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On Affections of the Musical Faculty in Cerebral Diseases

  • William W. Ireland

A modern philosopher has revived the theory that music has been evolved out of speech; but even adopting the leading views of the evolutionists, this theory seems little in accordance with their own methods. The harmony of sound appears very low in the animated kingdom, whereas the faculty of speech is the last and highest endowment. Some insects and spiders have the power of producing sounds. This is generally effected by the aid of beautifully-constructed stridulating organs. “The sounds thus produced,” Darwin tells us, “consist in all cases of the same note repeated rhythmically, and this is sometimes pleasing even to the ear of man. Their chief, and in some cases exclusive use, appears to be either to call or to charm the opposite sex.”

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See his paper, “Die Bedeutung der Aphasie für die Musik Vorstellung,” in “Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane,” Band vi., 1 Heft

“Troubles dee Facultés Musicales dans l'Aphasie,” Vol. xxxiv., p. 337.

“Brain,” 1890, p. 320.

“Diseases of the Brain,” London, 1885, p. 126.

In the “New York Medical Journal,” 20th May, 1893.

“Deutsche Zeitschrift für Nervenheilkunde,” quoted in the “Neurologisches Centralblatt,” No. 21,1891.

“Ueber das Verhalten der musikalischen Ausdrucks bewegungen und des Verständnisses bei Aphatischen,” von Dr. Hermann Oppenheim, Charité Annalen, xiii. Jahrgang, s. 345.

“Untersuchungen über den Musiksinn bei Idioten, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatries” xlv. Band, s. 574. Berlin, 1889.

Many of these have been collected to form an interesting paper, “Das musikalische Gedächtniss und seine Leistungen bei Katalepsie, im Traum und in der Hypnose,” von Richard Wallaschek in the “Vierteljahrschrift für Musikwissenschaft,” 1892, 2 Vierteljahr. A curious case has been related by Dr. Abercrombie (“Inquiries Concerning the Intellectual Powers,” eleventh edition, p. 318) of a poor girl employed on a farm. She had been accustomed to sleep in a room separated by a thin partition from one often used by a wandering fiddler. He often spent a part of the night in performing pieces. Several years after the girl was servant in the house of a lady, Dr. Abercrombie's informant. Mysterious music was heard in the house during the night, which was traced to the sleeping-room of the girl, who was found fast asleep but uttering from her lips a sound resembling the sweetest tone of a small violin. After this fashion she performed elaborate pieces of music. This went on, with other curious acts of somnambulism, for several years. In her waking condition she was dull of intellect and showed no kind of turn for music. It is believed that she afterwards became insane,

Dr. Batty Tuke, jun., observed that in insanity the musical faculty was often the last to go. He mentioned two lady patients who, though incoherent in speech, played with great accuracy on the piano. One of them played by the ear; the other from musical notes, although she was quite unable to read a book, and had not dressed herself for twenty years. (Report of Meeting of the Medico-Psychological Society in the Journal for July, 1891, p. 492).

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
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On Affections of the Musical Faculty in Cerebral Diseases

  • William W. Ireland
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