Music as Medicine During The Black Plague

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Host Jackie Wolf talks with Dr. Christopher Macklin, Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has been studying the use of music and medicine in the Middle Ages, and more specifically the Black Death. From 1346-1352, the disease killed approximately 1-in-3 adults in Western Europe. Dr. Macklin is interested in how music was employed in response to the Black Death and how plagues and art relate on an emotional and social level.

Dr. Macklin sites a specific composition, "O sancte Sebastiane", by Guillaume Dufay, as being particularly important for those coping with the Black Plague in the 14th century. This piece, citing the martyrdom of St. Sebastian, is a telling story of the mythology and symbolic historical representation of the Black Plague.