Just as much as name for series of events, Musica Sanae may sound like a promise – a promise of sane music, a music that will do you good, that will sound safe, sober, balanced, a music that will make you feel better, perhaps even music that will heal you. Maybe it actually will, you never know because the very relations between The Sane and The Insane in music are all but balanced and sober.
Since the rise of modern era, music and medicine have been coming together in a strange feedback loop. Its shared territory is obviously delineated by the phenomena of listening – area of laryngological examination as well as milieu for music to happen. Slightly surprisingly perhaps, what seems truly common for them in the past few centuries is a disbelief in the ear - troubling but growing doubt in powers of the ear as a listening device. “Ears made of shells also answer very well” wrote in 1836 John Harrison Curtis, English surgeon, and symptomatically caught all what was already in the air. If shells can hear, what do they hear? Do they hear the same as we do? Or more? Or better? Or different? And eventually – our ears, are we positive we can hear everything there is to hear?
No. Today we seem to know for sure. But over last hundreds of years it was this disbelief that paved the road not only to medical inventions of hearing aids and largyngological research but then also farther on - to telecommunication, to sound reproduction, to wiretapping, to sound art. It is the same disbelief that stood behind the invention of stethoscope by René Laennec or percussive approach of Leopold Auenbrugger – the desire to hear more than we can, to hear the tiniest sound, to hear what is completely mute like tumors in our lungs, diseases in our brains and bacteria in our throats. Today, we do, we can hear it all and we can hear it as much in the field of medicine as music – from experimental to pop.
On the other hand, medicine gained a lot from music and sound discourse. Discovery of wave theory of sound proved that we only hear a limited range of what could be potentially heard. Ultrasonography is obviously rooted in these early modern discoveries in acoustics. But medicine made also other uses of sound apart from this known example, at least as long as new instruments and new sounds are concerned. From tuning forks to pure tones, sound became a diagnostic and healing device making a link between hysteria treatments, ultrasonography and sonopuncture.
In the course of this feedback loop, with the devices, techniques, practices and dispositions invented to run it, our hearing changed irrevocably. We hear more, we have tools and technologies to hear for us, we have new listening skills, we have our ears hear as much as our bones and connecting tissues, we know how to translate and sonify what was mute before – and all in all it seems that the more we hear, the more in this world gets to be heard and thus the field of the inaudible grows and grows infinitely; inaudible, unknown, mysterious, yet to be potentially tuned to, in the future, with new tools and new treatments, unknown today. The more scientific and technological we are, the more space there is for mysticism and occult. Isn't it the disease of our modern ear?
Musica Sanae is a celebration and a tribute to these long-existing interconnections between medicine and sound, between science and mysticism, between research and speculation. Dozens of musicians, artists, theorists and researchers are meeting under the umbrella of Musica Sanae to report on their own investigations in the area. Some of them will use medical tools while others will do with medical treatments, procedures and beliefs; we will have illnesses and medical cases examined, scientific research turned into music strategies; viruses sonified and hallucination enacted; and all this in unique, usually inaccessible venues of great medical importance.