Medicine and Music in Croatia

By Breitenfeld, Darko; Bergovec, Mijo et al. | Alcoholism, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Medicine and Music in Croatia

Breitenfeld, Darko, Bergovec, Mijo, Lucijanic, Marko, Pavic, Jadranka, Miletic, Jelena, Buljan, Danijel, Alcoholism


The field of music and medicine in Croatia has been scientifically developed since 17th century. For 40 years the Croatian Association for Music Therapy and the Croatian Medical Music Association have been promoting and developing this field. The Male chamber choir Physicians Musicians of Zagreb is engaged not only in cultural, but also in professional and scientific activities with already 5 international symposia organized on theme Medicine and Music. Ten books, a few hundred (around 400 in Croatian and 40 in English) scientific and professional papers were published and the Health Centre for Artist was established at University Hospital Dubrava. In this paper we would like to stress the historical background, the state of this field in Croatia today, as well as other aspects such as music therapy and pathographies of composers. University hospital »Sestre milosrdnice« already organized more than 20 international symposia in field of music therapy.

Keywords: medicine; music; Zagreb Physicians Musicians; music therapy; overuse injury; patography


Since the human kind has existed, shamans of old ages performed their healing rituals in wild dance followed by percussion rhythms and songs (as we can see today in some African and South American tribes). This interconnection is vividly incorporated in Apollo, ancient Greek god of sun, music and healing. 1 The Ancient Greek philosophers and healers accentuated the importance of medical use of music. Pythagoras investigated the practical use of different music scales - modes with the intention to change human moods. And Hippocrates, Galen, Celsus, Plato and Aristotle applied music systematically with the intention to heal. 1 During the Middle Ages a large number of physicians tried to implement music in their work. From 17 th century on, practicing music was recognized as potentially harmful when the Italian physician Ramazzini wrote a book called »De morbis arti-ficum « and devoted an entire chapter to health problems of flute and trumpet players. He compared pulmonary strain with the one created when a person is running. 2

In Croatia the first documented use of music as a remedy dates back to 17 th century 3 when Gjuro Baglivi (1668-1707) described the effect of tarantula spider poison on the human body and recommended wild dancing epidemics style as a potential antidote in his book »De praxi medica«. He was a world known jatro-physicist. Not long after, Julio Bajamonti (1744-1800) 3 wrote about »Physician and music« and stated that, when treating a patient, art and humanity are just as important as professionalism. He was the most important Croatian physician - composer, also called »Croatian Mozart« and his works are essential part of the Croatian music heritage. 4 He worked as a doctor in Hvar and Split, and as a polymath and polyglot, dealt with history, archeology, physics, chemistry, meteorology, seamanship, linguistics, ethnology, philosophy, economy and agronomy. His concepts were later adopted by Bettini (1812-1865). At the beginning of 20 th century Gundrum wrote about the healing power of music; Gostl implemented music as treatment at the Psychiatric hospital Vrap~e is implementing and the Goren eks used music therapy in the rehabilitation of disabled persons. On Hudolin's stimulus (University hospital »Sestre milo-srdnice «) 50 years ago this field was further elaborated and developed by D. Breitenfeld. It is his merit that today in Croatia the three most interesting fields of medicine and music are studied and scientifically documented: music therapy, health problems of performing musicians and famous composers' patographies (around 120 articles published in Croatian and around 40 in English). 1,5-7 There are many other notable physicians - musicians from Croatia, to mention only some: N. and S. Kalogjera, L. Batini}, Mi. Bergovec, L. and Ma. Bergovec, D. and T. Breitenfeld, etc.

Croatia is also famous for its five medical choirs: Split Physicians Choir, Zadar Physicians Choir, Varazdin choir of medical workers and Rijeka choir of medical workers.

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