Music therapy at Ottoman hospital

Music therapy at Ottoman hospital

Wilco van HERPEN Hürriyet Daily News
Music therapy at Ottoman hospital

During the Ottoman reign there were at least nine kinds of music therapy centers in the Ottoman Empire. The one in Edirne is a perfect exmaple.

As a presenter on several television programs during the time I have worked in Turkey, I started to dislike one thing: cold, gray, foggy weather. Generally it does not work out for us because the viewer wants nice colorful pictures to watch, especially if the program is a travel program. Going to Edirne is, in that sense, a risky business. Especially during early spring and autumn, Edirne can be covered under a blanket of fog that takes away all the colors and the marvelous wideness of the landscape. But at the same time Edirne becomes a more mystical place because of those weather circumstances.

During a visit to Edirne I ended up in such a situation. What I have learned in the Netherlands is that generally during such weather conditions during the day the weather will be perfect. When we started filming there was a fog so thick that I hardly could see 20 meters ahead of me. First I got nervous, very nervous, but as a program maker you learn to deal with the unexpected. You have to change things to your advantage. It is a bit like martial arts, use the weakness or power of your opponent and turn it into power for yourself. This is exactly what I did. I was about to go to a psychiatric hospital, not just any hospital but a very old hospital.

Music therapy at Ottoman hospitalWhen I think of mentally ill people, I think of people who do not see clearly anymore. It is as if they constantly are walking around in a fog. A fog that hinders their clear vision of things, emotions and life. That day I started in a fog, a real fog, and suddenly I knew how to start my program. Walking around in the fog, appearing out of nowhere, making an announcement and then disappearing in the fog again. That would be the perfect way of starting the episode about the historical psychiatric hospital in Edirne.

Psychiatric hospital

Three kilometers away was the famous historical psychiatric hospital. I parked the car and walked into the courtyard of the hospital. Soft old Ottoman music entered my ears. This was a perfect way of entering this place. In the inner yard a man was taking pictures of a rose. It was as if I entered history but then in a modern setting. This would be (and still is) a perfect therapy for people with psychiatric problems; nice music, taking pictures, it all relaxes the brain and brings balance to your system.

When I entered the main building the first thing I noticed was a big fountain in the middle of the building. Water was floating down; as it had been doing for centuries. The sound of water was relaxing and brought me to a state of mind that made me able to imagine how it used to be centuries ago. On a platform a man was playing a ney, a kind of mystic flute. It did not require too much imagination to bring myself back to the year 1488. Sultan Bayezid II opened this “modern” psychiatric hospital in that year as Europe was still surrounded by blackness. During that time the “modern” doctors in Europe would throw psychiatric patients in dungeons; here in the Ottoman Empire they would treat people with music therapy. How different life was at that time. Music therapy was nothing new for the Ottomans. Already in 800 B.C. al-Kindi, an Islamic philosopher, was doing a study about the positive effects of music on the disturbed human brain. But even this philosopher was not researching something new. Hippocrates used music as a way of curing people by taking them to the temple and making them sing hymns. And it turned out that it worked well for those patients. During the Ottoman reign there were at least nine of those kinds of music therapy centers in the Ottoman Empire. Can you imagine? I have seen dozens of hospitals in Turkey and sometimes while walking around I got scared.

Enjoyable museum

This was definitely one of the more enjoyable museums in Turkey; not big but whatever you saw and could read was nicely done. I wish many of the museum directors in Turkey would pay a visit to this hospital for treatment. Then the Turkish museum landscape would become very nice and every museum would be a joy to visit because one thing is sure: If museums could be very important in any country in the world it is in Turkey. Because of the never-ending cultural richness in this country the museums are overloaded with artifacts. The only problem is how to display everything and for me there are two museums that give a perfect example: the medical museum in Edirne and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.