression when speaking of genetics, which “offers biologists precisely the possibility of conceiving and applying a formal biology and consequently of transcending life’s empirical forms by creating experimental living beings following other norms” (G. Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique, Paris, PUF, 1966; The Normal and the Pathological, trans. Carolyn R. Fawcett in collaboration with Robert S. Cohen, New York, Zone Books, 1991, p. 259).

36 B. Gordon, “The Castrato Meets the Cyborg”, The Opera Quarterly, 27/1, 2011, pp. 94-121.

37 See M. Krishaber, “Musiciens (Hygiène des)”, in Dictionnaire encyclopédique des sciences médicales, ed. A. Dechambre, Paris, Lahure, 1875, t. XI, 2nd series, pp. 129-132, and “Chanteurs (maladies des)”, ibid., t. XV, 1st series, p. 397.

38 T. Ribot, L’hérédité. Étude psychologique sur ses phénomènes, ses lois, ses causes, ses conséquences, Paris, Ladrange, 1873, pp. 91-94 for the section on musicians; F. Galton, Hereditary Genius, Macmillan, 1869 (chapter devoted to musicians, pp. 237-247). On the Italians, see the following remark, p. 4: “I have taken little notice in this book of modern men of eminence who are not English, or at least well known to Englishmen. I feared, if I included large classes of foreigners, that I should make glaring errors. […] I should have especially liked to investigate the biographies of Italians and Jews, both of whom appear to be rich in families of high intellectual breeds”.

39 See F. J. Gall, Sur l’origine des qualités morales et des facultés intellectuelles de l’homme, Paris, Béchet, 1822, 6 vol.; vol. I, p. 42.

40 C. Lombroso, “Il fenomeno psicologico di Verdi”, Gazzetta musicale di Milano (26 Feb. 1893).

41 They benefit from a strong interest for the relations of the arts with the sciences, and the nineteenth century is well represented there; see on this issue general studies (such as Uncommon Contexts: Encounters between Science and Literature, 1800-1914, ed. B. Marsden, H. Hutchison and R. J. O’Connor, London, Pickering & Chatto, 2013) or specific studies (such as L. Baridon and M. Guédron, Corps et arts. Physionomies et physiologies dans les arts visuels, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1999).

42 See M. Beghelli, “Pazienti, medici e speziali nel melodrama”, Bollettino delle scienze mediche, no. 1, 2010, pp. 9-28; D. Kerner, Krankheiten grosser Musiker, Stuttgart-New York, Schattauer, 1963; A. Neumayr, Musik und Medizin, Vienna, Edition Wien, 1991; J. O’Shea, Music and Medicine. Medical Profiles of Great Composers, London, Dent, 1994; or P. Bouteldja, Un patient nommé Wagner, Lyon, Symétrie, 2008.

43 We may thus mention M. Jackson, Harmonious Triads: Physicists, Musicians, and Instrument Makers in Nineteenth-Century Germany, Cambridge (Mass.), The MIT Press, 2006; D. Pantalony, Altered Sensations: Rudolph Koenig’s Acoustical Workshop in Nineteenth-Century, New York, Springer, 2009; D. Loughridge, Technologies of the Invisible: Optical Instruments and Musical Romanticism, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2011; E. Dolan, The Orchestral Revolution: Haydn and the Technologies of Timbre, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013; J. Q. Davies, Romantic Anatomies of Performance, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2014; “Music and Science in London and Paris”, ed. S. Hibberd, 19th-Century Music, 39/2, Fall 2015; Sound Knowledge: Music and Science in London, 1800-50, ed. J. Q. Davies and E. Lockhart, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2017; Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination, ed. D. Trippett and B. Walton, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

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Céline Frigau Manning, « The “musical people” of Italy: a nineteenth-century medical question », Laboratoire italien [En ligne], 20 | 2017, mis en ligne le 03 novembre 2017, consulté le 11 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/laboratoireitalien/1539

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Céline Frigau Manning

Université Paris 8 – Institut universitaire de France • Céline Frigau Manning est maître de conférences en études théâtrales et italiennes à l’université Paris 8 et membre de l’Institut universitaire de France. Ancienne élève de l’École normale supérieure (Ulm), agrégée d’italien, elle a été pensionnaire à la Villa Médicis et chargée de recherche à la Bibliothèque nationale de France (Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra). Elle est l’auteur de Chanteurs en scène. L’œil du spectateur au Théâtre-Italien (Paris, Honoré Champion, 2014), et a coordonné plusieurs volumes collectifs : La scène en miroir. Métathéâtres italiens (XVIe-XXIe siècle) (Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2016), Collaborative Translation : from the Renaissance to the Digital Age (avec A. Cordingley, Londres, Bloomsbury, 2016) ainsi que Traduire le théâtre. Une communauté d’expérience (avec M. N. Karsky, Saint-Denis, Presses universitaires de Vincennes, 2017). À l’Institut universitaire de France, elle dirige le projet Clinique du chanteur. Opéra et médecine au XIXe siècle (2015-2020).

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