The harmony between the brain, the ear and the hands:
the collaborative work between the musician Marie Jaëll (1846-1925) and the neurologist Charles Féré (1852-1907)
Isabelle BARRIERE and Alexander KIM
While the artistic and pedagogical contributions of the Alsatian pianist and composer Marie Jaëll have been acknowledged (Kiener, 1952, Ingelaere, 1997), her scientific work has not received the attention it deserves. The first part of this paper will critically assess the ideas that Marie Jaëll presented in her 1896 monograph La musique et la psychophysiologie. At least four schools of thought had an impact on her attempt to identify the psychological processes involved in piano playing and their physiological underpinnings: the British associationists, evolutionary theories, the works on neurologists and the nascent field of scientific psychology. It will be argued contra to Corre (1997) that the different levels of information between the brain, the ear and the hand conceptualized by the Alsatian composer are similar to the constructs of other cognitive functions developed at the time by clinicians.
The neurologist Charles Féré and the artist joined forces and conducted a number of experiments (Féré & Jaëll, 1902), the aim of which was to investigate the influence of music perception on finger activities and strength. Féré who acted as the subject in these experiments also described them in his publication Travail et Plaisir (Work and Pleasure) (1904). The death of Féré in 1907 put an end to this collaboration, the importance of which was acknowledged by the scientific community: the Alsatian artist gave a lecture at the Society of Physics in Paris and in his review of the objective study of cerebral phenomena, Bohn (1910) drew a parallelism between the results obtained by the musician and the neurologist and those of Pavlov on animals.
Tenth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the
History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005