Monday, July 1, 2013


    Many authorities on mental diseases hold the opinion that in some cases music has the power of curing inclancholia and kindred ailments, though it has been left to Dr. Emmett C. Dent, of the Manhattan State Hospital on Ward's Island, to put this theory to the test.

    The writer recently visited that big hospital for the insane, which had at the time upwards of 5,000 patients suffering from some kind of mental trouble and learned many particulars of interest regarding the experiments with music lately carried out by Dr. Dent.

    The well-known authority on insanity was enthusiastic over the success of his musical tests, and declared emphatically that he had cured many cases of madness through the medium of music properly administered, while in nearly all cases the patients were benefitted by the strains of a piano or a band.

    "A beautiful voice or violin solo will make a woman suffering from madness weep" said Dr. Dent, "while it will have no effect whatever upon an insane man. In my experiments with music as a cure for insanity I have confined myself to the women patients, for I have learned that they are the ones most benefitted by vocal or instrumental strains.

    "Some time ago I carried out an experiment which was not without interest I had about 100 patients, men and women, assembled in one of the rooms here and at a given signal a band, which I had also introduced, burst into a loud patriotic march. The effect on the different patients was surprising. Some became violent, some shouted wildly, and some marched round in time to the music. Others danced and laughed, a few sang, while upon many the strains apparently had no effect whatever. The experiment was not a success, and I saw at once that music, to be of any benefit at all, must be administered in careful doses."

    Dr. Dent then tried the effect of music on a young girl who for several months had been suffering from acute melancholia. Both instrumental and vocal music were tried, and from the first the strains had a remarkable effect upon her. The "music cure," as Dr. Dent calls it, was administered every day for about a fortnight and during that time the patients steadily improved, until at last the threw off her cloak of melancholy and her reason was fully restored. She has never had any return of her speedy recovery entirely to music properly administered.

    In one instance, in which a lady of refined tastes had become imbued with the deepest melancholy, touched with some slight religious mania, the playing of mournful music and the singing of doleful songs had the worst possible effect upon her and considerably increased her malady. Then the opposite extreme was tried; the music played was of the brightest and most inspiring kind while the songs were decidedly "comic" and amusing.

    The result was astonishing. The lady cheered up wonderfully, danced to the catchy music and joined in the choruses of the popular songs until, temporarily at all events, she forgot her melancholy and became bright and cheerful. When the music ceased her low spirits returned, but the treatment was persisted in for a couple of months, at the end of which time she had fully recovered her former good spirits and was discharged as cured.

    In the report of his experiments with music as a cure for insanity Dr. Dent said: "It must be remembered that the majority of our patients have never had the advantages of an ordinary education, much less those of a musical one, but in the face of this handicap I feel justified in saying that many of our patients have recovered as a direct result of the musical treatment. Of course, other treatment is not suspended while this is going on. The patients have, in addition to their regular treatment, all sorts of outdoor games and exercises, while a few patients who are able to play the piano or sing are encouraged to go on with their improvement in this direction.

    "I have found the human voice to be most effective in getting good results from this method of treatment. We arrange to have a good singer come to the hospital on a certain day, and the general enjoyment this gives is beyond estimation.

    Insane people, it may be added, are just as critical in regard to the quality of music as those who are possessed of a full mental capacity, and their disease can be aggravated by incorrect playing or singing, just as it can be soothed and benefited by perfection to touch and expression.

T. B.


No comments:

Post a Comment