Medicine and Music in Croatia

By Breitenfeld, Darko; Bergovec, Mijo et al. | Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Medicine and Music in Croatia

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


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. The one that stands out is male chamber choir Zagreb Physicians Choir 8 (Zagrebacki lijecnici pjevaci - ZLP) that became famous at home and abroad by performing mainly at medical professional and scientific conferences and concerts in Croatia and Europe. The Choir was founded by three music enthusiasts Boi}, Zergollern and D. Breitenfeld in 1968. Its first conductor was Matz who also wrote a hymn of Croatian physicians »Carmen Medicorum«. This song was later translated into other languages (English, Latin, German, Spanish...), it was performed in front of foreign audiences on many special occasions and received international recognition. These events made the foundation of the Music Section of Croatian Medical Association possible (today Croatian Phyisicians Music Society - CPMS) in 1971. Mi. Bergovec had a special role in development of ZLP. 9 He led this choir after Matz and is still performing the role of the President. L. Bergovec and Ma. …

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