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September 21, 2012

A long-form feature about pianos and their (non)-effects on health…

Wellcome Trust Blog

Child playing the pianoWhy would 19th-century doctors want to ban piano lessons for girls? Did they truly believe that learning to play music could cause sexual and neurotic disorders? Or were there sociological reasons for picking on the piano as a potential danger?

Michael Regnier conducts a noteworthy investigation into the relationship between music, medicine and society.


For as long as there has been music, people have tried to control it. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates deemed the traditional lyre acceptable, but the new-fangled psalteries and harps were purged from the city for having too wide a range of “notes and modes”. By the 19th century, science and medicine had been co-opted into arguments that certain forms of music were unsuitable for certain people. Today, new music can still spark concerns – sometimes hyped to hysterical proportions – that are couched in medical terms, even in the absence of any scientific evidence…

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