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As mentioned earlier in the introduction, scholarship and discourses on music and healing can be traced back to early ethnographic studies that include music in an account of ritual and healing ceremonies of particular cultures at the end of the nineteenth century, or even to the myths of the Greeks and Romans (see Meinecke 1948), and some have also traced it to the pre-classical civilizations of Mesopotamia or Egypt (see Horden 2000), or even thirty thousand years ago (as mentioned in the introduction, according to Moreno). Therefore, there is a long history of writing about the association between music and healing, and the subject covers a very vast and rich variety of issues.
The ethnographic study of music and healing most often focuses on traditional ritual healing, which often involves trance and possession. Many researchers have taken different approaches to the subject of music and healing: some have focused on music and trance, some have focused on the performance of musical healing or ritual, and others have focused on music and medicine. In this chapter, I discuss literature closely related to the subject that was published before the term “medical ethnomusicology” was coined in the early twentyfirst century.
According to Benjamin Koen, Frances Densmore’s works on the American Indians such as Teton Sioux Music (1918) and her fieldwork with the American Indians in general are perhaps the earliest ethnomusicological research where the subject of music and healing was considered to any significant degree (Koen 2003: 35).
The massive movement to collect Native American music that was sponsored by the Bureau of American Ethnology was motivated by a fear that Native cultures were vanishing. Frances Densmore, who worked for the Bureau of American Ethnology, had participated in recording Native Americans’ songs that included ritual and healing songs.
Although Densmore had included her input about music and healing in many of her ethnographies on the Native Americans, she also contributed a chapter to Music and Medicine, a volume edited by Dorothy M. Schullian and Max Schone in 1948 that was believed to be the first collection of essays that gave accounts of music and healing in English.
This multi-author volume consists of sixteen essays by scholars and practitioners from medicine, anthropology, ethnomusicology, history of medicine, musicology, occupational therapy, music therapy, psychology, and medical librarianship. Although the book employs offensive terms, and displays ethnocentric and elitist assumptions, bias, and some theoretical problems, it is extremely important for what it represents both intellectually and institutionally.