Since ancient Egypt, Greece and Babylonian Civilization, music has been considered a tool for healing and social cohesion between dangerous plagues.
When the plague broke out in Sparta (Greece) in the seventh century BC, the leaders recommended the poet Thaletas to sing hymns, and Terpander – another famous Greek poet – was named in the plague in Lesbos. Even Pythagoras – the creator of famous mathematical theorems – also uses music as a therapy, playing lyrical songs to calm drunken thugs.
In medieval Italy, music also went beyond the windows on the balcony. Before knowledge of the disease spread, the “plague parade” was a common sight on European streets. The whole town marches, sings and prays under the monuments of local saints, with chanting and responding in order to entice participants. Remi Chiu, a music researcher at Loyola University, found many similarities between these parades and “Wuhan, fighting” cheers in January, when Covid-19 erupted in Wuhan, China, or patriotic songs on a balcony in Italy.
Professor Remi Chiu also thinks that music is a powerful tool for overcoming ego during social isolation. “When you compose music, you submit to yourself – both your mind and your body – according to its rules. And when you create music for the community, or just dancing with your neighbors, you at the same time contribute and bring yourself to the greater goals of the community”. Technology can spread this community – through a tweet or Facebook post, can inspire global solidarity.
Looking at the mind and body with an intrinsic link, medicine since ancient Greece has shown that a positive mental state can have immediate effects in the treatment of pathology. During the Renaissance, patients were encouraged to create and study art, to joke with friends and play musical instruments, because the energy from these activities would trigger humours. but firmly constitutes us humans.
When plague appeared in England, it was no coincidence that King Henry VIII had chosen his organist as one of the five quarantined men. And as Dr. Chris Macklin, a former music professor at Mercer University, who studied epidemic music, wrote in a blog post about the famous 14th-century composer Guillaume de Machaut – who had to struggling with the Black Death plague, but none of his work mentions that. Why? Chris writes: “Music is a science that requires people to laugh, sing and dance. It doesn’t care about melancholy nor is it for sad people”.