SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Music and Healing

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

SOAS graduates often train as music therapists or work with the handicapped. In the UK and to an extent elsewhere music therapy has since the 1990s music broadened from its former focus on Western music to include musics of the world. At the same time, SOAS graduates will often work around the world, where they should be sympathetic to indigenous systems, including those linking music and other performance arts to medicine, interventions for well-being, and the promotion of health. The objective of this course is to provide lectures and seminars that will allow students to pursue such paths.

The course examines music and other performance arts as core elements in rituals, ceremonies and well-being practices. Lectures discuss distinct Asian and African regional practices of spirit possession, spirit mediumship and shamanism, and the music used in these practices, and also consider New Age and Ambient music, tarantism and Music Therapy, while seminars focus in on the use of music in therapeutic activity.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of thematic considerations and the debates in the use of music and other performing arts in shamanism, spirit mediumship and spirit possession, particularly as these pertain to Asia and Africa;
  • Identify, compare and contrast the use of music in Asian and African rituals and in New Age, Ambient, and Music Therapy practices;
  • Assess critically claims made about the efficacy of the use of music and performing arts in ritual and healing.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Method of assessment

  • One 1 000 words essay (worth 40%)
  • One 2 000 words essay (worth 60%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules