Understanding Music’s Therapeutic Efficacy: Implications for Music Education

Diane Thram

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394733
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Understanding Music’s Therapeutic Efficacy: Implications for Music Education


This article examines music's therapeutic effects in light of historical research on attitudes toward music and its therapeutic powers from the twelfth through the eighteenth centuries in Europe, as exemplified in the work of Hildegard von Bingen and Marcilio Ficino. It considers the shift to the modern/postmodern “music is cultural” paradigm, and provides evidence from field research in Africa into the ways group participation in music making enhances music's power in ritual events, to heal social ills, and to promote social cohesion. The article also asks whether a shift occurred in the globalized world, with its prevalence of electronic listening devices designed for solitary listening. The discussion argues that music's therapeutic efficacy is found in its power to effect change in how human beings feel, and that this power is located in the biological foundations of human sensory and neurological capabilities.

Keywords: music therapy; Hildegard von Bingen; Marcilio Ficino; musical power; musical group participation

Article.  8321 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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