Keynote lecture: Bleed a little louder: Sound, Silence and Music Torture

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


The long and complex history that connects the histories of medicine and of music is not limited to music’s capacity to heal. What can heal, can also destroy; and throughout history, we find examples linking music to punishment, ill-treatment and torture. Sometimes, these connections are primarily symbolic, or seem to be. Insiders, however — especially those on the receiving end of such practices — often tell a different story, or would do if we were able to listen.

In this lecture, I want to consider some of the issues that arise when we attend to these histories, and why perspectives from the history of medicine and from medical anthropology could prove crucial in interpreting them. Moving from the past to the future, I will also consider how a better understanding of this topic is relevant not only for the prevention of torture, but to uphold the “do no harm” principle in health and social care settings as well.

Period4 Nov 2021
Event titleMusic and Medicine. Musicological and Medical-Historical Approaches: 2021 Annual Conference of the Verein für Sozialgeschichte der Medizin
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • music torture
  • history of violence
  • sociology and anthropology of violence
  • acoustic conditions of detention