(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Richard Browne, Medicina Musica, A Mechanical Essay on Singing, Musick and Dancing, animal spirits, non-natural things, music therapy
Since primeval times, people have used music as a component of physical and mental therapy and as a means of promoting and maintaining good health. To fully understand music therapy in its contemporary form, it is crucial to reveal the rich heritage of music therapy in the course of history. This study analyzes Medicina Musica (1729) by Richard Browne. Browne was an apothecary who worked on music therapy, a subject historically taken up primarily by philosophers and clergymen. His contribution in Medicina Musica made him the first to offer insight into music therapy from a medical perspective. Browne’s description of the therapeutic effects of music is believed to be a pioneering work in the history of music therapy.
In previous studies that treat this book, neither books nor scholarly articles focusing on Medicina Musica in its entirety have been found. This article investigates Browne’s music therapy by analyzing Medicina Musica itself. Making reference also to a work that Browne wrote anonymously two years before the publication of Medicina Musica called A Mechanical Essay on Singing, Musick and Dancing (1727), this article includes (1) a bibliographical review, (2) an account of Browne’s life and times, (3) a description of the content of Medicina Musica, (4) a description of the mechanistic view observed in Medicina Musica, and (5) a summary of the therapeutic principles found in Medicina Musica. Finally, I have tried to position Medicina Musica in the history of music therapy.
Browne’s approach to music therapy was significantly influenced by Pitcairn and his students. Furthermore, Browne emphasized two concepts which constitute his therapeutic principles: “animal spirits” and “non-natural things.” Even though Medicina Musica is not a practical book but a theoretical one, like modern music therapy it highlights the theme that singing, music, and dancing can aid in the recovery of physical and mental health.