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JAMA Revisited
July 24/31, 2018

The Hygiene of Music

JAMA. 2018;320(4):411. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.12490

Originally Published July 23, 1898 | JAMA. 1898;31(4):189- 190.

A witty popular writer makes the suggestion that with the growth of utilitarian ideals, music will gradually come to be looked upon, not as a dignified and civilizing art, but as a sort of minor vice; an amiable but enervating dissipation. While there is probably little chance that our ideals will become so completely utilitarian as he suggests, there is nevertheless something in the idea he advances that is perhaps worthy of consideration. It is certainly a curious fact that one form of sensual indulgence, or perhaps one might say more acceptably, sensuous enjoyment, and that as little utilitarian as any, if not absolutely of no value to the race and its continuance, should be lauded as in every way meritorious, even when excessive, while others of far greater real utility are considered, if at all overdone, as hardly respectable, if not absolutely disreputable. This is not because of its intellectual element, for it has as little of that as any form of sensory gratification; it is of itself free enough from any appeal to the intellect to meet the fullest demands of those critics who consider any excitation of the imagination as incompatible with true art. It appeals solely to the emotional and physical sides of our nature and it is a not unreasonable query whether, in so acting, its effects are always and in every way beneficial or desirable.