Atrium Musicae de Madrid [1978 DHM 1999]
Recorded in October 1976
Medieval and Baroque dances to goal therapeutic for patients bitten by a spider Italian: the tarantula.
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The Tarantellas as a Traditional Music-Therapy
Paracelsus and other doctors of the 15th and 16th centuries supported, with a daring unusual for the time, the theory that diseases were provoked by natural causes and not by witchcraft, madness, or diabolic possession. They were, in fact, doing no more than reviving the ideas of Hippocrates, and as their Renaissance philosophy of the natural causes of illness gained in prestige, they found themselves constrained to identify the determining agents of maladies with all the means at their disposal There is an element of the picturesque in their "scientifist" attitudes: when there was no way of identifying the causes of sickness, they simply invented them. For all its apparent lack of precision, this new medical approach did, at least, put an end to the traditional practices of exorcisms and chastising the ill who were, in fact, suffering from organic or nervous ailments.
In Southern Italy, near the city of Taranto, large numbers of an insect are found which was named after the region: the Tarantula. The name is applied to a number of species of a spider of the genus Lycosa. It is between two and three centimeters long and very common in most Mediterranean countries with a dry and sunny climate (Greece, Southern France, Spain, Tunisia, etc.). The sting of the Tarantula is very painful (but less so than that of the common and the poisonous scorpions). Since antiquity, however, the injurious effects of its sting have been greatly exaggerated and it was claimed that it was capable of producing a disorder which came to be known as Tarantulism or Tarantism. This ailment no longer exists, but it is curious to examine the extensive literature of serious medical descriptions of cases of Tarantism which were written between the 15th and the end of the 18th centuries. Various types of Tarantism were identified: the sporadic and the epidemic (particularly prevalent in the String); the acute and the chronic (with relapses at the return of warm weather), etc. The victim, who was often stung in the neck during the night or the summer afternoon siesta, felt great pain, followed by a sensation of scute melancholy, anguish, and depression with premonitions of death. These symptoms were either accompanied or followed by an irresistible urge to dance with frenetic agitation. This convulsive condition, which was impossible to control, could be suppressed and cured only by music with a fast rhythmical beat, performed on appropriate instruments, generally with a shrill timbre. The music was closely related to the particular temperament of the victim who would call to the performers with desperate cries while dancing indefa-tigably for hours or even days on end, until he was completely exhausted. During these enforced pauses he was covered with blankets and given a strong broth and wine to drink which caused him to perspire. The same treatment was administered to the unfortunate musicians who followed the dance until they, too, dropped with exhaustion. Eventually a cure was achieved, but only after having sweated out all the venom of the spider. The descriptions of Tarantism vary: certain doctors and dilettantes of the period write of vomiting and fainting, raving, jaundice, hydropsy, etc. It was often enough for a young person (children were never afflicted) to dash out into the street shouting and leaping during the siesta time or the early hours of the night for the symptoms of Tarantism to be recognized. He was promptly joined by veterans of the malady who felt a resurgence of the urge to dance frenziedly to the rhythm played by a few musicians hastily called together by the neighbours in whom there was a deeply rooted fear that the victim was doomed to death without the swift intervention of music. All the medical authorities are in agreement on the curative effect of music (iatrophony or musico-therapy) provided it was performed as soon as the attack started to the rhythm which came to be known as the Tarantella, and in sufficient doses. A defective performance or an error on the part of the musicians merely aggravated the condition, and a dose of insufficient duration brought about a relapse. In certain rare cases victims of the sting of the Tarantula were found to respond more effectively to a different kind of music, softer, graver, slower, of the type known as the "chain" in the region of the Channel Other cases are described as having been cured by the "song of the swallows", or the singing of "certain washer-women", and even by looking at particular "determined colours". The psychoneurotic nature of these famous cases of Tarantism seems obvious, as does the contagiousness by hysterical imitation, particularly among young women. In many parts of Europe there were veritable epidemics of convulsive dancing, for example at Aix-la-Chapelle in the 14th century where manifestations of maniacal dancing of enormous proportions occurred involving hundreds of men and women. The epidemic spread to Cologne, Metz and other towns in Germany. The outbreak became so serious that the Church was obliged to resort to the remedy of public exorcisms to drive out the devil and put a halt to the spread of the diabolic dance which, as late as the 17th century, was still called the "Lascivia Chorea" in Germon speaking countries.
Even before the 10th century this kind of wild dancing was known in Italy. In the South it was attributed to the sting of the Tarantula. Towards the end of the 15th century it began to be thought possible that this dance was capable of actually curing a victim of the effects of the hypothetical poison of the Tarantula. The dance was stimulated by certain types of music, and both the dance and the music of the Thranto region came to be known as the Tarantella. These Tarantellas, danced for hours on end, succeeded in producing a final catharsis (in the Greek sense of the word) followed by the healing of the attack of Tarantism Many of the victims of the affliction manifested a distinct tendency towards exhibitionism. Bedecked with garlands of rushes and coronets of vine-leaves, and more or less naked, they behaved with frenzied abandon, making obscene gestures and movements improvised by a subconcious completely liberated from all prejudices. We still have, in a less diabolic form, the music, the dances, and the songs, many of them of considerable beauty, known in Europe as the Tarantella, the Saltarello, etc., as well as the much more serious, graver guitar pieces, dances, the "cante jondo" of Eastern Andalusia, known as the "Tarentos d'Almeria", and the sweeter "Tarentos de Jaen y Murcia". These are the songs of the mining regions of the provinces (where the Tarantula abounds). They have a slow-paced melody, a solemn, melancholy, often tragic quality, and are generally charged with dark, fatalistic presentiments. The Minera, Cartagenera, etc. appear to be derived forms, like the deeply serious Martinete, associated with labour at the forge where the despondent, often highly poetic songs are accompanied only by the sound of the hammer striking the anvil, without viol or guitar, which gives them a hard, transcendental quality. It is not easy to explain why the "Tarento d'Almeria", with its profound emotions, said to be related to the Tarantella, is so different from the Italian Tarantella in rhythm and speed. It is possible that they may have had a common origin in very early times, and that they developed along different lines of expression because of the different mentalities of the peoples inhabiting the Mediterranean region. Perhaps the culture of Magna Graeca in Southern Italy contributed to the Tarantella's lively and turbulent style - a characteristic of a polytheistic religion and a carefree philosophical attitude, while in the Southern Iberian peninsula the old Eastern cultures of the Phoenicians, the Hebrews, and the Arabs left the more transcendental stamp of a monotheistic religion, filled with its characteristic melancholy and sadness which confer a graver and more meditative pace on the music of the "Tarento" and most of the profounder Andalusian songs grouped together under the term "Cante jondo". This hypothesis is of doubtful authority, however, as we are by no means sure that the Andalusian Tarento was ever danced: the slow rhythm of the music and the words seem to bear a closer relationship to a kind of lament than to a dance like the Tarantella. However this may be, it is now evident that the phenomena of Tarantism and its attendant epidemics were no more than outbreaks of a collective neurosis and hysterical reactions of revolt against the repression of libido.
Название "тарантелла" происходит от названия южного итальянского города Таранто "Taranto" (или Тарантум "Tarantum" для людей Ренессанса).
Cуществует и более экзотическая версия, связывающая стремительную тарантеллу с пауком тарантулом, который часто встречается на юге Италии. Опасный паук стал пользоваться дурной славой в течение пятнадцатого века. Этому пауку приписывается причина странной болезни названной "тарантизм" "tarantism". Укус тарантула приводил к болезни и всякий укушенный был обречён. Единственным спасением, по легенде, был пылкий танец тарантелла "tarantella". Безудержная и стремительная пляска, разгоняющая кровь, считалась надежным противоядием.
В Средние века тарантелла была почти запретным танцем, который под аккомпанемент тамбурина устраивали молодые женщины из низких слоев общества. Этот танец тогда считался олицетворением женской похоти. Со временем же количество его поклонников росло, и уже в XVII веке сам итальянский кардинал Барберини ввел при своем дворе исполнение тарантелл.