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Definition of «Tarantella»

Tarantella: A remarkable example of early music therapy that originated in the region of Taranto, a city in southeastern Italy, in the 15th to 17th centuries. There it was believed that the bite of the tarantula spider, while not fatal, caused a dire affliction called tarantism that was characterized by profound melancholy, a sense of imminent death, stupor, madness, and convulsions. Only dancing to a special type of music could cure the victim. The dancing was typically energetic and went for 3 or 4 days. The music to which the victim (and others) danced was the tarantella, a fast piece in 6/8 time with a lively and turbulent rhythm. The tarantella was performed on appropriate instruments, often with a shrill timbre. The music was selected to be in tune with the particular temperament of the victim. Thus, the tarantella was a type of music therapy tailored to the individual patient.

The tarantella spread around the Mediterranean. For example, it became the music of the mining regions of eastern Andalusia in Spain. There the tarantella took on a slow pace and a solemn, often poetic, nature. In Andalusia the tarantella may never have been danced but it was sung and known as the "Cante jondo." It became a lament, perhaps in response to the therapeutic needs of the people.

See also: Music therapy; Tarantism,.

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