MUSC 200: Music and Disease


A COVID-19 patient at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego watches a private concert by a professional violinist on an iPad in his room on July 17. (Courtesy of Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego)

A course that studies the relationship between music, sound, and disease, with a focus on how the disabling effects of disease affect musical performance (singing and playing), and how composers and performers have responded to and represented disease

 

 

MUSC 200: Music and Disease

4 units

Students enrolled in this course will meet the Fine Arts AND the Global Connections Core Program requirements

Taught by Prof. Kasunic

In this course, we will study the relationship between music, sound, and disease, with a focus on tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and COVID-19. We will study how the disabling effects of disease affect musical performance (singing and playing), and how composers and performers have responded to and represented disease. We will begin in the early nineteenth century with the invention of the stethoscope, which turned close listening to the body as the principal means of detecting tuberculosis. The second unit of the course will study the disabling effects of TB on the composer-pianist Fryderyk Chopin, how he developed a piano method to accommodate that disability, and how the public perceived his music because of his illness. The third unit will study nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century musical stage representations of tuberculosis—the operas La Traviata, The Tales of Hoffmann, La Bohème, and The Fall of the House of Usher—and consider them in terms of gender, class, health care, and moral codes. The fourth unit will address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Here we will focus on Diamanda Galas’s Plague Mass and the AIDS Quilt Songbook as political, cultural, and moral arguments. The fifth and final unit study the musical responses to COVID-19, including the effects of COVID-19 on musicians and music-making, especially singing, and the wide range of public music performed by everyday citizens to honor frontline workers. By ending the course with frontline workers, we will examine the societal inequities that pandemics underscore and how music can give voice to those marginalized and disproportionately affected by a pandemic. Throughout the course, we will chart the vexed understanding of the relationship between mental and physical health, particularly in the presence of debilitating chronic disease.

Students in the course will participate in a social justice project.

Questions? Contact Prof. Kasunic at kasunic@oxy.edu

IMAGE: A COVID-19 patient at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego watches a private concert by a professional violinist on an iPad in his room on July 17. (Courtesy of Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego)