Music, Spirit, Science and Healing

Barbara Taylor
Day/Time Taught: 
MWF 9:00-9:50 and 11:00-11:50
Course Number: 

This course will use the lens of medical ethnomusicology and folklore to examine cultural beliefs about and practices of music, spirit, and healing as they circulate and are enacted in many societies. In contemporary US popular culture, ideas about the healing properties of music circulate in “New Age” discourses that reference and seek to enact the practices of non-European cultures, notably indigenous peoples, as well as the classical music traditions of India and China. European cultures also have a long history of engagement with music and medicine. These practices are often positioned as alternatives to conventional, allopathic medicine. We will begin by examining some of the roots of music and healing discourse in Western culture. We will learn enough about tuning and temperment, just intonation, and the physics of sound to be able to critically evaluate some of the claims commonly made about the healing powers of music. We will also read ethnographies of music and healing from Appalachia to Indonesia, Africa to 19th century Europe, and more, and draw on work in music therapy, medical ethnomusicology, and medical anthropology. These works will give us insight into the meaning of illness, health, and healing, as well as music, in a variety of cultures around the globe, and facilitate a reexamination of our own cultural assumptions. In addition, we will evaluate the role of class, race, and gender in health care issues such as community responses to lack of access to scientific biomedical health care. This summer’s controversies about health care reform in the U.S. make issues of health and healing a particularly timely topic. Students will complete this course better equipped to think critically and globally about the cultural dimensions of both health care and music, and will have an expanded appreciation of the multicultural intersections of music and spirit and body.

Transfer students?: 

Contact FYS

The First Year Seminar is part of the General Education Program located in Anne Belk Hall, Room 250.

Phone: 828-262-2028

Our mailing address:
First Year Seminar
ASU Box 32065
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608

Director of First Year Seminar:
Dr. Martha McCaughey

QEP Global Learning