Medicines heal the soul through the body; music heals the body through the soul.
Healers in Renaissance Europe were convinced this was true. Doctors, alchemists and wise women - who were often stigmatized as witches for their successes - used the powers of gentle music, such as could be produced on the lute and viola da gamba. It was used to heal restlessness, cramps and mental anxieties, and to restore harmony and equability/calmness.
Quiet Music holds the key to natural health. Laws, proportions and universal patterns, discovered by wise and learned men in all aspects of the cosmos were taken by the masters of music as a foundation for their luminous compositions. In outer space, in flowers, in the human face, in landscapes - everywhere one finds the same simple and clear numerical relations that bind the world in its innermost core together. They are made audible as musical sounds.
This is reflected in the simple formula of the alchemists: Above as below, taken from the hermetic Tabula Smaragdina.
The Sun King, Louis XIV, himself experienced the benefits of this music therapy. He is said to have suffered from sleep disturbances after exhausting festivities. He would then often call his court lutenist Robert de Visée to his bedchamber in the middle of the night. Visée’s playing restored harmony to the mind of the troubled king and gave him the blessing of a deep, unperturbed sleep.
In another story describing the healing effects of Quiet Music, a
nobleman was torn away from his beloved through the influence of an evil king. This loss saddened him so much that he was unable to sleep for many years. They tried to cure him with medicines of all kinds but every attempt to heal him failed. So they then tried a remedy almost certain of success: they brought him to a waterfall and waited for the restful and cleansing sound of the rushing water to exert its healing influence but sadly that also failed to help - the wounds of the betrayal and unfaithfulness had eaten too far into his soul. Finally, they resorted to the ultimate and most powerful cure: They called for gentle music to be played softly in the far distance … and let this subtle influence work its magic on him. And indeed, it helped! At last the grief-torn soul could fall asleep and found his release in sweet dreams.
Bringing the soul back into harmony with itself through Quiet Music alleviated not only sleep disturbances but much more! The range of potential therapeutic applications was astonishingly wide. Ailments ranging from common colds to insanity are said to have been treated this way. Melancholy and depression were relieved by merry lute music with a strong rhythmic dance character.
However, with regard to risks and side-effects, it should be said that there were also lutenists who used their powers in a negative way and could put kings in a rage (see under ARCHIVE OF QUOTATIONS: Ein magisches Experiment).
The lutenist of the Austrian Court Ferdinand Ignaz Hinterleithner was confident that his music could be effective in righting relationship problems. He is said to have helped couples with various difficulties - described by him in florid, romantic terms - find the way to a fulfilled relationship. He denied the possibility of undesirable side-effects, the successful outcome of his therapy being manifested in just the ONE partner alone …
Indeed, we ourselves have heard accounts of the healing effects of our music. People often tell us after concerts that the sounds we create have helped them wind down in a most pleasant way or caused pain, such as a stomach-ache, to vanish. In the USA a child was born to my playing of Bach, and I was once able to provide live musical accompaniment for the birth of a child who was subsequently always pacified by hearing my music on a CD. Members of our audiences tell us that they use our CDs to cleanse spaces and sometimes offer our recordings to severely ill people (hospital patients), who later thank us, saying they believe the music healed them.
Even though reports of healing through music in the Europe of days gone by may now sound somewhat far-fetched, there’s more than a grain of truth in it …
© Lutz Kirchhof, Weilburg 2015