Gobel et al., BMJ, 2013 / Petrucci International Music Score Library Project.
Fig 4 “Migraine aura leitmotif” in Siegfried, act 1, scene 3, uses a scintillating melody line with an underlying zig-zag pattern.
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.
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