Music, musicians, medicine, and the kidney

Semin Dial. 2014 Jan-Feb;27(1):50-6. doi: 10.1111/sdi.12121. Epub 2013 Aug 30.


The relationship between music, medicine and nephrology is ancient; ranging from musicians afflicted with kidney disease, contributors to nephrology who were musicians, and the use of music to treat renal maladies. Musicians have long been afflicted by diseases of the kidney, particularly nephrolithiasis, for which Marin Marais in 1725 composed a unique piece for the viol detailing the harrowing experience of 'cutting for stone.' Beethoven and Mozart were afflicted by kidney disease, as are several current musicians. Where past musicians succumbed to their failing kidneys, the advent of renal replacement therapy has given today's musicians, such as James DePreist and Natalie Cole, the opportunity to continue performing and composing. Several notable physicians of old have excelled as musicians; one example is Jacob Henle (1809-1885), for whom the loop of Henle is named, another is Robert Christison, a contemporary of Richard Bright, who is considered a 'founder of nephrology'. Importantly, music therapy, as used in the times of Hippocrates and King David, has evolved from an empiric to a well-established scientific discipline. Given the recent enlarging body of scholarly studies of music therapy, its rudimentary role in nephrology deserves further exploration.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Famous Persons*
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / history*
  • Music / history*
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Physicians / history
  • Renal Replacement Therapy