Music applied in therapy

The Beginnings

During the first years of anthroposophical curative education the conscious rythmical formation of the cycles of day, week and year as a community building element has found its shape. Here music could bring its impact, whether in the morning or evening circle, for wakening or bringing to bed, for Sunday concerts or seasonal festivals, or for the religious ceremonies on Sundays.

Already during Summer 1926 Edmund Pracht had formed a musical-curative study group, in order to work out with musicians, curative teachers and physicians anthroposophical and curative basic questions for the music (Beilharz 1998/99). Pracht later was asked from the physician Ita Wegman, who established since the Twenties medical, curative educational, and curative eurythmic training classes to work with the participants the basic artistic and musical-anthropological features, where the ‘Leier” figured as the central mean. In Prachts way of a thorough phenomenological treatment of the musical elements the principles of a working style have been predesigned for the anthroposophically musical training which is still working in his way today.

From all the composers connected with anthroposophical curative education of the first generation, the one who fit in the most convincing way the right musical tone was Alois Künstler (1905 – 1991), who understood the best the needs of school- and living-communities: literally a serving music, in which own unmistakabel gesture all the subjectiv need for expression seems to be withdrawn. (Beilharz 1984, 2003, Lampson 1985, 1993).

“Curative Music”

Already towards the end of the 1920s at the Sonnenhof at Arlesheim there were distinct musical impulses (Bort 1927, Pracht 1927) – the so called “Heilmusik” (curative music) and rhythmical and curative eurythmical exercises with music. The great enthusiasm and spirit of pioneering gave wings to the musical and music therapeutical work of those years has been shown several times at lectures and public conferences of curative education and anthroposophy.

But already after a few years the further development of a distinct musictherapeutical work slowed down. Naturally the therapeutical effects of music have been used further in the curative educational institutes. In the field of teaching, and in a differentiated rhythmical way of the cycles of day, week and year the musicas a curative tool had a basic task, especially in regard of its harmonizing effects. There happened also special treats, like individually designed wake up calls in the morning, to avoid epileptic fits through waking up. To work with musical elements in this regard, or to say it differently, to shape a musicalised harmonising Milieu of life, belonged to the competences of a good curative teacher. Thus one can in regard to the anthroposphical institutions for the years of the 1930s and the 1940s speak of a manifold differentiated musical curative pedagogical culture.

Music in anthroposophical curative education

During the pioneering time of anthroposophical curative education the “Heil- und Erziehungsinstitute” (Curative and Educational Institutes) founded since 1924, were in their own understatement cultural islands as well. Rather isolated against the outside world, the inner and outer strength of living together, the high esteem of all artistic, they all favorised over the decades the formation of an own unmistakable style. An essential factor of formation and therefore an indicator of style of anthroposophical curative education was music, especially in the following fields:

  • Music as shaping life and community (music during the cycle of the day and the year, festivals)
  • Music during classes with children and youths
  • Music for therapeutical application, with individuals or in groups, also in connection with (curative) eurythmy.
  • Music as field of training for co-workers, respectively in training classes for students of curative education.

During the first time the piano was used as were the classical instruments of the orchestra, as the various easy to use percussion instruments as well. Many of the young co-workers were arriving from the “Wandervogelbewegung” (wandering bird movement, i.e. back to nature and old cultural values in the years around 1900 – 1914), so naturally there were lutes and also recorders, which were being built again after 1925. The decisive accent and for the shaping of the musical style most consequental was brought in through the newly constituted “Leier” of the concept of Edmund Pracht and built by Lothar Gärtner, which was from then on one of the central tools of anthroposophical curative teaching.