The Loh Down On Science

You won't believe this source of Richard Wagner's musical inspiration!

Does Wagner give you a headache?  Science explains why!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Nineteenth-century German musical giant Richard Wagner had health problems.  Mysterious disorders!  Skin problems!  Infections!  Heart disease!  An entire Ring Cycle of health issues!

Now, researchers at a German headache institute argue that he suffered from migraine headaches.  And wove migraine symptoms into his opera, Siegfried.

Wagner did complain to friends about raging headaches.  Described pounding and auras.  And put them to music. 

According to the researchers, Siegfried depicts migraine pounding and visual disturbances.  The dwarf, Mime, bangs his hammer and wails about endless agony and painful light.  

Another clue?  The tempo of the music in Act I.  Wagner wanted it played about one-hundred-twenty beats per minute.  Which matches the frequency of scientifically recorded aura flickers.  A migraine leitmotif!

Finally, in Act Four, we have the arrival of 400-pound winged Tylenol, the goddess of shattered glass—?

No, but . . . food for thought.  Pounding thought.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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