Music in Plague Times

"Vous ne croiriez pas la force que l’harmonie des accords a sur l’harmonie de nos corps, répondant à l’harmonie des cieux qui font aller secrètement tout l’univers à la cadence de leur musique."

Etienne Binet, Consolation et réjouissance des malades (Rouen 1617)

On an unnamed day in 1480, the prior of a monastery near Brussels had an unusual visit: a few of his monks, returning from a journey, came to ask him for help with a serious problem that had arisen during the trip. One of their companions had suffered a violent crisis one night, when he suddenly started shouting that he was doomed and condemned to eternal damnation.

The monk in question was none other than Hugo van der Goes, one of the greatest Flemish artists of the late fifteenth century. Father Thomas then prescribed a cure reminiscent of biblical tradition. In the same way that David had calmed Saul by playing his harp, so the prior recommended that music, if played frequently, might also succed in soothing his anguish.

This story is one one amongst many accounts about music as treatment and prevention against illness. With this programme, Dichos Diabolos aim to explore the nexus between music and medicine during the bubonic plague epidemics of the 17th century.

This concert recreates the Black Death soundscape through works written exclusively by composers who died from the plague.

5 Musicians: cornetto/recorder, violin, viola da gamba, dulcian, harpsichord.


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